Saturday, August 24, 2013

Brace for impact

In Alaska, on the shores of a very cold body of water, we stood holding our paddles.  Instruction for kayaking.  I spent the time mirroring the guides movements, but inside my head, I started to worry about getting dumped into the icy water of Hardenburg Bay, Lake Clark.

It was a marriage retreat put on by Operation Heal our Patriots. It was a retreat of epic proportions. You can find out more here

I wasn't sure how and if kayaking related to my marriage, or to God, but I quickly learned, it fully relates to both.

So back to the instruction.  I was "bracing for impact" before we even got in the water.  We were given a tandem kayak, and I thought about how I was going to NOT get angry when my husband caused us to dump over.  Why I assumed HE would be the reason is beyond me.

Once we got into the kayak with the help of guides and pushed our kayak away from shore, we started paddling away.  I felt very uncomfortable.  Physically, I felt like my legs were too close to my chin, but also, I was steadying the kayak with my core.  Every little wiggle I felt from the back (where husband was) I braced harder.  Determined to keep us upright.  I started to get a cramp in my core, and my shins were rubbing against the kayak in the most uncomfortable way.  My husband was behind me, giggling away, and I thought any moment now, and he will tip us for not paying attention.  I kept trying to give him advice, "Honey, sit up and forward so you can balance with your hips" "Honey, your paddle is to go like mine!" "Honey! Don't lean over and look in the water!"  The cramp was starting to irritate me.  All the other couples seemed to be enjoying themselves, even though we were all barking orders.

One of the guides glided up to us, with ease, she said, "Relax" and paddled away.  I realized, if we were going in, me bracing like this wouldn't stop it, and so what if we do go in!

Once I relaxed (my body and my mind), the kayaking went much smoother!  The cramp went away, and I had as Oprah calls it, an "aha!" moment.

"What if I've been bracing for impact our whole marriage, because I'm afraid he is going to tip us!? What have I missed? What struggle has that caused?"

That is indeed what I have been doing.  Bracing for impact.  Living like his injuries were going to tip us into the cold, uninviting waters that is life.  Living like he was incapable of navigating this water with me.  Living life where I am constantly tensed and counteracting every imbalance.

Here's what I learned that morning.  It's NOT my job!  I don't have to brace (alone) and it certainly wouldn't be my husband or his injuries tipping us!

I learned that if I let go, and do my best, he will by virtue of my calm and serene (in this case kayaking) actions, he will be much calmer too.  Most of all, I don't have to keep this ship afloat alone.  Nope.  I can rest my burdens with (insert your higher power here) God.

Yep. I said it.  God.  Don't freak out those who know me well.....its true.  I feel good for saying it!  It isn't that I was hiding my new found relationship with Jesus, but I certainly wasn't "Go Tell it on the Mountain" about it either.

Realizing that God has our "6" and we can let go of much of the baggage we've been trying to carry ourselves has helped in ways I can't even begin to describe.  But I wanted to let you know, this is how I have learned to stop bracing for impact.  To just relax and do what I can, paddle!

So that's it.  God and kayaks and mountains and realizations.  Keep on paddlin'!

~Written by Kateri Peterson, wife of OIF Veteran, Army 2002-2006

Friday, August 23, 2013

Medicinal Options for PTSD Treatment

Many people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, feel there is no hope. They feel as though the way they feel today is the best they will feel for the rest of their lives. This is not true, nor a healthy way of feeling. Help and hope is readily available.

            The most common way to begin treating PTSD is through different medications. Depending on the symptoms, severity of symptoms, and the patient's history, a trained physician or psychiatrist can recommend prescription medications to help a sufferer begin the healing process.

            Most doctors typically want to begin treatment with an antidepressant. Unfortunately, the word "antidepressant" can be misleading. A person with PTSD may not feel depressed and therefore, may not welcome the use of a medication commonly used to treat depression. This misconception can lead to a patient's refusal of the medication. However, antidepressants can be incredibly helpful for a person suffering from PTSD.

            Different antidepressants work in different ways, but they all help to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain. Some help to create more serotonin, some help the brain to retain current serotonin, and others work in both ways. Serotonin is a naturally produced "feel good" hormone produced by the body. Stress, anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep are just a few things that deplete the body's supply of serotonin.

            In addition to feeling depressed, an imbalance in serotonin levels can also cause sleep problems, upset stomach, fatigue, and low levels can even slow the rate of healing for physical injuries. Common antidepressants used to treat PTSD include Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. While these three are the most commonly used, they are far from the only option. Everyone is different and the antidepressant that works for one person, may not work for another. It is imperative to work with a skilled doctor until the correct antidepressant and dose is found.

            Another helpful medication in treating PTSD is in the class of drugs called anti-psychotics. Please, do not be deterred by the name. Many people that do not fall under the mental health condition of psychosis use anti psychotics for a short period of time to minimize emotional outbursts, aid in restful sleep, and lower high anxiety levels. They also help reconnect a patient with their own lives while settling paranoia caused by PTSD. Common anti-psychotics used in the treatment of PTSD include Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa.

            Prazosin is often used off-label for patients experiencing nightmares and insomnia. It is traditionally used to lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. This lowering of blood pressure in a PTSD patient allows for a more restful, uninterrupted night of sleep. All dreams either stop or become less frequent as soon as the first use. The patient is then able to sleep soundly instead of being haunted by the relentless images playing in their heads.

            Anti anxiety medications such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazapam (Klonopin), Diazepam (Valium), and other related benzodiazepines help to relieve the panic experienced by those suffering from PTSD. This is a very common complaint from PTSD patients. They feel as though danger is not only near, but imminent, even while on an innocent outing with friends and family. The use of anti anxiety medications helps to ease the worries and relax the patient allowing more normal experiences, and thus, permitting a more normal life.

            While there are many more options, these are the most common medications prescribed for PTSD. It is important to be open and honest with all health care providers so they can find the correct combination of medications. PTSD is an invisible illness that only a sufferer can begin to describe, but help and hope are available.

Submitted By: Chelsea Johnson

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Stranger In My Bed

A Stranger in My Bed:  8 Steps to Taking Your Life Back From the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  ~ by Debbie Sprague

Take a long, hard look inside a relationship broken by PTSD and see its effects on the entire family.  Then learn how Debbie Sprague and her husband Randy, a Vietnam Veteran, rebuilt their relationship and their life together.  Debbie provides personal experiences of how PTSD tried to tear their family apart combined with the strategies she used to take back control of her life and her marriage.  A Stranger in My Bed provides a message of strength and survival to families struggling with the lasting effects of war.

If you are struggling with PTSD, as a veteran or a loved one, pick up a copy of A Stranger in My Bed to learn how to take your life back.  Debbie will tell you how she worked through the anger, sadness, depression, and grief in her life and found the courage to forgive.  She explains how an effective support system and finding wellness in your own life can help you find peace.

Debbie is a Grassroots volunteer with Family Of a Vet and found the courage to take her first steps toward healing when she “met” Brannan Vines online.  Debbie is committed to using her story to educate others and spread a message of hope and survival to others living with PTSD in their homes.

To read more about Debbie and her book, please visit

Submitted By: Melissa

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Caregiving the Incompetent Veteran

In March of this year after 5 months of waiting on the VA, they (the VA) declared my husband incompetent for VA purposes.

You are probably wondering what this means to us and our family. For starters we were contacted by a Federal Fiduciary HUB to arrange for an in-home visit with a Field Examiner. I prepared all the documents as required including our monthly budget, bank statements, sources of income and a rough list of all of our expenses. We were pretty lucky since our Field Examiner was not requiring monthly or annual accounting of all monies spent. As we explained I have been handling all of our household expenses for several years now so basically nothing has really changed. My husband can no longer own or possess a firearm nor can he purchase ammunition. I have no problem with that since he has a suicide attempt on the books.

There are a few things that have come about since this declaration has been made, my Veteran has decided that being incompetent means he cannot talk to the VA for any purpose at all. The doctor asked him how he was feeling and he said he didn't know if he could answer that and maybe they needed to ask his Caregiver since he was incompetent! Yes I am laughing as I type this up. He told me the other day he may need Depends, of course I am thinking there is something serious going on that he has failed to mention but he is thinking that since he is incompetent he may not be able to use the bathroom without help and if I wasn't there the Depends would be. Yep, a riot!!

I don’t get my husband out to the store very often but we were at the store and him and our son was going to look at something and I gave him money. He looked at me and told me that he was incompetent and not allowed to carry money anymore. WHAT?!?!?! I did not read that anywhere in any of the paperwork.
Incompetency has become my arch nemesis for the last several months but for the most part nothing in our house has changed. We have decided that humor is the best way to deal with some of the changes in our live and when humor fails us we will resort to sarcasm.

Submitted By: Pam B.