Have You Acknowledged A First Responder Spouse?
Let me start with a recap:
On September 14, 2018, a date eternally burned into every fibre of my being, my husband was taken hostage by a group of inmates while working a day shift as a correctional officer at our local jail.
It was four hours of pure hell and anguish. If you want to know more about that day specifically, you can read this.
Now that you have the back story, let's talk about what I really want to talk about with this post...validation.
In the beginning of all this, I didn't know that I would have my own journey. It felt like it was John's journey and that I was here to support him and give him everything he needed to start his healing process. Because why would I have my own journey? I wasn't the one taken hostage. I wasn't the one who's life was threatened.
Except, you see, I was. I was held hostage for hours, pleading for my phone to ring with the news that I was desperate to hear. My life, everything I knew, loved, and lived for was being threatened. Now - was my experience the same as John's - HELL NO. I would never even try to make that comparison. But that's the point.
You cannot compare trauma. I will never truly know what John went through that day and he won't ever know my side. And that's ok.
But what happened after that day is that I ignored the fact that I, myself, had gone through a trauma. It was John's trauma. It was John's incident. And it was John's story to tell, should he choose to. It wasn't mine. I didn't have a right to talk about how I felt or what I was going through. I mean I did, I just wasn't truly aware of it.
But that all changed one fateful day.
The validation to acknowledge my own trauma...validation that I didn't know I needed or was waiting for...came from the most unlikely place.
My father in law was giving me a ride to the garage to pick up my car on my lunch break. If you aren't familiar with me or my father in law, let me tell you that he is the kindest, most generous man. He would do anything for any of us. But we never really have "deep" conversations. On this drive, though, he was asking questions about John and the whole court process that hadn't even really started yet at this point. He asked, like many people had over the years, if we were going to sue the jail (meaning the government) for what happened. I said that I didn't think so but that that would be a decision for John to make.
Without skipping a beat, he turned to look at me with the most puzzled look on his face and said "It's up to you, too. It happened to you, too."
As soon I got out of his car and into my own, the floodgates opened. I couldn't control it. I bawled my eyes out. That was the first time I really felt like someone saw me and that I had my own journey in this. No one had ever made me feel like that before. And I didn't even know I needed it.
So my message to you is this. Acknowledgement is compassion. When you acknowledge someone, when you take the time to say "Hey, I see you" that is powerful. And it can be life changing. That conversation with my father-in-law gave me the ability to have a conversation with my husband which led me into many more healing, enlightening, and cathartic conversations.
Now, before I sign off, I know that humans don't need to have "permission" to speak their truth or to walk their own path. But when you are in the darkness and the depths of living with a spouse with PTSD while also not admitting that you probably have some of your own, that "permission" was, as I said before, the game changer. It took me from "This is John and his story and that's his wife, Daniela." to "This is John and Daniela and these are their stories." This was the first step in my own post traumatic growth.
Take care and be kind to one another,