Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Endless Battle

My husband and I have been together for almost 17 years! We got married in 2002 a week before he left for Army basic training.  we have 2 boys and 1 girl. At the we started this journey the boys were 4 years, and the other was 9 months when he left for basic. Our third kid came along years later. 

We were stationed in Fort Campbell KY in January 2002. Before we could even get unpacked we found out he was leaving soon. So after being together again after basic training we had to get reacquainted and say our good byes in a short month.  

When he left it obviously sucked but what could I do, the kids and I still had to keep going on which is what we did. And we made it! It was a long crazy year but it came and went and he was coming home!!

I went to mandatory meetings that were designed to prepare us for what extra baggage could and would be coming back with our heroes! I was prepared for it all nightmares, emotional mood swings, aggravation, isolation, etc. I was ready for it, but didn't need to deal with it. My husband seemed like nothing bad happened, he had stories about dumb things they did over there to keep themselves occupied between days and missions. No nightmares, no fighting, no aggravated outbursts! Oh lucky us!!? That wasn't so bad!

We moved home august 2005. My husband went back to his job that was held for him, we bought a condo in our home town we grew up in we were starting the next part of our lives.

            My husband told me about 6 months later he wanted to join the Ohio National Guard. I thought whatever if that's what you want to do go on. I later would learn that was the beginning of the signs I had no idea I should have still been looking for. He wanted the structure he had lost by getting out. No disrespect to the guard, but there's not a lot of structure for a solder who took pride in having his uniform perfect, shoes polished and beret molded perfectly. But he learned quickly how to make it work with them. He was ok for another year, maybe 2 before our lives started to change by things I never new I needed to worry about.

           I feel like it was spring 2007 when he became distant, frustrated, restless. he's had bad sinuses since he came back and I thought he was presenting signs of sleep apnea, which didn't  make sense because he wasn't over weight. He went to the VA and they said he needed to do a sleep study which led to him needing to use a cpap machine at bedtime. He was able to sleep better for a bit.

          It wasn't long after that I found my husband down stairs and I could tell he was crying. I asked what was wrong and he didn't want to tell me, I wouldn't understand, I would have bad feelings if I knew, it was his problem not mine were all things he said to try to keep his problem from me. I was persistent and kept asking him to tell me and let me help. He finally told me what his secret was and he lost it, cried in my lap and all I could do was explain I understood why he did what he did and it didn't change the way anyone would think of him and it would be ok we could figure out how to deal with it. The next morning I called his dad and told him what my husband was going through and asked him to get him to talk and help him start figuring out how to help him get help. At that point I put together that this was going to change things. I had a talk with my oldest son who was 8 at this time, I explained his dad had done things while in Iraq that bother him, I didn't elaborate on them but mad my son aware there would be times he wouldn't understand why his dad would be agitated or mad at things that weren't really an issue but just be prepared and walk away and not take it personally. It was the best way I could explain it to him. I didn't tell my younger son who was 4 at that time, it felt like he would question and pry to much.

        Its not my place to tell his story of what happened to him in Iraq to  bring us to this point, I hope that doesn't matter, Its his story to share if he wants, not mine. I will say if you've lived this life and know your hero's hidden secrets there is a song  “Hero of War”by a band called Rise Against, its hard to accept the lyrics as true events, but they are in fact very accurate to situations i know my husband saw and did, along with many others like him. Not everyone will be able to understand the things they did but that song points out how a person is seen as a hero, with medals, and scars, but hold visions of the worst imaginable circumstances they have to keep to themselves and just deal with the memories without allowing anyone to know or they will be seen as monsters, which in fact leaves a solder in his own head alone with no one to say its ok you did what you had to do.
        My husband began going to the VA and began the process of trying to get help with his thoughts and emotions. He also started getting treated for back pain with pain medications. As time went on he started seeing therapists and counselors and eventually was diagnosed with PTSD and they began a claim starting at 30% disabled.

          While he was learning to deal with the emotions he was supposed to deal with he started self medicating for his back pain by using his and other peoples medications to take away his pain. I thought he was in severe pain from his back, but as time went on I'd learn this was a coping mechanism to not have to deal with his issues and memories he could never forget and would always have in his head.

        My husband lost his civilian job, but luckily was able to get some temporary work with the guard unit he belonged to, so things seemed little better he was staying busy which helped seem like he was able to deal and keep his mind from wondering. But after a year and a half the solders he was filling in for came back from there deployment so he was laid off again.
Around the same time the VA said they weren't capable to treat him there anymore because
they didn't have the resources to duel treat him for PTSD and chemical dependence. So they sent him to another VA 50 miles away 2-4 times a week. I was floored and couldn't believe this was happening it felt like such a waste of time and money to drive down there every other day. But that was what he had to do to be cooperative.

           They took him off of his Ultram for his back pain and put him on suboxin, they said it was something new they were trying to help veterans deal with PTSD? He seemed ok but not great. On veterans day 2010 I surprised him by taking him to some casinos for the evening. He got kind of worried because he didn't have his suboxin on him and had to have it before the morning. That's when I realized they had put him on a medication that would cause him to go through withdraw without having it. It scared me and I asked him how they planned on getting him off of it and he said when he asked them the same thing they said don't worry about it know well cross that bridge when we cross that bridge? I wanted to yell WTF!!! But assured him we would be home before midnight we weren't staying the night.

            I then learned that suboxin is medication they give heroine addicts to keep them from using heroine, but this is what the gave my husband and to this day up to this point I strongly believe heroine was not a part of his life in any way.

            He did what they asked for months still not feeling happy, accepted, frustrated, sad, suicidal, restless, all things that I’d came to know came along with his condition. early spring of 2011 things seemed to get better, he mentioned to me that he was feeling better after they changed his antidepressant a few weeks earlier. He also told me they were going to begin a form of hypnotherapy, which I believe can and does work in some cases under close supervision. But unfortunately not in his situation. I feel a persons mind is a great mystery and very delicate. I am a very open minded person, but today I feel opening a door that a person has shut years ago after an incident has occurred  to make them relive, and try to appropriately deal with what never was dealt with at the time of the specific incident, then closing it and sending them on there way is  not wise to do while your changing medications and just beginning to understand how this type of therapy should be done.

           I will say he seemed so happy and excited like he was on top of the world for a small while. Within a few months ,if that, he began weird behavior, obsessively collecting things. We went through a coin stage, a stamp stage, a baseball card stage, a lottery stage, at first I went along with it if it made him happy why not? But something just didn't feel right. He was to happy, but then would go from happy to angry.
          He told me he wasn't taking his suboxin like he was supposed to that he was winging himself off of them, and only using small portions of them instead of the 2 a day he was prescribed. One day while he was at the va I found out he was starting to use a chemical substance he found at a gas station that would give him energy for the drive home. needless to say he became addicted to this substance and this is when my world began to collapse.

            His moods were so back and forth and our relationship was almost nonexistent. I began snooping and found out things I wasn't prepared for.
           I tried calling his doctors at the VA and told them what I had found, and the mood changes that were occurring and that he was going out of control. His Doctor listened but responded with we can not disclose his records all we can do is tell you to keep yourself and your family safe. I wasn't asking for information I was giving them the information they didn't see cause he was trying to hide it from them.

           We ended up getting into a fight one night and that created a restraining order for us, he was put on house arrest at his parents and I was home alone unable to deal with all that was happening with the kids alone. I tried to write the judge and explained the situation, but that didn't work like I had hoped. We were just looked at as a domestic violence couple and they were protecting my kids and myself. I get it but that wasn't what was happening. My husband hasn't ever been a violent person, we've had our arguments but not abusive. I just wanted him to help him, help his self more efficiently. 

            On his next guard drill they obviously wanted to have a talk with there solder who was once there go to guy the solder that took pride in getting the job done, was proud to lead his squad better than anyone else there. But before he reported to his ranking officer he took actions into his own hands and took a Humvee for a joy ride back to the VA 50 miles away. To this day I don't know why i have my suspicions and truly feel he was planning on not getting out of it. Thankfully he did get out and the guard finally had the incident they could use to get him different help than what he had been receiving. They took him to the Air Force hospital close to us which is where his captain became aware of how far off there reliable solder had fallen through the system and was now lost and alone. The Air Force doctor told his captain the VA had messed up and he was given orders to never be allowed to go back to that locations facilities again.

            From there was the first time he went into in patient psych ward. Its hard to find humor in the situation, but hes a bit of a legend there, every time he goes back or tells his story there like “that was you? You’re the one that stole the Humvee!”
           After being released he didn't listen he returned to the facility to do a month long inpatient for the first time. Then still made multiple visits weekly to stay in the program until he could be transferred to the closer VA. I was the only person he had to rely on which was super hard for me because we obviously have tons of things that needed to be dealt with but couldn't because of how fragile his mental state had became. (Still haven't been dealt with today, but I have bigger battles still being dealt with)

            He was released from house arrest and was able to come home before march of 2012. When he came home he apologized for how things went and that he was sorry and it wouldn't happen again. I was hopeful and wanted to believe.

            Happiness never completely returned. We had a death in my family which as sad of a loss that it was began the hardest chapter of my life. I found out my husband was kicked out of the suboxin program at the VA, He began having withdraws from the medication and that's when he turned to heroine. I told him that wasn't going to be a part of my life, it couldn't be in our house, or around our kids. I was faced with turning my back on the man I loved for 15 years and stand my ground. Things went up and down for couple months and they were able to get him back into a different program this time it was methadone not suboxin.

           This is at the same time we were losing our house after all that had happened over the past  year holding on to our condo and its memories didn't seem important. We thought moving into a friends second house was a good idea but unfortunately when he began hearing stories of my husband he went from being his hero friend to a piece of shit that should be on the street so we were evicted for a 2nd time within 3 months 2 days after Christmas.

            I had no option but to move in with family members who wanted nothing to do with my husband anymore. It hurt knowing that everyone wanted to be proud of him and he was their hero, but when life happened to him and he couldn't deal it was so easy for everyone to say he needs to stop blaming his problems on his PTSD and face reality. If he had cancer and I turned my back on him i would be a horrible person, but he has PTSD and I'm looked at as a fool for allowing him to effect my kids and my lives.

            Almost a year ago we moved into a new house together again and tried starting over again. Things were ok for a bit, but the VA once again suggested that he should stop taking the methadone and leave the program again. I don't know what the reasonings were, I think because he wanted to take anti-anxiety medication to deal with his panic attacks and the medications i guess are harmful together? I feel like they decided to take a tough love approach to him too, maybe to make him decide for himself why he wanted to be there and be helped. I can understand but still don't think that's how they should be handled to many other people are around our vets who just want them to be ok and normal, but don't know how to help them. If anywhere should understand it should be the VA. I know it's hard convincing someone who doesn't want to be helped that things happen this way is for there best interest. And that is who they are supposed to be there for.

              But he agreed and as the withdraws began he checked himself into the psych ward at the VA to detox once again.

               I thought to myself maybe this time he’ll get the chemicals out of his system and will be ready to be happy again. Our lives can be what they used to be!

            After he got out he had an inpatient appointment i went along with him to. We had our daughter and were wondering back between waiting rooms, they finally called him in for his check up. he came out he looked sad and disturbed. I asked what was wrong but he didn't want to tell me. I finally got him to talk when we were in the car, he told me the nurse in the room asked him “Why are you pacing and acting impatient I was talking with a ww2 vet and your little problems are nothing compared to what he has to deal with!” Once again I thought WTF its your job to help people not judge who needs what help or why or who needs more. I feel like our VA at least is filled with people like this. It has to change. I don't care if they are government employees or not they have a job and that job is to help veterans not belittle and knock them down in there times of need. Our government needs to put different people in charge who care and will make the facilities more efficient. I know its not about making a profit or staying within budget to them but it needs to be based on how there work ethic causes a cancer within the facility that trickles from department to another. Their eyes need to be opened to how small groups within have negative attitudes towards there purpose. ( sorry that's a different issue all together I’ve seen over the last couple of years)
 Anyhow he wouldn't let me go up there and file a complaint but I strongly feel the VA needs to pay closer attention to there employees, she hasn't been the only one who passes judgment towards him or others. Its really sad to think this is where the vets have to go and they just except that they cant do anything to change it.

          So once again my husband has been detoxed and clean. I felt that after all the times we had gone up and down this was it we were going to be able to live a new life and get things right!

          I was wrong, he started using again shortly after his encounter with that lovely nurse who made him feel he didn't matter and needed to suck it up! He tried to go to VA for different treatments and aftercare programs but that place has so many negative people who bread off of the veterans trying to stay clean that they cant.

          I was finishing my shift at work mid summer when i got a call from my husband, he told me he was sorry but he had OD and died, but they were able to bring him back to life. Luckily he was by another veteran waiting for the bus who used my husband's phone to call 911 while he performed CPR till a squad arrived. If it wasn't for him my kids wouldn't have a father and I'd be a widow. Our conversation that evening was hard and hurtful. Just like the years before.

           He continued using to function and hide his pain and memories from war and all the damage he caused us. some days I caught him, others I didn't. Either way I couldn't trust he could take care of our kids, so i would have to always find a sitter and keep them away so they wouldn't have to see what I feared. He had an intake day scheduled mid July this past summer to go to an inpatient program for chemical dependency with PTSD veterans. I caught him once again hiding that he was using in the early morning and I had to send him away with out the option of coming back until he did his inpatient care again. It was 8 weeks that we knew he had to do if we were going to make it. It was hard sending him away, but it helped. After a few weeks of staying clean in there they were able once again able to put him back on suboxin to help him keep the temptation away.  
       Upon completing the course he came home for about a month before going back in for a PTSD inpatient course again. While he was in there he did a bunch of different group type classes. One of which was a horse therapy class which surprised me to see how much he enjoyed it. He never liked horses and here he was talking with our daughter about his horse spirit! He told me they were helping him understand why there minds go in the directions they do when memories, and triggers present themselves. I was happy to begging to see a happier him once again.

           He was in there up until just before thanksgiving.  He was able to come home for the holidays and they were stress full, but we made it to them.
         I was told that the reason for the change in personality when his antidepressant was changed was documented as a allergic reaction? His disability went from 30% up to 50% and he has gone in front of another board and we were informed it will be going up again.

        Life has been complicated for my family, but i feel like were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Its been a long obnoxious journey but i feel like its going to get a little easier now that he's learning how to deal properly and not turn to things to make him forget, but accept its part of who he was  and is and it cant be changed.

         We still have to tiptoe and avoid topics and trigger situations but that's easier than how we've
 had to handle life.

          I feel from the start of his treatment a lot could have been done different and this road wouldn't have had to have been as destructive as it was had more people realized what was going on earlier in the treatment process. blaming the PTSD victim and telling them to get over it make the situation better. I feel we as a country need to understand the why and how of this disorder. Just because one person can deal doesn't mean the same thing wont destroy the next. Just because you find out the bad things a solder did in a war zone doesn't mean that a solder wanted to do any of them, it may not change them but it can haunt them forever, its up to the people next to them to be understanding and positive. My life is hard not being able to spend Holidays with my family and my husband at the same time because they don't want to understand. I understand that there hurt by the way he acted and the things he did, but no one has been hurt more in this journey than myself. If I can understand and try to help him through you would think they would be able to, but what ever maybe time will help them understand along with everyone else that asks why do you stay, why do you do it? I can't explain besides it feels right. Where would he be if he didn't have us to fight for? Hopefully they all have someone to try and help. hopefully those someone's have people to help them understand the why its happening before they give up as well. PTSD is hard to know is there. If a solder comes back missing an arm then everyone wants to help, if a solder looks fine on the outside, but acts irrational then they need to get there self together. 
         As for how things are going now, we just adopted a rescue puppy and i’m hoping to get him trained as a therapy support dog for my husband. There's a local organization called “Battle Buddies” which are begging to train for veterans that qualify! Maybe well get lucky and they’ll take my husband as a volunteer too since he cant do anything but go to the VA then sit at home all day anyways!!

        As for our children they have been awesome helpers and under standers. I know they've had a tough couple years as well, but to know them you wouldn't know. Both the boys were in therapy at the beginning of all this but nether were recommended to stay. They both have standing orders to be able to jump back in when ever but thankfully hasn't been needed to go back yet. My oldest is a sophomore in high school, taking 2 college courses and on the student council, and my younger son in 6th grade is a star football line man, honor roll student, our daughters little wild, but she’s daddy's little girl.

        We’ve been through a lot but they say things happen for a reason. I’m looking forward to seeing exactly what our reason for all this was. I’m hopefully the rest of our journey will be a happier and smoother one with out another setback. baby steps, and one day at a time!       

Submitted By: Wife of a Broken Hero


  1. I'm sad to inform anyone who has read our story the Battle is over. My husbands battle with PTSD took his life early Friday morning. The only comfort I have is knowing his pain and remorse he held onto everyday is gone as well. He can finally sleep with out the nightmares. My best friend and father of my children will never hug or kiss us good night again. If I could hope for a positive's to come from our story it would be the country to be more acceptant of this disability, and hold the caregivers, and there facilities to be held more accountable for the treatment and recovery our solders get. We are the one who pay there paychecks!

    1. I want you to know i understand EVERY second of your story. I am sorry your husband was so tormented in his last ten years. I am sickened by the lack of treatment and competent care for our soldiers with less than obvious wounds. Missing a leg or arm or been a purple heart???No problem,,,,lots of consideration and compensation, treatment.....I am sure i have PTSD dealing with this situation....Take care of yourself. All good thoughts for peace and healing.

  2. I just wanted to say thanks for putting your story out there. I wandered into this site looking for answers because it's been three years since my husband, an Afghanistan vet with PTSD walked out on me and our family never to return. My life has been forever altered like yours and I cannot express how heart broken i still am. Good Luck to you and your husband and children!

  3. Dear Wife of a Broken Hero,

    I just finished reading your blog and I'm so proud of you for releasing your story for others in the same situation. You're a strong and brave woman and you deserve a metal for standing by your man as you have. I've been in your shoes but my story didn't end as "sweet" as yours. Count each day with your husband a blessing whether filled with smiles and hugs or tears of frustration. Happiness to women like us, who have endured so much, is different than what the media proclaims. We can find joy in the little things which gives us hope in dealing with the big things.

    In April 2011, I started Blog of a Vet's Wife, to reach others in this same situation. I wanted the world to be aware of PTSD and what it does to families. I spent 16 years writing my memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My blog talks about PTSD and publishing my first book. My book was finally released Dec 2012 and the comments are humbling, awakening others to this terrible disability that follows our warriors home from war. My blog has reached 73 countries and has had close to 15,000 hits. In August I sent a copy to the White House and received a personally signed letter from Michelle Obama.

    I plan to spend the rest of my life on this mission to make others aware and prayerfully one day the right people will step into office and accept the responsibility they owe our veterans for serving this country so bravely.

    Please stop by, if you have a chance. I'd love to hear back from you. And if you ever need to talk, please contact me at May God bless you with hope, love and strength in your continued journey.

    My heart is with you,
    Nancy MacMillan

  4. Hello Wife of a Broken Hero,

    I am moved by your story and I can relate. My husband and I have been married for 17 years. He left the Army in 2005 and my tale is very similar to yours. I cried as I read your story and at the same time felt guilty for feeling relieved that I am not the only wife that has watched helplessly as her husband suffers from PTSD. It is a hard road to travel and there is very little support for wives and family members. I find most people are intolerant of those that stand by their loved one when the times get hard. You were absolutely right saying everyone wants to call a veteran a hero until trouble starts. Then they tell them to "suck it up" and just walk away. I have asked more than one person if he (my husband) sucked it up and walked away while he was defending your freedom? He stood his ground and I will stand mine. My heart hurts for you and your family. I appreciate your husband for his sacrifice to our country and I appreciate you for supporting him. Also, I read the other comments and if you were the author of the first one, I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart. I live with the fear of losing my husband everyday and I cannot even imagine what you must be going through. Again, my sincerest condolences.