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!