Friday, November 15, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign - My Home is In Your Arms

Caleb,

I've come to look forward to writing this letter to you each year... an opportunity to pause in the middle of our daily rush and chaos and think about you... think about us.

I continue to be amazed by you. You and I both know this life we lead is not easy - and that "statistics" say we are in an uphill fight - but I can't think of anyone I'd rather face that fight... face this life... with.

I still find, curled in your arms, safely tucked against you, my home.  I still find myself grinning as you sneak a kiss in the middle of the night sometimes (even when you think I'm asleep ;) ).  I still find my refuge in you.  My future in you.  My friend, and ally, and lover, and friend.  I still find, dear husband, myself drawn to you and grateful for you - even after almost seventeen years together.

Thank you for being mine.  Thank you for continuing to stand and fight with me.  Thank you for nudging me, holding me up, protecting me, letting me be me (even when my own ways in the world are sometimes difficult for you to swallow)... thank you for loving me.

Thank you for being "that guy"... that guy that I am still so proud and honored and amazed by.  Thank you for being to stubborn to give up and to strong to let me.

Thank you, my love, for the amazing daily gift that you are to me and to our family.

You are much more than a hero... you are my hero.  And I, my love, am gratefully honored to be your wife and partner and friend.

Love,
Me

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!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign - My Brother Trevor



Big Bro,

I had always wondered why you chose to go into the Navy at such a young age, and why mom didn't let me watch the News from 2004/2008. As I grew older, I began to understand why you left. It was so that you could save people who needed your help, and  when I realized this, my heart grew with pride. (It felt akin to something like what the Grinch felt when he found out that he loved Christmas and his heart grew two times its size). 

And then you came home with the stink of war etched onto your clothes and the memories that no one else could see besides the Veterans who were beside you in the horror of what happened. I had hoped that you wouldn't come home with PTSD or anything drastic that would make my big brother cry, but then you did and I promised myself that I would help you in any way I could. If it means going to see a councilor with you, talking it over on Facebook, or anything that would make you feel better, I will do it. (Because that's what family is for, and no one could ever deny it). You're not alone in this Big Bro, and nobody wants to see you suffer in silence. We all love you too much.

I love you big bro,
                  
From your little sister!

Submitted By: Megan

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visithttp://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Love Letter Campaign - To the Toughest of Them All



My love letter is written to all the caregivers of the wounded American soldiers.
   
On behalf of all of America, {even the people who haven't taken the time or interest to consider the struggles of families dealing with the wounds of war], I want to say a big thank you for your service.

I know from personal experience what all of you are going through. Although I am an older woman now, I still remember the daily struggle I had to wade through to survive my families problems.
    
My wounded warrior was drafted into the Vietnam war two months after we were married. He was a valiant soldier, and like you, I was as proud of him as I could be. He was handsome, brave, strong and a responsible leader. He was a mans man. 
    
He was in Vietnam for a year, and when he came back home, he was a completely different person than who he was before he left. He was critical of everyone and everything. I thought he was as mean as hell.
    
PTSD. We had never heard of such a thing. The Army never told me there might be some problems ahead for us when he returned home. As far as I know, no one at that time was given a heads up about PTSD.
    
I knew he was wild, uncontrollable, and he had become a daredevil of sorts. To make a long story short, he ended up crippled, walking on crutches, disabled for life, but he was still alive. Thank God!
    
I'm sorry to say the VA was not there for us. He was sent home to me without any help from the VA. Although we tried to apply for assistance, they said his disability was not service connected, and he was not eligible for any assistance from the VA.
    
I took care of him and dealt with his PTSD for thirty-five years by myself, without any help from the ones who were responsible for his condition. Then in 2004 he finally went back to the VA to see if he was eligible to receive some glasses. The VA immediately diagnosed him as having PTSD. The VA has been kind to him ever sense; I'm glad to say.
   
 We struggled many years not knowing what our problem was. I think I would have been better at handling my stress if I had only known he had PTSD. That would have answered so many questions for me, and it would have empowered me to control myself around him.
   
 Before he left for Vietnam, I made a vow to myself to stay by his side, no matter what happened to him in the war, whether he was captured or wounded. I promised myself that I would take care of him, and I have.    
   
 He is still the love of my life. He has been worth all the work and effort I have invested in him. 
   
 I love that man. He is still as wonderful today as he was the day I married him.
 
 I would simply like to encourage each wife or caregiver to a wounded veteran to stay solid, focus on the love you have for your soldier. Your soldier belongs not only to you, but to all of America. 
    
I'm so glad you have national support now. You deserve it.
    
I know you don't have the life of your dreams, neither does your soldier, but you still have each other, and that is the most important thing in life, having the one you love with you.
    
I wrote a book about our life and our struggles. I can't tell you how much that helped my feelings. I highly encourage everyone to put on paper your experience, say your feelings, get them out so you can recognize them and deal with them. It worked for me.
    
In conclusion, I want to say to you, I do love the work you are doing. I know you have the long term, toughest job of all. 

Thanks.

Submitted By: The Survivor

This blog post is part of The Love Letter Campaign... a project started by FamilyOfaVet.com to encourage those who love a hero to write a letter sharing their story (where they started, what they've faced together, and why their love endures). It's not just for spouses, but also for parents, siblings, caregivers, and friends. It's about telling the "rest" of our stories... stories that continue despite PTSD, TBI, and the challenges of life after combat. To share your love letter or find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.familyofavet.com/love_letters.html.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Intimacy

Intimacy is a touchy topic for most of us, but it becomes especially tricky in relationships involving PTSD, TBI, and assorted illnesses and injuries.  Some barriers to intimacy may include impotency due to depression, medications, or injury, decreased libido, low testosterone, or on the other side of the spectrum an increased sex drive or “hypersexuality.”   Decreased energy and libido in caregivers due to stress and fatigue from the demands of caregiving, along with health issues associated with caregiving also play a role.   Lack of day to day hugging and kissing and other affection due to isolating behaviors of PTSD, pornography addictions, infidelity (both may be related to seeking an adrenaline rush, or trying to feel “alive”).  Caregivers also report that lack of regular affection make it difficult for them to be sexually intimate with their spouse who feels like a stranger and have related the interactions to feeling as if they are being raped.

So it’s no small thing when an intimate moment arises in our house.  In fact, it’s something that only occurs every 9-12 months and is normally an isolated event.  The other night my husband pulled me close and whispered that he loved me and missed me.  At first, I was hesitant. “Just lie close to me.  Hold my hand.”  My heart and my head struggled to catch up.  In his eyes I saw HIM and in his voice I heard HIM.  This man next to me was my husband—the one I remember from the years before war ravaged his body and mind.

Yet I was scared, unsure.  I had to work to keep my brain focused on who he was at that moment, instead of letting uncertainty and discomfort take over.  It feels odd to find my husband a stranger, his touch foreign. These are normally the times where I may need to “check out” and make mental grocery or to-do lists, when I just cannot relax.  But this time, as I lay with my head on his shoulder and listened to his voice I felt comforted.  Loved.  Oh, how I've missed you!

In the morning, he was gone.  In his place was the regular guy, the one who is distant, and angry.  Silent, emotions suppressed.  The shell of my husband. I wanted to shake him and scream, “Where did you go?”  “It’s not fair!”

I crave a glimpse, an hour, a day when my husband is the man I remember.  But when that wish is granted I’m left sad and hurting...  Overwhelming loneliness takes over for months where hugs and kisses are few and far between, and perfunctory at best.   I build walls to keep my emotions at bay as well.  I wonder if it’s better to have a taste from time to time, or none at all.

I will continue to search for the man I love while simultaneously searching to know this new man in my life, hopefully to find a bridge between the two.

Submitted By: Anonymous