Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 years and counting

I am shaking like a leaf as I am writing this but I hope that once it's out there it might help some one else. Or maybe it will help me make sense of it all. 

It's been 10.5 years since it all started. My husband served in Iraq during OIF 2003-2004. At the time we were dating. I had a child already and had child together with him while he was deployed. He left a month after we found out we were expecting. Due to us not being married and the time frame when he was deployed, we knew there would be no way for him to be back for the birth of his son. It was a very difficult time for both of us but we never gave up.

In January '04 he was medically evacuated from Iraq and sent back. I was so happy to have him back , thinking we could start slowly to build a relationship again, raise our children. I never expected what I got though. He wasn't himself no more. Couldn't deal with the kids, couldn't or wouldn't talk to me. He was different. I don't want to say he was broken but in a way, I guess he was. The night terrors were horrific and often he would beat around himself in his sleep and I can't tell you how often I had bruises from it. Eventually, he got his medical discharge and while going through the progress of it all, he was told he had " Major Depression" but PTSD was never mentioned. At that time he was put on a medication but it caused more harm than it did good. It was hard. He also was given one hearing aid by the VA but it hurt him so bad and we requested a different one - never happened. Eventually it got to a point that he just gave up on the VA and he turned to "herbal medication" . As much as I hated it in a way, I loved it too. He finally ate again, he finally slept again, he finally was calm and relaxed but getting a job while you are taking the "herbal medication" is not possible.

In 2005 our oldest son was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism on top of everything else. 

In 2007, we moved and I thought maybe the move would help and make a difference. Maybe he would stop self medicating and get help at the VA again. We called, we tried to get appointments , tried to get him seen for his hearing and PTSD. Finally in 2010, he was seen at the VA again , he then was given 2 hearing aids , set up with a psychologist, got medication. This didn't last long. The hearing aids were a blessing but the Mental Health Department still was hell. They gave him the same medication again, set him up with counseling. He went to counseling twice and then gave up. He told him he needs a different medication because of all the side effects he had the last time around with this med. but they ignored him. Frustration got the better of both of us. He would however jump into his work. Worked 60-70 hrs a week - it was his escape because his mind stayed busy and focused on the tasks at work and keep the demons at bay. When he was at home, I watched him closely, saw the demons return whenever he wasn't busy doing something, anything in that matter. Fireworks went off and he would fly under a table, run into a closet, screamed blood and murder. Different movies he watched, the night terrors returned. Still every night flapping like a fish out of water. 

In 2007 I got pregnant again and my hubby was the happiest man alive. Finally he would be there from start to end and bring home a little baby boy. But life had other plans, our son was still born at 38 weeks and this put hell on both of us. He burried himself into more work and I was struggling. It was a time in which I was so very close to walk out, walk away but I believed in all a marriage stands for, I love him more then words can say , how can I walk away?! We would get through this and we could do this , we have been through so much why wouldn't shouldn't we walk away from this stronger?! 

After loosing our son in 2008 , we were blessed with  a daughter in 2009. It was a hard pregnancy - well the pregnancy itself was easy and without complications but for the two of mentally is was hard. 

At the end of 2013, I couldn't take it anymore. I was close to a mental breakdown. After him loosing 2 Jobs, struggling financially, not getting appointments at the VA for his hearing aids or waiting 9-12 month for an appointment. I was done. Who do I reach out to , who do I ask for help.He didn't have a set case worker, no Primary Doctor at the VA, nothing.The job he worked in during that time, brought PTSD back with a vengeance and we all struggled being around him. At that time, I wrote the Governor and requested help. It was the best thing I could have done. Within 2 days we had a case manager, we had "the ball rolling". Together we saw the Case Manager, all the papers / medical chart etc. in hand. Right away the case manager was stunned and asked different questions of why we never filed a claim for this or that and as when we told him, we tried and the VA always rejected them he promised us help. Through our private doctor, he was put on a new medication and a sleep aid. HE SLEPT for the first time since self medicating and it was a blessing. The new anti depressant helped too. Things were looking up. He started counseling at the VA but always said how much he hates this counselor. This time, counseling lasted 6 month. 

In July , he was strong armed into resigning from his position and currently we are fighting it a long side dealing with a new job and the changes again. He decided to get off his medications "cold turkey" and ones I found out, things got crazy here yet again. No decision has been made on the Claims with the VA but I hope and pray to hear something soon. His hearing loss is getting worse and worse and I am afraid of the day that the hearing will be completely gone. PTSD is a killer in itself and we struggle day in and day out with it and all I can do is pick my battles, try to keep us going. I can't give up on him , or us , or our family. 

All I truly want, is for the VA to get their behinds in gear and get to work! Hire an extra audiologist or an other doctor to cover all those who struggle.Have psychologists that are personable and truly understand the struggles of PTSD. Get claims put through in a timely manner and don't push them around for a year or two. It would make such a difference for each Veteran. Too many Veterans are homeless, to many Veterans commit suicide, to many loose their wives and children. Let us spouses or Mom's and Dad's be a part of the treatment. Teach us how to cope too, teach us how to deal with different situations with our Veterans and how to get them through. These man and woman deserve the help. I haven't given up on him, why do you VA ? 

love of my life

Thursday, September 11, 2014

7 Tips for to Back-to-School Success!

When that alarm goes off in the morning busy parents hit the ground running. Is everyone awake? Out of bed? Where are your glasses? Did you brush your teeth? Why do you only have one shoe?
With all there is to remember between the alarm and the first one out the door every morning, it’s no wonder many of us feel completely frazzled before the 8:00 AM bell rings!

1.        Get organized

The morning commute to school was the last place I wanted to hear about permission slips, lunch money, or treats that were supposed to be sent to school THAT DAY, yet it was a recurrent theme until I realized lecturing my children on the merits of being responsible and organized was worthless unless I demonstrated those skills myself. No more last minute toast in the car on the way to school or digging through laundry piles to find something to wear. I had to commit to getting myself organized from the time I came home at the end of the day until we left the house the next morning.  Once we started, I discovered organization takes very little time compared to the time suck that accompanies disorganization.

Set a time to go through backpacks each day to avoid late night or early morning surprises. You won’t be caught off guard on picture day and won’t be up all night constructing a scale model of the solar system from random materials you can scrounge in the cabinets.

Clean out lunchboxes as soon as you get home. Even younger children can be responsible for disposing of trash, putting utensils and dishes in the sink, returning ice packs to the freezer, and wiping out the bag. It may be helpful to have a few spare bags for those days when the lunchbox doesn’t come home or doesn’t get cleaned out (I would have said, “Too bad, so sad,” but realize packing may be the best option in many households). Pack lunches the night before, if possible and pre-package any items you can on Sunday night for the week ahead.

Hang school calendars and lunch menus in a central location.

Homework time should be structured. Allow each child a quiet work area free from distractions. Take a few minutes to review their work with them.

Take a few minutes each evening to organize for the next morning. Set out clothes and shoes. Return homework, notes, and supplies to backpacks. Store all necessary items in a central area ready to grab on the way out the door in the morning.

Use timers to help kids stay on task. Most jobs take much less time than children realize (and they spend more time procrastinating and arguing). Allow them to earn extra time outside, extended time with a favorite activity or increase bedtime by five minutes if they complete their homework and put all materials back where they belong. Use charts to help them track their progress. Charts can be adapted for homework, household chores, or personal hygiene.

2.       Make time to relax

After a long day I long for a few minutes of quiet time. When our children were young this meant either shooing them out the door or to their rooms to play, or hiding in the bathroom for a few minutes. Just as adults need down time to decompress, so do children.  Build relaxation time into their busy schedules to allow their bodies and brains time to recharge. While they may protest (or complain they are “too old”) many children enjoy the benefits of relaxation once it becomes part of their routine. Incorporate soft music, deep breathing exercises, progressive relaxation techniques, or yoga into your down time (there are many free apps available to assist with these activities if you’re not sure where to start).

Get adequate sleep at night. Sleep affects your brain function, as well as physical and mental health. While you are sleeping your brain is busy forming new pathways to help you learn. Being well-rested improves your mental focus, ability to make decisions, and solve problems. Lack of sleep can cause behavioral and emotional issues including impulsive behavior and depression.
Build quality family time into your week. Consider limiting extracurricular activities if your children are overwhelmed with demands. Start a tradition such as family game night to replace TV time (and limit other electronics use).

3.       Eat balanced meals

Grandma always said, “You can’t raise kids on Coke and Pop Tarts.” Well, grandma was wrong…but I still wouldn’t advise it. I have never enjoyed cooking. I hate walking in the door after work and being hit with a chorus of, “what’s for dinner?” We ate out frequently when my husband was not home. Due to a busy schedule driving from gymnastics to soccer to piano lessons to confirmation to gymnastics…we ate in the van some nights. Not recommended.

Work with your family to create a weekly or monthly menu and take turns sharing the cooking (or cook together with younger children). Eat meals together around the table and take time to share about your day. You will learn so much about each other this way.

If the morning rush is difficult, check if your school offers a breakfast program and take advantage of it.

Keep a stash of snacks organized or pre-packaged in the fridge and pantry. Mixed nuts, trail mix, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of protein—essential for new cell growth and healthy neurotransmitters in the brain—add in fruits and veggies for a healthy snack.

4.       Hydrate

Be sure your child drinks plenty of good old H2O. Your body depends on water to keep all its systems in good working order. Mild dehydrations can sap energy and lead to fatigue. Dehydration can also cause headaches, memory problems, poor concentration, as well as sleep issues, anger, and depression.

5.       Be active

Just 20 minutes of physical activity, whether it’s an organized sport or tossing the ball at the park can improve memory function. As your heart rate increases, your brain gets more oxygen which assists with the growth of new brain cells. Get your kids outside every day for some physical play.

6.       Talk to the teacher

You’d be surprised what teachers hear in the classroom and on the playground. When I was teaching I knew who was fishing without a license, whose mother was expecting a child before the announcement was public, and which father needed his back waxed before a trip to Hawaii.

While teachers don’t need to know all the details of your lives, take a proactive approach to dealing with concerns. If you’re concerned about a behavior your child is exhibiting or their performance in the classroom, make an appointment to meet with the teacher and discuss strategies. If your family is experiencing a change such as planning for a new baby or moving, or if you are going through a divorce or there has been a death, let the school staff know so they can watch for and assist with adjustment difficulties your child may have. The school counselor is an excellent resource for learning how to talk to your child about a change or for locating materials to learn more about how to cope.

7.       Read

Children should spend 20 to 30 minutes reading outside of school every day (15 minutes for beginning readers). Let them read something they choose and enjoy and allow them to choose from picture books, chapter books, magazines, and newspapers.  Your children will be more inclined to read if they see you, and other family members, reading.

Dreading the six hour car trip to grandma’s for Thanksgiving? Make car time educational! Flash cards, journals, and audio books can help pass time while expanding their knowledge. Kids obsessed with movies in the car? Rent educational DVDs or download documentaries on electronic devices. Challenge them to see who can remember the most details about what they have watched. An old-fashioned game of I Spy is good for passing the miles as well.

Whether you try one or all of these tips (or—gasp!--none), here’s hoping you find a few moments of peace to start and end each day during this school year.

Follow this link for a *FREE* packet on TBI and PTSD for parents and teachers: