Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Walking on Eggshells, Part Four

Join us in part four of Mrs. S journey as her husband's PTSD progressively worsened and the option they choose. Thank you Mrs. S for allowing FamilyOfaVet.com and our readers to step inside and have a better understanding of what families with PTSD and TBI face. Stay tuned next Monday for Part Five!


It had been almost two years since he came home from Iraq and his symptoms were not improving.  His headaches and knee pain were getting worse.  He felt like a cripple and he was convinced that he’d end up in a wheelchair someday.  I encouraged him to make an appointment to have x-rays and an MRI.  In the meantime I started doing some research on PTSD and TBI.  We knew he had moderate to severe PTSD but it was becoming obvious to me he was suffering from TBI as well. 

His x-ray’s showed small stress strains behind his knee caps and the doctor prescribed him knee braces.  The MRI showed nothing but sinus polyps.  This seemed to frustrate my husband more.  He felt like no one believed him or his pain.  I tried to explain that an MRI doesn’t always show TBI just because the scan didn’t show anything didn’t mean he wasn't suffering.

He became suicidal again.  Luckily, he left the house and went to a mutual friend’s home this time.  I didn't know if he had any guns or weapons with him though.  I was so frightened, but tried to act as normal as possible at home for the sake of our kids.  I was keeping in touch with him via text and I was also texting our friend who’s home he was at to make sure he was okay.  He would text me the details of how he was going to kill himself and our mutual friend would text me to say that he was fine…just drinking coffee, eating cookies, and ‘shootin' the shit’ with them there.

Once again I found myself wondering how he could appear so ‘normal’ to some people and complete opposite to others.  When he finally came home I told him that we have to find a different kind of therapy for him and possibly re-visit the psychiatrist to adjust his meds.  He agreed.  A few weeks later he drove the 40 miles to his psychiatric appointment.  The receptionist let him know that his doctor was running late but would be with him shortly.  When the doctor came out to the waiting room, he called someone other than my husband in to be seen.  He absolutely lost it and went off on the receptionist, slamming the door as he left without even seeing his doctor to get his medication adjusted.

The next week he went into another anger rage and threw a vacuum that landed only a couple feet from our toddler then punched through not just one but both of the oak cabinet doors on our entertainment center.  He ended up with ¼ inch wide by 6 inch long oak splinter lodged in his finger through his knuckle… He had to go to the emergency room and be put under for emergency surgery to remove it.  Things were getting worse.  Even though he would be calm and relaxed after a rage, the kids and I were not.

He was then referred to see a doctor 50 miles away to start exposure therapy.  The doctor called to set up an appointment for him but he refused to talk on the phone to him so I asked the doctor to email him instead.  He agreed and asked me to join my husband for the first appointment to thoroughly explain the treatment and its possible side effects.  The day of the appointment finally came and although we were anxious my husband seemed ready to get to a new step in his life.  The doctor brought us into his office and asked us to first watch a video, a 20/20 special explaining exposure therapy and its success rate among rape victims.  The treatment seemed to consist of exposing the patient to the trauma over and over again until it didn't bother them as much anymore.  My husband seemed a bit taken a back and quite irritated that his situation was nothing like that of a rape victim. 

We spent quite some time with the doctor in his office.  My husband went through his daily roller coaster of moods within that hour and a half appointment.  The doctor was so great and seemed able to calm my husband anytime he’d get too riled up.  By the end of the appointment the doctor gently explained to us that my husband was not yet ready for this type of treatment nor could he believe that my husband hadn't yet been diagnosed and compensated for severe PTSD.  He suggested he try an in-home treatment center for OIF/OEF veterans.  My husband explained that he already tried an in-patient treatment the national center for PTSD and couldn’t stand it.  The doctor explained that there was a program; another live-in PTSD rehabilitation center that was not like the last one…he said that other veterans that didn’t succeed at the national center succeeded at this other center.  We were sold and looked into immediately.

I downloaded the application and emailed the contact at the home explaining our situation.  It took a few days to fill out the application and get a response.  The application needed a recommendation from a professional as well.  I took it to his OIF/OEF worker who filled it out as soon as he could.  Then came the waiting game. 

We assumed he would be accepted to the program but had no idea how long the wait would actually be.  This became quite frustrating for all of us.  I couldn't quite figure out a good way to let the kids know that daddy would be leaving again, or when, where, and why.  I talked to our oldest about it.  I found a downloadable book for kids her age about PTSD for her to read.  She seemed very understanding but a bit worried about losing her daddy.  I waited to tell our son until we had an actual date.  The month wait was pretty hectic.  We couldn't plan anything.  Finally the call came that he was accepted and would have a bed ready for him on Tuesday. 

It finally hit me, that he’d have to leave us again but this time he could come back better.  I explained to our son, age six, that daddy gets angry too easy and it’s not our fault but he doesn't want to get angry anymore so he has to go somewhere to work on it.   It was only three hours away from home and we would be able to visit him often though.  I tried to research the program as much as possible to get an idea of what to expect but didn't find much information.  We knew it was a voluntary program and was not a lock-down type facility.   We knew that regular attendance to classes was necessary for completion of the program, but other than that we really didn't know what to expect.  He decided that he didn't want to bring a vehicle or any money or bank cards in case he felt like leaving so.  I understood his fear of possibly leaving if things got rough but couldn't understand why he didn't want any money.  I made him bring his credit card just in case he needed it for something.  We got a quick tour of the facility and I was sent on my way home............

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