Monday, March 30, 2009

Missing My Husband When He's Already Home...

We received this story from the wife of an OIF Veteran yesterday. With her permission, we're sharing it on our blog. We're sharing it for many reasons... mostly, though, that it speaks so strongly to the heart of what so many wives and husbands of our combat Heroes are dealing with.

PTSD at its worst is an cruel beast that can destroy once loving families. That's why it's SO important for all of us who are part of the "new" generation of Veterans and families to work together. Our marriages and families are worth saving... but the only way they will be saved is if we get the help, information, support, and resources we need. NONE of us can fight this beast alone.

If this story sounds familiar to you... or if you and your family are having other struggles for which you can't find help... PLEASE take 10 - 40 minutes and complete our Congressional Survey. The only way to get what we need is to know exactly what's needed!

Here's the story of this Veteran's wife:

Is it PTSD?? Where do I find help??

My husband was deployed in Iraq for 14 months he came home the 2nd week of December, about 4 months ago. I was so ecstatic to have him home after being without him for over a year. He had mood swings while he was deployed and since I was the only one he had the most contact with out of his family I guess I was the one he took most of his stress out on. I have no idea what happened over there, what he saw, or what he did, but I tried to be more than understanding and blame his anger on the situation, telling myself I didn't know what he was going through, but I knew I had to be there for him.

Now that he's home, I feel like I lost my husband in Iraq and this person is a stranger. He doesn't come home after work until late at night, he doesn't talk to me, he doesn't answer my calls and when he is home he is very distant. He often sleeps on the couch and it seems he is uncomfortable being around me or showing affection.

We started marriage counseling about a! month ago, but that has shown little improvement on the situation. In counseling everything seems great and things will work, but once we are home everything stays the same.

I've tried to find help, I've talked to the chaplain, my husband's SGT, our counselor, and anyone I could think of that might be able to help. What I am beginning to understand is that there really isn't significant help for people in our situation and although he is home and healthy and wasn't physically wounded in war, he lost who he was there.

I gave the greatest contribution of my life to this war; the love of my life, and there isn't anyone willing to help me get him back. About 2 weeks ago we hit rock bottom...I couldn't take him lying to me anymore; telling me he was at work late when really he was at his friend's house and when he did come home he busied himself with everything else and distanced himself from family life or any kind of affection or intmacy with me.

After 4 months of being alone, crying, depression, trying to understand but not being abe to I finally told him if things didn't change soon I was going home because I couldn't take the lonliness anymore. He told me to leave....and today here I am...700 miles away from him. I've been home for a week and he wont answer my calls or texts ..it's like he doesn't care that I'm gone...I miss him so much...I want my husband back.

I was searching Google just now for anyone who might be able to help me and I found this site. I don't know if I will find help here or if there is help for my situation, but atleast I found somewhere that I can tell my story and maybe someone can relate. If anyone at all has any suggestions, words of comfort or inspiration, or can just relate and let me know I'm not the only one that feels like my husband died in Iraq and i'm losing control of everything I valued as worth living for contact me at jessdm1223 -at- yahoo -dot- com

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Homeless Heroes

I continue to be amazed by the things I notice now in my "new" world as the wife of a Veteran with PTSD, Mild TBI, and other combat-related injuries. One such instance happened this afternoon.

I was on my way back from the grocery store and noticed a young man (probably in his mid-20's) standing beside the road with a sign that read "Homeless and Hungry." My heart went out to him and I instantly wondered if he was a a Veteran who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Why, you ask, would my mind automatically wonder if he was a Veteran?? Simple. There's a high likelihood that he did.


Here are some startling statistics of which you may not be aware:

On any given day, approximately one of every three people who are homeless, is a Veteran.

About 200,000 Veterans are sleeping in shelters or on the streets each night.

Around 400,000 Heroes will find themselves without a home this year.


Of those Veterans who are homeless...

45% suffer from mental illnesses (such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

More than 67% served our country for at least three years.

And around 33% served our country in combat.


Too many of our heroes are finding themselves cold and hungry each day. They're sleeping on benches, in door ways, on sidewalks.

And, many are finding themselves homeless as a result of a system that does not properly diagnose, care for, and support our Veterans.

Without the support of family, friends, and communities, we will see this happening to more and more returning heroes in the coming years.

Patriots who have served their country at the very least deserve safe, warm homes. What can you do to make sure that happens?

If you know a Veteran, please take responsibility for helping him or her "settle" back into civilian life after they return from combat. Help him find the help he needs (the Family Of a Vet staff will be glad to tell you where!). Be there to listen, support, and offer real-world help when he needs it.

If you don't know a Veteran, or would like to help support or donate to an organization that aids our at-risk heroes, check out the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Signs & Symptoms of TBI

Signs and symptoms of neurological impairment caused by TBI depend on which structures in the brain are damaged.

Signs & Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD develops differently from person to person. If you’ve lived through a traumatic incident, your symptoms may appear within hours or days of the event, or they may take weeks, months, or even years to develop. Symptoms can arise suddenly, gradually, or come and go over time.

There are three main types of PTSD symptoms: re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding reminders of the trauma, and symptoms of hyperarousal or heightened anxiety. In the days or months following a traumatic event, you may find yourself alternating between re-experiencing the event and avoiding reminders of it, with symptoms of increased arousal as the common backdrop.

Re-experiencing the traumatic event

The most disruptive symptoms of PTSD involve the flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories of the traumatic event. You may be flooded with horrifying images, sounds, and recollections of what happened. You may even feel like it’s happening again. These symptoms are sometimes referred to as intrusions, since they involve memories of the past that intrude on the present.

If you have PTSD, you may re-experience the traumatic event or intrusion in several ways:

-Intrusive memories of the traumatic event
-Bad dreams about the traumatic event
-Flashbacks or a sense of reliving the event
-Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
-Physiological stress response to reminders of the event (pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
-These distressing symptoms can appear at any time, sometimes seemingly out of the blue. At other times, they are triggered by something that reminds you of the original traumatic event: a noise, an image, certain words, a smell.

More Info On Helpguide

I Told You...

Upon return of my husband coming home from the war, we would have this famous argument... he would ask, "why didn't you tell me we were going out with dinner with the Smiths?"

I would say, "I did... you must not have been listening..."

I would become frustrated, as I thought he was tuning me out sometimes. Come to find out, this was because of his TBI.

Useful hints to help your soldier with TBI to remember things:

  • Keep a white board on the fridge so he can go back to look at notes you write
  • Keep an organizer for your soldier (he should also try to keep one, but it could take time for him to remember to write everything down
  • Have a calendar someplace else in the house, we have one hanging on the kitchen wall
  • Keep things organized. Make sure you place things in the same place, every time. Example: our keys go on a key rack, shoes go in the same closet every time, keep your soldiers drawers organized. Socks, underware, t-shirts... if need be, label the drawers
Do you have tips you can share? Please leave a comment and let us know. :)

Just a Shell - A Hero's Poem

This poem was recently submitted to Family Of a Vet by an OIF Veteran who was awarded the Purple Heart and a Combat Action Badge (CAB). This Veteran, Joe McGovern, struggles with PTSD and wrote the poem below.

Just a Shell

Look at me I'm just a shell
A man who left and meant well
War was the task,no surprise
Harden your core,steel your eyes.

Trained to kill,fear unallowed,
I left hardened,returned bowed.
Never a moment of feeling safe,
Outside the wire or on the base.

Roadside bombs,RPG's, ambush,
Down the road the convoy would push.
On the FOB could be hell too,
Rockets and mortars aimed for you.

Look at me I'm just a shell,
I lived a year in that unholy hell.
Innocent death so grisly and real,
Even if starving you'd skip a meal.

My body made it home 38 years old,
My soul however sleeps somewhere cold.
Same blue eyes but now mirrors,
For inside a void that tremors.

Look at me I'm just a shell,
My soul's in Iraq,there it fell.

(Please note that this poem was posted with Joe's permission. It is his work and all rights belong to him. If you wish to publish or use it elsewhere, please contact us at Info -at- FamilyOfaVet.com so that we may pass your request along to him. Thanks!)

Stressful Day For Wife of TBI Soldier

I found an old journal post and thought it would be fun to share. :)

Well, following directions is not easy - especially if you have TBI.

Today, my husband wanted to do our family a favor... to clean the pool. Well, he disconnected a couple of hoses - hooked up the vacuum and began to "sweep the pool" - so he thought.

Water drained everywhere. I went out to tell him that he was not doing it right. I should have just kept quite. Of course, he says.... "why haven't you cleaned the pool?"

Could it be because I've been driving all over creation?

Or, could it be because I was tired from waiting for him today... for over an hour and a half total? Sitting in the van while he went in to his unit to check in and then sitting in the van as he "ran in" to give his friend a cane he made?

Time is no longer an issue to my husband...

I made dinner, read to my youngest daughter, checked out photos with my oldest daughter... Talked to my son about his camp adventure... took my youngest daughter to the movies (which was a great highlight of the day)...

-However-

I was blamed for everything and anything that went wrong today...

On days like today, I feel my relationship with my husband is strained. Sometimes it is hard to talk to my husband as a friend. His mind sometimes seems like it's one track lately. He likes talking about subjects that he likes - such as woodcarving... or going to help with the Military Order of the Purple Heart... but, when I begin to talk - he does not seem interested and actually asks me to be quite so he can concentrate on whatever it is he wants to think about.

I'm not writing all of this to complain - as I love my husband with my heart... but, I write it to let other wives and spouses know that TBI effects others around the person who has it more often than not. It's harder some days than others... today happens to be one of the harder days.

Tomorrow is another day... my husband has a meeting with the MOPH (Military Order of the Purple Heart). He loves that, so I'm sure his day will be good tomorrow... meaning - mine will too.

I'm going to bed early, it's almost 8:30pm and I'm wiped out.

TBI With Seizures

The following information is from BrainInjury.Com

Unfortunately, seizures may develop immediately after an injury to the brain or may develop in delayed fashion, showing up months or years after the initial trauma. Generally speaking, the risk of post traumatic seizures is related to the severity of the injury- the greater the injury, the higher the risk of developing seizures. Even mild to moderate injuries can result in seizures.

There are many kinds of seizures and seizures are not an uncommon condition among persons without head injuries. It is thought that a head injury disrupts the pathways of the brain and that an epileptic seizure can be viewed as a sort of short circuit of the brain's electrical functioning. During the seizure the electrical fields in the brain are overloaded, resulting in seizures.

The most commonly seen seizures related to traumatic brain injury are "generalized" seizures, which are also called "Tonic-Clonic" or "Grand Mal" seizures. The classification of different types of seizures is beyond the scope of this website.

Persons who have had head trauma are twelve times as likely as the general population to suffer seizures (Willmore, 1992). Patients with acute intra cranial hematomas also have a high rate of epilepsy. While there are contradictory studies, the more recent study (Lee, 1992) showed that of 4,232 persons suffering mild closed head injury, 53% had early post-traumatic epilepsy. Approximately 57% of head injured individuals developed epilepsy within one-year of injury. Longer onset epilepsy beginning more than four years after the trauma occurs in 20% of patients who developed epilepsy. It is estimated that 30% of all individuals suffering head trauma developed post-traumatic seizures and 80% of the time they occur within the first 24-months (Bakay, 1980).

You Look So Good On The Outside

With TBI, most people look "normal," but are not.

When someone asks my husband a question, and it takes him a minute to try to think of words to answer with - sometimes people get impatient.

He used to be quick on his feet, able to answer questions within seconds. Now, my husband really has to think of the correct words to say.

Two days ago, he commented about hand sanitizer. Instead of the words hand sanitizer coming out of his mouth... the words sand hanitizer came out. Thank God my husband has a pretty good since of humor. Sometimes though, I can see it in his face that he is embarrassed...

I read this today on a blog about someone with TBI:


“My short term goals are just remembering to brush my teeth, take my pills, eat my breakfast. Just the simple things.”



I know my husband feels like this as do other soldiers I have talked to who have TBI.


By the time lunch comes around, my husband is often times already very tired. It takes him quite a bit of effort to get dressed in the morning, going back to remember every detail.


Did I tie my boots?


Zip my pants?


Do I have everything?


Many days, he has to repeat those questions to himself... I also ask him questions such as, do you have your cell phone? Did you take your medicine?


If you ever meet someone with TBI, remember to take your time talking to them. Do not rattle off phone numbers for them to program into their cell phones. You may have to repeat your name a few times... but, please do not get upset...

Natural Supplements

Today, we made a trip to the health food store. I've been doing a little research, and thank goodness - my husbands new doctor is knowledgeable in natural supplements as well as regular pharmaceutical medications.

Here are a few natural supplements that could be good for TBI patients.

L-Carnitine
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Fish Oils
Vitamin B Stress Tabs
COQ10

There are many other natural supplements worth looking into.

Sometimes, it's okay to think out of the box... especially with brain injuries.

*Please note, I am not a doctor. Consult your doctor before mixing medications with herbal supplements.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

True Confessions

I am a strong, Army wife. I say nothing to allow my husband to think I am hurting for one moment. I walk with my head high. I have to be strong, so others around me do not think I am weak. The Army has been so quick to say how strong military families are... but, are they really?

Am I really that "strong military wife" that lets nothing get her down?

Strong, yes... but sometimes I'm down.

Do I ever feel down?

Yes.

Am I ever sad?

Yes.

My husbands unit lost 28 soldiers at war, over 80 were injured. Many of the soldiers we lost were friends of ours. Many of whom would come to our house for bon-fires. They would call my husband, Dad and me... Mom.

Before they left for deployment, they hugged me and looked forward to having a cook out at our house.

My husbands deployment was difficult. There was not one day that went by that I was afraid that my husband would be killed.

Little did I know, my husband would come home from war with a Traumatic injury, with seizures, incontinence from nerve damage, PTSD and other health complications.

My best friends husband was killed in war, many of our good friends were killed. Many of our good friends have lost limbs.

There are days I curl up and cry.

There are days I wish I could go back in time, before experiencing all of the hurt and pain that war has caused.

Today, is one of those days.

I blink back tears of hurt, pain... I feel so weak. So empty and alone. I hurt for my husband and the horrific things I know he has seen.

I miss our friends.

I miss the way my husband could sleep at night. That's right. He no longer gets a full night sleep. He wakes up with nightmares... still, after a year.

I miss the way my kids were so carefree. Before they had to see their father injured. They wonder why he is not the same... it is because he was hurt in war.

The thing that hurts me most, is seeing combat soldiers not being cared for once they return home. At Fort Bragg, there have been numerous suicides from soldiers who were in combat. This is because they have felt alone. Felt as if they had no one to talk to.

I have seen first hand, soldiers crying out for help - and no one helping them.

If you don't believe me, look at the suicide statistics at Fort Bragg alone.

I can no longer sit silent as soldiers kill themselves.

I can no longer sit quite as I see soldiers not receiving care they need.

I AM an Army Wife... I am strong, and I will no longer stay silent.

We hurt, our husbands hurt... our soldiers hurt... I am no longer afraid to say it.

Sincerely,

A Wife Of An Injured Soldier

Insomnia and TBI

Article found HERE


Question:

What are some techniques to deal with insomnia from brain trauma?

Answer:

Sleep disturbances are very common following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and many of these patients will suffer from insomnia. A recent study found that 25% of TBI patients will have insomnia that can occur either at the start of the night (sleep onset insomnia) or in the middle of the night (sleep maintenance insomnia). How best to treat insomnia following TBI depends on a number of factors and I will attempt to address some of these.

Insomnia has multiple underlying causes. Identifying the underlying factors that are contributing to insomnia are extremely important to ensure appropriate treatment. Factors affecting one's ability to fall asleep at the start of the night are quite varied and may include one or more of the following; a poor sleep environment (i.e. the bedroom is too noisy, too bright or too warm), learned poor sleep habits (i.e. watching TV to fall asleep), excessive use of stimulants (both medications and common substances such as caffeine and nicotine), certain medications, stress or anxiety, pain, medical conditions that may make it uncomfortable or difficult to breath well when lying down, heartburn, restless legs syndrome (an irresistible need to move the legs when awake at night) and circadian rhythm disturbances (when the body's biologic rhythms are out of synchrony or delayed).

The problem of maintaining sleep, or staying asleep once you fall asleep, has other underlying causes such as; depression, substance abuse (especially alcohol use, that can result in withdraw in the middle of the night), certain medications, pain, medical conditions that cause frequent urination throughout the night, heartburn, breathing disturbances in sleep, leg jerks in sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances (when the biologic rhythms are advanced earlier in the night). Occasionally some individuals will not have any of these underlying causes contributing to their insomnia and their condition is often labeled as "idiopathic insomnia" or insomnia for which a cause can not be found. In the case of TBI patients, certain factors such as pain, depression, anxiety, medications, and even the nature of the brain injury itself could all play a role in the insomnia.

As you can see, insomnia is a complex problem that requires a detailed evaluation to help sort out important underlying factors that may need to be addressed. A full history should be obtained to try to pinpoint any specific causes of the insomnia as therapy is most effective when targeted at the underlying cause. Many cases of chronic insomnia can be managed without the use of sleep-inducing medications.

Often times, behavioral therapy can be very effective for patients whose insomnia is the result of a poor sleep environment, poor sleep habits or psychological conditions. Some of the techniques used for behavioral treatment of insomnia (usually labeled as "cognitive behavioral therapy") include sleep hygiene education, stimulus control therapy, and sleep restriction. A recent study looked at using these techniques in TBI patients with insomnia found them to be highly successful at improving sleep. Even more impressive was that these improvements were maintained for months after the therapy had been started. In addition, the patients noted less symptoms of general and physical fatigue.

In some cases, drug therapy is required to manage insomnia, though caution should be exercised with long-term use of some medications. Certain sleep agents, such as benzodiazepines, are often accompanied by daytime sleepiness, fatigue and problems with tolerance (or losing effectiveness over time). These effects may be seen less with some of the newer sleep-inducing medications such as zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), or eszopiclone (Lunesta), though chronic long-term use of these agents has not been well-studied.

Melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep-inducing substance, has been found to be variably effective for treating insomnia. It may play a role in treating some individuals who have insomnia and are lacking normal melatonin secretion, but this does not appear to be common. It is probably most effective in treating those who have problems related to their underlying biologic or circadian rhythms, as melatonin will help to regulate these. Usually a dose of 1 mg at bedtime is adequate. Users of melatonin should be aware that this drug is not regulated by the FDA.

Recently, a new melatonin-like substance, ramelteon (Rozerem), was approved for the treatment of insomnia. This medication appears to be fairly well-tolerated and is the first uncontrolled medication approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. Use of any and all medications in TBI patients needs to monitored closely as the chance for an abnormal response could be more likely than in the general population.

You should discuss the insomnia issue with your primary care physician or rehabilitation specialist, though I suspect you may require the help of specialist in insomnia. Referral to a Sleep Specialist is often needed. A Sleep Specialist will take a detailed history and perform a physical examination. Based on this information, they will determine if further testing is needed or if a treatment strategy can be initiated.

To learn more about insomnia or other sleep disorders, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. In addition to information, the website contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so that you may locate one near you. The American Insomnia Association also provides information and links to support groups for those with this condition. Good luck and here's to good sleep!

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:
  • Read articles on this topic
  • Browse the previously asked questions
  • Ask your own question.

PTSD

TBI - Excellent Video

This is exactly what happened to my husband - except within the first week he was home, he was having seizures.... as the days went by, the more we noticed.

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What is Vestibular Rehab?

Does your soldier with TBI suffer from dizziness? This is quite normal, and last week we found out by a series of tests that my husbands vestibular system has been thrown off because of his TBI. This explains him running into things sometimes, and becoming very dizzy. He started vestibular rehab today, it was not a pretty site.... but, the nurse did have a cold cloth and bucket next to him... just incase.

Those with vestibular problems who participate in rehab can vomiting.

When my husbands ear drums ruptured during one of the blasts he was in, I am sure this is when his vestibular system was thrown off.

Vestibular (inner ear) disorders can cause dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, hearing changes, nausea, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and other symptoms, with potentially devastating effects on a person's day-to-day functioning, ability to work, relationships with family and friends, and quality of life.

Diagnosing and treating vestibular disorders is not always straightforward. In addition, such disorders are often "invisible," making it difficult for others to understand how disabling they can be.

Doctors use the medical history and findings from a physical examination as a basis for ordering diagnostic tests to assess the function of the vestibular system and to rule out alternative causes of symptoms. These diagnostic tests are designed to evaluate the function and structure of the inner ear and/or brain, and they include hearing evaluations because the hearing and balance functions of the inner ear are closely related.

Tests of vestibular (balance) function include:

Vestibular rehabilitation can offer relief of symptoms for persons suffering from an inner ear disorder. Vestibular rehabilitation is an exercise program designed by specially trained therapists to help people compensate for a loss or imbalance within the vestibular system.

The program may include balance activities and/or eye or head movement exercises. The balance activities help people maximize the use of the remaining vestibular function, their sight, and the sensation in their feet to keep their balance. When there is an imbalance in the vestibular system, a person may also experience dizziness because the reflexes that help with eye movement have been changed. The eye exercises help the brain relearn these reflexes. Because each patient's symptoms and needs are different, it is very important to design a program to meet individual needs.

Information provided by:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/balance/treatment.html
http://www.vestibular.org/index.php