Friday, June 28, 2013

Smartphones 2.1

I am not a fan of new technology.  Yes, it's shiny and pretty, but it wrecks havoc in our home.  Every time an electronic device must be replaced, I cringe.  I am not "tech savvy" myself, but trying to be "not tech savvy" and then help navigate 2 people with TBI through how to use the new device is going to lead to problems.

Sure enough, a few days ago my husband's smartphone broke.  First, smartphones are not nearly as smart as they would like to think they are.  They are confusing to use and have a definite learning curve with every individual model released. 

Up until now he was required to have a Blackberry for work which meant me trying to figure out how to make the Blackberry happy and inevitably pulling my hair out because I've never owned/used one in my entire life.  We called the phone company and talked about options.  Then we called his employer and asked what operating systems were necessary for us to be able to put his work software on the phone.  Back to the phone company, other options.  Back to the employer.  Back to the phone company.

I was about to replace my phone as well so we decided it would be a good idea to get us both the same phone for rather obvious reasons: if I have the same one, I can help him much easier.  Blackberries aren't really meant for people who have crazy outdoor rugged lifestyles and jobs.  The new phone we've selected has a much better shot at surviving for the 2 years we need it to live. 

While researching the new phone as much as possible, I discovered a new feature on our wireless company's website.  After doing some further research, I've found most wireless carriers now have this feature as well.  There is a place you can click that says "How To Use This Device" (link provided for our specific new phone) and I click on it expecting babble and difficult to follow and find directions with no real answers.

What a treasure trove!!!  I can go to one of the 21 options and hover my mouse and up pops a little menu.  When I click on that menu it takes me through step by step instructions showing me where the actual button is on the phone highlighting it in the picture.  Everything is there from how to turn on the phone to how to use the nifty built in feature that allows you to use the phone with your gloves on (critical in Montana winters!). 

I happily browsed through the options and am confident that any time he gets lost, I can walk him through it and/or send him to the link.  SO much easier!  SO much simpler!!!

So, the next time you have to go through that dreaded phone upgrade, check it out and see if it's available for the phone you are selecting.  This first 1-2 weeks of figuring it out is going to be easier than ever for this girl who STILL can't get Facebook to work on her old phone after 2 years of trying. ;)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another human experience

It has been a while since I've written.  It wasn't in my heart.  I was broken for a long while, and still am, but in a way that I am comfortable with.

Life has carried on, and I have discovered some new coping strategies.  I realized I had again lost myself, my passions, my spirit for a long time.

A dear friend has reminded me that I love to sing.

I was singing in the shower one morning, and the kids were startled by it, rolling eyes, Sully said, "Oh no, here she goes again"..... But this time, they didn't shush me because sponge bob was on.  The just let me go.  And so I went.

Thank you friend, for reminding me I love to sing.

As quickly as I found out I was expecting my fourth child, (whom I just knew in my soul was going to be a girl this time), it was over.  She already was incredibly loved, intensely wanted, and I had that sense of calm and contentment I always get while carrying a child.  I am waiting for my body to let her go.  Anticipating is a real test to your spirit.  I am not ready yet to let go, so I chose to let nature take its course.  My husband is handling this quite well, and though he and I have not had a moment alone to grieve, I was able to slip away and take some pictures (new found coping tool), and as I walked along the river, I knew all will be well.

I am blessed that God has given me this experience.  Yes, it hurts, yes, I am okay, but I will not let my monkey mind play games and drift to what the future could have been.  I had a tiny gift in my belly, and though its brevity brought me to this place, I would rather have had the chance to love this, then to never have felt such intense love at all.

Stella Blue.  That was her name. Or is.  I need to make sure I am attentive to my husbands grief as well, but for now, we are enjoying a spirited little guy who is the son of my friend and the son of another Hero. He takes my mind off it a little bit.  He puts his head on my shoulder. Like he knows. Sweet little man.

So back to coping.  WHen I was snapping pictures, I realized, I felt safe.  I was not vulnerable, it mattered not that I had no clue what I was doing, or that I've never shot at night before.  No one could see me, and if they were interested , they would look at the pictures, not me.

It is a safe way to be vulnerable.  The camera acts as a buffer.  A shield.  It was the most calming activity I could have engaged in.

Writing really was my thing for awhile, reading too, music, all sorts of things, but I think I am changing.  I want to tell our story, but I don't think I need to say a word.  If pictures were snapped in my families life, they would speak volumes.

But true to Kateri Form, I like to share my story, our story, my pain and pleasures.  I know that is how I was saved from ruin, the reading of my beloved mentor's story....so parallel to mine, yet she was ahead of me, and she made sure I grabbed on.

So with that, I'm going to catch the morning sun, and wait for this baby to be finished with me.

~ Kateri

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Intro to My Life

So this is my first time writing a blog, so bear with me, as I get started. A little background on me, my name is Tam, I was raised in Butler, Pa., and now reside in Marion, In. I have 2 kids, a daughter 23 and son 17 and 3 wonderful grandchildren, 5, 2, and 1. I work retail part time, the same company for last 10 years till I moved. I know work part-time for another major retail company and I am also a caregiver, to my wonderful fiancé, who is an Iraq War Veteran.  My fiancé is also the father to my daughter; we had separated for several years, due to being young and making family choices.

We were reunited when he returned to Pa, after he was medically discharged from the Army. He came back to meet our daughter for the first time, and be with his oldest daughter that also lived in Pa.  His oldest daughter is 26, and has 4 kids and a stepchild.  He also has a son 22 that lives with us, and a younger daughter 14 that lives with her mom.

My fiancé has PTSD and chronic low back pain, chronic right knee pain (from an injury); his neck is fused from c4 to c7. He also has several other medical conditions, high blood pressure, gerd, depression, just to name a few. He takes 13 different meds a day, I manage all his meds for him, and put them in the weekly pill containers, so that I can verify if he took his meds, I do all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, take care of him and work part-time. It is a lot to do and some days if wish I had more hours in the day, but that won’t happen, so one day at a time.

He walks with a walker because of the right knee injury, that knee will give out at any given time and he falls. It was hard for him to accept that he had to walk with a walker at 45. His back pain keeps him on the couch or in bed, watching TV or playing play station. It is very hard him to stand for long periods of time or sit for long periods of times. So working is not an option.  His PTSD keeps for things like fireworks on the 4th of July, shopping (large crowds bother him), going out to eat, (if we do it is before the dinner rush or a corner booth so he can see everyone), driving (road rage), he generally feels safer being at home. The VA is safe because there are other Vets.

I never know what his mood will be like from day to day, or hour to hour. We don’t watch war movies or the news because both of those things can be a trigger for him. He doesn’t get violent, he instead shuts done won’t talk or do anything.  It is hard being out somewhere and have to leave because something may have triggered him or he is in pain or uncomfortable.

Living with PTSD is the hardest thing I have ever done, but he is my hero and I won’t change anything.  I figured out that I am meant to be here with him and helping other veterans and their families.

Submitted By: Tam, proud fiance of an OIF Veteran

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

For Our Special Caregivers

For Our Caregivers

Has anyone ever told you how wonderful and special you are?

I sure hope so, but just in case your Veteran forgot to do so or is not seeing this;

I would love to take this opportunity to do just that.

If you haven’t heard those words in a while, or never,

I want you to HEAR THEM NOW!

You deserve to know that…

It takes someone special to do what we do.

It takes someone rare and remarkable to make the lives of our combat veterans a little ‘nicer’.

It takes someone special to make their lives a little ‘brighter’, and more ‘beautiful’.

It takes someone with a caring soul to give them a reason to look forward to the next day, month, and years
to come.

It takes someone special, with a big heart, understanding, and lots of patience for the different challenges we face as a caregiver.

It takes someone who’s living proof of how precious our life can be.

It takes someone….just like us….caregivers of combat Veterans with PTSD/TBI.

Never underestimate the importance in your role, even if they do not show it or express it!

It doesn't matter if you are his/her spouse, parent, or fiancée.

This goes for all Caregivers out there caring for our Veterans!

Submitted By: Sandra T.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sometimes It Isn't Just Surviving...

We all the time hear stories about the trials and difficulties of living with someone with PTSD.  It is true that PTSD makes life more of a struggle than it would normally be.  Not only does the one who has PTSD spend their days dealing with their inner demons, but their loved ones and most especially caregivers deal with them too, including their own.  You can't live with someone who struggles that way and not have it effect you in some manner.  I would know as I have been my husband's Caregiver since 2005 and I know I've been marked by it.

The thing is I don't want to talk about my husband's struggles this time, you hear about those enough.  I want to talk about what happened when I was struggling.

I have seen so many times where the Caregiver, the spouse, the fiance, the girlfriend are having a bad day.  They need their own support.  They need their man to understand they are feeling pain themselves.  They cry, they yell, but they do it alone because their veteran isn't in any shape to be there for them the way they wish them to be.  One thing is certain, life taking care of an injured hero can be a lonely one.  I have been there, trust me.  I still get there at times.

I recently started going to the doctor again.  It was one of those things I kind of neglected while making sure my veteran was being taken care of.  While there I decided to address some issues I was having, constant fatigue, sensitivity to cold, things like that.  This lead to some blood tests that found my thyroid was reading abnormal levels.  So, I was directed to go to an endocrinologist for further evaluation. 
Some more blood work, an ultrasound, and a thyroid scan later it was discovered I had a couple of lumps.  Of course we have been taught in this World that when someone has lumps they should be tested for cancer and that means a biopsy.

It is funny how despite the doctor telling me that there is about only 20% chance of it being cancer, it didn't stop the dread that began to fill me.  In fact I took a month to debate whether to even bother with the biopsy.  I have gone years where outside of a handful of stitches as a child and two child births, I didn't have much to do with hospitals.  Now I was being told to go through a procedure there they will stick needles in my neck, it took everything in me to not panic.

Yet, in a way I do believe I was still panicking. 

See, despite outward appearances I was a storm of emotions inside and every so often that storm would leak through causing quite the lightning and thunder display.  I didn't initially think much about why I was a jumble of emotions, but my husband who was oddly calm did.  It was he who mentioned the anxiety I was most likely feeling due to needing the biopsy. 

This is where I began to feel ever so thankful that I have my husband.

If this had been a few years back I don't think Sean would have been in the state of mind to provide me the support I so desperately needed.  At that time he was struggling enough to keep up with himself.  There were days upon days where he would sleep or be detached to the things going on around him.  I can remember how I was sick a few times back then and still had to fight through to keep up with the children because Sean couldn't handle everything.  When I was bouncing from antibiotic to antibiotic trying to clear up the awful chemical burn to my face and learning how poorly my body takes to antibiotics, I still had to fight through the painful itchy rashes, violent vomiting, stomach pains, and heel pain to make sure everything was taken care of.  Anytime Sean would try to be of more help he would become frustrated, angry, overloaded far too quickly.
I have to say that I did appreciate his efforts to try then.  I know how much it pains him to not be able to be more helpful.  I know that watching me suffer and not being able to do anything was only adding to his inner struggles because the guilt ate away at him.  Trust me I have heard the constant monologues of "I'm worthless, you deserve better", I still hear them even.  The point is I just know if these recent events had occurred  a few years back I would have been dealing with my anxiety and fear alone.

Instead my husband, who has come to learn to live with his PTSD better was able to be there for me.  He was by my side during the biopsy, rubbing my foot to let me know it was alright.  He held me as I cried during the week leading up to the results.  He was my calm in the storm.  The strength I needed to get through my own medical troubles.  He showed me that because I stood by him all this time while he struggled, that he wanted to do the same for me.

The act alone meant the World to me!

By this point it did not matter what my results would be because I knew he and I would get through it together.  He assured me of that!  It was the fact that even though we still lead very unpredictable lives where bad days can turn into bad weeks or months.  Where his PTSD can take over and we will be back where we were a few years ago.  Where I will become the person in the relationship to keep us both strong and moving forward.  The fact that he was able to come out of his shell of darkness long enough to show me the support I needed, helped remind me of what I have been fighting for all these years I have spent with him, that he is worth it!

He showed me that there is thriving in this World of PTSD and not just surviving.  That hope is still there for all of us.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Reflection, Examination and Gratitude

Long nights, rough days, stress, and overly full schedules. All things that seem to be a norm in our world. We run ourselves ragged and never look at the small things, the good things that happen in our day to day life. We take our good moments for granted. Everyone does it, myself included. But what would happen if we took the time each day to reflect on our day, in seconds, in minutes, in hours…..in moments. What would happen if we held those good moments just a little bit tighter to our hearts on those rough days or through those long, long nights? What would happen if we started to let go of the stress, the hurtful words, the angered moments and focused on the good? It seems we allow the bad to fester within us. It makes for a miserable existence and an ungrateful life.

We've all been hurt, wronged, put down and pushed around in various ways. We put so much energy into being mad, upset, and angry. We exhaust ourselves. We exhaust our own patience, love, compassion and understanding while holding onto the bad.

A lot of us are new to this journey and are trying to find our way. A lot of us have been on this road so long we have broken down, started to walk it alone and left our toolbox miles and miles behind. We’re weary, lost, angry, resentful, and hurt. We turn into ourselves or do the opposite and lash out. Neither are healthy or productive, other than to provide more fuel for the fire that is negativity.

A couple months ago my oldest daughter, now 12 and with more wisdom than most adults, came home from a friends with an interesting idea. We had just moved to this area and she had become fast friends with another child whose family had just moved into the area a month before us. At our dinner table the day after her sleepover at her new friend’s house, she shared an idea that has helped us tremendously as a family. She told me that every night at the dinner table her friend’s family would go around the table, from youngest to oldest, and answer 3 questions. What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day? What was the most exciting or weird part of your day?

I’ll tell you honestly that I nodded, smiled and said “That’s nice, honey.” How often do we do that? How often do we just maintain the focus inside ourselves, still focusing on those stressors from the day and inadvertently ignoring our children, family, friends or spouse? I can tell you, in truth, I am guilty of doing this…..for a long, long time. I was losing that connection with my children, with my spouse, with my family and friends. It scared me to death that I was losing that link to my daughters! We’re heading into the teenage years. It is vital to maintain those open lines of communication during such a HUGE change in their lives. We can’t continue to nod and smile. We absolutely can not. So here is my suggestion. Gather around your dinner table. No more sitting in the living room or separate from each other. Gather around that table! That is what it was designed for! Share your day! The good, the bad, the wacky and weird, the silly. Embrace the little moments. Communicate in a healthy way. Reflect on the good part of your day. Hold on to the good for all its worth. It’s what will get your through the bad. In the end you will have a heaping pile of good memories and the bad won’t have nearly as much weight. Remember your child telling you their teacher had a “science infection”. Remember the look on your spouse’s face when they have accomplished something that on most days would be impossible for them to do.  Remember the cup coffee and conversation you had with your mother. Remember the laughter. Remember the love.

Submitted By: Amanda Eckman
                       Proud fiancée of an OIF Veteran and mommy of 3 daughters
                      Community Resources Coordinator at Family of a Vet

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Emergency Room Trip Bug Out Bag…..

What to have ready to go when the ambulance is on the way or you are coaxing your Wounded Warrior into the car.

The term “bug out bag” is probably a bit antiquated. Military aviators in my Dad’s day- he was a WW2, Korea, and Vietnam Era Vet- had a “bail out bag” for times when rapid, unscheduled departure from the aircraft became necessary. Somewhere along the way the term turned into “bug out bag” and expanded to mean the stuff you need to be able to grab and go when time is of the essence. When I was a child, he used the term for my little backpack of “keep this kid occupied” stuff for car trips, so for me the phrase is forever associated with the important stuff you need when you are on the go.
My husband is a 23 year Veteran, four years in the USMC and another 19 in the Army. His first deployment was as an 18 year old Marine going into Panama to fish out Noriega back in 1989. His last was Iraq. He was medically retired just over a year ago due to a TBI, PTSD and myriad physical injuries, including damage to his legs and spine. The ER and various hospitals are familiar places for us, both for physical and psychiatric emergencies. He falls down. A lot. And usually breaks something. He has multiple surgeries pending. He has attempted suicide more times than I care to enumerate over the past 4 years and I have been in emergency rooms for up to 38 hours at a stretch awaiting his transfer to psych hospital or waiting for a room to become available for admission.
I am not a fly-by-night kind of person, thank God, or I couldn't live this life. But the repeated hospital trips have honed my level of preparedness to the point of obsessiveness. I have a bug out bag just for the occasion of going to the hospital and I never leave home without it. You never know…. The emergency may happen at home at 2 am or it may happen at 2 pm in the grocery store. When that happens, I don’t have time to fool around and go home to get stuff. When we get in the car, the bag goes on the back seat. When we come home, the bag comes in with us and lives by the front door. The kids, all grown now, say I worry more about leaving the bag at home than I ever did about misplacing one of them. They are probably right.
The bug out bag is the product of several years of trial and error, unpreparedness and “damn, I wish I had thought to bring ____________” moments.  It’s a gym bag style tote and if I have to use it, I stick my purse right inside it and have just one thing to keep up with. If I use any of the contents, I replace them ASAP upon my return home. Why? Because like I said, he goes to the ER a lot. I’ll list the contents and the reason for each item. Here we go:
Money
$100 in cash and $20 in rolled quarters. The quarters are for vending machines.
I keep $20 in 1’s for parking garages and Coke machines that only take bills. The rest of the cash is usually in 20’s. It is for gas (I've had to follow an ambulance for an hour through back-roads Alabama on the way to the VA and prayed the whole time I wouldn't run out of gas. Lesson learned.) and food and miscellaneous needs. I've never needed the whole $100 but I’d rather have extra than not enough. This is in addition to whatever is in my purse. Debit cards don’t work in ER vending machines. Sometimes, especially at the end of the month, I am really broke. This little stash in the bug out bag ensures that I can get by for a day or two with no sweat if needed.

Clothes
There is nothing worse than being stuck in an ER either freezing your ass off because the hospital has confused itself with the Arctic Circle or being overdressed and uncomfortable. I keep a pair of yoga pants, a t-shirt, a fuzzy zip up hoodie, a pair of those little fold up tennis shoes, a pair of socks and a pair of panties. Sometimes you wind up sleeping in a shitty hard plastic chair next to a hospital bed and a bank of monitors that are telling you that your husband is still alive and you really want to be as close to comfortable as possible then. I also keep a plastic bag in there to stash the dirty clothes.

Eye Care Stuff
A contact lens case, a small bottle of solution and a spare pair of eyeglasses in case I need to take out my contacts.

Travel size toiletries
When you change clothes, it is nice to be able to freshen up. I carry a little bit of makeup, a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, baby wipes, hand lotion, hairbrush, ponytail holder, razor and shampoo/body wash combo. I haven’t had to resort to a shower in the ER, but I have spent the night in the hospital room after he’s been admitted or had surgery and I like having the option.

Something to pass the time.
I have a book that I want to read but haven’t yet in there on the off chance that I can think about anything but Hubby for more than three seconds.

Cell phone charger
In our case, my phone and Hubby’s use the same charger. If I keep a charger with me and have both phones in my possession, I should always have communication charged and ready.

A small travel umbrella.
We once went to the ER in a monsoon. Enough said.

Tampons.
Again, enough said.

My medication
An extra bottle of my migraine medication and allergy medication and some Tylenol.

 An extra house key.
 I have had to call a friend to get someone to go let my dogs out when I couldn't leave the hospital. Better to have a spare key to hand them than to have to worry about getting yours back promptly.

 A few snacks.
Just some peanuts and granola bars and a bottle of water, just in case I can’t leave his bedside at the moment.

My roll up travel blanket.
Hospitals are usually great about giving you a blanket, but again, this is a just in case. Rolled up, it’s a pillow or back support. Opened out, it’s a small blanket. It takes up so little room that it is worth it to have a comfort item.

THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEM

A three ring binder with sheet protectors full of info. This is the very most important thing in the bag. I can’t stress this enough. This is what saves me when I am a wreck, wondering if he is going to die this time, trying to pull it together and not being able to remember my own name. It doesn't need to be a huge binder. I have the ½ inch one that holds about 100 sheets and it is nowhere near full. Everything is in a sheet protector to keep it intact and orderly.

The first page is a sheet with Hubby’s name, social, DOB, and a front and back copy of his VA ID card and Military ID. I have a couple copies in case we transfer to another facility. Way easier to hand this to someone than to have the annoying insurance person in your face asking questions when you are just a bit preoccupied. I don’t have to worry about whether they have returned his cards if they want copies. This is also a lifesaver if the emergency has happened in the middle of the night and I didn't grab Hubby’s wallet before heading out. Replace any of these copies that you give out as soon as you can so the binder is ready for next time.

This next section is vital, too. It is imperative that you update the binder anytime there is a change and have several copies with you. This saves you the pain of doing the detailed medical history with each doctor that comes in. Ask them to put a copy on his chart right off the bat. I have a list of all of Hubby’s medications, dosages, who prescribed each one, and why he needs it. I also list all of his drug and other allergies, as well as meds that he has been given before and experienced unpleasant side effects from taking. All of his doctors that he sees are listed with their specialty and contact information and there is a list of all his diagnoses, behaviors, triggers, etc…  For example, if he is sleeping, DO NOT approach him abruptly and wake him. He will try to kill you. Things that you really want the staff to know. This section runs several pages long, so staple these pages together and make sure your Hubby’s name is on the top of each page. It takes a while to write out at first, but then updating it with medication changes and new doctors is easy.

I have a list of phone numbers just in case my cell phone dies for any reason. In addition to having the contact info for all Hubby’s doctors,  I make sure to have the numbers for my kid’s cell phones and work phones since they can’t have their cells ringing at work. I have my neighbor’s number so I can ask her to check the mail and let the dogs out. I have his VA Nurse Case Manager’s phone number and the numbers for anyone connected with his care, like my AW2 person and the FRC. Anyone you think you might possibly want to call should be on the list.


Unpleasant as this is to think about, it is important too… The reality is that my Hubby has tried to die by his own hand and came within a razor’s edge of doing so last time. I have to carry my Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, my general power of attorney, his Living Will and Advance Directives. Have JAG prepare these documents and ask them to notarize multiple copies of each. Keep a copy at home with your other vital documents and carry one of each in the binder. They must be notarized originals to be accepted by the medical facility.
I have extra sheet protectors in the binder so that I can neatly and safely put away any piece of paper given to me by the hospital staff and not worry about losing it. Prescriptions go in here too, if he is being discharged with new ones.
In the front pocket of the binder I keep a legal pad and several pens and pencils. I can take notes and write down what each doctor said, their names, tests ordered, any medications given and any notes that I need to remind myself of anything.
I am sure that all this sounds a little crazy and a lot OCD, but it has been worth it to have time and time again. If I don’t need something that is in the bag, so what? But to need it and wish I had it? That, my friends, is a bitch. You may need to add some things to the bag that suit your own situation. Tailor it as needed over time. The peace of mind that I get from knowing that I have my  bases covered and can correctly give important information to doctors has been priceless.

Submitted By Steffanie S.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seizures Due to PTSD and TBI

My husband had several concussions in 2005 while in Iraq. He went through 9 immediate IED impacts and lost consciousness at least on two different occasions.

He was diagnosed with severe PTSD, hearing loss, TBI, and seizures.

He suffers from non-epileptic seizures (also referred to as pseudoseizures, psychogenic or cryptogenic seizures). A doctor at the VA called them stress seizures. Most of them are caused by his anxiety going through the roof. These types of seizures are not caused by abnormal electrical activity of the brain and are not dangerous to the person (besides busting your head and knocking your teeth out when you go down). These episodes look just like a true epileptic seizure in many ways and it is hard to differentiate without the right diagnostic tools like an EEG.

Non-epileptic seizures are normally unresponsive to therapeutic levels of antiepileptic drugs. They will most likely be treated with psychological counseling and medications. Non-epileptic seizures should only occur when awake, not during sleep.

A ‘wonderful’ neurologist told us he doesn't understand why my husband still has this seizure, because he had been told they are not dangerous (this knowledge was supposed to reduce anxiety and therefore the seizures would stop).

A person who has non-epileptic seizures may also have true epileptic seizures. My husband has epileptic seizures caused by his TBI. Epileptic seizures occur when the ‘wiring’ in the brain is malfunctioning. The brain cells are misfiring, so to speak, which causes muscles to contract and the person loses consciousness.

There are several different kinds of seizures: tonic-clonic, atonic, absence, myoclonic, partial, and non-convulsive. Not every seizure makes the body ‘convulse’ like you see in the movies. Sometimes the person just stares straight ahead, or acts like they are drunk or on drugs.

Some triggers I notice with my husband are anxiety and anger, loss of sleep (which we all know comes with PTSD), and flickering lights. Seizures can be triggered by sensory stimuli, such as hot water (bath), or light touch.

Epileptic seizures are treated with medications which should make them more manageable. There are plenty of medication options, so if one doesn't help doctors may try another.

Most of the doctors ask me how his seizures look like, how does he jerk, well even with the best explanation I can come up with it was still not clear to them. They asked me to video tape him, which I did on occasion. It is hard  to get him situated first (make him be as safe as possible) and then to think about the camera to actually tape him is really a tough one (Most of the time I had the end of his seizure on tape, which was not really helpful).

Now here we come to a point to pass out some information about what to do if you come along a person who experiences a seizure.

This information was passed to me by doctors/nurses along the road, and what I learned over the years dealing with my husband’s seizures. I am not a medical expert and not all epileptics are alike, there will always be some exceptions.

Most seizures last a few moments to a few minutes. If a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes it is recommended to call 911.

Things to do if someone has a seizure:
1. First off stay calm, don’t try to hold the person down.
2. Look at your watch and time the seizures. (It is really hard to guess time, when you are panicked or care for someone in distress)
3. Try to turn them on the side to keep the airways clear.
4. Never ever try to put anything in their mouth (especially your fingers) while they are seizing. It is a myth that they can swallow their tongue. Sometimes they bite their tongue and there will be a lot of blood (this is where #3 comes in handy).
5. Try to keep them safely away from objects they can hurt themselves on, if you have a jacket or pillow rest their head on it.
6. Sometimes they can soil themselves (which is really embarrassing to them, especially in public places). Offer them something to cover up with after they are responsive again.
7. When they come out of it, keep talking to them, reassure them everything is ok. Make sure they know what is going on around them, and that they do not have trouble breathing before you leave them alone or get them home.
If the person who is having a seizure has an ID with ‘Epilepsy’ and it doesn’t exceed 5 min you do not need to call the ambulance.
If you are not sure if the person is an Epileptic, is pregnant, the seizure last more than 5 min, or the person is not responsive after the seizures stops (or can’t breathe) call 911!!!

Now I have one more thing to add we do have a Service dog (SD).

Our dog will try to alert us before he gets a seizure (most of the time he whines, sometimes even barking at him). He will do 2 different things when my husband has a seizure, either he will stay right next to his side laying down (whining and trying to get his attention) or he will try to get someone (he will bark and act out of the norm running back and forth) until someone responds to him. Now I understand that this can be scary for some people but he has always a tag on stating he is a Service dog, and if we are in public places he wears a SD vest or a bandanna with embroidering on it. Those dogs are highly trained (which costs a lot of money) and if you see one please check what is going on. Most Service dog vests have patches on them, stating what the SD is used for. Ours says ‘Seizure alert/PTSD’. This should give you a clue about the person’s condition when they are in distress!

Never leave the dog behind if the person gets taken by an ambulance. Those animals have a special bond to their owner (they are not pets!!!)  They are considered a prosthetic devise as a cane or a wheelchair would be. Make sure they are safe as well as their owner!

Submitted By: Sandra T.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Letter to Those Who Don't Know Who He Once Was

To Whom it May Concern,

I am an active member in our unit's Family Readiness Group, most recently being
the Leader and resource to provide support to the families of 130
deployed soldiers. I am a strong woman, mother, wife and leader. I am
committed to the Army as a devoted and supportive spouse and volunteer.

No expectations was what I told myself and my spouses when we
frantically prepared for our husbands to come home from OIF in November
of 2007.

My biggest fear was that my husband would come home different; he would
be the "typical" soldier that is talked about when returning from
combat.The soldier that I urged my Family Readiness Group to seek help
for. The soldier that I learned about in the countless classes that I
had taken before the homecoming of our war heroes.


I miss 
My husband that was a proud US Soldier. 
My husband that left the house at 0430 am to be at PT, on time, at 0630.
My husband that would always be willing to help another person, even
strangers.
My husband that would volunteer at church. 
My husband that would hang out with friends.
My husband that would engage in family activities. 
My husband that always rode his mountain bike.
My husband that had plans for our future.
My husband that made me laugh.
My husband that was a joy to be around.
My husband that was a hard worker and stood up for his beliefs and his
country.


Everyday 
I wake up praying that we will have a good day. 
I hope that he is in a good mood.
I wonder if there is something different that will set him off. 
I wonder if I didn't do something the right way.
I try to remember if I bought milk for his cereal.
I wonder if I will have to drop my responsibilities to make him happy.
I hope things wont push me over the edge so I leave.
I wake up hoping he changes and it will be like before.


I excused his need to be alone as part of the adjustment.
I made excuses to my friends and families. He is tired from waking up
early and working long hours. 
When he would spend long hours in the garage working on his car,  I
brushed it off as a hobby that he wanted to complete.
When he would go out in snow storms for a drive,at random hours of the
day and night, I just assumed it was because he was in the hot dessert
for so long. 
When he stopped coming to church, I accepted the "excuse" of needing to
sleep in.
I endlessly find myself making excuses for him or lying, to protect him
and to protect us. 
My husband is in his own world. Everything is about his needs, his
wants, and his desires.
Everyday, I find myself planning my next move, to protect myself and my
daughter; evaluating his last phone call, the tone of his voice.
Should we stay out a bit later, just in case he is in a bad mood?
Should I leave work early to make sure the dishes are done before he
gets home?

In September of 08, I had a severe reaction to my medication. I was in
Liver failure and was sent to the University of Washington's Kidney and
Liver Transplant Clinic for evaluation. I wanted my husband to be there
for me. He was physically there, but mentally, he wasn't. 
He was angry when I didn't have the energy to be a tourist and see
Seattle. 
He was angry that we didn't have time to plan the trip. 
He got angry that he didn't have enough time to pack. 
He got mad because our new puppy was arriving on the same weekend that I
got sick.
He placed the blame on me
Everything made him angry. 
I didn't have the energy to wash dishes, do laundry, go grocery shopping.
I was sick. He was angry.

No matter what the situation was, his anger turned to rage. 
He kicked a hole through the bedroom door. 
He said I looked at him funny.
I was washing the dishes while he made a sandwich, he knocked
everything off the top of the refrigerator, because I might splash
water on his food. 
There was a toy on the floor that wasn't put away, it was thrown across
the room to make it known that it wasn't in the right place.
His computer wasn't working right, it was thrown across the room and
shattered into pieces.
The printer paper was jamming....it was smashed on the floor.
The alarm clock woke him up in the morning...now broken.
The cellphone rang....now 3 phones have been broken in rage.
He wanted cereal and there wasn't anymore....it was my fault for not
buying enough. I started to buy 5 or 6 boxes at a time. It was my fault
that he was sick of Cocoa Pebbles and I didn't buy another kind.
We had cereal but we didn't have milk...It was my fault for not keeping
up with the milk inventory.

Our daughters school events; He didn't feel like going. 
Parent teacher conferences; He was in a mood and didn't feel like going.

On Days he wanted to actually spend time with me, things went horrible.
I couldn't find a sitter at the last minute.
Days I was able to find a sitter, he got angry because I didn't want to
see the same movie.
Going to McDonalds, he would get angry; they didn't make his coffee
right; they didn't put a straw in his bag to drink his orange juice.

Everyday is a constant reminder of my "new" husband. 
A husband that does not interact with his family. 
A husband that has left his family to be in his own space. 
A husband that is so disconnected with reality, he finds relief in
focusing on things that don't matter. 
A husband that has been through and seen more than any person can
imagine. 
A husband that reenlisted in the Army because of great leaders that
inspired him to have a military career. 
A husband that lost his friends. 
A husband that scares me. 
A husband that avoids any interaction with people. 
A husband that would rather stay home than see his daughter receive a
special award at a school assembly. 
A husband that did horrible terrifying things to my 3 month old puppy
because he cried at night. 
A husband that says "I Love You" because he knows he has too, but has a
blank look in his eyes. 
A husband that makes plans, and doesn't follow through. 
A husband who can not be relied on, even after a commitment. 

Will I have time to be a house wife, a mother, a volunteer and go to
work? On busy days will I have time for day to day responsibilities and
have time to go to scheduled appointments. 
I was so proud of him, and everything about him. 
I was told how amazing of a soldier he was. 
How he was a great friend, a great battle buddy. 
Now, I don't even like to talk about him, because people will ask
questions. Questions that I am embarrassed to answer. 

My husband spends his weekends sleeping, I remind my daughter to be as
quiet as possible, to not wake Daddy. I knew if we wake him up, he will
be angry and aggressive; we will be scared. 
I spend my weekends working longer than required hours, helping my
friends do things just to stay away from home as late as possible. 

It broke my heart when my daughter said to me, "Mom, I wish Daddy wasn't
a soldier. I hate that he has to act so tough. He scares me. My belly
feels funny."
I have been in counseling prior to his redeployment to prepare myself
for his homecoming.
I have been going weekly since his return. 
My daughter has also been in counseling, learning to deal with her
emotions and her home life. 

It could be worse. I was never physically abused. 
Sometimes I lay in bed and wish I was, I would have a reason to leave. 
The emotional scars are still here. The pattern of domestic abuse has
begun. I know that if he doesn't get his rage and anger under control is
will escalate. 
I am glad I stayed strong and never did leave. I am his wife and I will
stand by his side. 
Couples have problems, couples cope and learn to adjust to each others
wants and needs in life. 
In our situation, there is no coping or adjusting between the both of
us. There is just coping and adjusting to different emotions everyday.
Different patterns that are always changing.
He will never be the man that left me on October 7th, 2006. I have stood
by his side from day one and I know that he is trying to help himself. 
He has begun to deal with the avoidance of May 17, 2007, the day he lost
himself. This process is overwhelming to him and to myself.
I thank God everyday for not taking him away from us on May 17th. 
I thank God he is now getting help. 
I know that May 17, 2007 will be with him forever. What he saw, what he
felt, and what he heard are a part of him. It is now a part of us, our
family. 

A Letter Written in June 2009 By A Veteran Spouse Determined to Stand

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Breaking the Cycle – Not the Eggshells

Living in the cycle of fear, resentment and anger created by always walking on eggshells has the potential of back firing and creating exactly the explosion that you have so desperately been trying to avoid.  The good news is that there are solutions to help you to live a peaceful existence without continuing to fuel resentment within yourself.
I speak from personal experience, living with my Vietnam Vet and letting my own fear, resentment and anger build to the point of explosion.  Yes, on more than one occasion I found myself uncontrollably throwing things, breaking things, and sobbing or screaming uncontrollably…or both simultaneously.  It is not a pretty picture, nor one that I proudly share with you.  However, you are here because you are looking for support and solutions.  So I share these embarrassing things with you to let you know that you are not alone…even the best, most well-intentioned, meek and mild spouse has found their breaking point.
I wanted to learn how to break the cycle, without resorting to behavior that would break the eggshells that I was so desperately trying to keep intact.  I wanted to learn how to maintain a peaceful existence in my home, without destroying myself.  I realized that when I continued to do things for my husband that he was perfectly capable of doing for himself, things that I did not want to do, and that each time I was doing it my resentment was building.
I began to feel taken advantage of, and began to look at my husband as being a lazy slob.  This made me feel bad, because with a 100% disability rating I know that my husband does have problems.  One day when again I counted over a dozen empty coke cans scattered through-out the house…sitting wherever he had happened to be when he finished the last drink  I had had enough.  He was fully capable of walking to the fridge to get a coke, but not capable of carrying the empty cans back to the kitchen and taking the required four, more steps past the fridge to put them in the recycle can?  It was time to do something.
“So honey, there’s a lot of coke cans sitting around and it’s rather embarrassing when people come to visit.  Are they left out because of your PTSD, or because you are just lazy?”  I asked sweetly.
“Let’s chalk it up to my PTSD, he replied”
So now, I had two choices:
I could accept that this was how he was, and I couldn't do anything about it.  I could only change my attitude, and try to become more compassionate and understanding.  I could flip the way I looked at this by saying, “I get to serve my veteran, just like he served my country.”
Or, I could work on changing his behavior.

To help make this decision ask yourself these questions:
Is this something that your veteran is fully capable of doing for him or herself?
If yes, are you willing and able to continuing to do it for them, and change your attitude so you are giving service with a loving attitude?
Are you able to let go of the resentment so it doesn't consume you?
Are you ready to accept this as “another” item on your over-flowing to do list?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you have reached acceptance, and you can joyfully continue to pick-up after your vet.
I decided that this particular task – picking up his coke cans was totally within his capability, and that my doing it for him was a disservice to him, and created resentment for me.  So, I needed to address it in a loving and compassionate way by asking for what I needed.
Here are the steps that worked for me:
Begin at a time when you are not angry.  Start by saying something like this:
 “Honey, I need you to pick up your ___________ (fill in the blank)
 By _______ (give a time frame, several hours at least, or even a whole day)
Because ______________ (Give a reason and a specific time: Example: We have company coming tomorrow at 3:00pm).
Do not expect him to jump up and follow your request.  If your vet is like mine, it will not be done until the very last minute.  However, that’s ok.  The object is to get them to do it.
In the meantime, if your vet does something that is a normal “chore” that you never have to ask him to do, thank him.  Notice and recognize him for each thing that he routinely does without you asking.
Now, in your most kind and loving voice, continue to remind him, “honey its noon, we have company coming in three hours, I need you to ______.  You may have to continue doing this up to the very last moment.  But continue to be kind and loving in your requests.
Once they finally comply with your request, thank him generously.  Let him know how much you appreciate his help.
Each time he continues to pick up that item without you having to ask, recognize his efforts, and praise him.
Sometimes I get tired of asking, and I try hard not to sound or feel like a nag.  So, I supplement my verbal reminders with a sticky note(s) on the object, or strategically place where they can’t miss it.  Reminder: Honey, the cans need to be picked up by picked 3:00pm.  Thanks!!! xxooo Love U.

I hope that you can adapt these suggestions to fit your own situation and find success in changing the cycle of resentment and anger when you find yourself doing too much, in your effort to avoid breaking the eggshells.

Submitted By: Debbie Sprague

Debbie Sprague is the wife of a disabled Vietnam Veteran.  Debbie fought back when PTSD threatened to destroy her family.  She is the author of  A Stranger in My Bed:  8 Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and contributor to the #1 International Bestseller  Wounded?  Survive!  Thrive!!!  Debbie is an advocate for veterans and their families spreading the message of understanding, compassion, hope, and healing through her writing, speaking, training, and coaching.  She is also a grass roots volunteer staff member with Family of a Vet. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Summer Vacation - What Made Our Trip Easier - Part 1: GMC Acadia (aka renting a larger vehicle!)

I've been trying to figure out *how* to write this post without it sounding like an infomercial... so, I'm just going to start (and also add the "fine print" that I'm in noooooooo way being paid for this post, but do want to - as always - share what works for our family!).

Our family hasn't been on a "real" vacation ever.  A few times since my hubby returned from his last deployment we've driven - in the middle of the night to avoid as much traffic as possible - seven hours to visit friends whom my dear hero has literally known since he was three years old.  That's been the extent of our family vacations and all that our 7 year old daughter has ever known.

About two years ago, as different school friends started talking about their wondrous, magical, exciting visits to Disney World (we live in the southeast... it's sort of a rite of passage for many kiddos in our area), our sweet girl started a campaign to secure her own visit to this amazing place.  She drew pictures, talked incessantly about the adventures her friends told her about, pointed out every single Mickey, Minney, or other Disney character she saw ANYWHERE. (I can't imagine where she gets her persistent nature... caaaaaan't imagine ;) ).

So, when the friends mentioned above (that my hubby has known forever) started planning a trip to Disney - and she overheard a conversation / debate about whether or not it would be possible for us to join them - the deal was done.  All bets were off.  (And mommy... she caved... she just couldn't help it :) ).

I'm going to stop here and say that planning a trip to DISNEY WORLD when our family lives day in and day out with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and all the lovely challenges of Traumatic Brain Injury, sounded pretty insane.  My dear hubby gets physically ill when we get more than 30 minutes from home.  Our days are very planned, as predictable as possible, and new "adventures" are sooooooooo not welcomed.  The triggers they bring are just so costly - seriously the recovery from those moments can take our family weeks or months before things start to calm down.

But - she's seven and so much of her childhood is "challenging" because of our journey with PTSD and TBI and there are sooooooo many times when "normal" stuff just isn't even on the radar, and, and, and.  And, I caved.  And then I begged, pleaded, cajoled, bribed, and begged the hubby some more.  Puuuhlease, please, please... just this once... just this one time... please pretty please.  Honestly, I've probably never in our time together (almost 14 years married and 17 together... and almost 7 years of that in "Life After Combat") begged so thoroughly. :)

And so, he caved (barely).

So, of course, I went into PTSD/TBI Caregiver hyperdrive.  Trying to anticipate every single potential issue - every possible "fix" or idea to make the trip easier - and the lists... ohhhhh my, the lists.

Then, about 10 days before the trip our family car (the only currently fully running vehicle, an almost 12 year old Santa Fe with way too many miles) started throwing unexpected fits (it's normally reasonably well behaved!).  It lived at the mechanic for a few days... came home two days... and then went back for a visit.  And the hubby, the hubby was nervous. (and admittedly, so was I).  What would happen if we got 8 hours from home, the Santa Fe decided it missed the mechanic, and it went on strike again?  I could just imagine the full PTSD/TBI meltdown as we sat on the side of the road in some unknown / unfamiliar location.  And, I also saw tell-tale signs that our vacation (even after all my extensive begging) was about to be a no-go.

The answer?  An extensive search for a rental car coupon... a really good one... and while I was at it I decided that since a "crossover" SUV was $26 more for the week but offered much more room and potentially a more comfortable ride for the hubby, that we would choose that.

I had *NO* idea what a great choice that was.  But, now I'm going to tell you... because after all, sharing "intell" about how to cope with PTSD, TBI, and all their "stuff" is what we do here :).

When we arrived at the rental car place we were given a 2013 GMC Acadia SLT.  Now, I'm being specific (again, this is nooooot a paid infomercial!!) because, simply, it was so incredibly perfect.  So, perfect in fact that I've spent the last week trying to figure out how long we'd have to save (and how many years we'd need to let new models come out and thus bring down the price) to eventually get one.  Why?  Because it's a PTSD / TBI / traveling with a service dog / kiddo with Sensory Processing Disorder / prevention of disasters / overworked caregiver's *dream*.  If I could talk GMC into doing some sort of program to make purchases easier / more possible for those of us in "Veteran world" I would do it in a heartbeat!  Seriously, best vehicle ever.  Seriously. Oh my :)

First, even on short drives, the hubby (with his extreme heat sensitivity issues thanks to TBI and Iraq) and the child (with her Sensory Processing Disorder issues which mean she can't *stand* to be cold / chilled / or think she might possibly be) always end up in a huge fuss about the thermostat.  Never fails.  Complete meltdown (and the resulting need for creative intervention on my end).  The Acadia has *THREE* different climate controls. Taaaadaaaaa, everyone (even me!) can choose their own perfect setting.

Second, Shilo (the hubby's wonderful 3 year old, 70 lb German Shepherd service dog - more on her later!) is always uncomfortable.  We don't put her in the cargo area of the Santa Fe because it's dangerous and she can't get to the hubby to "work".  So, she and our dear daughter always end up in an uncomfortable, uneasy test of wits to figure out who gets to spread out more in our backseat that holds 2-1/2 people comfortably (we always have to sort of squish the other half of the third person if we have more than just "us" - and then Shilo can't go - and then it's a whole issue from looooots of angles).  But, the Acadia not only has three rows of seats but the second row can be configured with two "captains chairs".  So, Shilo curled up, comfy and happy, on an open floor (and the kiddo claimed the whole 3rd row) and, I was in heaven.  I'm sure there were singing angels...

Speaking of having a third row - never, ever imagined how handy that would be!  The following is our "normal" scenario (even on short 20-25 minute rides): Our daughter *LOVES* to talk and because of the auditory part of her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), often talks *REALLLLLLY* loud.  The hubby (refer above, often has a hard time leaving the house at all, so once he's in the car is in PTSD/TBI overload mode) very quickly looses patience with the noise.  I'm then in the middle of the two of them trying my best to facilitate some sort of peace treaty.  So, instead, we always enter the vehicle with multiple, fully charged electronic devices (yes, I know... boooooo electronics... but it's about survival...) and make sure the kiddo has lots of games to choose from (I do try to make sure they're educational!).  This scenario helps prevent full out war - but again since our daughter has SPD, the volume on the games is always LOUD - granted, not as loud as her talking, but still loud.  So, the hubby also has a limited "I can deal with this" period for that... and it's CERTAINLY not long enough for us to drive to Disney.  *BUT* third row magic saved the day! The kiddo, in her third row kingdom, was far enough away from her dad's ears that the game noise didn't bug him!  SERIOUSLY, *MAGIC*.

And then, the fancy-schmanzy tailgate that opens with the touch of a button.  Normally, whether it's groceries or random stuff from the VA or the kiddo's school stuff - and in the case of this vacation, LUGGAGE - I'm "it".  The hubby, his cane, one hand holding Shilo's leash, and his ongoing balance issues, just can't carry stuff back and forth even at home, much less from a parking lot, up a long ramp, down a sidewalk, etc, etc, etc, to a hotel room.  It's a disaster in waiting (he broke his knee last year in a fall, so I'm a but paranoid about disaster prevention at this point ;) ).  So, normally there's a whole comical scenario where I'm balancing bags, boxes, whatever... along with purse, keys, etc... and trying to close a tailgate that's over my head.  But not this time.  Nope, I just pushed a button.  [And, since a tropical storm rolled through the final day of our vacation - when I was packing the car - it also serves as a magnificent, already-open-before-I-get-there "umbrella".]

Some other really helpful features - the XM Radio (the hubby gets really aggravated while trying to find music he likes when stations are changing and quickly bores of the music he has... problem solved), the dimmable panel lights (TBI light sensitivity is usually as issue with LOTS of vehicles, but not this one), HUGE glove compartment (convenient storage for medications, TENS unit, etc, we needed during the trip), and soooooo much more.

So, what's the point of this post? 

My point (while, obviously, my choice would soooooo be the Acadia!) is to think through what you'll be driving / riding in on a long vacation.  I know for many of us budgets are TIGHT, but the reduced stress, reduced triggers, reduced arguments, increased comfort which helps with pain management (which, as we all know, pain only exacerbates PTSD and TBI symptoms), increased convenience, etc, are reallllllllly helpful if you can squeeze a rental car into your trip budget.

I actually finally found the best deal on a website I hadn't used before - CarTrawler.com (the link came up after I booked our hotel... and right before I booked the rental through a different site, but this one was almost $80 less!).  But, whatever site / rental method you're going to use, spend some time looking for deals, looking at how renting in different locations impacts the price, etc.  I know it's an "extra" to-do on our often verrrrrry long lists, but that time can save you a chunk of $.  Our final rental price - for the entire week of waaaaaay reduced stress and added comfort - was $236.98 (which averages to $33.85/day).  Honestly, probably the best $236.98 I've ever spent.

And, I will add this is the third time we've rented in the last few years (like I said, we don't travel... so rentals are generally only done when our Santa Fe is in the shop) from Enterprise.  It helps that they can "pick us up" if we're renting from a nearby location, that having two drivers (husband and wife) doesn't add an extra charge (so, if the hubby wants to drive / can drive, we're covered), and we've always had great customer service.  Also, if you're a member of Veterans Advantage, they offer a discount for Enterprise (though this time I found a better price on CarTrawler as mentioned above).

Now you have it... my first "what made our trip easier" tidbit.  :)  Two more to come (#1 - preparing / thinking about the "best case scenario" for hotel arrangements and, #2 - things you may not have thought about or known about when visiting "tourist attractions" with PTSD and TBI) so keep an eye out!  I'm going to try my best to get them done this week!!

Hope this is helpful :)  If you have your own "ways we make/made our trip easier" tips to share, please e-mail them to me this week (brannan-at-familyofavet.com).  I would *LOVE* to do a post with feedback from others - we can all use help brainstorming this kind of thing!

Thanks,
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 Life After Combat!



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Herbal Soak for Joint & Muscle Pain

So, as always our "rule" here at Family Of a Vet is that we share - we share what works, we share what doesn't, we share what we're doing day-to-day to help our heroes and our families cope.

This is a recent addition to my caregiver arsenal.  My own dear hero, like so many Veterans around the country, is dealing each day not only with PTSD and TBI but also chronic pain.  I'm always looking for ways - small and large - to help keep his pain levels as low as possible.

We tried for the first time today an herbal soak.  I've honestly been trying for weeks to get him to do it... but in his rough, tough, manly man world, an "herbal soak" was just a bit to girly :) .  But for days his pain levels have been climbing so tonight he finally gave me the go ahead.

The basic "recipe" is 2 c. of Epsom Salts, 1 c. of Baking Soda, and 8 Chamomile tea bags.  Pour the first two ingredients under running bath water that is as hot as your Veteran (or you) can stand it [preferably, while in the tub you want to sweat a little so your pores get nice and open].  Then drop the tea bags in the water and let them steep for a few minutes.  (I also stirred the water and ingredients that had settled to the bottom with my hand to get them to go ahead and dissolve.)

Then, climb in and stay put for at least 20 minutes.

[Also worth noting, we have a cover for our overflow drain so that the water in the tub can be as deep as possible.  It was $7.25 on Amazon and works really well - CLICK HERE TO VIEW IT - and also note that this link will give Family Of a Vet "credit" for referring you, so if you make a purchase we will earn like 5% or about $0.36.  I always like to be REALLY clear on things like that!]

Follow the soak by rinsing off in a cool shower.  DO NOT use soaps, lotions, or anything other than just plain water.  Since you're pores are wiiiiiiiiiide open you don't want to add any chemicals to the "mix" right now.

While this soak won't banish all your aches and pains, it does actually help.  I actually soak this way once a week.  It's not only helpful for pain but is also a great way to detox and relax.

Epsom Salts - 16 oz for $0.88 at WalMart - more info about what Epsom Salts do for the body (including helping with pain, helping muscles and nerves function properly, eliminating toxins from the body, and more!) CLICK HERE.

Baking Soda - I cheated and had some on hand but you can generally buy a small box for around $0.50 - $1.00 - the baking soda actually helps neutralize chlorine and other additives in tap water so that you don't soak in chemicals while trying to detox!

Chamomile Tea - $1.00 for 20 bags / so the 8 bags used are $0.40 - Chamomile has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-anxiety, and many other properties.  For more information about what it does, CLICK HERE.

Total Cost per Bath =  $1.78 - $2.28

*AS ALWAYS, remember I'm nooooooooot any sort of professional and only sharing from a "this is what we tried" perspective!!  I don't believe any of these ingredients used this way could be harmful, but it's always a good idea to check with a doctor if you / your veteran have questions!*

Hope that helps!

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 Life After Combat!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Walking on Eggshells Fuels Flying Objects


Walking on Eggshells is a common theme for families living with a veterans PTSD.  We do this in order to keep the peace in our homes, not wanting to spark our beloved into an angry outrage.  This behavior is often the fuel that causes explosive behavior and flying objects…not by the veteran suffering from PTSD, but by the loving caregiver who is trying to avoid that exact same behavior in her veteran.

When we are in the constant state of fear that we will do or say something to trigger our veteran we begin to hold in our thoughts and feelings, and we do everything possible for our veteran in order to keep a peaceful existence in our home.

So we quietly tip toe through our home which has become a “do not disturb zone” fearing that any noise that might trigger him.  We adhere to an extensive list of “do not talk about” topics that might upset him.  We try not to ask anything of our veteran that might annoy him.  We do all these things with the good intention of “keeping peace.”

This well-meaning behavior on our part can create a vicious cycle.  We begin to do more, in order to keep from upsetting our veteran.  And the more that we do…the more they expect.  And the more they expect from us, the less that they do for themselves.  As the loving spouse that we are, we quietly comply.  We fear that if we complain…or heaven forbid ask them to help we will create a horrible reaction in them.  So we continue quietly on, picking up their dirty dishes, their empty soda cans, their dirty clothes…whatever they chose not to do.

Each time we do this, we begin to harbor a tiny piece of resentment.  And gradually, piece by piece that resentment swells up until we can no longer hold it in… and it fuels a flurry of flying objects...  plates, cans, shoes.  As the objects fly, we are experiencing uncontrollable anger.  This angry outburst is embarrassing, and leaves us feeling totally out of control of our previously well-guarded emotions.

We have unknowingly created within ourselves exactly what we have been trying to avoid with our veteran.

Is this how you want to live?  What are our options?  How can we break this cycle?  In my next blog post “Breaking the Cycle – Not the Eggshells” I will suggest some possible solutions.



Submitted By Debbie Sprague

Debbie Sprague is the wife of a disabled Vietnam Veteran.  Debbie fought back when PTSD threatened to destroy her family.  She is the author of A Stranger in My Bed:  8 Steps to Taking Your Life Back from the Contagious Effects of Your Veteran’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and contributor to the #1 International Bestseller Wounded?  Survive!  Thrive!!!  Debbie is an advocate for veterans and their families spreading the message of understanding, compassion, hope, and healing through her writing, speaking, training, and coaching.  She is also a grass roots volunteer staff member with Family of a Vet. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Creating a Paper Trail

If there is one thing I wish every veteran and military family knew to do, it is to create a paper trail. Even when things are going well, even when it's "something small" - get in the habit of creating a paper trail.

The easiest way to create that trail is to follow these steps:

1. Create a document in your computer.  This can be 1 document per issue or 1 document to track it all.  Either way, get somewhere you can make an overview of what's going on so you have a quick glance of the actions and communications without having to dig through a wide variety of notes.  Make a note in that document of every phone call, email, and appointment you have had and a brief summary of what was discussed, what the plan for treatment is, and what to do if the plan isn't working. Always include notes of who you spoke with specifically and the date and time.

 2. Communicate via email as much as possible so you have the responses to your questions and concerns in writing direct from the person you are working with.  This is the easiest way to prevent the "he said/she said" argument.

3. Keep a notebook in your car and/or purse so you can make a note of phone calls that come in while you're on the go.  Take that notebook to every appointment and write your notes in it.  Make certain you transfer that information to your document as soon as you get home.


Now that you have a good, solid paper trail, when you need it don't be afraid to use it.  Call out obvious problems and use that paper trail to correct any "assumptions" on the part of those helping provide care.  Don't be afraid to say, "On X I called Dr. Joe's office and reported the problem.  On Y since I never heard from Dr. Joe's office I emailed the OEF/OIF office of the problem.  On Z, I still hadn't received any kind of resolution so I emailed again and followed up with a phone call 2 days later."

Your best ally in fighting for your care is a good paper trail.  Make one and use it today!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Budgeting

When working in the civilian world payday is at least two times a month. Even Active Duty military get paid twice a month. Then we transition to the life of a Veteran on VA Disability and you get paid once a month. Might not be too challenging if the spouse is still working outside the home but if your spouse is your VA Family Caregiver she/he gets paid only once a month as well.
There is no magic formula to make your funds last the whole month but there are several tips to help it stretch for 30 days without too much trouble.
I personally started with an Excel Spreadsheet to record all of our monthly bills and our income. I have it set up to give me a total of the remaining balance. I have been tucking away about 10% for later in the month.

Monthly Budget Summary   
                                                    Budget      Actual      Difference  
Total INCOME                           $0.00         $0.00
Total SAVINGS                          $0.00  $0.00
Total HOME EXPENSES           $0.00         $0.00
Total DAILY LIVING                   $0.00         $0.00
Total TRANSPORTATION       $0.00          $0.00
Total OBLIGATIONS                 $0.00         $0.00
Total HEALTH                           $0.00          $0.00
Total PETS                                 $0.00         $0.00
Total EDUCATION  $0.00         $0.00
Total ENTERTAINMENT         $0.00         $0.00
Total VACATION                      $0.00         $0.00
Total MISCELLANEOUS          $0.00        $0.00
NET                                            $0.00        $0.00         $0.00

These are the different categories I have listed and as I fill out the spreadsheet the summary if completed as well. Home Expenses is for all the utilities to keep our hour going and Daily Living is for groceries, cleaning, and paper products. I estimate groceries at a minimum of $400 a month. At the end of every month I fill out the budget will what all the bills are and which ones need to be paid. I go through the pantry and freezer and make my grocery list. I have one I created myself for our house so I just mark if we need to buy that item this month.
On the first of the month I pay all the bills first thing. Most all our bills are now paid online and there are some where the actual payment does not come out until the next morning but careful planning and attention can keep the budget intact. Once all the bills are submitted I make sure that the budget and what I just did are the same and note the remaining balance.
With a teenage boy in the house meat is essential-our first stop is to the meat market and our local butcher has a monthly special for $99.95 and it varies from month to month, summer s great BBQ meats. The freezer pack will include beef, pork, and some chicken. Then we go to Costco for the bulk items and paper products. Last stop is Wal-Mart for the items we don’t buy in bulk. We end up having meat to last all month long, even if it is only ground beef.
I fill the gas tank on payday and put aside the same amount for later in the month. I will put this aside in an envelope marked ‘Gas Money’. The other money I was tucking away I put in envelopes for groceries over the next few weeks, milk, eggs, bread, produce. I also save all my change. Every month I clean out the bottom of my purse and put the change away for a later need. There were many years that change made all the difference in the world to our family.
I am not saying that the system I use is perfect all the time but it really helps to keep spending on track and all the necessary items to keep our house afloat are done before we do anything ‘fun’. We lived payday to payday for years and that payday was $1200 a month but we did get food assistance. We had no extras but we never went without.
Budget is the key. It doesn’t matter if you would like a notebook and paper, Excel, or an online budget site like www.mint.com, keeping track of expenses is the key to knowing how to make your money work better for your family.

Submitted By Pam