Saturday, September 4, 2010

D.I.S.T.R.A.C.T. - A Cool Coping Tool

So, some of you may know (especially if you get our e-mail newsletters) that I've been seeing a therapist through the Give An Hour organization (provides free counseling for members of the military, veterans, AND their loved ones / caregivers).

One of the many things she's been helping me work on is how to handle those times when my hubby totally looses it. Those of you who live in PTSD / TBI world know exactly what I'm talking about. Unfortunately, it's just part of this life. The problem is, those tirades have started affecting how I see myself and the world around me. I found myself getting more and more defeated. An especially bad incident could leave me numb and not able to function for days (not a great idea in a household where I'm the one taking care of pretty much everything!).

So, my therapist, Cindy shared a tool called D.I.S.T.R.A.C.T. with me. It's worked so well, that I asked her to write a short article about it for me to share with all of you. I'll also be posting this on the main website.

Don't get me wrong, it' doesn't "fix" everything... there are still times when it just doesn't work... but about 60% - 70% of the time it helps (and let's face it, any progress is exciting!). The basic idea is to get yourself "out" of the moment. It may not stop your Veteran's tirade, but it does kind of let you distance yourself!

Here it is:

When you find yourself overwhelmed with things going on around you and you begin to self doubt (I can’t do this, I’m not going to make it, I’m going crazy…), there is something you can do to get through the moment. I learned this technique from Marsha Linehan. I’ve used it with clients for several years and see dramatic results. I’ll teach it to you.

We will work from an acronym: DISTRACT

D = immediately find something else to do that will momentarily take you mind off what is happening around you. This has to be preplanned and pre-organized. You will not be able to ‘think’ to do this in THE moment. It could be something as silly as jump up and down, begin to sing, go to another room, bend down and touch your toes and then reach for the sky. The point is – DISTRACT yourself at this moment.

I = Find a happy place in your memory. Literally have a predetermined place that brings smiles to your face like the memory of seeing your baby for the first time, a beach, a cat watching a bird. Just have this memory pre-programmed for ready access. This purpose in getting you to smile is that smiling breaks the chaos of the moment, lifting the heaviness you were feeling in THE moment.

S = If the first two did not work, run get an ice cube and rub it on your arm, suck on a peppermint, spray an aromatic air freshener. Do something to stimulate the senses. Stimulating the senses will break the spell of THE moment.

T= Think about something, again pre-planned, that brings you to a different place in time. An example would be a vacation, a child’s first day of school, a baking session for the Christmas holidays. Go there for just five minutes and recall everything. Stay there till you feel better and if it takes more than five minutes that is ok.

R = Remember a time when you made it through a difficult moment. Remember how hard that time was. Remember that it passed. Remember that you did make it through. Remember and pat yourself, remind yourself that you can get through this as well. You are resilient. You just need to remind yourself of this from time to time.

A = Accept that the emotional pain is real, normal for the moment and anyone going through the same thing would probably be experiencing the same emotions, frustrations, and fears that you experience. Accept the normalcy of the THE moment in your life.

C = Create a new meaning for THE moment. An example would be: I am angry and overwhelmed because I had plans today and this is interfering with my plans instead of, he always does this to me when I have plans. Another example: He senses that I’m leaving to go to the store and is afraid to be alone instead of; he always does this when I try to leave. Just add a new meaning, believable, but a new meaning to THE moment.

T = Take an opposite action. If you feel like hitting him, pinch your ear lobe. If you feel like crying, sing. When you do the opposite, you break the spell of THE moment.

Cindy's Contact Info:

Cindy Warren, Marriage & Family Therapy, Associate
Warren Counseling Services

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How Dan and I are Surviving Vietnam and PTSD (Part 2)

Thanks, Barbara, for this follow up!

Now that all of the horrible things that happened between Dan and I are out in the open I would like continue our story. I had to get through telling the outside world the things I have kept my secret so many years before I could continue and let you know that no matter how tough it got, there is a good man in there. Dan never let us go without any thing, we are not rich by far. When times were good and he could cope with life he was and is the best man I know. I don't want you to think that all of our life was extreme, it was not and is not. For the most part we are happy. I just want you to be able to spot the things you should be looking for when your spouse is going in the wrong direction and is in danger of hurting himself or you. The quietness was the hardest part to put up with, he would not talk and as I said before drank, drank, drank. Self medication you know, if he couldn't deal with it then he thought he would bury it by becoming numb.

Depression and guilt came raging to the top. The night sweats and the nightmares become so frequent there is no rest for either of you. Dan shut out his friends and family, all of us. He wanted to do nothing that would involve him being plesent.

Please remove all guns from your house. I know you think, well that makes sense when they suicidal, yes it does but until you find him with one you think,or at least I didn't think he would ever go through with any threat. If your loved one says he has no reason to live, or he is just tired LISTEN, it's a call for help. I found Dan in the garage with the motor runing one afternoon the garage door was down, not a good sign. Watch and listen no matter how small you think it sounds if any thing makes you wonder, it is more them likely a signal of needing help.

My daughter said the Christmas was one of the times she hated to come. Not because there were few gifts, but because she knew that we would have a major fight. Just one of the ways we hurt our children and didn't at the time know it. We thought they never knew we fought. There comes part of the guilt. Dan was home, supposed to be enjoying his family and could not get out of his mind the men that did not make it home - including one of his best friends from our home town.

Dan thought he was this big though guy that could handle any thing, and me the all wise person that I thought I was, told him to stop using Vietnam as a crutch, how dumb was that.

He didn't like Dr. Martis at all because he would not sugar coat it. He told Dan one time either you commit yourself or I will do it for you. Then Dr. Martis explained it would be much harder for Dan to come home if the Doctor committed him. Dan did the right thing and signed in. Dan told some of his coworkers he had no reason to go on, he was picked up again and taken to the hospital.

If your husband has PTSD don't take any thing he says with out merit it, it may be the day you lose him.

What ever you faith is or even if you have none, makes no difference to me, I will be praying that you will be able to see the signs and protect the one you love.

Also please remember I am not telling you to stay if you are being abused. I hope you know the difference between an out burst and abuse. Hitting is never right, take care of yourself or you will never be able to take care of any one else.

Until next time I hope this has been some help.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Dan and I are surviving Vietnam and PTSD

PTSD, unfortunately, doesn't change. In the years since Vietnam and in the years to come, our heroes and their families continue to struggle. PTSD spans every war and every branch of service. Hopefully, though, we will find strength in each other, the knowledge that we're not alone, and the ability to learn from the experience of those who have gone before us. Thanks, Barbara, for sharing your story!

I have been married to Dan for almost forty two years, while every one was getting married to avoid the Vietnam war we were getting married because he was leaving for the war. Dan was in The United States Coast Guard, you may not know the Coast Guard does not serve in the war unless they volunteer. He thought it was the right thing to do and I think he was right. I guess you could call me a real war bride, we were married two weeks when he left, he arrived home four days before our first anniversary. This wonderful young man and my husband came back broken. The next forty years of our lives would be nothing like we had planned. You see Dan has PTSD and it changed our lives forever. While Dan was in Vietnam losing his friends to the terrible war, I lost our first child,the doctor said my nerves aborted our child. The loss for both of us was immense. We tried with all of our hearts to make a normal life for ourselves, however it just was not to be.

Dan had and still has horrible nightmares, night sweats and out bursts. No one knew what PTSD was until the '80's (shell shock, battle fatigue, you know) and as most wives, I made excusses for him. I tried to make sure everything went his way (don't make waves I thought), whether it was right or not. One of the things I tried to do was make every thing perfect, the children neat clean and tidy no loud noise don't want to upset Daddy, including my house. Nothing could be out of place because if I could not control my life I could at least control how it looked to others.

Dan drank so much more than he should have, so much more than normal. He would stay out until all hours of the night and into the morning. He had affairs, he struck me, lied to me and the list goes on. Now I bet you are saying WHY did I stay with him. The answer to that is not an easy one, sometime it was because I thought I had no where to go with three little ones, other times it was because I knew he needed me to help him, some times I thought I could fix him but most of all I loved him.

Dan tried to kill himself more than once, I cannot tell you, even now, how it breaks my heart to think of it and to worry it could happen again at any time. I could go into all of the horrible details, however if you are reading this, you are most likely experencing alot of the things I have. I only hope this helps you in some way.

Men and women with PTSD seem to just slide through life with ups and downs until one day something drastic happens to knock them right off of thier feet. We had a number of these in one year. Our baby was seventeen and became pregnant, not really a bad thing, however her baby was born very ill. Five months later I walked down the isle with my beautiful grand daughter in my arms to watch her Mommie and Daddy marry. That was October of '96. Things were good, yes, they were. December of that year Samantha (my grand daughter) had her heart rebuilt at The University of Michigan Hospital and God let us keep her, good again. June of '97 my husband was down sized from the job he loved and worked for many years, not good. He went into a great deperssion. He then went through many jobs, not one seemed to be the one he wanted, he could not keep a job for long, not good again. Now it is December of '97 the 20th. yes five days before christmas and our house burned down a total loss. My oldest daughter took us in for the Holiday's, you see our other two daughters, one daughters husband and our wonderful Samantha were visiting from VA. It was by far one of the best Christmas's I have ever had, we were all together and safe.

If it had not been for Dr. Martis and the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor Michigan I am sure Dan would not be here today. In and out off the mental wards , thirty five days at East Chicago PTSD clinic, twenty one days at Battle Creek PTSD clinic and the list goes on. In 2007 my mother died, Dan loved her with all of his heart,the day we burried her we lost Dan in a way too. The sheriff's department came and took him to a safe house, I was all alone - Mom was gone and they had taken Dan. Secondary PTSD came up with a vengence. Some of the medical society has a problem believing that we could have such a thing, well it is here and in full strength.

I am trying to heal by helping others I am going to speak at The VA hospital in Ann Arbor about PTSD, Secondary PTSD and what signs to look for in your spouse or partner to keep him or her safe. I also am one of the directors of The Arms Forces and LEEF a program started by a wonderful woman here in Ohio, we are going to have group meetings starting in September for the spouses and partners of veterans to hopefully help them work through some of their problems. As we can not cure them (there is no cure) we can listen and help them to release some of the fears we are all holding.

Dan and I are taking our time trying to heal, Dan is now after trying to convince the VA that he can no longer work retiered 100 percent. It took us a long time. You see it seems that if you are sick or not, to hold a job, stay married and dress like a business man you must not have PTSD. BUNK! After he was almost sixty years old we convinced the Social Security Department also he was not trying to scam them. Please don't give up your battle, for, and with your husabnd or wife. The road is long and hard and really never ends. How do I finish this story, with the hope that if I have helped you to understand in any way, if I have done this then I am on the right track and I too am healing.

My Life, Changed Forever

We're always glad to post stories from Veterans and family members. If you'd like to share your story and encourage others who are experiencing "life after combat," please go to

My name is Tona. My wonderful husband is was injured 3 times in his 5 tours to Iraq. He was injured in 2 IED blasts and 1 mortar attack. His 1st injury occurred December 27, 2005. He ran over IED in a HETT. He didn't realize he was injured, only thing he knew is he had a massive headache and was unable to seek medical attention. The blast damaged the truck.

His 2nd injury was approximately (he can't remember his exact date) in March 2007. He again, ran over IED in HUMVEE. Again, he had an unbearable headache and was unable to seek medical attention due to command. It damaged the vehicle on the passenger side where he was sitting. The only thing he could think of was getting out of vehicle and redirecting traffic so they would not travel where they were in case there were more IED's. He was a sitting duck so to speak and risked his life in the middle of Baghdad to make sure no more injuries happened.

In April 2007, Easter Sunday, he was in camp in Iraq and was chatting with me on yahoo instant messenger. A mortar was shot into camp and hit the tent he was in. I didn't realize what had happened and thought yahoo had froze up again, when in fact they had to report to the bunkers.

He finally came home and we finally had time to spend as a family. We knew he was different, very distant, moody and restless at night. He didn't want to do anything we used to do such as going out to eat, movies or being in a public place without feeling of fear. We didn't realize what we were dealing with. I just thought he was moody and didn't know how to deal with war. I started to pay attention to him and his behavior was very odd. He started talking about things that were "off the wall" and things I had never heard of. He started having tremors (seizures) and nightmares. Thank goodness we had a great military doctor who screened him for TBI which he tested positive for, which in return sparked other appointments to see how intense the issue was. We found out he was indeed having seizures and then that episode would be followed by "flashbacks" to where he thought he was still in Iraq and I was his commander. It was quite scary because I didn't know what he would do or even was capable of. I didn't fear for my life but didn't have full knowledge of his time in Iraq because he wanted to spare me and himself. I have learned about his experiences due to his unconscious talk. He has about 4 "tremor" seizures a month with many different medications.

I have done a tremendous amount of research on TBI, PTSD and seizures. I am my husbands advocate and will continue to support him in his time of grieving and healing. I have seen a difference of who my husband was before and who he is now. We have done a lot to try to transition him into civilian world. He is getting ready to do "cognitive rehab" and other retraining. I am doing my best to make sure he has whatever resources he needs to try to be independent. We have tried many things such as cell phones, dry erase boards, voice recorder, sticky notes and constant phone calls to make sure he doesn't forget where he needs to be. No matter what, I will continue to fight for him and our family. Even though he has changed and will never be who he was before, he will always be my hero!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A PTSD story far too many of us "get"

Received the story below this week from a Veteran's wife. Her story sounds like so many (including mine). It is my heart's strongest desire that we reach a point where families have enough information and tools that they have a fair chance of surviving in "PTSD world". It's so unfair that we're expected to fight this stupid disease without the weapons we need. I pray for the Victors of this world... and for those who face the heartbreak and trials of loving a suffering hero. May they all find help and hope.

I would also like to point out, that many families (again, including ours) report PTSD getting worse as time at home progresses instead of better. Veterans who seem to be coping in the first months at home can become gradually more and more withdrawn and angry. The best way to stop this downward spiral is to get help for your spouse. I know it's easier said than done, but getting help early can really make a difference.

Anyway, here's the story...

The husband I knew before he went to Iraq would take me back, would understand why I did the things I did. I left him and took our new born 1100 miles back to Texas with me. Why? Because being a new mother and taking care of our 1st child and taking on all these new responsibilities and emotions of being a mother plus taking on this horrible demon inside my husband became to much. I told him a month after having her, I finally wanted a divorce. He said all these hateful things to me all the time, and would throw out the divorce word at me all the time anyways, it was what he said he wanted. And logically anyone who thought with their brain, and not their heart would have left 2 years ago.

I wanted to protect our baby, and make sure she was in a stable environment. And through the irrational things he would say to me and I didn’t understand why he would say the things he said. But I stayed for so long because I new who he was before Iraq and deep down in my heart he was still that person . Some days I could see that person, and it gave me hope. People would think I was crazy for staying with someone and loving someone like this. But they didn’t know him before Iraq. The only thing I could say to friends or family before I understood this was all just PTSD is, "I love him and when we were on R&R it was perfect, my Victor I fell in love with was there for the last time, and now I see him sometimes.” We were so good to each other.

I couldn’t step back and take a look at the big picture and say he was suffering from PTSD, I was so engulfed with anger and why he couldn’t just stop. But that’s another wonderful thing about this website. I was starting to mirror his actions or suffer from Secondary PTSD. I had never felt so angry in my whole entire life and completely consumed by it. I can imagine the uncontrollable rage he has been feeling then and now.

Yes, he had some signs of PTSD when he first came back, and I thought it was something that would go away. He hid under a bar once while we were out at a club because he saw a sniper. It was horrible, I knew my husband was no longer whole. But no one told me anger and simple things would make him snap on a daily basis, no one told me he would be irrational and could easily snap while we were having a good time, having a casual drink with friends or family.

Even the most important days like when we found out we were having a little girl he had an episode. I hated him so much for ruining that day. When really it wasn’t his fault, it was just PTSD’s fault. I had no idea that it would linger even after 2 years of him being home.

A solider can become mentally damaged for life and it’s natural, after being in an unnatural environment, a war zone. People perceived him as a bad husband, who treated me like crap, and I didn’t know why he did the things he did now. All I knew was my Victor was in there, even though he went away sometimes.

But after having our child and multiple talks with him before our child came. And telling him to find out how to control his demons, and prevent our child from being exposed to them. Which is a cruel irony, I didn’t know Soldiers are in denial that they have PTSD. I got tired, exhausted, and my pay off no matter how hard I tried, there was eventually one of his dark episodes.

It’s a hard blow to take and to stand tall and strong and look that person in the face and say I you love. I knew from the beginning who he was, and we had a strong loving built relationship before Iraq, even after that it can almost be impossible to say I love you to your solider. Call me crazy but I’m a person of faith believing without seeing, I wouldn’t see Victor the one I love, for sometimes hours or days, but I believed every time that Victor would come back, even if it was just for a few minutes.

But once I saw that precious face of our little girl, my faith in him was shaken, I felt guilt for being so selfish for someone treating me this way for so long. I promised myself I wouldn’t let him mentally debilitate her like he did me. And his irrationality I started to believe it. I remembered when he used to tell me before Iraq our wedding vows and even when we dated I was his world, I made him happy and he would spend the rest of his life making sure I was happy. He made these promises and broke them, could I really believe he wasn‘t going to mentally hurt my little one the same way. I was living proof he would, I feared my little girl would be treated like a little princess and eventually be crushed like I was. I started planning an escape away out to save my little girl. I promised myself the day he made me feel threatened between my daughter and I, even if it was just another one of his stupid mind games, I was going to leave. I wasn’t going to deal with mind games when it came to my child, and that’s what happen so I left.

It‘s been almost 2 months. He tells me he loves me and misses me and checks on his little girl. He finally listened to me after years of telling him to go talk to someone about what’s going on in his head and make himself happy again and taking medication! And he is taking medication for his back and talking to Drs about that too. I’m so mad now that I finally have our baby after 4 years of trying, and I finally leave him. He starts to care and take care of himself and has a little more control. He wants me back, but he doesn’t know how he will react to me coming back and doesn’t want me to go through one of those dark episodes revolving around that subject. Which is still good he’s showing signs he cares!

I‘ve begged for our happy life back. Even though he may never be whole minded again, it‘s worth it. And that one person may never have me back, he might have these dark episodes the rest of his life. I want to be able to kiss my husband goodnight and sleep next to him, sleep under the same roof as him, raise our child together fight for our family even though things may never be perfect.

I saw that person while we were out at Buffalo Wild Wings. He was visiting us for a few days to talk things out, and see his little girl. He gave me a hug and said “Why? Why did you have to do this?” In the most loving and sincere voice. And even then I lost him again, as I tried so hard to explain to him, he had another episode that slowly escalated over 5 hours and finally reached it’s peak the last 2 hours, it was brutal. His dad was there to and could tell when it started, which helped me not feel so crazy.

Even then I was clueless about PTSD. And I hadn’t run into this site yet. Thankfully our baby can’t talk and understand all the horrible things he said. But it was one of his best episodes he’s ever had, because he snapped out if it, and apologized! Even though it was 10 minutes before I needed to go home for the night. I remember crying and hugging his dad that night because I thought Vic would never snap out of it and it made me feel a little better at least someone would huge me good bye.

Before he wouldn’t have apologized, or things would not be discussed why it happen. And he said he was sorry, and he was so angry he couldn’t stop thinking about the next time he would get to see his little baby girl and mad at me for leaving he couldn’t control the rage and he was sorry and loved me. But it was worth it, I got to see that little piece of him, even though I was completely emotionally numb, and I couldn‘t look him in the face and could hardly say the words I love you. I did tell him how much of a damn fool he made me feel like for putting my heart back out on the line again and he crushed it. But the important thing was he snapped out of it we talked it out, he said he was sorry, and he cared!

I’m Okay, now that I know! I went through so much with him without knowing or fully understanding it was PTSD. Imagine what I could have done, what I could do, if I was still there fighting for us. I want to find ways to cope with PTSD. I want to get counseling. I want to be there, I know it would be so much easier knowing what I’m fighting against PTSD and not just a crazy husband. I ran into this website recently last week and realize I was just one of hundreds going through similar things and finally recognize my husband wasn’t crazy for being the way he is, and this website made me understand there really is something horribly wrong with my husband PTSD and I wasn’t stupid for sticking things out with him for so long and I wasn’t crazy for loving this man.

If I had only known sooner my responsibility and how important it was that I was caring for a solider suffering with PTSD. If someone had taken the time and cared to really evaluate my husband. If only he had gotten some type of counseling. If only someone had a meeting that was mandatory for all spouses to take, to help identify symptoms and know your loved one is suffering from PTSD, to seek counseling, to find help, to know how to cope with all the responsibility, and someone to just to help you. Maybe I would still have my Victor and I would have never left. But I didn’t know that this was natural for him to feel and be this way, after being in an unnatural environment. I don’t want anyone else to go through this experience the way I did. I don’t want them to say "Well I didn’t know", and almost loose the one they love.

The Victor I knew before Iraq, please take me back.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Freedom of a Different Sort

So, in case you haven't noticed, this isn't a very "normal" blog. Entries are posted in a haphazard fashion (sometimes several in a week and at other times not for several months) and are written by many different people (as time allows and hearts are moved).

There are many reasons for this, but the chief reason is simply because the blog is maintained by wives of injured Veterans.

For many of you - especially those who live this life - that statement says it all. It's a complete and total explanation for disorganization :)

But there are many who don't get it, and it is for those that I write this post. If any of the following sounds sarcastic or snippy, I truly, truly don't mean for it to sound that way. I really do mean to help "outsiders" - those who care about a Veteran or the loved one of a Veteran but don't live this life everyday - understand why we seem... well... scatterbrained, unorganized, and a bit kooky sometimes (in my case, a lot of the time).

I was once a very organized person. My car was immaculate. I knew where 90+% of my things were. My home was not perfect, but was certainly passable the vast majority of the time. I could get places on time, every time (not just by random chance). I remembered birthdays, sent "get well" cards, hosted parties, and was in general a fully functioning, "normal" member of society.

Then, my husband came home from his second tour of duty in Iraq and my "normal" life was never seen again.

Now, my house is often a mess because my brain is too full to handle it.

My car is... well... umm... an embarrassment.

If I manage to get my child to preschool on time I do a secret "so happy I'm not such a horrible mom after all" dance all the way home in the car.

I've been planning a Christmas party for 2 years.

I send birthday presents months before or months after the actual event (thank God for friends who love me anyway).

I know where 30% of my stuff is (and that may be an optimistic estimate).

And, though I pretend not to notice, I'm well aware that several family members and a few friends are shocked, dismayed, and maybe even a little disappointed by the general state of our world.

Life has, without a doubt, changed. And it's changed for a lot of people who now struggle to live with and love our nation's physically and mentally wounded Veterans.

I wish I could adequately explain the sometimes mind-numbing, overwhelming, completely consuming nature of life with an injured hero. As a caregiver, I'm not only responsible for myself and the normal "wife" and "mom" stuff - but I'm also my husband's memory, calendar, finder, shield, go-between, shopper, errand runner, medicine checker, doctor talker, physical therapist, hygiene policewoman - and I'm also responsible for all of the things in our household that he would "normally" do.

My to-do lists have to-do lists and very little of it ever gets done because at a moments notice a "bad" day (a PTSD flare up, or a day where my hubby's back/hip/etc are particularly painful, or a day following a sleepless, nightmare-infested night) can mean that the day is simply spent in "survival" mode.

Survival mode basically boils down to scrapping anything and everything that could put any strain on any member of the household. It's a bare bones, "if we manage to get to the end of the day, we're going to say that we've been successful" sort of deal. And for a caregiver, it means 24 hours of constantly being on guard against anything that could upset the delicate balance and create a complete meltdown.

And, as bad as "bad" days are, they also have a secondary impact. After a bad day, the next few days are spent trying to mentally recover from "survival" mode. Your brain just wants to go to Tahiti - it cares nothing about the laundry that is stacking up, or the dishes that need to be done, or the dust bunnies that are planning their own fiestas. [If this sounds like you, you may want to check out our website section on Secondary PTSD.]

I don't know if there's anyway to adequately explain all of this. I've offered several times for my husband's doc to come live with us for a few days (especially when he decides he needs to lecture me on something I've forgotten, etc). For some reason, though, he doesn't want to.

The long and short of it is, if you know someone who is caring for one of our hundreds of thousands of injured Veterans, please remember to cut them some slack. Don't comment on the dust bunnies (unless you're planning to hire a maid for them). Don't mention the dishes (unless you're offering to do them). Don't criticize their efforts (unless you're going to start living their life).

If you truly care about and love a Veteran, allow his or her caregiver the freedom to not be perfect. Their work is hard and thankless enough without criticism. We're all just doing our best. Love us for that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"If Only" - The Heart of a Veteran's Wife

If only you cared enough to love me.
If only you cared enough to fight for us.
If only you cared enough to see my pain.
If only you cared enough to want happiness in our family.
If only you cared enough to hear my heart.
If only you cared enough to do what you need to and not what you want to.
If only you remembered how good we once were.
If only you cared enough to stand by your vows.
If only you cared enough to work towards us.
If only you cared enough to be kind.
If only you'd be tender.
If only you'd stop crushing me.
If only you'd stop hurting me.
If only you'd stop killing me.
My heart is broken and every time it starts to mend you break it again.
It takes a man to win this battle, to fight for his family, to stand with his wife.
It takes a man to do whatever it takes for the good of his sweetheart and child.
I wish this hurt and anger and overwhelming sadness would just go away.
I wish this wasn't my life - wasn't your life - wasn't our life.
Where are you and how do I call you back to me?
Why won't you fight? You fought for people half a world away, but you won't fight for me - you won't fight for us.
That makes me so mad at you but at the same time so overwhelmingly confused.
I don't understand why you act like you hate me.
I don't understand how you can be so cruel.
I don't understand why it seems like you like to hurt me.
I don't understand why you seem to need to put me down and break me.
I don't understand why you seem to need for me to be miserable.
I'm clawing with everything I can to hold this together.
But, I don't know how much longer I can.
I don't want to give up - I can still see us - I can still see you hiding behind this monster.
I can still see what was and what could be again.
I can still see glimpses of your heart.
I can still see glimpses of your love for me.
The fight is wearing me down.
The fight is defeating me.
I know I'm losing.
I know I'm losing.
Please God, help me.
Help me not lose.
Help me find a way to save us.
Help me find the strength to go another day.
Help me find a way to turn us back from the brink.
Husband, please hear me.
Dear one, please remember.
Sweetheart, please fight.
I need you.
I miss you.
I love you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Vet's wife channels frustrations with VA into helping others

From the Mobile Press Register (January 21, 2010)
Written by Robbie McClendon

Many veterans struggle to access their government benefits, but Brannan Vines, whose husband left the Army in 2007 after two tours in Iraq, has channeled her frustrations into helping others.

The Daphne woman's Web site,, is dedicated to helping veterans and their families navigate the stormy waters of life after combat.

After Iraq, civilian life should have been easy for Spc. Caleb Vines, his wife said.

He'd survived more than a dozen explosions and seen more than his share of death and destruction, she said. His daughter was born while he was deployed.

But life wasn't easy. In many ways he simply traded one battle in for another, she said.

The new adversary was the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the new objective, securing the benefits and health care Caleb Vines, 32, had been promised by the government.

Caleb Vines declined to be interviewed for this story.

Calls left over several days with the VA's public information office in Washington were not returned.

The VA was created to help veterans access their benefits, but nearly every interaction with the bureaucracy felt like a battle, Brannan Vines said.

"Nothing was like, 'this is how you get access to this benefit,' or 'this is how the system works,'" Vines said.

A 2008 study conducted by the Government Accountability Office found that by 2007, nearly 400,000 veterans were waiting for the VA to make a decision on their benefit claims.

Vines said that a bureaucratic foul-up led to her husband being denied benefits despite what she called overwhelming evidence that he suffered from traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.

Repeated explosions, like the one that punched a hole in the armor of his Humvee, also punched holes in her husband's short-term memory, Vines said.

"He's forgotten entire conversations," she said.

Crowds had to be avoided. Grocery trips had to be carried out at night.

"Your whole life becomes trying to keep your family together," Vines said.

Sgt. Andrew McConnell, now retired, fought alongside Vines in Iraq and maintained contact after they left the military.

"I knew he was having a hard time," McConnell said, "But he's a Southern man, pride and all. For anybody, it's hard to talk about what happened, but especially for someone like him."

Eventually, Brannan Vines stumbled onto a Web site dedicated to veterans' wives and contacted the site's founder for advice.

"She told me," Vines recalled, "either this is going to kill you, or you are going to get a hold on it by helping other people get a handle on it.'"

Vines decided the best way to help others was through the creation of the Web site.

The site, which gives advice on a variety of topics, including how to recognize and deal with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, averages about 100-180 visits per day, she said.

McConnell, who now lives in Germany, credits Brannan Vines with helping him obtain his Veterans Affairs benefits upon his retirement.

"She walked me through the system like a newborn baby," he said. "It's a system set up to deny any claim until they are forced to accept it. Without Brannan Vines I would not be receiving the benefits I am today."

Vines said her own struggles with Veterans Affairs have yet to be fully resolved, although her husband is receiving some disability benefits.

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