Monday, March 24, 2014

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

Precisely.

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.  Care.com.  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 care.com 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
      

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Love Letter Campaign ~ Reuben & Hannah - Our Story



Nearly 2 months shy of 12 years ago, I started noticing this young man, he was cute and had gorgeous brown eyes, but what really got my notice was that he treated me like a lady. He opened the door for me, he was polite, respectful and oh so sweet. Well, I really didn't think he noticed me, after all I was almost 13 and he was 16!!  I will NEVER forget at your sister's graduation, you gave me a necklace and told me you liked me...oh my word was I shocked!!!  We talked on the phone a lot, since we never really got to see each other and you became my best friend. Within a year, you told me you loved me and I knew I loved you, but it took me a little longer to say it.

By the time our siblings got married we were head over hills in love!! :)  We already knew we wanted to get married, although we knew it would be a long wait. I was still only 14 and you were 17 itching for that 18th birthday so you could enlist.  I remember your graduation party and how I couldn't stop staring at you, my word you were absolutely HOT...I couldn't believe that you loved ME and wanted to marry ME...the overweight 15 year old!! We spend some fun times together and not to long after Memorial day, you left for the US Army Boot Camp. This was one of those moments where I was so proud of you but terrified....of losing you. I just knew you would go to boot camp and find someone else...someone you didn't have to wait for.  I wrote you every day in boot camp, I missed you like crazy. Then post pass arrived and ohhhhh man was I nervous!! We got to the hotel on post and I remember the door opening and I swear, my mouth about hit the floor!  There stood, MY SOLDIER and ohhhhh I think I could have married you that instant!! :)  We spent an amazing day together, one that I think of often and you reassured me that you were still in love with me!! You graduated and it was amazing to have you home, you only left for drill once a month, we were back to talking on the phone every chance we could, you were going to church with us, mainly so we could see each other and we were constantly talking about the future, what we wanted and how we wished that life would hurry up


The next year was a year that changed us in so many ways, we were madly in love and had promised each other our lives and knew that no matter what we would get married and belong to each other!  There were a lot of complications in this year, a lot of rebellion and honestly, we leaned on each other to get through something we were fighting with everything we had and while looking back I do see all the mistakes we made...the grown up in me also see's the beautiful memories we have, we were best friends that were madly in love with each other and we didn't want anything to keep us apart. It was also the year I turned 16 and finally got my my promise ring, we started planning a wedding date for after I turned 18 and it seemed so far away!  You searched for a good job, struggled to keep gas in your poor beat up car and despite how hard you tried, you never found a good one.  Temp job after temp job and then you started talking about going active, something we talked sooo much about, it terrified me, I didn't want you to deploy, but I also knew that if it was what you wanted, I would support you no matter what! 

-The next year...our dreams came true...


The beginning of the year went by pretty smooth, you were trying to go active, working on your PT test so you could get PFC and I was working, we saw each other at church, we talked on the phone allll the time and we were 
honestly just enjoying being in love. In April, you came over for my birthday, I was telling you about my wedding dress that I had already bought and you and my parents kept looking at each other and for anyone that knows my dad..he was SUPER SUPER SUPER protective of me, him looking at my boyfriend that way, well, it was NOT normal :) I knew something was up. 


That night you proposed and of course I said YES!! :) We found out your duty station would be Ft Hood, TX. We asked my parents if we could move our wedding date to December and then I would move to TX with you and to our surprise, they actually agreed!! The day you left was hard, I cried a lot, I hated it because there were a million people around and I really didn't get to tell you good bye..lets face it a "hug" was considered inappropriate.  You got to TX and again, that fear crept up inside me...what if you found someone else?  We talked a lot, you mentioned that there was an upcoming deployment, but you didn't think you would be going but within days of arriving, you called me and told me you would indeed be deploying and soon!! You talked to dad and he agreed we could get married before you left. You worked on getting leave and I rushed to plan our wedding in 2 weeks time. I will never forget the day before our wedding, I drove to your parents and picked you up and I can not tell you how amazing it was to be in your arms again and know that within 24 hours...you would legally be mine. Little did we know...that exactly one year later, our lives would change 
forever.  The day of our wedding was crazy but I still remember the moment the doors opened and I walked down to meet you...you looked absolutely amazing in your uniform and my heart felt like it would burst from all the love I felt, we joined hands, looked into each others eyes and promised our lives to each other.


The next 9 days went by so fast...while our honeymoon was a lot of fun, it was also hard as heck, I was sick, we were doing paperwork to get me enrolled in DEERS, everyone and their cousin wanted to see you, which was understandable...but I was a brand new bride whose soldier was about to deploy and honestly, I wanted you all to myself! The day you left...I sat on your lap while you ate, crying into your shoulder, I didn't want you leaving, the fear of losing you terrified me..only this time, I wasn't scared you would fall in love with someone else, I was terrified you would be KIA.  The ride to the airport I spent snuggled up against you. When we got to the airport, well it sucked...watching you walk away was the hardest thing I had ever done. 

You went back to Hood and deployed. This is where things changed...I knew when I married you just how amazing you were or at least I thought I knew...I didn't truly understand until a few years later. The first 6 months were Hell for you...yet I never knew, I knew you were tired, I knew things were tough...but I had no clue what you were going through...you didn't want me to know. You had lost your innocence and protected me from the ugly truth...war is hell and you had seen plenty of it. I missed you so much, each phone call was like a little bit of heaven, just to hear your voice, it made me happy and hurt at the same time..I wanted you home! You came home for R&R and I think we about knocked some people over in the airport trying to get to each other, you held me and kissed me and it was the most amazing moment. You were HOME!! 

But your smile, it didn't reach your eyes..although I could feel the love, I also felt something else, but I didn't know what it was. That night was hard, you fell asleep and that was my first encounter with PTSD. I called Debbie crying, what was going on??!! She soothed me and basically told me to get over it and keep going, I had to be strong. We spent 2 weeks together and while it was amazing, I knew something was wrong, you had nightmares, I was terrified to wake you because I learned on that first night that you NEVER wake a sleeping soldier. You looked haunted when you were awake...I didn't know what to think...I told myself, it must be the fear of going back soon..sure..that's what it is. Telling you good bye in the airport was so hard, seeing the tears in your eyes, I could barely stay in control of my emotions, I kept kissing you, not wanting you to leave, but duty called, you turned and walked away and I knew you heart was hurting every bit as much as mine!  In April we found out that you were being extended another 3 months and man were we upset. July came and I couldn't believe we were only a day away from our 1 year Anniversary...I will never forget when you called...I knew the minute I heard your voice, something was very wrong. You told me about the accident...what had happened, you were in a lot of pain, but alive. I cried...so thankful you were alive, but wondering how "ok" you really were. 

The next 3 months you called me often but were so different, you repeated things, you forgot things constantly and I knew you were in pain..I just wanted you home so I could know that you really would be ok.  You got home on Halloween and man did my life change. I was so happy to have you home, but I knew that you were far from ok. A lot happened over 
the next 12 or so months. Constant nightmares, anger, you forgot so much, lots of medication, profiles, Dr appointments and the list goes on. You slept a lot, kept to yourself...it was hard, but I loved you and I knew that we would get through this! Our little boy was born in December and I saw this new life in you, your eyes would light up when you held him, you seemed have a purpose again. Things were still rough, but we both knew we loved each other and we were making it.  One month later our life took another turn, you weren't feeling well, went to bed and the nightmares that night were enough to make me scared out of my mind, you woke up yelling in pain, your chest was hurting, you were coughing up blood, I called 911. The ambulance arrived and took you away...I packed up our baby boy and went to the hospital. It wasn't long before your lung had collapsed, you couldn't breath on your own and they sedated you and put you on life support...now while they knew you had some form of pneumonia...they didn't know what kind or how to treat it, you were going down hill and fast. The Dr told me I should call your family, they didn't know if you would pull out of it. 

THIS, is when reality hit me, unless God provided us with a miracle, I was going to raise our son alone. It is one thing to know your loved one is in danger and could die, it is another to actually watch your loved one go through this and you can't do anything to help them. Our family arrived early the next day..but a lot of that is a blur...what I remember, is sitting in a chair and laying on the side of your bed, holding your lifeless hand, crying and begging God to save you...you were the love of my life, the father of my child, the man I wanted to grow old with...you were my everything!! Your SGT's came in and we went over funeral arrangements,  I wanted to be prepared for the worst. I barely left your side other than to see baby Tyler in the waiting room.  After several days of fighting, horrible name calling and scary as heck events, you were finally awake again and alert.  

Less than a month after going home, you were back in the hospital with fluids building up in your lung again and the Army also happened to decide that your military career was over. One month later, we packed up and drove away from Ft Hood...it was so bittersweet...we loved the Army...this wasn't what we wanted, but it was what the Army said..so we weren't given a choice.  The next few years were crazy...searching for a job or the ones you got, you were fired...we had 2 more children, it was a constant struggle just to survive, it took 2 years to finally accept that our military life was over and to accept reality...you were never going to be ""  the way you were"  again. The back injury, the PTSD, the migraines, the memory issues, cognitive issues...we both tried to minimize it...surely it would just go away, there had to be a way to "fix it" ....

When i found FOV was definitely when life started making more sense to me...I found out that what was going on in our life...was what many of them were going through, that all the issues...were issues caused by your injuries...injuries that needed to be brought out from under the rug and addressed, our lives and our marriage were at stake.  The next year was hard, the fight to keep things going, I was losing weight, trying to get healthy and your health just kept going down hill, you were working, but we were constantly worried you would get fired, you were told how stupid and worthless you were by your co workers and boss, your migraines were so severe you would throw up at work, I'm not even going to get in to all the issues the TBI caused...it was a hard year. I started attending counseling with you and I hoped that we would get to a better place.  

The beginning of the next year I applied to be your caregiver and got started on getting your VA claim finished. Things were getting worse, we were struggling, the PTSD was rearing its ugly head more than ever, the depression, the other injuries causing more issues, it was hard. The end of March, I got Debbie's email and sat in shock, trying to process what I had just read...CJ was gone. We made the trip happen...we were going to say goodbye and be there for Debbie and for CJ.  Those 2 days were full of tears and flashbacks of things that seemed like a million years ago..I remember laying in bed the night of the wake and you just cried and then you made me a promise, a promise I hold on to. The next few months things grew worse, the depression, the PTSD and all its ugly symptoms, things at your work became so bad that you just wanted to walk away, yet you wouldn't do it, you wanted to provide for your family...something I greatly respected. 

Then another battle began, your boss fired you..we were left with barely any income and no idea when your claim would be finished. For 2 months, I barely slept, I did anything and everything I could do to make ends meet, I called every few days to check on your claim, I pushed and pushed to get it done. Finally, it happened, your claim was complete..only to find out it was much lower than expected, but at least we were in a steady income again. We set the wheels in motion for your new claim. I finally had insurance again, so I decided to go to the Dr, we set up the details and I had surgery scheduled for 3 months later, I was in so much pain and miserable, but had to keep pushing on. They called me a few weeks later and asked if I wanted to reschedule for a month early, they had a spot open, I said yes and started getting things ready. I had my surgery and aside from a drastic blood pressure drop, I was doing well and home recovering. 

Things seemed odd to me, but I figured it was the pain meds. I will never forget the night/early morning when once again, our life took a drastic change, you were walking across the room and suddenly started acting really weird, you laid down and I sat in shock as I watched a seizure take over your body...I was terrified, it happened 2-3 times and it was over. I told my sister, thinking that surely I could have been wrong, that it wasn't a seizure. Then the next night, we were having cake for Tyler's birthday and you looked horrible, we got you on the couch and once again the seizures took over your otherwise lifeless body and then, you stopped breathing. Your breathing finally got better, but you were unresponsive and your brother and I agreed, 911 was the only option. They came, loaded you in the ambulance, your brother helped me climb in the ambulance with my fresh incisions screaming in pain and away we went. For the next 8 weeks, these seizures happened between 10 and 40 times a day...no one could tell me anything...Christmas was beyond hard, we had another ER trip, several VA appointments that led to nurses and Dr's running in the room, rapid 
response called and being transported via ambulance to inpatient with the VA..during this time, I felt cold and numb..my heart was breaking, I was losing you again. We are still going through medication increases and testing trying to figure out why these seizures started after over 6 years and why can't we control them. So our life seems somewhat crazy, the days spent at home making sure you are ok, that I'm there for the seizures and the unconscious periods, making sure you are still breathing, making sure that you are ok...stilling running a household and raising 3 children.  We reach this point and I sit back and think about the question that inspired this "story/love letter".   

Why...do I do what I do? Why do I keep going? Why do I stay?    

Here, is the reason...the easiest way I can explain it is to think of it as being married to 2 very different men, in the same body. First, is the young man I married, my best friend, the man I am am still madly in love with (you have to understand, I was barely 17 when we got married, I was so madly in love, but it was a young love, a love that vowed in sickness and in health, but really never even expected that to be part of our life. A young love that thought life would always be easy, call it an inexperienced love. Did I mean my vows? ABSOLUTELY!!  The man that still gives me butterflies when he kisses me, the man who makes me feel like I am his world...then there is my wounded soldier, from the outside, he doesn't look much different, just older and more worn...but he is the exact opposite of the man I married. This man, I grew to love with a different kind of love, an unconditional, no expectation of receiving anything in return kind of love, a love that smiles when it wants to cry, a love that pushes harder when it really wants to crumble, a love that forgives even when it hurts to breathe, a love that says, I will love you no matter what and even your demons won't push me away, a love that see's more bad days than good...this has made me fall even more in love with him, the person he is now, it made our love stronger because I was willing to be his everything without expecting anything in return...this is what true love really is.  His soul has been through hell and has seen things that scarred him, changed him and have terrorized him for the past 7 years..yet he keeps fighting, he tries to get up, he tries to do things on his own, he tries to be more...the soldier still fights on!  Yes, this life is hard! Yes, there are days when I cry and wonder how I will ever keep going...but those are the days that I look to God to give me strength to be what I need to be.  I look in to my husband's eyes and I know that there is no where else I would rather be...I love my soldier and proudly hold him up when he is weak, I proudly fight for him when his body fails...he has given up almost everything for our freedom, I won't give up on him, he is still my best friend and the love of my life and I can't imagine life any other way!  We have everything as long as we have each other!

Submitted By: Hannah

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.