By Kathy Robichaux –
I had no idea how to support someone with PTSd. After years of agony, I had decided that I was done. I was no longer going to be the doormat my husband had turned me into. My fifteen year wedding anniversary was consumed with unpacking boxes, heartache and tears as I was beginning my new life as a soon-to-be divorced mother.
It was early 2007 when my husband Chad came home from his 8th and final deployment. During the first month that he was home, he was very quiet, showed fear like I have never seen before and he did not sleep much. He would wake me up to pray with him in fear that he was losing his mind. There were many times he couldn’t breathe and would lose feeling in his fingers from panic attacks. As a nurturer at heart, I was willing and ready to go through this struggle with him, but seeing him like that was terrifying to me, as I had never seen my husband mentally weak and vulnerable. He was always my “superman” who was there to protect me, but now he needed me to protect and help him. How do I do this? What is happening to him? All I could do was pray and be there to hold him in those times. We had no clue what was going on with him and Chad wasn’t about to open up with the men he worked with fearing they would see him as weak.
Aware of the fact that he needed help, Chad finally went to a doctor where he learned that he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSd). We had never heard of PTSd and didn’t know what it really meant. Chad was hoping to get a ptsd prescription and return back to work, but instead, with this diagnosis, he was cut off, no longer of value to his team. It didn’t take long for the quiet to turn into rage and thoughts of suicide.
Over the next three years, our marriage would grow distant. My children and I would walk on eggshells knowing that he would blow up at any given moment. The emotional abuse began to take a toll on all of us. I got to a point that I no longer had anything left to give. My cup was empty. He wasn’t hearing or feeling my love anyway; he was numb. I didn’t know at the time that one symptom of PTSd was emotional numbness, and, boy, did he have that towards me! As an outlet to deal with his stress Chad began to abuse his hobby as a mixed martial artist. He would book every fight and tournament he possibly could, giving him a reason to be away from home training on the mats. With that lifestyle, he became very popular and admired. What I didn’t understand is that he couldn’t feel my love towards him, but he sure loved the affection and attention that came from his fans. As a result, he ended up stepping outside of our marriage into adultery. My family would soon fall apart. We sold our home and moved into separate apartments. The kids were devastated as they knew mommy and daddy would no longer be together.
Over the next three months I learned how to get on my knees and cry out to God. I developed a true and intimate relationship with Christ. As I spent daily time with Him, he began to show me my faults in my marriage. My husband was unfaithful and abusive to me, how is this my fault?
The fact was that no matter what Chad was doing I wasn’t being the wife that God had called me to be. I was disrespectful and hateful at times. I spoke poorly of him and to him quite often. I turned my back on him many, many nights. I wasn’t patient nor kind. Some of you may be thinking – ‘well you had every right to be that way’, but the truth is I didn’t. That is not honoring in God’s eyes. In His eyes, I was just as guilty as Chad. When I began to recognize my failure in this marriage and depend on God to change my heart and my actions, is when my relationship with Chad started to change. We decided to get back together and try to make this work, although inside I was scared to death he would rip my heart out again. I gave Chad another chance, not because he deserved me, or because I was over the pain that he caused me, but because I wanted to honor The Lord.
It was over the next year that we learned how to align our life with the life God intended us to live and how to put Christ in the center of our marriage. We placed mentors in our lives that were there to help us fight. In our book Marriage Advance ~ Love Never Gives Up, Chad and I share how we were able to restore our broken marriage to a beautiful and rewarding marriage that has lasted 20 years.
After going through this struggle in our lives, The Lord called us into ministry to help others who have been impacted by the struggles of returning home after war. In late 2011, not long after own battle, we founded Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, which has been a tool in my own healing. Though at the beginning I didn’t want to share my story (it was humiliating), it has actually helped me and I am truly blessed to see firsthand how others’ lives are being saved and marriages restored because of our story, which is really a story of Christ. Our story was painful and unbearable, but today I have been made whole and have joy again because of the healing power of Jesus Christ. This is our goal for the men and women that come through our program.
The mission of Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs is to reach the brokenhearted with a specific calling to assist our nation’s military Warriors and families to find a new life purpose through a hope in Christ after enduring hardship through their service to America. Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs works to restore the broken families of our nation’s Warriors by building the men that lead them, equipping their spouses to deal with the unique challenges of the military and encouraging their children. Those not yet leading a family of their own can experience healing that will allow them to begin those relationships whole. This is accomplished by having an encounter with Christ that allows each person to live within their God-given design.
As this work is accomplished, we believe that we will see:
- The elimination of Veteran suicide one community at a time
- The decline of military and Veteran divorce rates
- The development of healthy family legacies
- Families and Warriors that are resilient in the face of war
- Veterans and Spouses serving and impacting their communities across the country.
While these may seem like unattainable goals, we have made great headway in their accomplishment by following a program that is peer-based, intensive and ongoing. Each of our instructors are combat Veterans or Military Spouses and speak from a place of experience instead of theory. They share their own stories of failure and the renewal of hope that comes from living to your created purpose. Our method is simple: compare the way you are living now with the way that you were designed to live and eliminate the difference. The instructors serve as the guides to make that happen.
Several years ago, we added a program designed specifically for women – Women’s Legacy Program is a process of learning to become a Virtuous Woman – the “Proverbs 31” Woman. In this five-day program our women’s instructor team leads military spouses and female service members through a time of learning, exploration, and growth. The goal of Women’s Legacy Program is to give women a Biblical blueprint of who God created them to be. They will cultivate virtuous characteristics in order to become Selfless, Honorable, and Elegant (SHE) in a safe, open, and nurturing environment. We target the key areas of her Faith, Worth, Health, Time, Service, Finances, Entrepreneurship, Homemaking, Mothering, and Marriage in order to challenge and grow her into who she was designed to be. The women will also gain a clearer perspective on Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) from a creation perspective, whether their own or their spouses, and enjoy great times together in fellowship and recreation activities.
Also built into our program is intentional follow-up. We all understand the danger of isolation and we do our best to keep that from happening. With a strategy of local outposts, assigned mentors, team members and others that have been identified as “corner men” in this fight of life, leaving an intense week of instruction does not mean that the journey to healing has ended. We are committed to doing life together, watching out for each other every day just as most of these men and woman did in combat.
When a man or woman returns home from one of our programs, there is often much excitement to implement the things that were learned. Something that has been a huge blessing to our ministry is watching churches rally around these individuals to help them continue on this new path. Most of us just like to be heard and know that someone is there for us. Well, this is no different for our military community, especially women. To have someone come alongside an individual to offer encouragement and a listening ear while continuing to point them to Christ, could very well make the difference between someone making it or not. We have definitely seen the fruit of that!
While there is much more to be done, we are thankful for the success that we have seen when Veterans, Active Duty Service Members and Spouses extend their hand beyond the military and take it into everyday life. We are committed to this cause and will not stop until the Veteran suicide rate is ZERO, military families are no longer the picture of brokenness, and the men and women who have served continue to serve a nation that still needs them.