January 24, 2010

Empathy is a Two Way Street: Combat Veteran and Wife Find Unconditional Love

In spite of, yet mostly because of my husband’s PTSD, he possesses an incredible capacity to identify with comparable suffering with such empathy that I feel humbled. And although I don’t want to say I suffer from PTSD, I can say with certainty I have persistent fears related to a trauma I suffered when I almost lost my right eye in an accident involving a horse. Now, almost five years after the accident, my physical wounds have long since healed but the emotional scars continue to create problems for me to this very day. And although I don’t actively seek out his reassurance, my husband is right there to recognize and validate my feelings whenever my fears haunt me.

It was August 2005 around 6:30am; the weather was warm even at that wee hour and I could tell it was going to be a scorcher. I was managing a horse ranch at that time, and on this particular occasion there was no one else in the barn but me. To cut a long story short (‘cause long posts become monotonous) one of the horses I was turning out spooked, slammed into me, knocked me on my back, and kicked me in the face. Without a doubt it was the most terrifying event I’ve ever experienced my entire life.

The whole ordeal took place in the blink of an eye (no pun intended), but when it was over it took me at least a minute to comprehend the extent of my injuries. From my final resting position on my back I could see my ball-cap, my cell phone, my knife, strewn on the ground…then nothing…at this point blood coursed into my eyes from a facial injury. I rolled over onto my knees feeling the warm blood running between my fingers and let out a cry for help. Remembering there was no one in the barn I knew I had to go get help myself as I was going into shock from the loss of blood. Later at the ER, a CAT scan revealed a maxilla facial fracture, a fracture in the optical cavity and a ruptured arterial feeder just above my right eye.

Almost five years later, and although only a feint scar remains below my eyebrow, I am still dealing with the psychological baggage from the accident, the end result of which is an irrational fear of being injured again. Most of the time when the fear creeps in I can rationalize my way out of it, but on occasion the ghoulish flashbacks loom larger than life and twice as ugly as they did on the day the accident happened. Out of the blue I can be struck with such dread that I have to stop riding immediately; I mean literally get off my horse and be done with it for the day. There is nothing quite like the feeling of self-loathing that consumes me when that happens. Coward, pussy, stupid bitch!! I am angry that the accident ever happened, I hate that the one constant perfect joy I have had throughout my entire life is now imperfect and blemished.

But despite how extreme those situations can be, I am eternally grateful that my supportive husband who, despite suffering from severe combat PTSD and TBI, empathizes with me. He never belittles my fears, always encourages me on my bad days, applaudes me on the good ones, and for that I will be eternally grateful. For empathy is a two way street and for all my outpourings for him, he returns the favor to me many times over.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee