My husband has not worked a job since his medical discharge from the Army in summer of 2008. He receives social security benefits and compensation from the VA so we have income from him, as well as income from my job. So lack of funds has not been the issue. However, not having a job has really affected him in terms of esteem and his mood.
It's funny how society judges you on your profession. You go to a class reunion and you talk about what you do. Meeting someone new on a date, you talk about your job. Your kids talk about what their dad or mom does to their friends. Imagine not having anything to say.....Imagine your children having to tell their friends that daddy doesn't work at all. Kids may not judge, but their parents sure do. Thoughts enter their brains. "Oh, a deadbeat dad." "What a schmuck". Negative thoughts before they even know what the situation is.
For a long time my husband would lie about his career plans. When asked, he would tell his friends that he was in grad school. I told him that that would only get him so far. Eventually people would wonder why he was still in school 5 years later for a two year degree. Why did he lie? Because he was embarrassed. A lot of his friends from college are successful professionals. It's sad that he sacrificed so much for our country, and has done more than a lot of people will ever do in their lifetimes and he feels that that is not enough.
He did try to go to school a few years ago. He had gone to residential treatment for 6 weeks and felt like he had his shit together enough to go back to school and get some kind of degree. He enrolled at a small, private, christian university close by to our apartment we were living in at the time. For the first quarter he seemed to be thriving. He was motivated to do well and was pulling good grades in his classes. However, the roller coaster that is PTSD eventually set in about October and he withdrew from the university in January. In the end, going back to school proved to be too stressful for him. His grades began to plummet, he started skipping classes, and he eventually lost all interest in going.
I'll admit, I was pretty discouraged when he quit school. He had such potential. He still does. After that semester, the PTSD seemed to rear it's ugly head even more than usual. He plummeted into a deep depression. He couldn't be a soldier anymore, something he was excellent at, and now he couldn't seem to go back to school either.
Part of it had to do with fear. He was consumed for several years with the fear that if he went back to school and eventually got a job, that the VA would declare him miraculously cured from PTSD and he would lose all his benefits. The fear came from being scared about taking care of his family. The benefits he receives are how he supports his family. The thought of that getting taken away from him really scared the crap out of him. He has finally, FINALLY, through opening up and talking to his psychologist started to realize that he will never lose all of his benefits. He goes to therapy several times a week, and even though he's getting better at handling his disability, he still has a disability!
My husband has recently started talking about going back for some classes. He has taken up an interest in gardening and considered a degree in botany. He talked to his psych about it today, and while his psych was encouraging, he was also careful. His psych made the comment that he would hate for Hubs to go back to school and somehow it ruin his interest in his hobby. It's frustrating. Part of me is like, "what does he know?" But, on the other hand, I could see that potentially happening. His doc did suggest that Hubs take a few noncredit classes somewhere for fun. It's a step!
It's frustrating because society judges him. People just don't understand, I guess. For example, during my recent girls weekend we talked about our husbands and of course the question came up, "what does your husband do?" I give my standard answer that he is a combat veteran who is retired. Sometimes, given the people I'm talking to, the conversation goes further on and I explain that he's disabled. Anyway, this weekend that happened and I got the whole, "he can't do anything?"
Um, yes he can do something. He can keep fighting the fight. He can keep going to treatment and working on being the best father and husband he can be. We both hope that someday he can go back to school and maybe someday start another career. However, just because he can't right now, that doesn't make him any less of a man, of a provider.
I wish people/society would get that concept. Wounded warriors are wounded for a reason. Try walking a mile in their shoes. I guarantee that most of society wouldn't be able to do that. It's no wonder that they come back different people, unable to go back to how they were before. If a wounded warrior can't go back to school or a job, it doesn't make them any less of a person.