It was 22:34 when I arrived home from my evening at book club. My one routine night out, for a welcome few hours of diversion, laughter and friends.
It was 22:36 when I realised the house was silent and still. Empty, but for the slumbering children. No sign of the husband I had farewelled earlier in the evening.
It was 22:39, after I had checked on each dreaming child, that I went back outside and found his car locked up and the front yard deserted. No one in the street. No one next door.
It was 22:40, when I tried to call him, that his phone rang out.The assured voice of his message-bank greeting forever mocking me of a happier time before his PTSD.
I had looked everywhere, now, except the garage.
For anyone else, it may have simply been a casual case of wondering what their husband was up to, never a cause for alarm. But for those touched by PTSD, the reality of how the intrusions, anxiety, and depression can swiftly darken any mood or thought to the extreme, quickly teaches you to fear the worst.
No wife should ever be in the position to have the next thought cross her mind. I desperately wish it hadn’t crossed mine.
Not a single part of me wanted to look inside that shed, but at the same time every part of me knew I had to.
It was 22:44 when I realised, with utter relief, I wouldn’t have to. 22:44 when I could breathe again. 22:44 when I found him, inebriated in a corner of the dark backyard. He hadn’t answered my call because he was asleep. And wet, from the late rain.
At some point during the day, a painful trigger had engulfed him. Thankfully, he had made it safely home, but no amount of drink would ever drown the memories that were haunting him.
It was 00:20 when he finally agreed to leave the solitude of the night and come inside. He was erratic. He was disassociated. He was lost.
And it was 02:37 when he grudgingly quit his inane fidgeting and aimless drifting around the house. He couldn’t delay his return to sleep forever, no matter how many nightmares would be there to greet him. He eventually laid down for the night, but only to appease me.
It was 06:51, after a short night of restless sleep, when I realised that I knew three things for certain.
…. That our family will be living with the after-shocks of this night for days to come.
…. That it will be a long time before I’ll let myself relax about a night out again.
…. And that, even though we’ve been here before, it never gets any easier. Maybe that’s because we also know that it won’t be the last.
This was not an unusual evening. This is what PTSD can look like to us. But I still consider us lucky.
Why? Because today is a new day. A day where I still have my husband, and my children still have their father. As long as he’s here, we can keep exploring our way through this journey of PTSD. And that makes us luckier than many.
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