Paris: Making Progress

One of the things I adore about my boys is how they embrace everything with enthusiasm. Within minutes of arriving at the apartment – and despite having traveled for fifteen hours – Boy2, aka “The Fox,” asked if he could walk around the corner and buy macarons. By himself. In French.

This is what he changed into for the outing:

Where’s Waldo? Or as they say in French “Ou est Charlie?”

Bug and I are free-range parents so we tossed him a few bills, told him how to say “Framboise,” and sent him on his way. He returned victorious and very proud that he navigated the streets of Paris himself. And if you can’t tell, he’s in love with the red beret.

Having the boys with us has been good for Bug and me. We had both become so worn down by his illness and accident that sometimes I believed we’d never climb out of that miserable pit. But the past month and a half have been good. Bug has made huge improvements with his PTSD and most days he seems like his  pre-accident self. The boys have even commented that “Daddy’s brain seems better” because he’s smiling again and doing things with us. They love seeing us hold hands, and they giggle when Bug kisses me. In many ways, everything feels just like it should.

We spent yesterday touring the area around Notre Dame and the Luxembourg Gardens. Maybe because they have parents who love history, politics, and art, but the boys – even our 5-year old, The Colonel – stayed engaged for five hours while I rattled on about Rousseau, flying buttresses, and arches.

The Fox, The Colonel, and Pudge* in front of Notre Dame.

As a reward for putting up with all that, we let them loose in the Luxembourg Gardens. The playground charges an admittance fee, but it is a gem. Zip lines, climbing structures, tubes – basically everything that makes a kid happy. Oh, and then there are the pedal carts. For a euro, kids pick a cart, pedal it up a hill, and then fly down a slalom course.  After all that work, the boys were in need of crepes, so Bug and I took them to our favorite place – Creperie des Arts on Rue St. Andres des Arts.

The Colonel in Luxembourg Gardens
The Colonel and me in the Luxembourg Gardens. The amazing playground is behind my left shoulder.

Today, while I saw my therapist, Bug took the boys over to the Eiffel Tower. The Colonel is a bit obsessed with the monument and he later told me, “It was beautiful. I loved it.”

The boys at the Eiffel Tower

Not everything has been rosy. Like me, our boys have lived through nearly two years of Bug’s erratic behavior stemming from the accident, and unfortunately, they know about the affair. Bug and I have had to have some frank talks with them. For example, they wanted to know why I also have a therapist and if my “brain is broken like Daddy’s.” Our oldest, Pudge, wanted to know how much of Bug’s affair was PTSD and how much of it was him being a jerk (For the record, both of our therapists, our marriage therapist, and myself believe his affair is a result of his accident. However, the PTSD became worse during the affair partly because his mistress convinced him he didn’t need therapy – even after his breakdown in January). We’ve had to explain that Bug is on leave from work because his brain melted down and I was terrified he was about to commit suicide or suffer a breakdown he’d never recover from. We’ve had to answer these questions in a way that doesn’t frighten the boys, but still leaves them feeling they have an answer. It isn’t easy.

But even with all of that, having my family together after seven weeks apart is wonderful. Watching Bug interact with the boys, seeing the love between them, and knowing things are getting better every day, makes me tear up.

Our family has been through hell, but as long as we’re together, I know we can get through anything.



*John Green’s LOOKING FOR ALASKA is one of Bug’s and my favorite books. We poached our kids’ nicknames from it.

Paris day 14: Living with PTSD

Today hasn’t been the greatest day. It started off with me panicking because Bug wanted to fly to Budapest for the weekend and the thought of getting on an airplane sent me over the edge. I’m not afraid to fly, so this caught me off guard.

To calm me down, we went for an extremely long walk, got caught in a downpour, and on our way home witnessed a scooter accident not even ten feet from us.

In case you don’t know, my husband was involved in a serious scooter accident in November 2010. This is why he has PTSD and a TBI. I immediately turned him away from the accident and pushed him into the throng of people rushing forward, but I left him to go out and help the scooterist because NO ONE was helping her. She was lying in the intersection where she’d dumped her bike. Thankfully, she wasn’t hit by a car or another scooter. She was hurt badly – bleeding and I think maybe broke her arm – but she wasn’t knocked out. I believe she’ll be physically okay.

When I found Bug, he was crouched next to the bridge railing, balled in on himself and crying. It took everything I had to pull him to his feet and drag him in the opposite direction. I didn’t know what to do – we had at least a 15 minute walk back to our apartment. So I looped my arm around him and dragged him, crying, through the crowds of people shopping. On the way back, another scooter skidded out, but didn’t dump, and it set him off. The sound was overwhelming and he began his whole “I should have died” mantra he goes into when things become particularly bad.

We finally got home and he collapsed on the bed. After crying for ten minutes he fell asleep, but kept startling awake and having those scary PTSD “seizures” that terrify me. As luck would have it, he had scheduled a phone call with his therapist for 6pm and it was 5:30.

He’s sleeping now even though it’s only 7:30. I wish I could say this was an unusual event, but since November – the anniversary of his accident – they’ve become more frequent. Today wasn’t so much a trigger, but a complete reenactment of what he went through. Over the past eight months, he’s started drinking heavily to deal with the guilt, anger, and pain left from the accident. During this time, he channeled his anger at me, telling me one moment he didn’t love me and is incapable of loving our kids; and the next, that I’m the only thing that matters to him; that I can never, ever leave him; that he doesn’t deserve me. This has been my life for eight months and it’s been like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As each coping mechanism works less, he bounces to something else and, to be honest, it scares me. There are days when I don’t know what will be enough for him.

But I can’t worry about that now. I need to put one foot in front of the other and help him through today.