My Man

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My Man
Melissa Figueroa
Care Giver and Some
Symptom of a Soldiers HeartI am a full time caregiver to Staff Sergeant Figueroa. I have been exposed to many levels of PTS and other symptoms of what I consider to be “soldier’s heart”. My husband has served for 10 years in the Marine Corps and became a Reconnaissance Marine in 2006. Shortly after, he was sent into combat to Fallujah, Iraq and served in two combat deployments. Although I may never fully understand what his deployments were like (or others who have been to combat), I see how much pain the aftermath causes. We live it every day. I know my husband loved his job up until he had his third psychotic episode in April of 2014. He was a disciplined charismatic ambitious man. He was outgoing and full of life. These days it is a daily struggle to keep him focused, to complete something, and to keep him out of wanting to lay in bed.

We met in high school briefly but really hit it off after his second deployment. I knew he was not okay then but we made it work. He was full of rage, easily irritated, hyper vigilant and had many of the symptoms of PTS that he did not admit to. It wasn’t until a buddy Marine of his committed suicide that everything crumbled all at once. I have had to help him bounce back from 3 psychotic inpatient breakdowns with this third one being the hardest. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose someone so close to you, someone who you know has your back and is willing to lay their life for you no questions asked. The bond that is created in deployments can’t be understood by many; only their inner circle understands exactly what it’s like to go to war. It is why I admire them all so much, including my husband. I feel normalizing PTS will bring so much awareness and break the stigma everyday people have when they hear someone has PTS. I feel I can’t even bother explaining it to civilians because I know they won’t understand. They are just afraid he might hurt me one day and to me, that is the most ignorant and hurtful thing I could hear when I’m seeking support for our family.

My husband has suffered from suicidal ideations, wanting to end it all. He sees the man he once was. He referred to himself as a machine, able to outrun and out do most of his teammates in physical fitness to now only wanting to lay in bed and feeling like he is weighing our family down. He feels like a burden. Once having been able to lead men into battle, to now being taken care of by his wife. I of course do not see it this way but my husband shamefully does. Luckily, he keeps fighting and knows that life will get better by educating himself on PTS and TBI through therapy. Nowadays he is a more affable person and open to seeking help and learning his mental limits. We have a long road ahead but are optimistic about our future. He is now motivated mostly by our daughter, marriage and God. This is what keeps him running, what keeps him pushing forward and not giving up. Yes, there will be good days and there will bad days. And even though my husband is not the man I once met, I still love him and admire him deeply.

I am extremely passionate in this campaign and find it immoral and embarrassing that the general public places a stigma on some of the most virtuous men in our country. They deserve proper respect for their sacrifices. These men go willingly into war knowing that they may never come back and do it honorably. They should not come back home feeling there is no way out for them, no one who understands them. They should not feel suicide is even an option. These men need as much support as we can give them. My days as a caregiver is no easy task but my husband gave so much for this country, it is my turn to give back to him. It is my duty to get him back on his feet again. I know he would do the same for me.

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