Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Momisms: Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!  This mom can quite easily associate her son’s military service with a popular Halloween statement: Trick or Treat. 

The Treat?  Having a son I was already proud of joining the military just weeks before 9/11 happened ten years ago.  He had been a military brat and knew the majority of what to expect: military post assignments, TDYs, perhaps eventually military housing should he marry sometime down the road.
The Trick? Wasn’t a nice one at all.  We were attacked and the son I raised was more determined than ever to leave for basic training, stating it was more important than ever that he go.  That Tuesday ten years ago changed the path of his military service.  My son would go to war.

His deployment was a constant heart thumping time.  No haunted house could compare with the fear and anxiety I and so many other family members across the nation went through as our brave men and women went to war on our behalf.  The news would tell of a casualty in his unit and we would wait for hours by the phone and door.  My mom instincts could usually tell me he was okay but I still had to wait for the final message from the post: “The family has been notified.”  The treat was it wasn’t him.  The trick was someone’s soldier or Marine was killed and families have survivors’ guilt, too, as we knew it meant someone else was receiving that heartbreaking news. 

Scary movies are all the rage this time of year with goblins and ghosts, vampires and werewolves, Frankenstein and witches being the major costume likes.  But just as I discovered the old war movies about the 40s weren’t really happily ever after stories, I learned that coming home didn’t mean the war was over.  In some ways, it was just beginning as we were introduced to battle buddies my son brought home: TBI and PTSD. 

So yes, to use the phrase Trick or Treat, this mom can definitely associate it with life after deployment.  As so many of you are experiencing, you never know what each day will bring.  The trick is to know it’s happening in families all over as we deal with the aftermath of our loved one’s time in a war zone.   The treat is to know that you are not alone.  We are all here for each other. 

If you haven’t been able to find a support group in your area or even if you have, know that we are here and understand the daily roller coaster ride life has dealt your family these days.  Whether you are a spouse or a parent, there are others who identify with your role in being part of a family of a vet.
 
My wish for all of you for Halloween is that you experience treats and the tricks bypass all your lives today so that you can enjoy a Halloween comparable to life before PTSD and TBI.  Happy Halloween from Family of a Vet.  

Submitted by Monica Newton

Monday, October 24, 2011

Combat PTSD and Our Family

The OIF team at the VA asked me to write a letter describing the effects of my husband's PTSD on myself and my children. This is that letter with the names omitted.

10/20/2011
I am supposed to write a letter describing how my husband has affected myself and my children with his illness. I need to detail my emotions, my experiences and the children's as well. I can't help but wonder how I am supposed to accurately describe this train wreck that has become our lives.

How do I describe A's increasing anxiety, his stifling dependency on me? How do I make strangers understand my pain, my anger? Of course I am angry, at my husband, at myself, at the Marine Corps and pretty much anyone else in the entire world. And there is more, so much more than anger.

I wonder if strangers can truly grasp the devastating effect that post-traumatic stress has had on my family. Can they possibly understand my pain when my daughter told me she was afraid of her step-father? Can they
truly grasp the feeling I had when I came to the awful realization that it has now come down to this moment, where I must choose my children over my spouse, because no child should live in fear, even if she is unable to
define her fears specifically?

Can they imagine the pain of watching as the person you love is replaced by a ghost of who he was? Can they point out the moment in our story where it all went so wrong? I can't. I wonder if they can imagine how horrible it is to panic every time your loved one's behavior changes, whether it is understandable or not. I want to ask them if these words accurately portray the terrible sense of loss and the grieving that takes place as love is overshadowed by pity and guilt.  I want them to understand just how very much it hurts me to see pieces of A as he used to be every once in a while. A constant reminder now of what has been lost. As a writer, do I have the talent and strength to make them understand the grief that comes with losing
a spouse to this sort of half-death? Can they imagine the visits from this particularly cruel grim reaper, that mocks us with glimpses every now and then of the man A was, the man he should be.

I wonder if I can accurately portray a marriage that has become clinical. Where every word, mood, or gesture, every "I love you"', every phone call, every argument or celebration has become a symptom to be analyzed. Can they feel the emotions of a marriage where every single change in behavior sparks
panic and fear?

I am confident in my writing abilities. I process most of my emotion on paper, but this is deeper than I have ever been willing to go. It is painful and ugly, and I don't know if I have the words to make it clear, but I will
try.

Looking back now it is easy for me to see clearly the progression of PTSD in my husband. In the moments, however, there never seemed to be a clear crisis.

A came home from Iraq a different person. He was not the man that I remembered. I was not concerned. I assumed that he needed time to adjust to being home, to process his feelings and experiences. It became clear after nearly a year that he was declining rather than improving. The symptoms were subtle at first. They increased slowly, almost unnoticed except for in reflection. Depression and PTSD pervaded our marriage, our family and our home over the next four years. They are patient, insidious diseases that have left no piece of our lives untouched.

I was working the night shift in late 2006, A had been home for 5 months or so. I would usually come home between 1am and 3am. This was the first time that I noticed A appeared to be having nightmares. He would yell out in his sleep, and sometimes he would begin breathing rapidly and then hold his breath. I mentioned it to him and he said he was unaware of any nightmares.

He began sleeping a lot during the day. He gained a lot of weight. He became increasingly moody and irritable. He would withdraw into himself to such an extent at times that he seemed to be unaware of his surroundings at all. He stopped paying attention to our daughters, often forgetting to feed them dinner. He snapped at them over trivial things, and let major offenses go by unpunished, even unmentioned. He would laugh at something the girls did one day, and snap and yell at them the next day for doing the very same thing.
This was when I told him I thought he needed to seek treatment for depression. I did not mention PTSD. Any mention of the VA or of PTSD was met with instant and ferocious resistance.

A began to occupy himself with different distractions. At some point, the computer screen occupied all of his attention and focus, to the point of neglecting his family. He created multiple websites, putting weeks of
obsessive attention and effort into them, only to delete them and start over. He would seem to not be aware of the chaos of our children around him until he would suddenly snap and scream at them, generally for trivial
matters. This left the girls slightly on edge and moody.

At this point in time, A would still go places with me. He became increasingly unsocial however. He refused to speak to people, refused to consider my feelings about his demeanor around people I knew and cared
about. He became more and more agitated and hostile while we were in bars or clubs. He humiliated me on more than one occasion in front of close friends and acquaintances, telling me once, "Why don't you shut your [explicative] mouth," as we signed the mortgage for our house.

At the bar one night we got into an argument because A had left abruptly and gone to sit in the car. I was angry and embarrassed and was arguing with him. He told me that he didn't want to go back in because he couldn't stop seeing dead people. He cried. I had never seen him cry before. The next morning he acted as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened and got angry with me for suggesting that he seek counseling through the VA.

Another evening out was ended abruptly when A told me that he had to leave the club because he felt like stabbing people. I didn't realize then that he actually wanted to stab people, that the lights and crowds and noise were overwhelming for him.

In the spring of 2007, I came home late from work and was upset. A took a handgun out and yelled at me that he was "going down there right now to kill that guy". I had never mentioned a guy. We argued about him taking the gun because he did not have a carry permit yet. I only recently discovered that T(my oldest daughter) had heard the fight and had thought all this time that A was pointing the gun at her mother.

In early summer of the same year, after an evening out drinking we began to argue. I am unclear just how the argument escalated to the point that A again got the handgun and placed the barrel in his mouth with his finger on the trigger. I dialed 911 on my cell phone behind my back. He heard the operator answer and told me very calmly to hang up the phone. It was bizarre really, and scary. I hung up. I somehow got my hand over his, managed to get my fingers behind the trigger. After a few moments he let go of the gun. I sold the gun the next day while A stained the fence outside. He did not mention the night before. He acted as if nothing odd had occurred. When I pushed him to seek treatment once again, he resisted. He said he was fine. I told him that people that are fine do not put guns in their mouths. He told me he was just drunk. I told him that people that are drunk don't put guns in their mouths unless they are seriously screwed up. He agreed to call a counselor. I was satisfied.

He still refused to have anything to do with the VA and made an appointment with a local therapist. The councilor said that he was unqualified to help A and referred him to a doctor . A took offense. The way he saw it, the guy had snubbed him or something. I chalked it up to ego and figured he would make another attempt to find help. I was wrong.

A stopped drinking any alcohol. He stopped going to bars. He said they "put him in a bad place". Gradually, he stopped going anywhere at all except for work.

As our lives grew more stressful, with both of us working full time and another baby, A sunk deeper and deeper into himself. He showed very little emotion or affection for me or the children. He would provide most of the basic needs for the children, but emotionally he was as unavailable to them as he was to me. Going out as a family soon became too overwhelming. He would start out in good spirits and quickly become irritable and withdrawn. Young children quickly pick up on the moods of their parents and they were soon irritable and unruly as well. Arguments about his behavior were unproductive. He seemed to either not care or not see the emotional impact his behavior was having on our children.

In the winter of 2009 our arguments increased both in frequency and intensity. We were both working ten hours a day. A was responsible for child care from the end of his work day at around 4pm until I got home at 6 or 6:30pm. Most nights, I would arrive home to children that had not eaten dinner, done homework or had baths. This meant that the majority of the child care responsibility was mine, as well as most of the household
responsibility. The kids would eat late, go to bed late, and have to get up early so I could drop them off at the babysitter's house in time to be at work. This made for two sleep-deprived and crabby little girls. T began
falling way behind on her homework and receiving bad grades.

Frustrated, I argued with A about doing his fair share around the house rather than staring blankly at a computer screen all night. A got inappropriately angry, began screaming at me, inches from face about how he
was worthless and a bad father. When I told him that he just needed to "step up" once in a while, he got angrier. He screamed that I didn't even know what that meant and then picked up the Christmas tree and threw it across the room. He broke several ornaments that held sentimental value to me and our daughters. I cried, fixed the tree, glued some of the ornaments and watched him clean up the mess he had made. I spent the next day near tears, sort of in a daze, wondering exactly what had happened. A acted as though
nothing odd had occurred the night before.

Over the course of the next year I began growing wary of leaving the kids with their father, then feeling guilty for having those doubts. There seemed to be only two gears to A's parenting. Full out ignore mode, and
inappropriate yelling and discipline.

My oldest daughter, T, would tell me things that A had said or done before I came home. She would say he had slapped C, our middle daughter, or yelled at them or that he was "being mean". C would confirm what T said. T would say that A had hurt her arm and show me the red mark from where he had grabbed her and A would deny any wrong doing, or downplay the situation, or tease T for being too sensitive. He would call her a liar or other mildly offensive names. He would tell me he wasn't yelling and that we would know when he was yelling. I was torn between protecting my children and not wanting to believe that my husband would lie about something like that. It's understandable that a child would lie. I wanted to think that a grown man
and father of three would not. I couldn't quite believe A though.  I was worried about my oldest daughter, who was failing school and seemed so unhappy at home. A's presence in the home had an immediate and negative effect on T. She would go from a happy, carefree little girl to sullen, withdrawn and moody the moment A walked in the door. Most evening when I came home from work, T was in her
room alone. Many evenings, she was crying.

I do not believe that my husband ever physically abused my children. I do believe that he has been emotionally and verbally abusive towards the older kids for quite some time. He seems to act out when he is alone with them, and then deny any accusations they make, even when it is glaringly obvious that he is lying.

I was beyond stressed, and possibly a bit depressed myself. I had the best paying job I had ever had in my life with room for promotion. I liked my job and I was good at it. I quit in late 2009, unable to establish a balance of work and home. I resented A for not taking care of more things at home. It felt, at times, that he was purposely making things more difficult for me.

I asked A on multiple occasions about going to the VA, or about the Helmets to Hardhats programs in the local unions. I resented his lack of ambition. It seemed he was happy to stay forever in the position we were in. which was mostly always broke and barely able to feed our kids. I thought he was lazy, or didn't really care about supporting his family to his best ability. He kept saying it was too late for him to change jobs now, that he would only be around for another ten or twenty years. I still thought he was lazy. I resented being unable to provide for my children the way they deserve. I resented the fact that I had to return to work just two weeks after the births of both C and Q, because we were unable to afford formula. I resented that he did not seem inclined to better our lives. I worked three jobs for a period of time, resented the time I spent away from my infant son and two daughters. A worked fourty hours and stared at the computer screen the rest of the time. There is so much anger. So much resentment. So much kept inside because I am unable to predict his reaction. I never know if he will have a reasonable discussion with me, get defensive and cold, or go into a rage about something. So I keep it in, and it builds up to overwhelming proportions.

His behavior during arguments was becoming increasingly physical. He kicked in our front door, breaking the knob side jamb and the ripping the trim from around the door. The door had hit my wrist when he kicked it. I spent the next few days with it in a brace. He hadn't meant to hurt me then, he couldn't see through the door. It was several months before we were able to lock the door securely. He had thrown and broken things in anger since his return from Iraq. He had become increasingly destructive though. He threw the computer tower and monitor on one occasion, knocking the deck over while I was sitting in front of it. The kids were home and witnessed it. More recently he broke the glass door at my work, angry that I had stayed late
and had a couple of drinks. He has broken the windshield and the passenger window on our van.

By the spring of 2010 there was very little of the man that I had loved left in him. I cried, begged, fought and threatened to get him to seek help. He refused over and over.  The only emotion he was able to display was anger. So I used it. I fought with him, constantly about his behavior.

At this point, I was miserable just being home. I didn't realize that I had allowed A to make me and the kids his whole identity. I missed the fact that he had anxiety attacks when I was gone. When he told me I was his
everything, I missed the desperation in his voice. I didn't think about the fact that he would only do something with me around. Our families couldn't see the depression, because he used me as a safe zone. He would seem to have a good time, almost like the man I had married. I thought that he would not leave the house. I didn't realize that he couldn't.

I thought he could see the pain that we were experiencing. It is incredibly heart breaking to see the man you love disappear slowly into this darkness. It is sad and scary to look at the man that you married and realize that you do not know who he is anymore. I knew that I could not continue on this way. I threatened, for the millionth time to leave him if he did not see a doctor. He could not have known that I truly meant it this time. He did not make an appointment. A friend of mine sat him down one day and told him quite bluntly that A stood to lose me and the babies if he did not seek help. I didn't register the fact that it took him three whole days to get angry with me for discussing what he thought was HIS business. I didn't realize he was losing the ability to show anger, which was one of the last emotions that I saw in him.

When I discovered that I was pregnant in March of 2011, we decided to have an abortion. We were in no position, financially or emotionally to have another child. It was a difficult decision, and one I only regret on
occasion. A did not accompany me to the office for the procedure, which hurt me irrationally because I had told him he didn't have to. Days later I had a sort of emotional breakdown. I wanted, needed actually, the emotional support of my husband. Generally, I do not cry. Generally I can put a happy face on no matter what. Thinking about the abortion, I began crying, sobbing really. I laid in our bed crying as I have never cried before or since. My husband rolled over and went to sleep. Obviously, I was extremely hurt. I wondered how he could do something like that to the person he was supposed to love. I couldn't do that to someone I didn't like. I figured there was very little point in continuing our relationship, and began thinking about divorce.

In early July of 2011 I told A that I was going to leave him. I told him I was desperately unhappy and that I could not trust him anymore. I told him quite clearly that I was not in love with this man that he had become. I
told him that I did not get married to get divorced, but that I also did not get married to be so miserable. I told him that I would never be the sort of person that could be happy in this place where everything is the same. He told me that he could be the man I wanted, needed him to be. He made a few phone calls. I stayed. I don't know why, but I drug my feet in leaving. A became more active. He started doing things around the house. He started to play with the kids instead of just tuning them out. He didn't seem so dead on the inside. He began showing me exorbitant amounts of attention. He took two weeks of vacation in what he thought was an attempt to mend our marriage. I didn't realize he was sinking further and further into darkness.
He was grasping at me desperately as a life line. I was the only thing he had left to hold onto. He went to the doctor.

The doctor gave him a preliminary diagnosis of severe clinical depression. Dr. V told me later that he initially attributed A's illness to combat PTSD, but that A was in such a fragile condition and so resistant to anything
related to the military that he was afraid to push too hard about the PTSD.

A explained to me that he had truly believed our relationship was fine, and that we were happy until I had broken his delusion with the news that I was leaving him. I began to realize the severity of A's illness and told him that I would give our marriage another chance. He continued to see Dr. V and got a prescription for an anti-depressant from our family doctor.

Even though I had told him I would give this marriage another chance, in my mind and he A I was already gone. There had been so much pain in the last few years, I was incapable of lowering my defenses. A tried all that much harder. I sensed that A's attempt at reconciling this marriage was unnatural. The more space I needed, the more he tried to pull me to him. It was during this week that A's rages escalated physically from property damage to physical abuse. During an argument one night he took the car keys from me because I wanted to leave. Then stood in the way of the car, blocked the driver's door, and attempted to push me out of the seat, which wasn't new behavior as he has done this on many occasions when he didn't want me to
leave. He picked up a tactical style knife I had in the car, forced me to to hold it by placing his hand over mine and tried to make me stab him, screaming at me that I might as well just kill him because I was leaving him
anyway. I managed to let go of the knife. He physically took the car keys from me, re-injuring an old injury to my thumb. He slammed my hand in the car door when I attempted to open it. He broke the windshield out of the van by repeatedly slamming his head and fist into it and broke the passenger side window with his fist as
well. He knocked the phone off of the wall when I attempted to call for a ride. He shoved me multiple times, refusing to allow me to exit the front door. As I tried to pass him he used his forearm to shove me back by the
face, resulting in a black eye. When I did get out of the house and tried to walk to a friends he physically restrained me and accidentally (?) knocked me to the ground in our neighbor's yard. He then offered to take me to my friends, but ended up driving erratically, speeding and taking sharp turns around the block multiple times while I sat on the floor of the van and cried, pleading with him to take me home. After what seemed like a long time, but probably wasn't, he pulled the car into the front yard and seemed to calm almost
instantly. After an hour or so, he dropped me off at my friends. Our children were not present during this occasion. Later that day he picked me up, he was sad and remorseful, but also defensive, telling me in reference to the black eye, "It's not like I meant to do it".

I wanted to take my children and leave the home. I was afraid he would kill himself.

During the third week of July A reached some sort of crisis stage. He did not eat or sleep for four days. He became delusional about our relationship. His anxiety became palpable. He could not sit still. He paced, smoked like a chimney, he was sweating and rubbing and scratching his skin. He tapped his feet, picked imaginary lint off of his clothes, and chewed his fingers and nails.

After the third day of no sleep A called me at work, crying and despondent. He apologized to me for everything he had put me through. He cried over the way he had treated the kids. When I got home that evening we had a long discussion about our relationship. He told me that he realized that it was unfair of him to ask me to stay after all we had been through. He said that I deserved to be happy. I felt good about the whole thing. I felt that I could now leave him, and he would not do anything drastic. He seemed to accept the fact that the marriage was over and he would continue to seek treatment. I fell asleep. He did not. When I woke up an hour and a half later, A's entire demeanor had changed. He seemed to recall nothing of the conversation we had had in the wee hours of the morning. The physical signs of his anxiety had increased. "Come sit with me." He said, as though we were a normal couple. I shook my head no. He stopped moving. Totally, all at once, just stopped. It was creepy, but not yet terrifying.

I went into the bedroom to talk with him again. He began fidgeting again. He asked why I was mad at him. I was thoroughly confused. I told him that I thought he had understood that I simply could not do this anymore.  He stopped moving again. I got up and walked into the living room, down the hallway and into the bathroom. He followed me. He did not speak, he did not try to touch me. I used the bathroom and opened the door. A was standing outside of the door with the most horrible expression I have ever seen. I have seen him look far away and distant. This look was different. There was absolutely nothing in there of my husband. It was like looking into dead eyes. I cannot describe it in words. I know my husband would never hurt me, would never hurt our babies, but I did not know this man in front of me. He was not my husband. He was nothing.  The psychologist described this as "flat affect". I can't describe it accurately at all. I have nightmares about that day, that moment when I opened the door. I had known A could become suicidal, this was the first time I thought he may become homicidal.

Instinct sort of took over from there and there is bit that I don't entirely remember. I was terrified, for myself and for my children. So, I lied to him. I told him that we would be okay, but that he needed to get some
immediate help, in the form of inpatient treatment. He started to fidget again. I lied some more. I told him I wouldn't leave him, that our marriage would be fine.  I just had to get him somewhere safe, both for him and for us. When he admitted to having suicidal idealization I talked him into going to the ER. I knew he was only doing it to make me stay. I didn't care. I figured I could burn that bridge later.

He was hospitalized for two or three days in the acute psychiatric ward at Porter Starke Behavior Health Center in Valparaiso IN. He then went to his mother's house to spend a week. I was afraid to let him back into the home, for multiple reasons. Having made us the center of his universe for so long, I was afraid that coming home would cause a deterioration in his condition, which was remarkably improved since the ER visit. I was also afraid of him. He was put on FLMA at work, dropping our already miniscule income even further. I was forced to drop most of shifts at work as A had always stayed with the kids on the nights that I worked. I couldn't have taken them to a babysitter during the week when they had school and was unable to find someone to watch them in my home.

For a time, after A returned home from his parents, he seemed to be improving remarkably, and then began to decline quickly. He began exhibiting physical signs of anxiety, sweating, pacing, fidgeting. It worried me and
terrified me. For a time I didn't mention my observations because I was afraid it would downplay the progress that he had been making. The constant worry and fear was having a physical effect on me. I surpassed any stress threshold that I had imagined I had. I could not sleep. My stomach was burning, my head always ached, I cried a lot. My stomach burned. I forgot to eat, found myself unable to write, and at times found it difficult to breath. I thought that I was probably going crazy too. When I did finally mention the things that I had observed, it started arguments and screaming matches. It seemed to me that the whole thing was starting all over again.

When my own stress became too much to handle, I asked A to leave the home for a period of time. I told him that I was afraid of him, that I was unable to feel safe in the home. I told him that I did not want a divorce but that if he didn't give me the space I needed it was probably going to end that way. No definite plans were made that night. The next day his behavior was odd to say the least. He had cried until he threw up the night before. When I spoke to him on the phone the next day he seemed positively giddy. He was cheerful and pleasant, as though we hadn't discussed his moving out. Again, it was creepy. I had to go to the grocery store. Over the course of the hour I spent in the store he called me four times and texted me a few times. I grew uneasy, left the store before I finished shopping and rushed home. When I got there, he seemed to be in good spirits. He was sweating though, and fidgeting and shaking. I was overwhelmed, angry and scared. After the kids went to bed I told him that I was going to go have a beer with our friend, Melissa and that I would be home in a half an hour. He became intensely angry, took the car keys and refused once again to let me leave. When he set the keys down I took them, at which point he attempted to wrestle them from me hand and we ended up on the kitchen floor, with him laying on top of me, pinning me down as he tried to pry the keys out of my hand. My own anger escalated and I hid the keys to all of the vehicles as he packed his suitcase and yelled at me. I told him he could have the key to his truck after I got back from the gas station. I took our son with me as he was still awake, bought cigarettes and returned. A was no calmer. He had found the keys to a friend's house that I had had for some time. He threw them across the street and then shoved me against the car. I am ashamed to say that I swung at him, hitting him in the jaw. I went into the house and sat down. Cried a bit.

A came in the house acting a little strange. He seemed to be drunk. He was unsteady and held his hand up to my conversation. He said enough and told me he had to throw up. I laughed at him a little, told him that he should not have drunk the whole bottle, because I assumed he had finished off the bottle of rum that was in the refrigerator. He told me that he hadn't finished the bottle, he had finished all the bottles, which made no sense, as there was only a single bottle in the house. I walked outside and discovered all three of his medication bottles empty and on the lawn. I dialed 911. Police, firemen and the ambulance showed up, and A went willingly to the ER at St. Anthony's in Michigan City, where he was under observation for a time before he was moved up to the acute care unit on a mandatory 72 hour hold. I was again stressed beyond my limit. I had a meeting with his psychologist, who informed me that his preliminary diagnosis was severe clinical depression with psychotic features and PTSD. I learned that A had been less than totally honest with Dr. V and also with me and was relieved when Dr. V agreed that his best course of treatment was a residential program for PTSD. I learned that A experienced auditory hallucinations and that he disconnected from reality.
Dr. V told me that A was in no condition to determine what appropriate discipline was for our children. I was ashamed to tell the doctor all of our experiences, embarrassed that I was afraid of my husband and that I did not want him to come home. I was never the sort of person to be afraid of any thing. I didn't even know anymore who I was. Because I would never have been that girl with the black eye trying to explain that he didn't really mean to hurt me, that he was sick, that it probably wouldn't happen again. I was never the woman that would allow a man to mistreat me, emotionally or physically. I was conflicted about my own identity, torn between not wanting to walk away from a husband that needed me and was ill and not wanting my daughter's to learn that it was okay for anyone to hurt them under any circumstances. Another stress threshold surpassed. Another week of emotional distress. A train wreck as a mother, as a person.

A's behavior while on the acute care unit was bizarre and scary. His anxiety was incredibly high. He displayed irrational anger and rage. He felt that we were throwing him away by asking him to enter residential care. He asked to please not leave him and told me he didn't remember taking the pills. He said he didn't want to die, he just did stupid things when he was so angry or anxious. I realized that I could not bring him home. He was seemingly unaware at times of his behavior at all. I was scared of what he might do in such a state, to me, our children and to himself. He was again diagnosed with PTSD and depressive disorder. I made frantic calls to every suicide prevention coordinator listed on the VA website.

Unfortunately, it was Columbus Day weekend, and I didn't hear back from anyone until Tuesday. The suicide prevention coordinator from North Chicago IL, called me early Tuesday morning. He went out of his, above and beyond what he had to to help me get A transferred to a VA hospital as soon as possible. I took back all of the bad things I had ever thought or said about the VA. Unfortunately, St. Anthony's was unwilling to assist in arranging a transfer and would not consider assisting in transport arrangement. The suicide prevention crisis line suggested that I move him immediately to the ER at Jesse Brown in Chicago Il. I would have to take him myself. The coordinator from North Chicago called again, and told me to take A straight from the hospital to Chicago. He said since he was willing to seek treatment, my best bet was to get him there without stopping anywhere. Shortly afterwards, St. Anthony's called to inform me that they were releasing A later that day and I experienced my first full-blown panic attack, complete with chest pains and hyperventilating. I was hysterical and nonsensical when I phoned my friend. She came over and calmed me down a little, said she would watch my kids while I went to get A and drove him to Chicago.

When I arrived to pick him up, A's behavior was inappropriate considering the situation. He was almost giddy again. He rubbed my legs and arms, tousled my hair and gave the impression that he was just fine. He had told the social worker he intended to go directly to the VA. When he realized that we were going directly to Chicago his mood changed drastically. He became extremely "labile", another term I learned from Dr. V. I have witnessed mood swings in my husband before. I have never seen instantaneous mood swings. It would have been fascinating had it not been so terrifying. He alternately sobbed, laughed and screamed. He went from one extreme to another almost instantly. It was bizarre.

We waited at the VA for something like 7 hours for him to be seen. He was confrontational and angry when we were seen by the nurse. He downplayed his symptoms, told them that he wasn't suicidal and wasn't thinking about killing himself. I filled in everything that he left out, tired of covering for him and convinced that he was in a crisis stage, whether he admitted it or not. He was angry at my interventions, and attempted to validate all of the behaviors that I outlined, individually. I gave up trying to explain my concerns and began talking to his doctor instead. When he admitted that he heard voices to the doctor, I cried, for him and for us. His demeanor changed and he reached out to rub my arm. He told me not to cry and I started giggling. I laughed hysterically until I cried again. I decided that insanity is probably contagious. A voluntarily signed himself into the acute care ward at Jesse Brown, I suspect because he knew that if he did not, he would not be able to come home. I left him in the ER waiting for transfer to the acute care unit.

I was drained, emotionally, physically and mentally. The effects of this condition on our family cannot be easily summarized. There are so many emotions, extreme and most often, conflicting. I desperately want my husband to get better, but I know in my heart that he will never be quite the same. That I will be lucky to see glimpses of the man that he used to be. I know that our marriage will never be what it should have been, if we are able to salvage it at all. I know that the person I should be able to trust the most, to rely on the most is incapable at this point of providing any sort of support, emotionally, physically or financially. I wonder if my children will be adversely affected as they grow by the emotional neglect of their father, by his mood swings and irrational anger, by his outbursts and delusions. If we stay in this marriage, I wonder if my son will grow up and find it acceptable to take his frustration and anger out in physical abuse, because he is only two years old and can only learn by what he experiences and sees.

I pray that A will be able to manage the symptoms of PTSD, but am terrified that our entire lives will be a rollercoaster of these extreme episodes. I am afraid I will spend my entire life trying to analyze his behavior and mood, unable to confide in or have a rational discussion for fear of triggering his anxiety and bringing this nightmare back again. I don't know if he will ever be able to handle all of our children at the same time on
his own. They overwhelm even the sanest of people.

PTSD has affected our entire lives. My hands still hurt most of the time, from the car door and the struggle over car keys. I spent days wrapping my ribs after being pinned to the floor under a husband that is over twice my weight. I am struggling to understand where mental illness overrides the personal responsibility for one's actions. Torn between salvaging my pride and self-esteem and supporting my husband through this insidious illness he has. Struggling to come to terms with the person I have become, the things that I have done, the things my children have gone through all these years. Trying not to hate myself for allowing us to get to this desperate point in our lives.

In other areas of our life? Our mortgage is past due, I don't know when we will be able to catch it up. I cannot pay for my children's basic needs. My son has outgrown nearly all of his clothing, and I can't afford to buy him any new things. My family has been providing groceries. I have applied for food stamps and will have to contact some local charities. I am avoiding doing so because it shames me to admit how badly I have failed in the family department. A's FMLA has ended now through his employer and my children are without insurance. I don't know what I will do if one of them gets ill. A friend of mine paid to have the oil changed on my car and filled the tank because he knew I was broke. More conflicting emotion. gratitude soured by
shame.

I won't go so far as to say that PTSD has ruined our lives, because everything can be changed, everything can be fixed and nothing is hopeless. But it has definitely ruined the life we should have had, and could have had
together. It has changed us all, separately and as a family unit.

I hope this letter. er, short novel. can illustrate just a fraction of my pain. I hope I have accurately portrayed every aspect of our struggle. If not, I will be at a loss to provide any further detail. These pages contain
the essence of my own struggles, the pain, fear and anger go soul deep and I'm afraid there simply are no words to describe them more accurately.

Submitted by KA

Dear God, please don’t let the first time I meet my friends be at his funeral…or hers.

There are families in trouble.  Deep trouble.  And today, for the first time, I finally got it.  The entity charged with caring for our combat veterans is truly stressed.  There are not enough beds available in any given treatment program for our combat vets when they reach the boiling point.  There isn’t enough staff, there isn’t enough outreach.  If you have a combat vet knocking at your door, or if his wife is knocking at your door, you can bet that they have started to boil.  I have watched my own family simmer and bubble, and a few times, we have been to that boiling point.  Unfortunately, it took a suicide attempt to make my husband and I realize just how fragile we really are.  We all are. And it wasn’t his life that was almost put to an end, it was mine.  I didn’t want to die.  I never wanted to die.  I don’t want to die today.  But I just didn’t want him to die.  And here he was dying in front of my very eyes. 
 
My oldest child was reaching the age where he was acutely aware of the fact that something wasn’t right.  But, at the tender age of 6, he had not the words, nor the maturity, to realize what it was, and that it wasn’t at all his fault.  All that little boy sensed was that mommy was hurting, daddy was hurting, and they were often times very, very, angry.  He began to act out.  Not at school so much, but his academics did suffer.  He was no longer the top of his class as he was the previous two years.  He acted out at home.  With such rage and anger it scared my husband and I into a paralytic state.  My son lunged at my husband, and hit him.  It was so out of character for him, that we both just stood there.  We didn’t know what to do, so we didn’t do anything.  We were guilty.  We were the sons of bitches who was causing this boy to hurt!  We deserved this acting out.  The effects of life after combat were becoming so deeply embedded in our lives, in our family, in our children, that we felt helpless to remove them.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then go read about secondary trauma syndrome, and look up some stuff on what exactly it is like to be keyed up for a year…. Then imagine coming home and having to be all la-dee-da about it.  Kids running around the house and being boys and jumping on their father sends my husband through the roof.  It just is what it is at this point, and we had to start being honest with my oldest about why Daddy can’t have you sneaking up on him, about why balloons are not welcome here, about why we always miss the fireworks, about why you can’t rough and tumble with daddy unless HE starts it.  Sorry buddy, but it is what it is, and your daddy loves you and he would die for you.  Unfortunately, he just can’t wrestle with you. 
 
But that is not the point I am making.  I am seeing more and more young families in crisis.  I observe these families simmering, I recognize the bubbles here and there that give way to full out boiling.  Why are so many families suffering? At first I thought it was just us.  Just my little world.  I wasn’t equipped to handle this, maybe this was just too hard for me.  Maybe I was making my husband worse.  Yes, that was it, my husband suffers because I can’t make it better, and am, in fact, contributing to his PTSD/TBI. 
 
It is all around me, these simmering and seething family units who are just at this point surviving.  They don’t even KNOW how numb they really are!  But they have been kicked into survival mode, and once you get there, you just are there… It’s too much effort to reach out to move past that. 
 
Did I ever tell you about how in 2008 I had a week of hard core panic attacks?  It was the craziest thing.  I didn’t know anything about life after combat, and had you ever told me that my husband’s experiences would affect me to this degree I would have said you are out of your mind.  I would be in the kitchen, and just start hyperventilating.  Out of the blue.  I’d be just standing there making something for my family to eat and I’d lose it.  No warning.  Then it started happening at work.  I’d have to run to the linen room, or to the bathroom and let myself go.  I clamped my hands so god damn hard over my mouth to suppress the sobs, I’d lean forward so the tears wouldn’t soak my shirt, rather, they’d leave an ocean at my feet. 
 
So I went to a therapist.  She was a nice plain Jane who had her LSW or something like that and she was perched at the edge of her chair with her little note pad and pen and listened to my experiences with panic attacks.  I had NO insight into why this was happening.  I told her a little about myself, my husband was there, we said he was in the war and he has some PTSD but nothing major.  She wrote it down.   Her assessment was that I was suffering from severe anxiety ( I know, major breakthrough right?) and that I should call my regular doctor and make an appointment so I could maybe get an antidepressant (um…I’m not sad, I’m wrought with anxiety, but whatever)… and she’d see me in a week.
 
I never went back. 
 
And the attacks went away.
 
And life was good…for a while.
 
Until that time I went mute.  For 3 whole days if I remember right.  I couldn’t talk. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say, or that I didn’t want to talk, I just simply couldn’t.  My mouth would actually NOT open.  My husband or children would ask a question and I would just look at them.  It was the weirdest stress induced reaction I had ever had.  But I didn’t know that is what it was. I just thought I was losing it.  I was weak, and possibly going to end up in looney bin somewhere.  I didn’t know then that my life was incredibly complex, and difficult, and I was doing it alone.
 
But then came some in-law drama, and some work drama, and some financial unrest, and all these external pressures were bearing down on us, and I couldn’t watch my husband numb himself out of this situation. And did I mention that the laundry was piled to the ceiling, and there was a stack of mail I found in the car from 2 weeks ago, and I was supposed to call someone back I think… The more you don’t feel, the more I HAVE to feel. And in a rash and completely unprovoked  move, I downed a LOT of Ativan.  Apparently 14 mg doesn’t do anything but make you look like a drunken mess.  The husband was on to me, and he took me to the ER where I confessed what I had done.  They wanted to keep me, but I was not wanting to stay.  (These things my husband filled me in on).  I didn’t want to die.  I wanted my husband to LIVE.  It was at that point that he realized, okay babe, we have a problem, and what can we do to fix it. 
 
So call it what you will.  And say what you will about me.  I see how close we are pushed to the edge.  How irrational and illogical we are when we are boiling.  We just feel the pain, the burning and excruciating pain, and we act so it will stop, not in a week, not in an hour, but right now.  RIGHT NOW.
 
I am 21 hours away from a family boiling.  And it is apparent that something needs to be done.  I can’t go down there and be with them, nor would I want to meddle like that, but there needs to be some sort of safety net for these families.  Why are all these families reaching these insane temperatures?  Turn down the heat, that’s what makes sense.  Help them.  I know you are over worked, under paid, stretched thin, but unfortunately, you don’t really have the luxury to NOT do anything.  You are going to have to stretch yourself that much more.  I know it can be done.  I KNOW these families are worth it. I know that if you stretch just a little bit farther, when the family is removed from the heat, and cool down, they will pay it forward, and help the next family.  That is what communities do.  That is what we are.  We pick up where the system isn’t reaching us.  We hang on until the big dogs get there, the ones who are equipped to deal with this.
 
But please, can you move faster?    

Submitted by KM

Monday Momisims; Document Everything


Sometimes it takes awhile for PTSD to catch up with a soldier’s return home from war.  Sometimes the signs are right there all along.  If you’re in the middle of a deployment or dealing with the aftermath of combat here at home, my number one piece of advice after keeping the faith is: Document EVERYTHING.  

Our first introduction to PTSD did not seem like much if discussed only on its own merits but if you are a mom, you know what a mother’s intuition is.  Mine was on full alert following my son’s surprise two week leave from Iraq.  Like many soldiers, he decided to surprise us, in part because if his leave was cancelled at the last moment, he did not want us set up for disappointment.  

During his leave, my son had a nightmare. He described it to me and a friend while we were out to dinner.  In it, he was driving a Humvee.  On one side of him was the Tigris River.  On the other side were innocent Iraqi civilians.  In front of him were insurgents…the enemy.  In the back of his Humvee; his younger brother and sister.  He knew he had a choice to make.  Someone would have to get hurt.  Does he choose the river?  His concern was for the safety of his siblings.  He woke up screaming.  

During that same leave, we went to get the tags for his car updated.  While he was at the window getting his license plates, his sister walked over to the vending machine in view of me.  He left the window as the lady was talking to him and took his sister by the arm and brought her back to me.  He said she couldn’t wander off like that because I had no idea what could happen to kids in a war zone.  

I documented both of these incidents in my journal.  A few months after his deployment ended, my son had a memory lapse.  He could not find his car.  Afraid people would think he was crazy, he never reported it missing.  When I learned about this, I called and was put through to a Chaplain for his unit.  He went to the First Sergeant.  The First Sergeant called my son in and told him to get “your mother off our backs.”   I exchanged emails with this man.  I kept them.  It helped to prove when we found out about my son’s TBI the time frame of when the symptoms started.  

We don’t plan for our loved ones to come home injured or worse, to never make it home at all.  Actually, we do.  Wills are written, Powers of Attorney are obtained.  Documenting everything, whether it seems important or not, can help if the time comes when you find yourself having to fight for your veteran’s benefits. It helps the veteran get the physical and mental help he or she needs.

The VA system is good for the most part but like with everything, there are bad apples.  Some really do strive to decrease benefits in order to get bonuses.  Paperwork is “lost” time and again.  Sending mail certified, making copies of everything, writing down dates and times and WHO you have contact with can help you win the argument: “We never heard of this.” or “We never saw your son, daughter, spouse, etc.”  

It stands to reason that if a person has a brain injury, epilepsy, PTSD, memory loss, headaches and mood swings, he or she is not going to be able to tend to the grueling journey of obtaining VA benefits.  

Documenting everything for your veteran will help him in the long run.  This, in turn, will make things a little easier for you as well.  You ARE both worth it.  

Submitted by Monica Newton

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Secret Life of a Veteran's Wife...

There's something about being a Veteran's wife that I believe many people... at least people not filling those shoes... would never imagine.  And that's the fact that we... in the middle of caring for injured heroes and raising children... among days of VA appointments and managing endless medications... while trying to keep up with normal "wifely" stuff like laundry and cooking and bills... in the midst of trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to care for our over-tired, over-worked, over-stressed, selves... that we have to become masters at managing impossible amounts of paperwork.

Now, let me explain, I'm not a "whiner".  You give me a problem... present me with a challenge... and not only will I figure it out, but typically I'll then turn around and help other people do the same.  I'm not easily defeated.  I'm not easily discouraged.  I'm, to put it simply, damn stubborn.

But... tonight... I'm tired.

I'm tired of figuring out yet another process... with yet another bureaucratic institution... with endless requirements in yet another form of legalese.  I'm tired of figuring out what documentation (out of mountains of medial records) to send to said institution.  I'm tired of jumping through hoops with not enough guidance.  Truthfully, I'm tired of proving to the government what my husband's service to that government did to him (no matter how fiercely proud of that service I am).

It's a pretty simple equation.  My husband left for Iraq a healthy, happy, well adjusted 26 year old who walked without a cane, had perfect hearing, did not have PTSD, did not have TBI, etc., etc.  By the end of my husband's last deployment... and in the time since... the exact opposite is true.  It's not rocket science.  It's not brain surgery.  It doesn't require a crystal ball.

But, here I sit, overwhelmed at the prospect of starting 3 new rounds of paperwork... paperwork I know basically "zilch" about.  Paperwork, that even when I talk directly to the institutions they will be submitted to, I can only get vague answers about.  Paperwork proving what's already been proven.  Paperwork to fight for benefits and entitlements my husband's injuries justify.  Paperwork... paperwork... paperwork. 

And, I wouldn't say a THING about all of this if I was the ONLY one.  The thing that really gets to me, is this is EVERY Veteran's wife (or husband!) I know.  In the middle of everything else they're trying to learn, to cope with, to handle, they're also effectively required to earn a "school of hard knocks" degree in endless red tape... tape that they have to figure out how to cut and maneuver in order to access the benefits their hero has earned.

It's ridiculous. 

First, because in a time where our country is fighting tooth and nail to save money, instead of proving and filing the same information in slightly different ways among a dozen different places, the entire process could be centralized.  One form (probably on the long side, but still, one form!)... far fewer people processing those forms... far fewer stressed out caregivers.

Second, even the people who have been put in place to assist with things like this have not been given a big enough stick to get the job done.  There are some incredibly awesome Federal Recovery Coordinators and Reserve Recovery Care Coordinators out there with huge hearts of pure gold.  BUT, they're forced to basically plead, cajole, and beg to get a lot of things done.   

Finally, because we're holding up our end of our vows by caring for our Veterans in sickness and in health.  It sort of... well actually, royally... sucks that we not only get to hold up our end of the bargain but then get to effectively hold up our country's end of the bargain, too.... you know, the part where a soldier, sailor, airmen or marine who is injured in service to his or her country is cared for and provided with every benefit and aid they earned in order to proceed in life after they're injured in service to said country.  Instead, the agreement has effectively become that our heroes are cared for so long as a caregiver can figure out what benefits the hero earned, how to file for those benefits, how to complete the paperwork or find someone worthwhile to help (unfortunately few and far between), manage to miraculously find out about those benefits before any cut-off dates, what medical records (in thousands of pages) should be submitted, how to appeal the inevitable first round denial, and on and on.

This is NOT a burden our nation's already overburdened caregivers should be shouldering.  It's just that simple.

Our heroes deserve better.

Thanks for listening,
Brannan

Brannan Vines
Proud wife of an OIF Veteran
Founder of FamilyOfaVet.com - an organization dedicated to helping heroes and their loved ones survive and thrive after combat with real world info about PTSD, TBI, and more!

Anger, Guilt and Frustration After Losing a Vet to PTSD

As  loved ones and care givers of disabled veterans suffering from PTSD, TBIs, survivor’s guilt, etc. we often find ourselves walking on eggshells and changing everything that we do so our vet is not set off by the littlest thing.  Despite our best efforts, we still get yelled at, told we can never understand what they’re going through and nothing we can do will make them rejoin us in reality.  After returning from war, many of these vets loose sight of reality without even knowing it.  It is almost like they come back with multiple personalities and adapt to make all of those around them happy and return back to “themselves” when they are with the ones they love.  Why is this? 

I know that the preceding is very common among these vets, but at this early hour I find myself outraged at my own situation.  Without giving out too much information, I would like to share it and get input from anyone as to whether they have been through similar situations, if so how they dealt with it and maybe even some advice on how to get through it.

In loving (with all of my heart) and caring for my vet, I gave up my life and everything I once was (very successful and independent) to see him through the VA disability process, his MEB and his divorce from his ex wife who set out to take everything he had.  My vet lost his battle with PTSD and was preceded in death by both of his parents. 

Before I even knew what was happening my life was taken over by VA appointments, medication administration, which eventually turned into medication abuse, alcohol abuse and severe emotional and mental manipulation.  He cheated on me while I was pregnant and to those that barely knew him claimed I had stepped out and she wasn’t his (this never happened; I always remained true to him).  But to those closest and dearest to him he shared his joy, excitement and fear and our plans for the future.  I was with him when he died in his sleep lying in my arms with his beautiful blue eyes wide open.  I always promised him I’d stand by his side no matter what all the way through the end; which was not supposed to be for a long time, we were supposed to grow old together.  It seemed with every doctor’s appointment the news got worse.  But we had made bright plans for the future.  He was eager to get help and get better and I was so proud of him.  I had been working so hard to get him to that point for a year and a half.  It was all at our fingertips when he died.

Where my anger comes in; people in a small community and gossip.  Like many, my vet “misused” his meds and drank heavily to lessen the pains he was living with daily from the war and it seems like everyday now someone different is telling me that he told them our child wasn’t his, that he was planning on leaving me, he already had a “new girlfriend he loved”, he never loved me, he just used me because he had no one else and other horrible things.  We were together every single day and night; with the exception of one month when he kicked me out when his PTSD was out of control.  What makes this so hard is that I knew him well enough to know that he would have said those things.  But why? 

I did everything I could to help him, even at the expense of my own health.  He used to always say that I was dealing with another creature and he was right.  I had no idea how to handle him and his episodes.  I tried to prevent him from misusing his meds and drinking so much but it was a lost cause.  His stories from the war haunted my dreams.  I stayed awake every night watching him sleep through his night terrors until he seemed to be sleeping somewhat peacefully.  I completely lost myself.

Maybe he resented me because I was no longer the person he fell in love with again (we were high school sweethearts nearly 10 years earlier).  Maybe I wasn’t doing a good enough job and he felt better going out and doing these things then coming home and hurting me (never ever physically).  But now I will never know.  I am haunted everyday by these questions: “Did he ever really love me?” “When he said he wanted to marry me was that just something he thought I wanted to hear?” “Was I just not good enough?” “Why did he always reach out to other females to talk to; he could never bring himself to tell them about his true problems and feelings?

My vet was highly decorated and truly an amazing, loving man; a teddy bear of sorts.  I have battled severe guilt over feeling this way about our situation because I do not want to remember him like this.  I have to raise our child never knowing the answers to these questions.  I have to find the faith and courage to guide her through all her trials and tribulations and just let her know her father was an American Hero and an amazing man.  How do I do this when there are so many unresolved issues in my own relationship with him?  Am I a horrible person for feeling this way? Who am I in this community now that he is gone?  Where do I belong?

Thank you to those of you that have taken the time to read my story and many thanks if you can offer up any type of guidance or maybe even your own story.

~~Anonymous~~

Monday Momisms to Begin on October 23, 2011

We are introducing a new weekly addition to the blog that will be called Monday Momisms. These posts will be from a mother's perspective. If there are any other parents out there who would like to share their story and progress with us, please let us know. We are all here to help each other. I would like to start Monday Momisms with a post that shares our story.

Sometimes we don't understand an experience until we have actually lived through it. Being part of a PTSD/TBI family is the same way. No, our soldiers did not make the ultimate sacrifice and we are thankful for that. We did lose a part of them over there, though. As my son's own commander said to me, we become their “battle buddies here at home”.

What does that mean? If you are living with a combat veteran who has PTSD or a TBI, you already know. The war does not end for them. Spouses and children are discovering that every day. There's another family member who also lives through this: the parent. Many of our soldiers are still teenagers who never left home before basic training. My son went to war at the age of nineteen. He spent his 20th birthday in Iraq.

Before joining the Army, my son was literally called by many different people “the perfect child”. No, he wasn't perfect, none of us are, but he and his brother and sister were perfect for me. He was well-liked, caring, a protective big brother and older son. I was a single mom but very happy with the life and kids that I had been given.

My son's nightmares began even as he was still in Iraq. During his surprise two-week leave home, he shared with me and a friend one nightmare in particular. He would be driving a humvee. The Tigris River was on one side. Innocent Iraqi civilians on the other. In front of him was the enemy. In his humvee? His younger brother and sister. He woke up shaking and screaming and yes, wondering what choice he made. All he could think about was checking on his siblings.

Submitted  by Monica Newton. Monica is the mother of a combat veteran who will be writing often for our Monday Momisms.  We are very honored to have her as a part of FOV and look forward to the posts that she shares!


We look forward to having any mother of a service member write to us from their perspective of the military life and experiences. If you are a mother of a combat veteran, we would feel honored for you to write in to us and share your story. Or, if you are a combat veteran or married to one, please share this information. Please feel free to email me at anytime if you would like to contribute or for any other reasons.

Thanks,
Brittney Biddle

FOV Communications Liaison
brittney@familyofavet.com

Watching Over My Soldier

Silently watching as you sleep.
Memories disturbing your rest.
Seeing again the untold horrors,
To which only you can attest.

Rubbing your hair as you dream,
Wishing there was more I could do
To help you forget those sights,
Those demons that still haunt you.

Blood and dismay,
Friends and brother-in-arms forever lost.
Only a soldier can really understand
What war truly costs.

I listen as you cry out in the night
For the friends that never made it home.
I watch you struggle day after day
With the knowledge you made it back alone.

A Soldier carries so many scars upon their heart
That the world will never see.
You try your best to conceal them
But you cannot hide them from me.

I soothe you as you sleep
Unable to fully comprehend
The visions that play through your mind
Over and over, again and again.

No civilian can understand
The pain and horrors our soldiers endure,
But never for a second think
That their scars vanish when they come home from war.

While they may look healed on the outside
They have many wounds yet you can't see.
Show them the respect they deserve
They are the reason you still live free!

For us they shed their blood
And left their families behind.
Some never to come home
Only a memory in their loved ones' mind.

Thank you, you brave Americans,
Who had the courage to fight.
And know those of us you come home to
Will now watch over you through the night.
 Submitted by one of our amazing Grassroot Volunteers, Justina Carrillo 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I am sitting in my house, alone, but for my animals, in complete silence. For many this is an optimal situation, one they dream about, a whole house to themselves with no one wanting anything from them...I find myself many times praying for moments like these. The only problem is that its not happening the way I'd hoped. I am alone right now because my husband went into PTSD mode and had an outburst in which he punched a wall, torn my dry erase calendar off of the wall and over turned the dogs food bowls, all with my daughter and her two friends upstairs....after a few minutes he got dressed and left in the car-our only car...I am trapped here. My daughter went with her friends to their gymnastics lesson because the parents knew I was scared of what might happen when/if he comes home. I don't know what to expect, I don't know if he will be himself, I don't know if he will remember this incident, I don 't know if he will be completely out of his mind and violent-not that he is usually violent but these outbursts always leave me shaking and scared because I don't know how far it will go.  I have my mom set to pick up my daughter for the night if I should need her to when she gets back from her friends house,  I have to stay, I have animals that need to be taken care of and my mom lives in a cats only apartment.

Its a surreal moment in my life, seems like I have a lot of those. At the moment the front door is locked and bolted with a chair wedged under the door handle. I have no idea what he will be like when he gets back-if he gets back- so I wanted to give myself a little protection to assess the situation. Many outsiders probably wonder why I stay, I mean this sounds like an awfully abusive relationship. What they don't understand is that man that had the outburst and stormed out is not my husband....my husband is not in there right now, my husband would never ever ever do this, he would be horrified if he were to see himself. But thats the thing, right now he can't see himself, he won't remember this...I wonder where that part of his mind goes when the other part takes over?

He definitely needs help....I pray that when he is again in his right mind he will agree to the inpatient PTSD program. He agreed to it before but then they upped his meds and he started with a new therapist and he seemed to be making progress so I agreed that he could put it off for while. When I told him today he needed to go he told me no and I said I couldn't stay if he didn't and he said thats your choice....in his right mind I am hoping he will go....I pray he will go, because if he doesn't then I will have to go. That hurts to say because I've always said I wouldn't leave him because this isn't his fault, I still believe it isn't his fault but I have to look out for my daughter and I have to be around for her, I can't let us live in an unsafe environment.

I don't know where he is right now....I don't know if he is coming back, I half expect a knock on the door from a state trooper tonight....