Generation X

Michele Graffam
Apr 16, 2018 · 6 min read

I always thought by this age I would be happily married and be on top of my career chain with my parents living near. They would be retired and traveling the world. Financially I would be secure, marriage would be stable and we would travel a lot. Reality is I am married to a veteran with PTSD/Bipolar Disorder in a very unhealthy relationship full of absolute chaos due to his mental illness. Many sleepless nights, stress filled days and doctors appointments. My own health including migraines, a multitude of stomach issues and anxiety have led to me not being able to work outside the home and now I work for the construction business he started spending much of my day sifting through emails and handling everyone’s appointments. When I was 21 I had a hysterectomy due to Endometriosis which led to adhesions and a lot of scar tissue from the multiple failed attempts to remove the Endometriosis which has now left my intestines paralyzed in many areas. This has led to many health problems I never dreamed I would have. I’ve always had anxiety but over the years this has progressively gotten worse as well which in turn has increased my problems with migraines. So with the stress of being married to a volatile and unpredictable veteran I remain in a constant state of struggling to function We moved to North Carolina after he was medically retired from the military due to having a heart attack when he was in his early 40’s. This has been great in that it allowed for both our parents to move to NC as well. We live in the country, when we bought our land to build a house just a few acres over was a lot that was held for my parents and they quickly began to build a house and moved here a year after we did. My father’s health began to fail and the once energetic, independent and hard working man I grew up knowing has now had a total of 7 hip replacements between his 2 hips, diabetes, heart disease, COPD, anxiety and a myriad of other health issues which render him unable to drive or even ride in a vehicle for very long due to the chronic pain he has. My mother is his caretaker and struggles with her own health issues. My mother is overwhelmed so I go to appointments with them to ensure medical information is accurate and do a lot of work around their yard and house to take some stress of her. My in-laws moved here a year ago. My husband left home for the military over 20 years ago and didn’t really get to know his parents as an adult so this has been quite the process! His mother doesn’t drive, his father has dementia which has left me to also care for his parents. Getting his father enrolled with the VA, finding both new physicians and getting them set up in a new state with everything is a constant issue. I also have a total care step daughter that visits every few months for about a week. When she’s here I take her from one grandparents house to another to visit while I attempt to take care of my husband and myself as well as the pets we have and the house. This is not how I expected my life to be at this age. I’m still young! I did begin to volunteer at 2 local senior centers providing group therapy and education on mental health issues as well as other things related to the aging population such as sleep, gardening, holistic health.. just covering any topic that’s of interest to them. This allows me to get out of the house and still use some of my education I obtained over many years to be a therapist. I started writing about PTSD and how it affects marriage because so many out there are unheard and it’s truly a hard life to live. A lot of loneliness, patience, advocating for your spouse when he can’t. As I mentioned we have a business so I also spend a lot of time on the phone trying to get him out of any issues his mood swings have caused on job sites. He finally got someone to help on job sites as he’s unable to remember things, easily angered, doesn’t sleep for days or will sleep all day not to mention juggling if he’s mentally sound to sign legal paperwork when homes are sold and he has to visit our lawyer. I guess I’ve fallen into the sandwich generation as well, those taking care of parents and children. Although my step daughter isn’t here all the time there’s still many things to take care of in regards to her. Again my husband is not mentally able to remember a lot of things so I often work with her mother to discuss health issues, options available etc. She has a rare genetic disease that definitely changes everything when it comes to the importance of the relationship between her mother and myself. You never think about the reality of what can happen as you get older. We were military having the support of the military family and I had grown up in Arkansas so we had the support of friends I had since I was in elementary school. Once he was out of the military those people honestly disappeared over night and to add salt to the wound once we moved to NC all the friends we had also disappeared. We use to go out and enjoy dinner, movies, hiking, traveling, time with friends and within just a few short months all that was gone. It’s very difficult to rebuild life at this age, especially when life really is consumed caring for others. When we first moved here 6 years ago I was working in a psychiatric hospital my husband was looking for a contractor and learning the new reality of a civilian life, this is still a daily battle for him. I met people but as life goes they all moved away. My husband and I got divorced due to his anger and emotional and verbal abuse which he would not seek help for his PTSD at that time and was paranoid I was going to have him committed to the psych unit. After a year and his seeking help we are remarried, things have gotten better than they were but still it’s your normal married to PTSD spouse life full of mood swings and my being hypervigilant to keep both of us safe from him and life. Not to say life at this time is absolutely horrid. I’m sure it sounds as if it is but I do have my parents near so I can care for them. I spend as much time as possible volunteering and writing in addition to gardening and I got chickens when we remarried since I love the country life I wanted to take it all in as much as I could. Being married to PTSD life has allowed me to really use all the mental health therapist skills I have learned over the years so my education has absolutely been a blessing. I enjoy working at home in that it allows me to take care of both sets of parents and my husband as well as myself on days I am sick. Luckily there are many on line jobs which I have started working towards obtaining a job providing virtual therapy since this world is going to the internet and face to face time is increasingly less important to many of the younger people as well as those who are to sick to leave their homes for mental health therapy. It gives me time to share my experiences life has given me and surprisingly there are a lot of people living a very similar life to mine not only caring for parents but living with a spouse who has PTSD which literally tears away at the marriage and sense of self. I share my story because I feel there are quite masses of women living a life they didn’t ever dream would be happening as they grew older. We all make big plans for life seeing only the opportunities that await as we get older. We don’t think of our parents needing care, our spouses falling ill in a way that we must care for them or our own health causing us to no longer be able to do all the things we dream of. For now my focus shifts to care for loved ones and continue to volunteer with seniors. I look forward with positivity but also a lot of fear of the unknown as I have lived the uncertainties of life. Gladly I look back at my childhood and have nothing but positive memories. My years of adulthood are full of education, exploring and traveling, living life to the fullest. Life is complicated and at times frustrating. There are many rewarding days and situations that keep me going. I can’t say I’d change anything although this isn’t where I thought I’d be. There’s a purpose to all the madness in life. The strong ones find purpose in all they do and all life throws at them. I remain strong.