Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 years and counting

I am shaking like a leaf as I am writing this but I hope that once it's out there it might help some one else. Or maybe it will help me make sense of it all. 

It's been 10.5 years since it all started. My husband served in Iraq during OIF 2003-2004. At the time we were dating. I had a child already and had child together with him while he was deployed. He left a month after we found out we were expecting. Due to us not being married and the time frame when he was deployed, we knew there would be no way for him to be back for the birth of his son. It was a very difficult time for both of us but we never gave up.

In January '04 he was medically evacuated from Iraq and sent back. I was so happy to have him back , thinking we could start slowly to build a relationship again, raise our children. I never expected what I got though. He wasn't himself no more. Couldn't deal with the kids, couldn't or wouldn't talk to me. He was different. I don't want to say he was broken but in a way, I guess he was. The night terrors were horrific and often he would beat around himself in his sleep and I can't tell you how often I had bruises from it. Eventually, he got his medical discharge and while going through the progress of it all, he was told he had " Major Depression" but PTSD was never mentioned. At that time he was put on a medication but it caused more harm than it did good. It was hard. He also was given one hearing aid by the VA but it hurt him so bad and we requested a different one - never happened. Eventually it got to a point that he just gave up on the VA and he turned to "herbal medication" . As much as I hated it in a way, I loved it too. He finally ate again, he finally slept again, he finally was calm and relaxed but getting a job while you are taking the "herbal medication" is not possible.

In 2005 our oldest son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism on top of everything else. 

In 2007, we moved and I thought maybe the move would help and make a difference. Maybe he would stop self medicating and get help at the VA again. We called, we tried to get appointments , tried to get him seen for his hearing and PTSD. Finally in 2010, he was seen at the VA again , he then was given 2 hearing aids , set up with a psychologist, got medication. This didn't last long. The hearing aids were a blessing but the Mental Health Department still was hell. They gave him the same medication again, set him up with counseling. He went to counseling twice and then gave up. He told him he needs a different medication because of all the side effects he had the last time around with this med. but they ignored him. Frustration got the better of both of us. He would however jump into his work. Worked 60-70 hrs a week - it was his escape because his mind stayed busy and focused on the tasks at work and keep the demons at bay. When he was at home, I watched him closely, saw the demons return whenever he wasn't busy doing something, anything in that matter. Fireworks went off and he would fly under a table, run into a closet, screamed blood and murder. Different movies he watched, the night terrors returned. Still every night flapping like a fish out of water. 

In 2007 I got pregnant again and my hubby was the happiest man alive. Finally he would be there from start to end and bring home a little baby boy. But life had other plans, our son was still born at 38 weeks and this put hell on both of us. He burried himself into more work and I was struggling. It was a time in which I was so very close to walk out, walk away but I believed in all a marriage stands for, I love him more then words can say , how can I walk away?! We would get through this and we could do this , we have been through so much why wouldn't shouldn't we walk away from this stronger?! 

After loosing our son in 2008 , we were blessed with  a daughter in 2009. It was a hard pregnancy - well the pregnancy itself was easy and without complications but for the two of mentally is was hard. 

At the end of 2013, I couldn't take it anymore. I was close to a mental breakdown. After him loosing 2 Jobs, struggling financially, not getting appointments at the VA for his hearing aids or waiting 9-12 month for an appointment. I was done. Who do I reach out to , who do I ask for help.He didn't have a set case worker, no Primary Doctor at the VA, nothing.The job he worked in during that time, brought PTSD back with a vengeance and we all struggled being around him. At that time, I wrote the Governor and requested help. It was the best thing I could have done. Within 2 days we had a case manager, we had "the ball rolling". Together we saw the Case Manager, all the papers / medical chart etc. in hand. Right away the case manager was stunned and asked different questions of why we never filed a claim for this or that and as when we told him, we tried and the VA always rejected them he promised us help. Through our private doctor, he was put on a new medication and a sleep aid. HE SLEPT for the first time since self medicating and it was a blessing. The new anti depressant helped too. Things were looking up. He started counseling at the VA but always said how much he hates this counselor. This time, counseling lasted 6 month. 

In July , he was strong armed into resigning from his position and currently we are fighting it a long side dealing with a new job and the changes again. He decided to get off his medications "cold turkey" and ones I found out, things got crazy here yet again. No decision has been made on the Claims with the VA but I hope and pray to hear something soon. His hearing loss is getting worse and worse and I am afraid of the day that the hearing will be completely gone. PTSD is a killer in itself and we struggle day in and day out with it and all I can do is pick my battles, try to keep us going. I can't give up on him , or us , or our family. 

All I truly want, is for the VA to get their behinds in gear and get to work! Hire an extra audiologist or an other doctor to cover all those who struggle.Have psychologists that are personable and truly understand the struggles of PTSD. Get claims put through in a timely manner and don't push them around for a year or two. It would make such a difference for each Veteran. Too many Veterans are homeless, to many Veterans commit suicide, to many loose their wives and children. Let us spouses or Mom's and Dad's be a part of the treatment. Teach us how to cope too, teach us how to deal with different situations with our Veterans and how to get them through. These man and woman deserve the help. I haven't given up on him, why do you VA ? 

love of my life

Thursday, September 11, 2014

7 Tips for to Back-to-School Success!

When that alarm goes off in the morning busy parents hit the ground running. Is everyone awake? Out of bed? Where are your glasses? Did you brush your teeth? Why do you only have one shoe?
With all there is to remember between the alarm and the first one out the door every morning, it’s no wonder many of us feel completely frazzled before the 8:00 AM bell rings!

1.        Get organized

The morning commute to school was the last place I wanted to hear about permission slips, lunch money, or treats that were supposed to be sent to school THAT DAY, yet it was a recurrent theme until I realized lecturing my children on the merits of being responsible and organized was worthless unless I demonstrated those skills myself. No more last minute toast in the car on the way to school or digging through laundry piles to find something to wear. I had to commit to getting myself organized from the time I came home at the end of the day until we left the house the next morning.  Once we started, I discovered organization takes very little time compared to the time suck that accompanies disorganization.

Set a time to go through backpacks each day to avoid late night or early morning surprises. You won’t be caught off guard on picture day and won’t be up all night constructing a scale model of the solar system from random materials you can scrounge in the cabinets.

Clean out lunchboxes as soon as you get home. Even younger children can be responsible for disposing of trash, putting utensils and dishes in the sink, returning ice packs to the freezer, and wiping out the bag. It may be helpful to have a few spare bags for those days when the lunchbox doesn’t come home or doesn’t get cleaned out (I would have said, “Too bad, so sad,” but realize packing may be the best option in many households). Pack lunches the night before, if possible and pre-package any items you can on Sunday night for the week ahead.

Hang school calendars and lunch menus in a central location.

Homework time should be structured. Allow each child a quiet work area free from distractions. Take a few minutes to review their work with them.

Take a few minutes each evening to organize for the next morning. Set out clothes and shoes. Return homework, notes, and supplies to backpacks. Store all necessary items in a central area ready to grab on the way out the door in the morning.

Use timers to help kids stay on task. Most jobs take much less time than children realize (and they spend more time procrastinating and arguing). Allow them to earn extra time outside, extended time with a favorite activity or increase bedtime by five minutes if they complete their homework and put all materials back where they belong. Use charts to help them track their progress. Charts can be adapted for homework, household chores, or personal hygiene.

2.       Make time to relax

After a long day I long for a few minutes of quiet time. When our children were young this meant either shooing them out the door or to their rooms to play, or hiding in the bathroom for a few minutes. Just as adults need down time to decompress, so do children.  Build relaxation time into their busy schedules to allow their bodies and brains time to recharge. While they may protest (or complain they are “too old”) many children enjoy the benefits of relaxation once it becomes part of their routine. Incorporate soft music, deep breathing exercises, progressive relaxation techniques, or yoga into your down time (there are many free apps available to assist with these activities if you’re not sure where to start).

Get adequate sleep at night. Sleep affects your brain function, as well as physical and mental health. While you are sleeping your brain is busy forming new pathways to help you learn. Being well-rested improves your mental focus, ability to make decisions, and solve problems. Lack of sleep can cause behavioral and emotional issues including impulsive behavior and depression.
Build quality family time into your week. Consider limiting extracurricular activities if your children are overwhelmed with demands. Start a tradition such as family game night to replace TV time (and limit other electronics use).

3.       Eat balanced meals

Grandma always said, “You can’t raise kids on Coke and Pop Tarts.” Well, grandma was wrong…but I still wouldn’t advise it. I have never enjoyed cooking. I hate walking in the door after work and being hit with a chorus of, “what’s for dinner?” We ate out frequently when my husband was not home. Due to a busy schedule driving from gymnastics to soccer to piano lessons to confirmation to gymnastics…we ate in the van some nights. Not recommended.

Work with your family to create a weekly or monthly menu and take turns sharing the cooking (or cook together with younger children). Eat meals together around the table and take time to share about your day. You will learn so much about each other this way.

If the morning rush is difficult, check if your school offers a breakfast program and take advantage of it.

Keep a stash of snacks organized or pre-packaged in the fridge and pantry. Mixed nuts, trail mix, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of protein—essential for new cell growth and healthy neurotransmitters in the brain—add in fruits and veggies for a healthy snack.

4.       Hydrate

Be sure your child drinks plenty of good old H2O. Your body depends on water to keep all its systems in good working order. Mild dehydrations can sap energy and lead to fatigue. Dehydration can also cause headaches, memory problems, poor concentration, as well as sleep issues, anger, and depression.

5.       Be active

Just 20 minutes of physical activity, whether it’s an organized sport or tossing the ball at the park can improve memory function. As your heart rate increases, your brain gets more oxygen which assists with the growth of new brain cells. Get your kids outside every day for some physical play.

6.       Talk to the teacher

You’d be surprised what teachers hear in the classroom and on the playground. When I was teaching I knew who was fishing without a license, whose mother was expecting a child before the announcement was public, and which father needed his back waxed before a trip to Hawaii.

While teachers don’t need to know all the details of your lives, take a proactive approach to dealing with concerns. If you’re concerned about a behavior your child is exhibiting or their performance in the classroom, make an appointment to meet with the teacher and discuss strategies. If your family is experiencing a change such as planning for a new baby or moving, or if you are going through a divorce or there has been a death, let the school staff know so they can watch for and assist with adjustment difficulties your child may have. The school counselor is an excellent resource for learning how to talk to your child about a change or for locating materials to learn more about how to cope.

7.       Read

Children should spend 20 to 30 minutes reading outside of school every day (15 minutes for beginning readers). Let them read something they choose and enjoy and allow them to choose from picture books, chapter books, magazines, and newspapers.  Your children will be more inclined to read if they see you, and other family members, reading.

Dreading the six hour car trip to grandma’s for Thanksgiving? Make car time educational! Flash cards, journals, and audio books can help pass time while expanding their knowledge. Kids obsessed with movies in the car? Rent educational DVDs or download documentaries on electronic devices. Challenge them to see who can remember the most details about what they have watched. An old-fashioned game of I Spy is good for passing the miles as well.

Whether you try one or all of these tips (or—gasp!--none), here’s hoping you find a few moments of peace to start and end each day during this school year.

Follow this link for a *FREE* packet on TBI and PTSD for parents and teachers:

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Life

So a lot has happened since my first blog post last April. Last June we had to make an emergency flight to Arizona, because his mom was dying. It is tough to get a disabled veteran from point a to point b in a busy airport. Thanks to the helpful people at the TSA, this went pretty smoothly they had a wheel chair waiting for us at every point. The biggest stressor was when an Arab disabled passenger was boarded before we 
were, and then we were only a few rows from us. I kept him distracted, so the flight wasn’t too bad. We got to Arizona late Monday night and was able to see his mom, she held on till Thursday night. We stayed with her the whole time, which was the hard part being there when she passed. But we got through it; he was in charge of her last wishes. It has been almost a year and we both still want to pick up the phone and call 
her when something is going on. 

We made it through the rest of the summer uneventful. In September, his dad came to live with us. That has been a big adjust to having another person in the house, but it has been going well. His dad has been a big help to us. The holidays were hard it was the first time we were not with the kids and grandkids and we were all missing mom. 

In January, we bought a house, and moved in February; it was still snowing and we had a foot and a half of snow. So that became I challenge, and it was hard for him to do any of the heavy lifting. So me and my step son did all the loading and unloading. It took a while but we got it done. The house needed a few more repairs than we initially thought, but that has become a work in progress. 

We finally got is claim processed through the VA for his PTSD. He had me go in with him at his C&P exam, and some the things I learned about his time in Iraq was heart breaking to hear everything that he had seen and done. But it gave a better understanding to what he was going through. 

Through all of this his PTSD has been up and down. And all his pain has been up and down, more up than down. We have been working on meds changes that seem to helping a bit. But then again that is a process in fighting with the Drs to get them to see what I see every day.

Submitted By: Tammy S.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writing to Heal

Back in December I was going through a really rough patch. I had a breakdown, after many years of caregiving. It was a blessing that my local writing group was teaching a class on Writing to Heal and I knew it was a sign that I needed to take. It was through this course that I decided it was high time I admitted the feelings I had, not hide them away, confront them and accept them. It was causing me undue stress, mental and physical health issues, and just down right negative all the way around. I didn't like it at all. During this class I found my coping mechanism. And rather than keep it hidden, I owned my feelings and put them out for the world to see, on my blog. My goal is two-fold -  to help me heal and to help others passing by to know they are not alone.

So, what did I learn?

I learned about the Expressive Writing Technique. It is said to be beneficial for a healthy body and mind, great for relationships, provides you with a safe environment, and is a powerful tool for stress management. It can strengthen your immune system by reducing the stress hormones your body releases. Studies have also showed how this technique can reduce the effects of a traumatic event. It is not limited to any one group. Anyone can use this technique in order to work through a really bad day at work to PTS symptoms to caregiver stress. It doesn’t matter who you are. (If you are uncomfortable with words, you can also use a similar method with painting or drawing what is troubling you.)

What is the Expressive Writing Technique?
It is personal writing that explores the feelings of the writer. Simple as that.

How do you do it?
Well, there is not one right way to do this. In fact, I've been doing something very similar ever since I could write. The only difference is, this course gave me structure and a time limit.

The power of words!
You know that old adage, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me" ? Well, it's an unfortunate LIE! Words have power. Depending on how you use those words will determine whether or not they are helpful or harmful. So, when those negative auto-thoughts pop up in your head and you start listening to them, try doing the following:

Over the next two to three days, find your most comfortable, happy place where you won't be interrupted for 15 to 20 minutes. Sit down with either a pen and notebook, or your laptop. Some will swear by the long hand. Me, I have this thing where my inner editor hates my handwriting, so I chose the computer every time. Take that negative auto-thought and write it down. Or you can choose to write about an illness, injury, pain, trauma, loss, grief, or stress. It doesn't matter. Just pick something and write it down. And it doesn't have to be the same thing over the course of these few days. Also, don't worry about grammar or punctuation or anything. Just write.
If you feel overwhelmed at any time during your writing, take a break. Return to a breathing and grounding exercise. Slowly inhale through your nose. Find the peace you know to be inside you. Recall that place. Then slowly let that overwhelming feeling seep out through your mouth in your exhale.

You do not need to share, or even read what you’ve written, although many people find it helpful to do so. You can ball it up and throw it away, or keep it to revisit later.

Write your way through the questions below, to bring the issue full circle.
Situation: What’s disturbing the peace of your heart, body, or mind right now?
Body: What does your body feel right now? Any pain or tension? Where? Has this feeling
changed over time? If so, how?
Feelings: What comes up when you think about this situation? What else? How have your
feelings changed over time?
Self: How does the situation affect how see yourself? What one thing could you do for yourself
right now?
Others: How does the matter affect the way you see others? How has this changed over time?
Future: How does this affect the way you see the future? What changes do you see?
Add: What meaning does it bring into your life right now?

Simple, right? Now hope to it. You’ll feel better in a few minutes. J

Have you tried this method? Do you find it helpful? What other things do you do to help with your healing process?

Submitted By: Jamie Dement (LadyJai)

Check out my blog at for more of my writing to heal posts.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Miscarriage and Hope

Something is telling me I need to write and share what is going on right now. So, here it goes. My husband and I were married a little over five years ago while he was on R&R (Rest and Relaxation) from Iraq. He then returned to Iraq for another nine months. When he came home we discussed starting a family but put it off for a bit so we could get to know each other a little better. We bought a house six months after he returned and decided then it would be a good time to start a family.

In June of 2010, I found out we were expecting. This joy did not last long, at five weeks I miscarried. For the next year we tried again to get pregnant but it would be over a year before we were able to conceive again. It was July 2011.  We found out I was pregnant the day before my husband left for four weeks to go to his first treatment of PTSD and then start the medical retirement process. He was gone for four weeks and we were scheduled for our first appointment when he got back, I had scheduled it for 11 weeks because I knew that he would be back by then and wanted to share the appointment. We went for a first sonogram and right away they found the baby but it was measuring small and when the doctor tried to find a heartbeat there was none. My husband went right into a panic attack and me trying to be strong and hold everything together.  I ended up taking a good friend of mine to the doctor’s appointment that I would decide what to do. I ended up going through a miscarriage a few days later. I felt so alone during this time because my husband was having major anxiety and depression.

For the next year it was really hard for me to be around women having children. Every time someone on Facebook would announce they were pregnant I thought, why not me? I know that we had chosen to wait but it was still a heartbreaker. I would go to church and it seemed like all the ladies were having a baby when I was supposed to be having a child. I remember the due dates of both our babies, both would have had March birthdays. Every year I think our babies would have been one year older. I think it took me at least six months to process it all and a year to be happy for people when I heard they were pregnant and I had no children. Yes, I still got jealous and sad that I was not having a child but I was happy for them.

At this point, we decided with his medical retirement just starting and not know how long that would be to delay our plans of a family. A week after the miscarriage he was also in a car accident in which he had blacked out behind the wheel. This was when I took on the role of full time caregiver and driving him around for appointments and still being on active duty he had to report to his unit. We saw that it was a good thing to put the growing family on hold. The medical retirement process for us was fairly quick and by the end of 2012 my husband was medically retired and two days later in the Veterans’ Administration (VA) system.

After a few months of retirement we decided that his medical care was going well and it would be a good time to once again try to start a family. That was February 2013. After a few months of trying we went to talk about fertility issues. My doctor was a blessing and said with my age he wanted to be aggressive about things. He ran some blood test and determined I have a blood clotting disease, which would cause miscarriages. The doctor started me on a baby aspirin a day; this would help with that and later in life preventing me from developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). The doctor also wanted to have a specimen from my husband.

In September of 2013, my husband did his specimen. We found out that the quality of his sperm was not good. So, the next thing we were told we could do is put me on Clomid to boost my eggs, remember I am older and then try Intro Uterine Insemination (IUI). In October we tried the first IUI. This did not work. At the end of December, we asked the VA to test my husband’s testosterone levels. They came back low. This is very common for men that have high stress and anxiety in combination with all the medications they are on to treat the PTSD. In January 2014, we tried once again IUI, this again failed.

At this point, my husband had started taking testosterone shots. We also started the adoption process because we were feeling lead to adopt. We had given up after a year of trying to become pregnant and not succeeding. Then God blessed us with a pregnancy. With this pregnancy I was sicker than normal and praised God for that! We scheduled our 10 and 12 week appointments and kept praying for the morning sickness.

Last week was our 10 week appointment. This appointment is usually just meeting with the nurse and going over history. We asked if there was any way we could get a sonogram because of our history. They said yes they had an option we could pay for to get a heart pole. We scheduled it for an hour later. Our world became upside down was again that next hour. The tech could not find a baby at all. They did a different sonogram and could only find the sac. The doctor came in and spoke with us. He said it did not look optimistic. Here we go again, I thought. My husband again had a panic attack and I was left to be strong. The doctor did blood work last week twice and indeed I was going to have a miscarriage. My husband with high anxiety already due to me being gone the week before went in a downward spiral and ended up in the VA for a few days.

Yes, I am here alone waiting for the miscarriage to happen. Although, I thought God has would never allow us to get pregnant again, if it was going to end this way, He did.  But for me there is something that will come out of all this. I do not know what His plans are but I do know that ultimately I trust Him for comfort and love during this time. The hardest part is not having my husband here with me, but this is PTSD. This is where we are in life and I am okay with that because like I said I have hope in God. 

This last Sunday was really hard for me. It was Easter. I love to celebrate the Resurrection and wanted to hear the Word preached on this day. But I woke up alone that morning and could not bring myself to do go. I even was going to go late, stay in the lobby, and leave right after service. Then I started thinking, if I go I am going to see all these families; husbands with their wives and children and me alone. Right now, I don’t want to have to be okay at church. I am upset that our lives are not normal, not just with all the miscarriages but also my husband has difficulties with emotions. I don’t want to explain that my husband is injured and it is very hard on him. I don’t want that reminder of where I am right now. So, I stayed home and had a few good cries. I realized that there are people who love me and check on me throughout this but I need to be by myself and process all of this.

I sit and asked myself are we suppose to have children? Are they going to be biological or adopted? What does the future hold for us? What about my husband, will things get better? This is just one more step of adjusting to what is normal in the world of PTSD. I know that there will be growth out of this but right now I need to heal from the loss. I need time to process and that is why I also took a break from facebook. Just last week I had two friends announce they were pregnant, and guess their due dates? That’s right, around when our baby would be due, Veteran’s Day. It makes me not just said but upset that we cannot have just one child.

I felt that my story needed to be shared. One I know there are other couples going through this; you are by far not alone. Two, I want to give you hope that you can and will get through this, it is just the valley of darkness right now but God never said we were going to stay there, we are walking through it. And three, I am privileged right now to be going through a class on tribulation that has prepared me for this, God’s timing is perfect! It may not be how I have dreamed life would be and this has shattered another dream but I will get through it and if you are here you will get through this. We are resilient wives and I am blessed to call many of these wives friends.  

Submitted By: Anonymous

Monday, March 24, 2014

So you're a stay at mom/caregiver? And you need a nanny?


I am a "stay at home mom" (SAHM) and a VA caregiver for my combat veteran hubby, whom we shall call my Hero.

Imagine being a SAHM on steroids.  Truly.  That is how bizarre/crazy/ballstothewall things can get. In the blink of the eye.

For example, today, all was going great.

But in the blink of eye, it was seizure after seizure after seizure.   His, not mine.  There was vomitting, confusion, anxiety, the propensity to wander....

In the blink of an eye, our afternoon was other wise shot.

In comes Nanny.  We affectionately call her Nanny #6.  Though she is our first nanny in this capacity, she is, without a doubt, our little angel.

She's not scared of PTSD.  She isn't afraid of TBI.  She doesn't even bat an eye at seizures.  What's wrong with this girl!?  Nothing.  She's also a Hero you see.  At least to me, but to our country.  She served 4 proud years with the Airforce.  She is no stranger to what her brothers in arms go through. And if she is, the Force taught her well to hide her fear.

I hired her almost a month ago.  The ever bearing medical appointments, a strange new land, (we are transplants from out of state, way waaaaay out of state, and she doesn't mind we don't have our Southern graces yet, she is patient, she is handy, she loves my kids. She is proud to help us.  So I think we'll keep her.

The point is, women have this unattainable pressure to be the BEST stay at home mom (I suck at it) then best wife (also high on suck factor), and the mounting paper work (what paperwork? Come stay with an disabled family and you'll see), the doctors appointments, and the appointments for doctors and did I mention the never ending appointments???? Oh and hubby can't drive now.... that puts a lot on me.  And I tried. LAWD have I tried!  And it was breaking me, cracking me into a thousand little pieces.  So, I decided to get off my own back, and find some help.

I went and answered the Daphne Welcoming committee woman, named Annette, (who brought us WARM FRESH BREAD!) and chatted~ we chatted about nothing and everything, and she hooked me up with a wonderful woman, who had some ideas.

Oh great more ideas....ideas don't get a broken woman far, we need action!  But this woman offered me her nanny, for a bit, until she had to go home to her husband, also a hero hubby :)

So there I was on my own again, but this time, I took her advice.  It was a small fee but I had access to several nannies and babysitters.

And that folks is where I found my Nanny #6.  It was nanny love at first sight.

And on top of that, I created an entourage.  I have a posse.  I feel like such a boss.  I have 5 vetted nannies in my pocket, in case Nanny #6 is sick, or its off hours, etc.  I have a care team.  Like I said, BOSS.

My unsolicited advice to you, my caregivers, is trust me, you can afford this, you SHOULD afford it, at least until EVERYONE is stable.  Nanny #6 isn't a gold plated nanny that I can't afford, she is modestly priced, and came with 3 pages of references.  You have GOT to get one. She doesn't mind if I work from my room, if I'm roaming around the house aimlessly, if I have all of a sudden to get out and run errands.  I suspect they all operate that way, but this one, she doesn't care, her job right now is kids, and as I slowly groom her to work with the husband, well, then she will get a little pricey, but its going to be soooooo worth it.

Now, this is no way saying is fool proof. I suspect any creep can create a profile, so be sure to check your references, and no, the VA, as of now, is NOT paying for this, though I am hoping they will cover some hours so I can have her more as my Hero is requiring more and more medical help.

Don't burn out your friends and family.  They don't truly understand anyway.  And that is okay!  Preserve those precious relationships, and have a nanny work for you.  Maybe even a Nanny #6.

Kateri P. Wife to my very own beloved Hero Hubby (Army 2002-2006)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Endless Battle

My husband and I have been together for almost 17 years! We got married in 2002 a week before he left for Army basic training.  we have 2 boys and 1 girl. At the we started this journey the boys were 4 years, and the other was 9 months when he left for basic. Our third kid came along years later. 

We were stationed in Fort Campbell KY in January 2002. Before we could even get unpacked we found out he was leaving soon. So after being together again after basic training we had to get reacquainted and say our good byes in a short month.  

When he left it obviously sucked but what could I do, the kids and I still had to keep going on which is what we did. And we made it! It was a long crazy year but it came and went and he was coming home!!

I went to mandatory meetings that were designed to prepare us for what extra baggage could and would be coming back with our heroes! I was prepared for it all nightmares, emotional mood swings, aggravation, isolation, etc. I was ready for it, but didn't need to deal with it. My husband seemed like nothing bad happened, he had stories about dumb things they did over there to keep themselves occupied between days and missions. No nightmares, no fighting, no aggravated outbursts! Oh lucky us!!? That wasn't so bad!

We moved home august 2005. My husband went back to his job that was held for him, we bought a condo in our home town we grew up in we were starting the next part of our lives.

            My husband told me about 6 months later he wanted to join the Ohio National Guard. I thought whatever if that's what you want to do go on. I later would learn that was the beginning of the signs I had no idea I should have still been looking for. He wanted the structure he had lost by getting out. No disrespect to the guard, but there's not a lot of structure for a solder who took pride in having his uniform perfect, shoes polished and beret molded perfectly. But he learned quickly how to make it work with them. He was ok for another year, maybe 2 before our lives started to change by things I never new I needed to worry about.

           I feel like it was spring 2007 when he became distant, frustrated, restless. he's had bad sinuses since he came back and I thought he was presenting signs of sleep apnea, which didn't  make sense because he wasn't over weight. He went to the VA and they said he needed to do a sleep study which led to him needing to use a cpap machine at bedtime. He was able to sleep better for a bit.

          It wasn't long after that I found my husband down stairs and I could tell he was crying. I asked what was wrong and he didn't want to tell me, I wouldn't understand, I would have bad feelings if I knew, it was his problem not mine were all things he said to try to keep his problem from me. I was persistent and kept asking him to tell me and let me help. He finally told me what his secret was and he lost it, cried in my lap and all I could do was explain I understood why he did what he did and it didn't change the way anyone would think of him and it would be ok we could figure out how to deal with it. The next morning I called his dad and told him what my husband was going through and asked him to get him to talk and help him start figuring out how to help him get help. At that point I put together that this was going to change things. I had a talk with my oldest son who was 8 at this time, I explained his dad had done things while in Iraq that bother him, I didn't elaborate on them but mad my son aware there would be times he wouldn't understand why his dad would be agitated or mad at things that weren't really an issue but just be prepared and walk away and not take it personally. It was the best way I could explain it to him. I didn't tell my younger son who was 4 at that time, it felt like he would question and pry to much.

        Its not my place to tell his story of what happened to him in Iraq to  bring us to this point, I hope that doesn't matter, Its his story to share if he wants, not mine. I will say if you've lived this life and know your hero's hidden secrets there is a song  “Hero of War”by a band called Rise Against, its hard to accept the lyrics as true events, but they are in fact very accurate to situations i know my husband saw and did, along with many others like him. Not everyone will be able to understand the things they did but that song points out how a person is seen as a hero, with medals, and scars, but hold visions of the worst imaginable circumstances they have to keep to themselves and just deal with the memories without allowing anyone to know or they will be seen as monsters, which in fact leaves a solder in his own head alone with no one to say its ok you did what you had to do.
        My husband began going to the VA and began the process of trying to get help with his thoughts and emotions. He also started getting treated for back pain with pain medications. As time went on he started seeing therapists and counselors and eventually was diagnosed with PTSD and they began a claim starting at 30% disabled.

          While he was learning to deal with the emotions he was supposed to deal with he started self medicating for his back pain by using his and other peoples medications to take away his pain. I thought he was in severe pain from his back, but as time went on I'd learn this was a coping mechanism to not have to deal with his issues and memories he could never forget and would always have in his head.

        My husband lost his civilian job, but luckily was able to get some temporary work with the guard unit he belonged to, so things seemed little better he was staying busy which helped seem like he was able to deal and keep his mind from wondering. But after a year and a half the solders he was filling in for came back from there deployment so he was laid off again.
Around the same time the VA said they weren't capable to treat him there anymore because
they didn't have the resources to duel treat him for PTSD and chemical dependence. So they sent him to another VA 50 miles away 2-4 times a week. I was floored and couldn't believe this was happening it felt like such a waste of time and money to drive down there every other day. But that was what he had to do to be cooperative.

           They took him off of his Ultram for his back pain and put him on suboxin, they said it was something new they were trying to help veterans deal with PTSD? He seemed ok but not great. On veterans day 2010 I surprised him by taking him to some casinos for the evening. He got kind of worried because he didn't have his suboxin on him and had to have it before the morning. That's when I realized they had put him on a medication that would cause him to go through withdraw without having it. It scared me and I asked him how they planned on getting him off of it and he said when he asked them the same thing they said don't worry about it know well cross that bridge when we cross that bridge? I wanted to yell WTF!!! But assured him we would be home before midnight we weren't staying the night.

            I then learned that suboxin is medication they give heroine addicts to keep them from using heroine, but this is what the gave my husband and to this day up to this point I strongly believe heroine was not a part of his life in any way.

            He did what they asked for months still not feeling happy, accepted, frustrated, sad, suicidal, restless, all things that I’d came to know came along with his condition. early spring of 2011 things seemed to get better, he mentioned to me that he was feeling better after they changed his antidepressant a few weeks earlier. He also told me they were going to begin a form of hypnotherapy, which I believe can and does work in some cases under close supervision. But unfortunately not in his situation. I feel a persons mind is a great mystery and very delicate. I am a very open minded person, but today I feel opening a door that a person has shut years ago after an incident has occurred  to make them relive, and try to appropriately deal with what never was dealt with at the time of the specific incident, then closing it and sending them on there way is  not wise to do while your changing medications and just beginning to understand how this type of therapy should be done.

           I will say he seemed so happy and excited like he was on top of the world for a small while. Within a few months ,if that, he began weird behavior, obsessively collecting things. We went through a coin stage, a stamp stage, a baseball card stage, a lottery stage, at first I went along with it if it made him happy why not? But something just didn't feel right. He was to happy, but then would go from happy to angry.
          He told me he wasn't taking his suboxin like he was supposed to that he was winging himself off of them, and only using small portions of them instead of the 2 a day he was prescribed. One day while he was at the va I found out he was starting to use a chemical substance he found at a gas station that would give him energy for the drive home. needless to say he became addicted to this substance and this is when my world began to collapse.

            His moods were so back and forth and our relationship was almost nonexistent. I began snooping and found out things I wasn't prepared for.
           I tried calling his doctors at the VA and told them what I had found, and the mood changes that were occurring and that he was going out of control. His Doctor listened but responded with we can not disclose his records all we can do is tell you to keep yourself and your family safe. I wasn't asking for information I was giving them the information they didn't see cause he was trying to hide it from them.

           We ended up getting into a fight one night and that created a restraining order for us, he was put on house arrest at his parents and I was home alone unable to deal with all that was happening with the kids alone. I tried to write the judge and explained the situation, but that didn't work like I had hoped. We were just looked at as a domestic violence couple and they were protecting my kids and myself. I get it but that wasn't what was happening. My husband hasn't ever been a violent person, we've had our arguments but not abusive. I just wanted him to help him, help his self more efficiently. 

            On his next guard drill they obviously wanted to have a talk with there solder who was once there go to guy the solder that took pride in getting the job done, was proud to lead his squad better than anyone else there. But before he reported to his ranking officer he took actions into his own hands and took a Humvee for a joy ride back to the VA 50 miles away. To this day I don't know why i have my suspicions and truly feel he was planning on not getting out of it. Thankfully he did get out and the guard finally had the incident they could use to get him different help than what he had been receiving. They took him to the Air Force hospital close to us which is where his captain became aware of how far off there reliable solder had fallen through the system and was now lost and alone. The Air Force doctor told his captain the VA had messed up and he was given orders to never be allowed to go back to that locations facilities again.

            From there was the first time he went into in patient psych ward. Its hard to find humor in the situation, but hes a bit of a legend there, every time he goes back or tells his story there like “that was you? You’re the one that stole the Humvee!”
           After being released he didn't listen he returned to the facility to do a month long inpatient for the first time. Then still made multiple visits weekly to stay in the program until he could be transferred to the closer VA. I was the only person he had to rely on which was super hard for me because we obviously have tons of things that needed to be dealt with but couldn't because of how fragile his mental state had became. (Still haven't been dealt with today, but I have bigger battles still being dealt with)

            He was released from house arrest and was able to come home before march of 2012. When he came home he apologized for how things went and that he was sorry and it wouldn't happen again. I was hopeful and wanted to believe.

            Happiness never completely returned. We had a death in my family which as sad of a loss that it was began the hardest chapter of my life. I found out my husband was kicked out of the suboxin program at the VA, He began having withdraws from the medication and that's when he turned to heroine. I told him that wasn't going to be a part of my life, it couldn't be in our house, or around our kids. I was faced with turning my back on the man I loved for 15 years and stand my ground. Things went up and down for couple months and they were able to get him back into a different program this time it was methadone not suboxin.

           This is at the same time we were losing our house after all that had happened over the past  year holding on to our condo and its memories didn't seem important. We thought moving into a friends second house was a good idea but unfortunately when he began hearing stories of my husband he went from being his hero friend to a piece of shit that should be on the street so we were evicted for a 2nd time within 3 months 2 days after Christmas.

            I had no option but to move in with family members who wanted nothing to do with my husband anymore. It hurt knowing that everyone wanted to be proud of him and he was their hero, but when life happened to him and he couldn't deal it was so easy for everyone to say he needs to stop blaming his problems on his PTSD and face reality. If he had cancer and I turned my back on him i would be a horrible person, but he has PTSD and I'm looked at as a fool for allowing him to effect my kids and my lives.

            Almost a year ago we moved into a new house together again and tried starting over again. Things were ok for a bit, but the VA once again suggested that he should stop taking the methadone and leave the program again. I don't know what the reasonings were, I think because he wanted to take anti-anxiety medication to deal with his panic attacks and the medications i guess are harmful together? I feel like they decided to take a tough love approach to him too, maybe to make him decide for himself why he wanted to be there and be helped. I can understand but still don't think that's how they should be handled to many other people are around our vets who just want them to be ok and normal, but don't know how to help them. If anywhere should understand it should be the VA. I know it's hard convincing someone who doesn't want to be helped that things happen this way is for there best interest. And that is who they are supposed to be there for.

              But he agreed and as the withdraws began he checked himself into the psych ward at the VA to detox once again.

               I thought to myself maybe this time he’ll get the chemicals out of his system and will be ready to be happy again. Our lives can be what they used to be!

            After he got out he had an inpatient appointment i went along with him to. We had our daughter and were wondering back between waiting rooms, they finally called him in for his check up. he came out he looked sad and disturbed. I asked what was wrong but he didn't want to tell me. I finally got him to talk when we were in the car, he told me the nurse in the room asked him “Why are you pacing and acting impatient I was talking with a ww2 vet and your little problems are nothing compared to what he has to deal with!” Once again I thought WTF its your job to help people not judge who needs what help or why or who needs more. I feel like our VA at least is filled with people like this. It has to change. I don't care if they are government employees or not they have a job and that job is to help veterans not belittle and knock them down in there times of need. Our government needs to put different people in charge who care and will make the facilities more efficient. I know its not about making a profit or staying within budget to them but it needs to be based on how there work ethic causes a cancer within the facility that trickles from department to another. Their eyes need to be opened to how small groups within have negative attitudes towards there purpose. ( sorry that's a different issue all together I’ve seen over the last couple of years)
 Anyhow he wouldn't let me go up there and file a complaint but I strongly feel the VA needs to pay closer attention to there employees, she hasn't been the only one who passes judgment towards him or others. Its really sad to think this is where the vets have to go and they just except that they cant do anything to change it.

          So once again my husband has been detoxed and clean. I felt that after all the times we had gone up and down this was it we were going to be able to live a new life and get things right!

          I was wrong, he started using again shortly after his encounter with that lovely nurse who made him feel he didn't matter and needed to suck it up! He tried to go to VA for different treatments and aftercare programs but that place has so many negative people who bread off of the veterans trying to stay clean that they cant.

          I was finishing my shift at work mid summer when i got a call from my husband, he told me he was sorry but he had OD and died, but they were able to bring him back to life. Luckily he was by another veteran waiting for the bus who used my husband's phone to call 911 while he performed CPR till a squad arrived. If it wasn't for him my kids wouldn't have a father and I'd be a widow. Our conversation that evening was hard and hurtful. Just like the years before.

           He continued using to function and hide his pain and memories from war and all the damage he caused us. some days I caught him, others I didn't. Either way I couldn't trust he could take care of our kids, so i would have to always find a sitter and keep them away so they wouldn't have to see what I feared. He had an intake day scheduled mid July this past summer to go to an inpatient program for chemical dependency with PTSD veterans. I caught him once again hiding that he was using in the early morning and I had to send him away with out the option of coming back until he did his inpatient care again. It was 8 weeks that we knew he had to do if we were going to make it. It was hard sending him away, but it helped. After a few weeks of staying clean in there they were able once again able to put him back on suboxin to help him keep the temptation away.  
       Upon completing the course he came home for about a month before going back in for a PTSD inpatient course again. While he was in there he did a bunch of different group type classes. One of which was a horse therapy class which surprised me to see how much he enjoyed it. He never liked horses and here he was talking with our daughter about his horse spirit! He told me they were helping him understand why there minds go in the directions they do when memories, and triggers present themselves. I was happy to begging to see a happier him once again.

           He was in there up until just before thanksgiving.  He was able to come home for the holidays and they were stress full, but we made it to them.
         I was told that the reason for the change in personality when his antidepressant was changed was documented as a allergic reaction? His disability went from 30% up to 50% and he has gone in front of another board and we were informed it will be going up again.

        Life has been complicated for my family, but i feel like were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Its been a long obnoxious journey but i feel like its going to get a little easier now that he's learning how to deal properly and not turn to things to make him forget, but accept its part of who he was  and is and it cant be changed.

         We still have to tiptoe and avoid topics and trigger situations but that's easier than how we've
 had to handle life.

          I feel from the start of his treatment a lot could have been done different and this road wouldn't have had to have been as destructive as it was had more people realized what was going on earlier in the treatment process. blaming the PTSD victim and telling them to get over it make the situation better. I feel we as a country need to understand the why and how of this disorder. Just because one person can deal doesn't mean the same thing wont destroy the next. Just because you find out the bad things a solder did in a war zone doesn't mean that a solder wanted to do any of them, it may not change them but it can haunt them forever, its up to the people next to them to be understanding and positive. My life is hard not being able to spend Holidays with my family and my husband at the same time because they don't want to understand. I understand that there hurt by the way he acted and the things he did, but no one has been hurt more in this journey than myself. If I can understand and try to help him through you would think they would be able to, but what ever maybe time will help them understand along with everyone else that asks why do you stay, why do you do it? I can't explain besides it feels right. Where would he be if he didn't have us to fight for? Hopefully they all have someone to try and help. hopefully those someone's have people to help them understand the why its happening before they give up as well. PTSD is hard to know is there. If a solder comes back missing an arm then everyone wants to help, if a solder looks fine on the outside, but acts irrational then they need to get there self together. 
         As for how things are going now, we just adopted a rescue puppy and i’m hoping to get him trained as a therapy support dog for my husband. There's a local organization called “Battle Buddies” which are begging to train for veterans that qualify! Maybe well get lucky and they’ll take my husband as a volunteer too since he cant do anything but go to the VA then sit at home all day anyways!!

        As for our children they have been awesome helpers and under standers. I know they've had a tough couple years as well, but to know them you wouldn't know. Both the boys were in therapy at the beginning of all this but nether were recommended to stay. They both have standing orders to be able to jump back in when ever but thankfully hasn't been needed to go back yet. My oldest is a sophomore in high school, taking 2 college courses and on the student council, and my younger son in 6th grade is a star football line man, honor roll student, our daughters little wild, but she’s daddy's little girl.

        We’ve been through a lot but they say things happen for a reason. I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what our reason for all this was. I’m hopefully the rest of our journey will be a happier and smoother one with out another setback. baby steps, and one day at a time!       

Submitted By: Wife of a Broken Hero