Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bad Day

You Better Stop
a -Look Around 
Here it comes, Here it comes, Here it comes, Here it comes,
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown
Rolling Stones, 1965

Day before yesterday was just an all around bad day. I woke up feeling after a night of tossing and turning, so just didn't get much rest. I had a phone interview that I anticipated for three days, so I guess I spent all night trying to find the way to answer the questions with just the right words, or perhaps try to find a way to convey our desperation for help for my husband. The interview came and went, but I don't think I did too well. Nothing I said seemed to portray the hell we are going through here at home, and what I did say it seemed like the interviewer could not understand. 

I got off the phone and I don't know if something just snapped inside me, but all this false bravado just crumbled. I started crying and just didn't stop. I spoke to my sister who assured me that maybe the interviewer was trying to trip me up and that it ain't over till it's over. (Thanks Liz) In my heart though, I knew it was another battle lost. I hope I am wrong, but it just seems we always get kicked down when we fight. Now, before you think "woe is her" and I am throwing myself a pity truly has been this way since day one. We find one resource, I go after it. I tackle it with full gusto and hope, only to find that door is closed and not ever going to open again for us. Three years of this I have looked, fought and come up with nothing. 

Three years of waging a war against PTSD and all I have to show for it, is my blog. I have no friends, except for a few ladies in the FRG but only one I talk to. No support except for a few ladies I know online who are going through the same thing in which I am grateful, but I can't really take their time up bitching about what's going in my life. How would that be fair to them? They have to be enduring the same hell I am on most days. 

It seems when I am really in a funk, the kids are worse. They feed off my emotions I believe and find every which way to get into trouble or to push my buttons. My husband who walked around here yesterday in a funky daze, simply patted me on the back and said 'You'll be alright". YOU'LL BE ALRIGHT? That's all you can say? Really

I think I needed a hug...maybe a kiss on the forehead and to let me know everything is going to be ok. He couldn't state that. He patted me on the back which is the same to me as patting your buddy on the back and telling them to buck up. He went outside to putz in the yard which I know was probably the best thing because he was in a funk as well, but that left me with three kids running around and two of them looking to stir up a ruckus. That left me with no one to understand or more importantly, be sad with me. Now I don't expect him to sit around and bawl with me, and Lord crazy person around this house is enough! I guess I just needed the sympathy or perhaps empathy....and I just didn't get it. 

I loaded up after realizing we were out of soy milk for my littlest one (allergies) and went to the store. I had tears running down my face driving, teary eyed I battled for a parking place, and then after wiping down my face went in to brave the crowds. I watched a husband and wife arguing playfully over who was best in choosing a watermelon and just hearing him laugh made me want to vomit. I HATE going to the store period just because with a family of five, the bill is usually large....and then the store is always crowded unless you go later at night, and mostly because I see husbands and wives carry on...or one of my kids notices a dad with a son playing or laughing so you get the "why can't dad be that way?". 

So after getting my groceries, I made my way to the check out and while the cashier was scanning my goods, she asked "How are you doing today?". Perhaps it was just the wrong statement, maybe it was the sweet way she said it, but I just started streaming the water works! I was soooo freaking embarrassed! I apologized to her and told her it was just a bad day and that I was fine. Just had the boo-hooies and could not shake them. She said "sometimes you just got to cry to feel better".  I left feeling somewhat better after she said that, as I was sure she probably thought me to be some sort of lunatic.

I took my time getting home knowing the kids were fine with my oldest and my husband being there. The drive home calmed me down a little. I know I was tired, and because of my Rheumatoid Arthritis, the weather here has been playing havoc on my body. It's just some days you don't realize how much you go, go and go non-stop with no one to push you from behind. I didn't realize until yesterday how tired I was.......tired of keeping everything up all the time, maintaining the sanity around my home, and just mentally tired of the ups and downs that constantly rule our lives. I want to say it's normal for me to cry and get down every once in a while, but I feel guilty when I do. I am just simply tired of fighting. I just want one good thing to happen for us that gives me a reason to fight. I keep looking and haven't found it yet. Anyone else just get bone damned weary of keeping up with all of it? What do you do to combat the weariness?

Mentally Exhausted,

Uncle Sam's Mistress

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reminiscing Part Two

One dear fellow blogger, One Veteran's Battle, and his wife PTSD: A Caregiver's Perspective, pondered over my Reminiscing post I made in regards to keeping letters that were sent home from war and my feelings in regarding to being fooled into believing everything was normal. One Veteran's Battle's response to my post was compelling and written beautifully. With his permission, I am posting this on my blog along with links to his blog (just click on the purple words in this paragraph) because his response really made me look at my souvenirs in a different light. I felt is was important and informative enough to share with my readers and followers..............................

This morning, my wife posed an interesting question. She follows a Blog entitled Living with PTSD and TBI. In her post 'Reminiscing,' the author points out that while her husband was in Iraq his letters seemed his normal loving/caring self. When he came home she expected him to be the same man that went to war. His letters gave no indication of any problem.

When her husband came home he was a very different person. Now he's filled with "anger and contempt for everyone." She feels as though keeping the letters is akin to keeping letters to an X-husband.

First let me say, I'd definitely keep them. When I came back from Iraq and was struggling, my wife and I started family counseling. She used that counselor to inform me she wanted a divorce. I learned later she'd already gotten an attorney and filed the divorce papers 5 days prior. I had missed 3 court appearances and potentially could have been locked up, and I wouldn't know why. She's done many other horrible things to me which I won't go into here, but I wanted to illustrate I had good reason to despise her.

Despite the fact I hate her with every breath I draw and every beat of my heart, I burned letters sent by my X but I wish I hadn't destroyed the few letters she sent me. Sometime in the future you may have a question about the time your husband was in Iraq and those letters may be the only source for an answer. This is what happened to me. I remember my X saying something in a letter and, forgetting I had burned them, I turned the house upside down looking for them.

Regarding the changes in him once he came home, he essentially couldn't adapt to the new environment. When he was in Iraq, neurological pathways in his brain changed. New pathways are created in order to function in a combat zone. The fight or flight response prepares the body for action under stress and danger. The adrenalin is pumping through his veins. His heart pounds and his breathing increases. His body might even begin to shake uncontrollably. He has the increased blood flows into his muscles and his strength is increased enough for the given threat. The analytical mind is shut down and all the rational thought is non-existent. Your husband is responding to anything he perceives as at threat or danger.

The increased strength that comes from this response is a result of your his shutting down non-essential functions such as the digestive system and the frontal part of the brain responsible for rational thought. By shutting down parts of the body other parts have access to the energy needed for the survival response. This is manifested in form of increased strength.

While your husband remains in Iraq he will seem normal because he's in the environment that his brain has been wired for. He's not aware of it because it's completely natural and it happens without conscious knowledge of the process. His letter's wouldn't indicate a problem, in fact, it may be quite the opposite. I know when I wrote home, car bombs, fire-fights, and dead friends was the last thing I'd talk about. As the Wal-Mart commercial says, "I'd put on a happy face."

When your husband returned home, he believed nothing had changed in him, but after a short period of time, both you and your husband began to realize something had changed. The typical veteran begins to show symptoms of PTSD 3 to 6 months after returning home. Anger, depression, hallucinations, and nightmares are just a few of the most common symptoms. Their brain is still wired for a war zone and has to use those neurological pathways to function in the real world. When he went to Iraq, your husband was faced with life and death situation, and there was trauma which forced him to rewire in order to survive. Now that he's home, there's no experience that forces his brain to rewire once more, this time in a way better suited for the civilian world. The fact of the matter is, PTSD is for life and your husband will likely remain hardwired for Iraq the rest of his life.

I'm aware of what my wife does for me and I know how difficult it can be on her. I'm also extremely appreciative of her just as I'm sure your husband is of you. 
 Thanks OVB for such a well written answer to my questions. It's hard for us spouses because sometimes our soldiers may not tell us anything in regards to how he feels, what happened, or anything remotely close to what you just wrote. Sometimes you just gotta look to others to explain what the hell is going on with your spouse! This post made me understand a little bit more and what a Veteran goes through as far as the PTSD process goes.....thank you for giving a response and I will most definitely not toss the letters!!! For other spouses, his blog is really interesting and one to definitely check out. I sometimes find that reading from a soldier's perspective helps me understand my Veteran that much more.
~Eternally Grateful,
Uncle Sam's Mistress

Monday, June 28, 2010

Army Wives on Lifetime

Ok...I will be the first to step up to the plate and say "I watch Army Wives on Lifetime Television". As cheesy as that sounds, I really have been a fan of this show since it started out three years ago. Now I know there are some major differences between this show and real life, but appreciate the story lines and characters. I feel, as most Army Wives, that I can relate to some of what the show portrays. In my world of all manly macho stuff, my three boys and husband make sure that I get my fill of masculinity. I need some girl time for me, and my rendezvous on Sundays with the Army Wives show fills that need. I live vicariously through their friendships and long for such closeness as I have no one. Because I watch the show, of course my husband must sit through my "ACU Soap" while I get my girly fix although he will not admit that to anyone. However, a few shows back, one caught our attention and we sat down to watch closely. 

One of the shows involved SPC Jeremey Sherwood, son of Colonel Frank Sherwood and wife Denise. SPC Sherwood involved in combat in Iraq, lost his best friend. Upon his return to the states, the guilt over losing his best friend and the horror he witnessed over there, transformed into PTSD. Now my husband who normally sits and fusses about the show, really paid attention as we watched Jeremy Sherwood drink heavily, have anger problems, suffered from nightmares and so on. I thought to myself "Finally!", someone is smart enough to bring this very serious subject up in a popular show for military spouses. Kudos to the writers for bringing this subject to light! week he drinks heavily, suffers through all sorts of emotions, and tries to commit suicide. The MPs come, take him to the hospital where he is kept in the mental health ward for observation. A few spots here and there on camera showing his contempt for the help he is getting, refusal of the medication the doctors prescribe him and then just sitting. Couple of days later, Jeremy finally has a breakdown while talking with the psychiatrist, Roland Burton and a day or so later...magically gets released to go back to serve. Now I know that they can't portray the real life story....I also know that yes, this is indeed a somewhat military type soap opera....but they had a perfect opportunity to educate and they failed. 

They made it look like this SPC who suffered so terribly from PTSD was magically cured with an observation stay at the hospital on post. Ever since then, he hasn't had any problems nor did they mention mediciations or follow up treatments...nothing. Colonel Joan Burton also had issues with PTSD earlier in the shows and went to a two week program for treatment...not really had any problems since then either. It frustrates me and irritates me that my favorite show let me down. Not only that, but felt this making light of PTSD as simple as just a band-aid covering, really was a slap in the face of so many spouses searching for help. It let us down. I also felt for those spouses who watch and have no knowledge of PTSD, will look at this and think this is a simple fix. 

I did watch last nights show in which TBI played a part in Colonel Burton's life. Now I can say that the symptoms I picked up on right away from the week before, and that it was portrayed a lot better than PTSD issues. I guess I am glad that they made sure that comments were made like "TBI is a serious condition and should be treated as so" throughout the one hour program. I just didn't understand why PTSD played such a minor role in this very much watched show when PTSD and TBI are such huge ongoing issues right now with our military I just being slightly irrational or maybe too much time on my hands? What are your thoughts about it?

Let Down by a Soap,

Uncle Sam's Mistress


Saturday, June 26, 2010


Kiss me goodbye and write me while I'm gone,
goodbye my sweetheart hello Vietnam~
Johnny Wright 1965

I was cleaning up a little today around the house, putting some "don't use that often" items up, and unpacking the last box from our move I just never got around to doing. Going through that box, I realized it held more personal items like wedding pictures, my husband's military album, and the letters he wrote to me from his entire deployment. Tied with a red ribbon, I reluctantly untied them and looked through that huge stack. While the kiddos were down for a nap, I sorted through them and placed them in order by date. I should have simply tied the ribbon back and gone on about my business, but I could not help myself.  I opened through them and read each one again.........

Some made me smile, some made me have to understand my husband is from a small town in Virgina up in the mountains. Moved to Tennessee when he was old enough to be on his own, and been here ever since. He is a laid back soul with good old fashioned upbringing and a big heart. Although he has served almost 14 years now, he had never been overseas although he had been all over the United States. He wrote about camels, sunrises in the sand, and that no matter where he was....he would look at the stars and think that I was looking at them too on the other side of the world. He talked about coming home, and how he missed his soup beans and fried he really liked some of the younger guys under him, and some higher ups he didn't care for. Some letters asked for particular items for himself, or guys in his hooch. Two letters described the people in the villages, and how some families walked for miles just to bring that platoon lunch every day. That lunch usually consisted of lamb, hot tea, boiled eggs, fresh made bread. It was the first time he had ever eaten lamb. Each letter assuring me that he was ok, and that things were not bad just hotter than hell.

A bulk of the letters were mostly about our marriage, and how he missed his son who had just been three days old when his plane left for Iraq. He talked about our plans when he came home, and how he would not be who he was today if not for me. My husband is not an overly romantic person but occasionally he would surprise me. His little things he did were always good enough for me and the thought behind it. He always knew when I had a bad day, to swing by and pick up my favorite ice cream....or suddenly appear with a cold beer in hand when I needed it, without ever asking. Perhaps silly to some, but it's the thoughtfulness and the knowing how I am that I thought was romantic.

Of course, I wasn't ignorant of what was going on over there...the weeks that passed with no calls. Email wasn't an option, so it was letter or calls. I think the first three months of deployment, I was literally obsessed with the news, scanning every channel for any word or happenings across the Middle East. I have been on the other end of the phone when suddenly an "incoming" alarm would go off...other times, the connection was severed after I heard  a loud Kaboom! Then no word for days after that. Some of those letters I would re-read many times, some I went to bed with. No matter what I saw on the news or heard from other spouses, I guess I fooled myself into believing my husband and what he told me.

As the deployment went on, R&R came and went, we were nearing the end and counting down the days. I never saw any changes in his letters, or on the phone when he was able to call. I loved every bit of that "closeness" we shared while he was gone. I can really state now that deployment made me love my husband even more. Sometimes in marriage, you lose sight of one another and take things for granted. Deployment really showed us both what we had missed.

Now with him home...or my "pod' person as I call him, I wonder now were the letters just full of crap? It's obvious now the last six months of deployment when all hell broke loose over there, that he started having problems. The man who came home, I knew wasn't my husband. So who the hell wrote the letters? All these letters have left the whole family with nothing but empty and appreciation turned into anger and contempt for everyone around him. How does one write such thoughtfulness, love, and honesty and then come home with no feelings, emotions, or really even care anymore?

More importantly, were my letters not comforting enough to him? Did I fail in keeping him focused and in being supportive? Did my pen and words full of love not rescue my husband from suffering so? To me, looking at those letters, were almost like a love if he never came home. It's been three years and maybe my heart has hardened somewhat but I wonder why I should keep these? I no longer have that person, don't even recognize the person who wrote these letters anymore......It's like keeping something from an old ex you had many years ago. You look at it, think back for a moment and realize that particular item really is not that important to you like it was when you saved it. 

When does a spouse eventually come to terms that their soldier never is the same?

Friday, June 25, 2010


On Wednesday, I dropped by our local Blockbuster Video to drop off our copy we rented of Alice in Wonderland and our Barney Movies (Thank God we turned those in) I had rented for my little ones.  While in there, the manager told me she was getting ready to put the new releases out and some had just been returned. Curious and out of the loop since we do not get out much, I asked what she had. She had the movies Unthinkable and the Green Zone. Now I had heard from some cop buddies of ours these movies rocked when they saw it in the theaters and was worth the buy. She kept it aside, we finished our rental purchase and out the door we go. I never looked at the cases nor did I know anything about these movies other than what was on the Blockbuster window movie posters. We are Samuel L. Jackson fans and Matt Damon we can tolerate, so why the heck not?

Synopsis: The story hovers around a terrorist who has planted three nuclear bombs in United States of America and a black ops interrogator who is responsible to make that surrendered terrorist in divulging the locations of those bombs. As the story progresses it is witnessed that a combination of psychological techniques and extreme torture is applied on the terrorist who knows more than he claims he knows. However failure in able to crack the terrorist, the interrogator thinks the Unthinkable, applying the similar brutal methods on first his wife and then his kids and no one can dare to stop him for he has the clearance from the highest authorities. The movie is a tug of war between the terrorist and the interrogator and no one is ready to give up. 

This psychological thriller is no way shape form or fashion for those of you who have weak stomachs and is really really graphic. Politically charged, this movie was one I would never see again just due to my husband. Going back a little here so you can understand a little, we can't go into crowded places or really anywhere. Our marriage counselor we see suggested we spend more time together alone, which isn't easy since we never go anywhere and rather than taking my husband out, I thought "Date Nights" at home would be at least healthy for me. However, being manly macho man he is, this knocks out our rentals if it has anything remotely resembling love, romance, high heels and makeup. He isn't into girly chic flicks and well I can't blame him. I need some girly time though, and most definitely romance.

Unfortunately, romance hasn't been here in my home since he came back from Iraq and I live vicariously through actresses in movies. I also live through my friends who constantly remind me how their husbands suddenly wisk them away for a weekend or bring home roses for no reason. I live with three boys and my husband...even my fish and snail is male. I am up to my ears in blue, John Deere, matchbox cars, and the game of "Army Soldiers" as my four year old calls it. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey and military type shows is about it around here. If I didn't do something girly for myself every once in a while, I would swear I sprouted testicles and have the urge to scratch and rearrange!

Getting back now, I try to compromise but mostly give in, because I am that desperate for some normalcy and something that resembles a "Date Night" with my husband. Not sure if this is what most would compare it to, but its something and something is always better than nothing. Throughout the movie, it was military and FBI focused with just a touch of politics to make it an interesting plot. There were a few times I looked over at my husband and that usual "glaze" he has is gone. So I think to myself, "you must have picked a good movie there girl!". He was dead into it, paid full attention and well seemed a little too enthralled.  The movie rocks along, gets graphic and disgusting, and then the end comes. This movie makes you really contemplate one's morals and choices.

Without ruining it because it is in the synopsis above, there is a part of this movie that involves the attempt of torturing children. Being the thinker I am, I had to chew on this movie, it's purpose and what kind of human beings are capable of doing this to others. My husband meanwhile is talking about the movie and the ending, which led into small talk. I told my husband I didn't like it, didn't feel that children should have been used in this plot and that children are innocent. The relaxed, movie enthralled and focused man left and emerged the nasty beast faster than you could say "Holy Shiznet"! He moved forward in his recliner, grabbing both arms tightly on his chair and snapped my head off! " There are NO innocent children over there." Yes, I argued. The children in this movie didn't do anything nor did they have a part in the plot. "They are expendable and not innocent" he stated, infuriated.

Expendable in war? Really? I don't know why I felt the need to argue with him and perhaps hindsight is now seeking in, but it set me off and most definitely set him off. I told him that all children are innocent, they are simply bi-products of their parents and how they are raised. I could tell he was really pissed and that empty cold stare glaring back at me, somewhat scared me. He looked at me with this mean menacing look and yelled "get online and look up how many children walk up to us with ^%$#^%$#@ bombs strapped to them and tell me they are innocent!" "It's kill them or have them kill us". Trying to then calm him down, I stated I understood that but was it their fault that their parents raised them this way and instilled beliefs? It wasn't the child who put the bomb on it was the parents. He said "In war, everyone is expendable. You must do what you have to do to protect others".

This is what concerns me. I know that I should never ask, and from what I do know about what happened in Iraq...I don't want to know anymore. However, what set him off? My comment or the movie? Had he experienced these children strapped with bombs? Seen the innocence lost and now no longer sees small children as anything other than the enemy? I think the part that scared me the most was that "look". If it had been looks to kill, they could have buried me twice. It was so cold, full of contempt for me and you could have probably looked at him for hours and never once saw anything that resembled my husband. What looked at me last night was simply a changed man with so much hatred and anger, that he really really unsettled me.

I told him I understood and yes, he was absolutely right. He was so far gone by that time, I simply just left it at that and went to bed alone. I spent two hours tossing and turning thinking about our conversation and wondered in my head....."what did he do over there?". I know I was in the wrong to even make the statements to begin with and I am no fool. I know what goes on there and from stories told by soldiers, the unspeakable horrors against our servicemen and women. Yet, somehow the statement "In war, everyone is expendable" just disturbed me on all levels. I don't know why, but it just did. Does this mean all of them, not just the bad guys? Perhaps its because I am biased living in my sheltered world and have never experienced war? Maybe it's because my heart is too big and I hurt inside when the thought of small children, armed and lethal, should never be a factor in war. Who does that to their own children? There will always be more questions, and never any answers...but have learned my lesson. Next time I think I will stick to a comedy even if it sucks, than rent anything like this again for someone with PTSD. We haven't watched the Green Zone, and do believe this will be a movie I won't watch or comment on with him in the very least........

Not Expendable,
Uncle Sam's Mistress

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Positive, Uplifting and All That Crap

In my search for other spouses dealing with Combat PTSD Veterans, I have met some wonderful people along the way. Some with whom I talk to almost every day, organizations that I have bookmarked and will research more and encountered some strange ones as well.  For the weird ones, this blog is for you................

Last week I was approached by a "no-named" military spouse blog who at first was sincere, supportive and encouraging. "No name blogger", wanted to add me to her site as a contributing writer. Now, I am currently on the PASP site with the owner Scott Lee along with another fellow mil spouse (PTSD Caregiver) who is dealing with the same issues. It has been so far, a wonderful place to write and have made some wonderful friends. Naturally, I wish to explore any avenues I can get my hands on so I may reach out to others who are in my situations, and so agreed to be a contributing writer on the offered site.

Three days later, I received an email appreciating me for my "willingness to write on their site, but it was decided that my blog wasn't uplifting or positive enough for their tastes after thoroughly reviewing my site". They want to be able to provide spouses "a more positive learning experience about the Army and military families". I wasn't really mad, nor was I irritated....more disturbed and offended. The point behind my blogging is so other spouses who in their own search for help, will know what they feel is completely natural and they aren't alone in their feelings. Some days I feel as if I am literally drowning in a pool of contempt, sorrow, anger and loss. I want for other spouses to know they can come here, read what I have to say and be able to comment without the shock factor or be labeled as a bad spouse who isn't supportive.

To "No Named Blogger", I don't know what world you live in or what you may be smoking....but there isn't much about PTSD and TBI that is uplifting or positive. Dealing with mood swings, sometimes violent outbursts, depression, forgetfulness, and avoiding family and your children is just some of the things I can not spin in a positive light. Having to remind my husband that he needs to shave or shower, isn't too uplifting when you suddenly realize you are more a parent than a spouse. Dealing with the frustration and resentment of three children can no way be turned into anything more than the way I say it is. I don't think I have heard "I love you" in six months, nor have I had someone to lean on in three years to care for me when I am down and out, or sick. Our family, our entire existence now revolves around my husband and taking care of him. How do you expect anyone to honestly sit there and think of anything remotely positive about all this?

I will be a smart ass and say that the most positive things I can tell you is the fact he hasn't committed suicide, he hasn't gone postal and I am not an alcoholic in this long process. In your "sunshine and lollipop" world you live in, it must be nice to be able to seek out such perfection and uplifting experiences. However, I can say that you are no better than those who label PTSD and hang a heavy stigma upon our soldiers. You are simply shoving what spouses are seeking, to the side and sweeping PTSD/TBI under the rug.  To do this, you are making us feel as if we are wrong to feel the way we do while we look for others to talk to. You are misleading what representation of PTSD you are giving by not offering advice, resources or real stories for them to relate to. You are insulting us spouses who are dealing with it, by giving a false outlook to others about our spouses who are living with a constant battle.

As for your decline of my invitation you sent, that is fine. I would not want to waste the truth or my words on someone as shallow and ignorant as you. As for uplifting, I took the above picture this evening outside my home just for you so no one can say I didn't try to be nice. Good luck on your venture of giving spouses a false sense of security and hope one day it will come and bite you on the arse. 

To the Advertisers, I really wish you would not leave comments for me. I have no need for mortgage refinancing or a payday loan. I do not need anymore advertisements of offers for porn, availability of buying narcotics from Mexico, nor do I have a South African Family member or sugar daddy that has left me over a million dollars. I am up to my ears in natural remedies, vitamins and acupuncture. If you served in the military, I am sure you would laugh as I do...but obviously you aren't. While I appreciate the lovely comments about my posts or blog in general, the truth of the matter probably aren't reading crap and I don't need yours.

As Always,

Uncle Sam's Mistress

Medications in Our Treatment of PTSD

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
-White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane 1967

I awoke this morning with a list of items I needed to tackle today. The real trick for me is trying to balance all my work around my family and husband. Today's list consists of running to the post office to mail off many candles, make some phone calls for FRG and our upcoming Family Day, write an article for our unit newsletter, and get my husband's medications in order. So armed with my extra large cup of coffee and my Vietnam Era music playing in the background, I hit the ground running. I had to buy my husband one of those seven day a week pill reminder boxes, or as we lovingly refer to it as, the Old Man Pill Box. Once a week I must refill it for twice to three times a day, and then double check myself as I can be forgetful sometimes. Once completed, I must then go through and double check all the original bottles they came in just to make sure he has plenty in supply or begin the refill process. I wondered how many others are on the same meds and what do all these do for my husband? Thought the White Rabbit song reference really played well with my blog this morning!


• (Commonly known as Celexa, Cipramil) Anti-depressant used to treat major depression, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and OCD. My husband takes 40mg twice a day. Side effects: fatigue, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating (hyperhidrosis), trembling, headache, dizziness, excessive yawning, sleep disturbances, insomnia, cardiac arrhythmia, bruxism, hallucinations, blood pressure changes, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, heightened anorgasmia in females, impotence and ejaculatory problems in males. In rare cases (around over 1% of cases), some allergic reactions, convulsions, mood swings, anxiety and confusion have been reported. Also sedation may be present during treatment of citalopram. I can vouch for the sweating, headaches (which has worsened because he has TBI in which he also suffers headaches from), Impotence, and the rest? Well, where does one begin and separate from PTSD symptoms he already suffered from? This is the primary cause of impotence in Veteran's or so we were told by his physician. Her take was be crazy, or no sex...."I'll take No Sex Life Alex, for 500".

Magnesium Dietary Mineral

• Taken at 400 mg per day, this was prescribed by his primary care physician, who is really really into holistic medicine practices, if you remember my past reference to her with the fish oils and vitamins to make him poop. Now supposedly, this is to help with his headaches. If it does, I can't tell. It is "being investigated" for the treatment of migraine headaches.


• Commonly known as Lorazepam (We call it the crazy pill). My husband has to take 0.5 three times a day, and then two more at night. It is used for the management of anxiety disorders, the short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety or anxiety associated with depression. The effectiveness of lorazepam and other benzodiazepines has not been adequately studied for treatment beyond 4 months. (nice as my husband has been taking this for three years now) Lorazepam can cause physical dependence (even better). The most common side effects associated with lorazepam are sedation, dizziness, weakness, and unsteadiness. Other side effects include a feeling of depression, loss of orientation, headache, and sleep disturbance. Now the thing that disturbs me, is he already had depression and headaches. So they give him this one, which causes more depression and more headaches. Kind of fighting a losing battle here between medications.


• AKA Zombie Maker. 100 mg at night. It is another anti-depressant used to treat Panic Disorders, Diabetic Neuropathy, Bulimia, OCD, Alcohol Withdrawal, Schizophrenia, other psychoses and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Last but not least, Control of nightmares or other sleep disturbances. The most common adverse reactions encountered are drowsiness, nausea/vomiting, headache and dry mouth. (Here we go again with the headaches) Now this is the medicine he takes at night for nightmares, sleepwalking, and night terrors. This is literally a zombie maker as the world could blow up around him and he would sleep right through it. The only problem I have with this medicine is that it leaves him groggy and irritable the rest of the day but does knock him out and we can all rest.


• Also known as Neurontin. This is taken 3 times a day at 300mg. It was originally developed for the treatment of epilepsy, and currently, Gabapentin is widely used to relieve pain, especially neuropathic pain. This was prescribed for my husband's back and knee pain which is leftover from injuries which occurred from an IED explosion in Iraq. Gabapentin is widely believed to help patients with post-operative chronic pain. So far, we haven't seen any difference in him on this medication. Most common side effects in adult patients include dizziness, drowsiness, and (swelling of extremities); these mainly occur at higher doses, in the elderly. Also, children 3–12 years of age were observed to be susceptible to mild-to-moderate mood swings, hostility, concentration problems, and hyperactivity.

Tylenol with Codeine

• Prescribed 1-2 tablets every four hours for severe pain. He doesn't take this one every day but only on a need to need basis. This is for pain he feels in his lower back, both knees and for severe migraine headaches.


• Commonly known as Prilosec and prescribed to my husband for gastric/stomach problems such as severe heartburn and indigestion which has been causes from all the other medications. Taken at 20mg twice a day. Hell, if I had to take this much, I would have stomach problems too!


• Commonly known as Zanaflex. Prescribed to my husband for severe muscular spasms. As need basis, he takes 4 mg (2 tabs) three times a day. It is used to treat the spasms, cramping, and tightness of muscles caused by medical problems such as multiple sclerosis, spastic diplegia, back pain, or certain other injuries to the spine or central nervous system. It is also prescribed off-label for migraine headaches, as a sleep aid, and as an anticonvulsant. It is also prescribed for some symptoms of fibromyalgia. This one really knocks him on his butt too.

So which one is best for him, and which one makes him worse? I look over all these and an overwhelming sadness fills me. My husband was one who never took anything! I think in the past ten years, I can remember him being sick once. His cure for the common cold was hot tea with a shot of moonshine (hey, we are from Tennessee-Moonshine cures all that ails ya!). Occasionally he might get a headache and I would literally have to force some tylenol or Goody's powder down him! Who would have thought my husband, after war, would come home and require so much maintenance and medications! Now as we are awaiting his appointment for the TBI doctor (Traumatic Brain Injury), I am curious to see if they will add yet another pill to his repertoire of many. I can't really complain as his mood, his anger, and triggered episodes are a lot more dulled, but in the same sense he is a walking zombie all the time. This has caused our sex life to disappear, makes him sleep hard and for long hours at a time, and his mood more irritable (although more tolerable with the meds). Is there really ever going to be a happy medium in


Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Dear Husband,

I know your mother sometimes drives you crazy, but it's even worse for me. I try so very hard to seclude you from every possible hazard that you could find, and cushion you from getting irate over the smallest of things. What you don't realize is when you are rude, angry, and sometimes hateful....nothing is said to you. I get the brunt of the hurt feelings, anger, the unnecessary comments, and it just goes on and on with no ending. Two weeks from now, your mom will be bringing this subject up and not understanding why you hate her so much.  I will still be apologizing, and you will still be the way you are.

Father's Day is just one of those holidays like Christmas in her book, that we must be forced to come together and do things. She had good intentions and I also wanted to give you a nice Father's Day since this is the first one in a long time you have actually been interested in.  If you want to be angry with anyone, be angry with me as I am pretty used to it by now.

The pool you bought for the boys is great and will keep them occupied through the summer. It is inflatable and therefore not the sturdiest thing you could have bought them. Your oldest son, never being in an inflatable one, did not realize by leaning on the side that it would allow water to go out. He was simply trying to get his baby brother into the pool with help, so he would not be out there crying and irritating you. You facial expressions and shortness with us, made us all walk around yesterday like we were walking on egg shells.

I understand you have problems, and I understand sometimes things just set you off. There was no reason to lose your temper and go off on the entire family over a couple of gallons of water spilled on the ground. Crap happens especially with children. I know we must pay for water, but there is no difference in your exorbitant spending. Seriously though? Was an inflatable pool really the problem and the loss of the water that important enough to literally blow your top?

Fussing and going off can be tolerable, but there is no excuse in your cursing and screaming. We aren't deaf, and it was humiliating to me to see you yelling at us like dogs, especially when our dear friend and neighbor was outside and could hear you. You made all three boys cry. I know you apologized to me late last night, but think you must apologize to our oldest, your middle child, and to your mother.  The baby would not even come to you this morning if that gives you any idea how bad you were yesterday. Your mom left upset, hurt and you should know by now she just doesn't understand what is wrong with you.

Now the kids do not want to get into the pool that you bought for them for their birthday. I love you, I take care of you...but am really tired of cleaning up your messes you leave with the entire family. I am tired of making excuses for you, apologizing profusely, and making up with our children because you upset and scared them once again. I am tired of missing out on family events, holidays and my children asking me why we can't do such things.

Just had to write this since you didn't seem like you were much in a talking mood and my talking to you would have been a mute point anyway. I guess next year we will not celebrate Father's Day like so many other holidays we have been forced to cancel.

Your wife and three boys

Friday, June 18, 2010

Money Matters

Money....the topic that rules the world.  Pieces of paper that can mean eating or holding a roof over your head.....paper that can bring fun and happiness. The lack of it bringing stress,worries and unhappiness. It can cause friction between married couples and sometimes break apart relationships. If you stop to think about it, a single dollar can rule the world or break it apart. Have you ever just looked at money and think about how much power a dollar bill holds? Perhaps I have too much time on my hands........

Money has been an issue with my husband and I since he has been home from war. Not sure if this is something that other spouses face daily with their PTSD Vets but it sure can be a great divider between us here. Now I know that everyone argues over money at least a few times in a marriage...In today's economy things just keep going up and up! Looking back over the past ten years (pre-deployment days) my husband was always very conscientious of our money and our bills. He always had a method and a set way of paying bills, keeping the checkbook and putting a little aside in the savings account for emergencies. We are not poor nor do we lack anything, but we live very modestly just like most people. When our children were born, there were extra mouths to feed, diapers and formula, and my health requiring monthly medications using up extra money for date nights and vacations. He guarded our earnings with an iron fist and at times I used to think he was pretty anal about those "methods".

Once he left for Iraq, I took over the bills and fumbled my way through his quirky way of balancing a checkbook....I even managed to save a nice lump sum every month to slip into savings. I can honestly say that his deployment pay was really a lot less than what he earned here at home, even at a SGT's pay. However, with just me and the kids we didn't have to have a whole lot and there wasn't gas to get to work, or lunches for my husband to take. We managed and had some plans with the savings once he got back home. Now I am aware that my husband came home with issues, but who would have thought that PTSD would damage his spending habits and money managing?

He came home and immediately started spending. My little nest egg I was so proud of quickly disappeared and not much to show for it. I was angry and perhaps a little hurt, but then I realized I was being slightly selfish. For 15 months my husband served with camels and sand, and getting what he absolutely had to have from care packages. Sweat, blood and tears were represented in each dollar he earned over there and the "hazard pay" didn't come without a heavy price. What right did I have to tell him no? Ramadi at that time didn't have a PX except a small lean to tent that provided maybe some razors and soaps but nothing more. I thought to myself, let him spend it if that makes him happy. For the first few months he was back, it was spend, spend and spend. Was I too soft on him for allowing him to go through savings? Was it similar to that of pacifying a child with a piece of candy or cookie? Maybe.

In the past three years, I have juggled, struggled and pinched a penny until it literally bled. I am now in charge of the household and finances, armed with my checkbook and ruling with my pen. I am a stay at home mom with two little ones under the age of 5 due to the cost of daycare, and most days I feel horribly guilty because I feel I don't contribute financially. However, the cost of daycare for two little ones is out the roof and simply cheaper for me to be here. My husband has access to our joint checking account and daily uses his Visa check card. Now I am not fussing about drinks, the occasional sweet tea from McDonald's, or his Skoal as he likes to chew tobacco. It's the addition of credit cards he has added to our monthly budgets ranging from Home Depot, Lowe's, a local Farming company, a Shell gas card, and now just this week, a Wal-mart card.

We make our payments, I pay them off.....he spends more. It's a vicious cycle with never ending payments. Sometimes I would like to reach over and shove each credit card down his throat and yell "What is wrong with you!" For seven years, the man would never ever look at a credit card and didn't want one maintaining that it would get us in trouble like everyone else. If we didn't have it, we couldn't spend it. I think what also gets me is the secrecy of it. He spends, he doesn't even tell me he has one...and then suddenly a statement shows up in the mail asking me to pay. I ask about it and he gets angry and defensive. The man who has always been responsible, suddenly has taken over an alter ego of a shopaholic.

He can literally have a one hundred dollar bill in his pocket and it be gone as fast as it was put in his wallet.  He has no memory of having it to begin with, no recollection of what he spent it on, and no apparent remorse for anything he did purchase. Meanwhile, I am baking rather than buying store bought cookies....cutting our grocery bill anyway I can and doing without items for myself. As a parent, you are often cutting back on things for yourself anyway as that is a normal sacrifice for your children..but must I really be forced to cut back on things for all of us including my children because their dad just spends without thinking?

I am now forced to hide money and remind him that we only have so much to get through the two weeks till payday although most times I fib just a little so I can save a few has helped, but not completely stopped. He doesn't know how much he earns, or how much is in our account....nor does he remember when payments or bills are due. I feel like I must give him a few white lies just to maintain our household and that's what saddens me the most as I have never lied to my husband.

That power wielding dollar bill has become a center focal point in our that I must ration money out to him as a child earning an allowance, and figure out our bills on a daily basis making sure that everything is paid on time and worrying about every little dime spent. These are the days when I miss my husband the most because I don't have him to worry along with me. I feel alone and the stress of not having him to talk to about it weighs me down more and more. I wish I could contribute more as in going back into the work place, but then I must worry about daycare for two, a pre-teen to leave home alone, and a husband who really does not need to be by himself for too long. Perhaps one day, life will return all the good deeds I do and the form of a winning ticket with many many zeroes.

Broke and Busted,
Uncle Sam's Mistress

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Straight Jacket Realization

My husband and I watched the movie Shutter Island, which to say the least, was pretty weird but somewhat interesting. After the two hour flic, we went outside on the porch to catch the fresh cool mountain air. We talked about the movie and the criminally insane. This led into treatments and an explanation of what a lobotomy was because my husband had never heard of that term. As strange as our conversation was, it seemed one topic would lead into another. We started talking about PTSD and all the things I have been reading about and learning. I told him that I found an online book about PTSD and that it was called all these other terms such as "Soldier's Heart" and more familiar "Shell Shock" and various treatments. The book had references made all the way to the war of 1812 with soldiers with a diagnosis of "Soldier's Heart". Interesting although some of it was more historical than anything.

So this led into the conversation of treatments of insane asylum patients and then of course, PTSD. I told him I read that electro-shock therapy was often used back in the day, thinking that would be a cure all for symptoms of insanity. This same treatment option was also used for patients suffering from PTSD symptoms way back when and still used in some patients today. Although the same method is much more humane than our past ways of doing it, still the thought of having shock treatments is strange to absorb. Lobotomy's were also used in treatment of PTSD in hopes that it would cure flashbacks in which were interpreted as hallucinations/delusions by psychiatrists. My husband asked me "What did they do with some of these people?" I said "I gather from what I read, a majority of major sufferers were put into mental hospitals and died there. If they had gone over the edge, and no one would care for them, they would lock them up and throw away the key."

My husband chewed on this last statement of mine while watching the stars and lightening bugs, and quietly he asked "Do you think I will get that way? Go over the edge?"

Lord, did my heart drop into my stomach and did it drop hard. I looked at him and said " I won't let you go over the edge". 

To lighten up the stillness, I did turn to him and told him if he kept giving me shit all the time, I would perform a full frontal lobotomy on him myself ! We chuckled and went back inside to go to bed.

That one statement really ate at me all night last night. I guess more so, because I didn't realize how worried he was about himself. Possibly worried if he got worse, would someone be there to care for him? Does he think that someone would lock him away and throw that key into a forgotten place? Does he think in his mind that I could do such a thing to him?

I think it was more of a realization last night than anything. I realized that my husband depended on me heavily, a lot more than I give him credit for or even myself for that matter. Not just to pay the bills, or to wash his clothes, make sure his meds are refilled and remind him to shower and shave when he tends to lose focus and zone out on me. It's more than that. The role of caregiver is daunting to say the least, but it must have been the way he said that statement, that made me realize no matter what.....

I was in for the long haul in our marriage.

So strange as this must sound, a weird movie about a man, played by Leonardo Di Caprio,who suffered from possibly PTSD and lost his mind; somehow found my husband and I on the same ground for once in a long time. 

Thanks Hollywood,

Uncle Sam's Mistress

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

To the Spouses Who are Enduring Hell

This is part two of my advice segment. I am happy to report that I will be writing on PTSD on another blog that is geared towards all military spouses! It will be a one stop place with blogs on all subjects. I am very excited about this possibility and will be looking forward to the July launch of this new site!

To the Spouses,

Obviously you are looking for help or possibly some reaffirmation that you are indeed not the crazy one when you found my blog! I am going to try, and that word is stressed, to give you my best advice and help from personal experience as I have gained it. Once again, I am not a professional but merely a wife such as yourself that is enduring the hell of PTSD and TBI at home. This is combined from reading, advice from fellow spouses, and advice from Vietnam Vet wives who have lived with PTSD for 25 years.

Tie the Yellow Ribbon: More than likely when your soldier was on his way home, you had some type of information briefing from the military going over such things as reintegration problems, readjustment periods, changes if any in benefits (for our Reserve and National Guard), and possibly a glimpse of info on PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. If you haven't, you need to first contact your Family Readiness Group leader in your unit if you have one, and see about getting some of this information. Although I haven't had any good experiences with MilOneSource, as an FRG leader myself, I can say that every state is different and they can offer you some help with information. For us Reserves and National Guard, the Army is putting on "Yellow Ribbon" ceremonies in different parts throughout the deployment in which educates spouses and family members step by step of the deployment. In my experience, I wasn't too happy with the portions skipped over by the "professionals" in reference to PTSD and TBI as I felt it was more important than insurance changes. Each branch may have different programs, so can only speak from experience on the Army Reserves. I can say that, on experience as a spouse and as an FRG leader, more than likely you weren't really paying attention to those briefings because you are so damn excited that your spouse is coming home! I have heard from others that "R&R was spectacular and my husband was fine. So I didn't pay attention because I didn't need the information then". Exactly! Who would pay attention? The first thing I was thinking was my baby is coming home! No more stress, no more single parenting, no more communicating over the internet, SEX, and of course, no worrying. The thoughts of having problems never occurred to me, or many others because well, we thought everything was fine. That's how you get blindsided ladies...and suddenly that perfect house of cards comes tumbling down leaving you with only the joker in hand.

What the hell is wrong with him: By now the first few weeks he is home, you have noticed small things or big things but attributed it to merely readjustment problems from being overseas. As the months pass by, you may have noticed sleep walking, mood changes, sudden outbursts, keeping himself away from others, anger, freaking out over loud noises and the list goes on. Things have become rocky at home, arguments start, knock out drag down fights, sudden distance between you and your spouse, not to mention all the other little things like keeping you awake when he suddenly jumps up looking for his gun, or talking in his sleep. You start to question, he gets mad and pushes you further away. Now your perfect R&R seems so far away as you suddenly realize, this is not my spouse!

Realization: Seeking help for this is going to be hard. Some really want to get help, and others fight it as if we suddenly wanted our spouses to have a sex change or full frontal labotamy. The first thing I suggest you do is walk into a bathroom...look into a mirror and take a deep breath. Repeat after me. "My spouse has gone to war and has returned a different person. He will never be the same again." Once you have done that, you can then begin looking for help. Often times than not, spouses will have a denial period themselves. Some spouses can be suddenly abusive, or drinking and then fights begin. Others will have "up" days where you think a 360 degree turnaround has happened and everything is fine. You think in your head over and over, this is just a phase that will pass...but in your heart, you know differently.

Pay Attention: The best advice I was given, of course two years too late; was to keep a small journal. Sometimes all these symptoms or problems add up and become confusing. So when you sit down and suddenly are asked, what symptoms does your soldier seem to be exhibiting? You suddenly have a huge brain fart and forget! Then you chide yourself because, holy hell! How could you forget all this stuff and only mention a few! It's very easy to do. Take a small notebook and jot down some of the things your spouse is doing. Is he forgetful? Is he drinking or distancing himself? Nightmares or sleepwalking? Showing signs of hypervigilence. Is he having issues with going out in public? You live with your spouse and are able to notice the smallest of changes in them. Things you may not be aware can lead to serious red flags on a diagnosis. When you notice something, write it down.

Opening the First Door: More than likely, you and your spouse/family have argued, fought and slammed a lot of doors and you have spent sleepless nights with tons of tears. Fighting about the issues isn't going to make him jump up and down and be willing to communicate. The best advice I can give you is to sit down as a family and talk. No yelling, no accusations....simply say we are having a meeting and all of this is going to be laid out on the table. We as a couple/family want to help you and if you feel we need to stop, we will. As a spouse, you are probably wondering what's going on with your significant other so asking him what's going on with him is the first thing. Of course, they are going to buck and whine like babies and say nothing! The next thing is to say, "I am noticing some problems since you have been home and want to help you. I can't do that if you won't let me. I married you for sickness and in health, married for better or for worse. Let's talk". IF the soldier is not ready to talk, don't push it. Simply say "When you are ready, you come to me and I will listen for as long as you want me to". I told you, it's not going to be easy getting them to talk about or even admitting they have problems. But from other spouses and from marriage counseling, this is what my husband wished I had done.

Don't ask, Don't Tell. As a spouse, and as a human being...curiousity is always going to are probably wondering what could have possibly caused all these problems? What did your husband do over there? What did he see? Now in some cases, a soldier can simply leave on an airplane and enter the country and never see any action at all and can still come home exhibiting PTSD symptoms. It's just something that happens. For others, the action is what got them, the high stress, being seriously wounded, living through horrifying experiences. Living day to day with just the knowledge they could die tomorrow can sometimes just flip the switch inside their heads. After a drunken episode with my husband who served as a combat medic, I realized that yes, my curiousity was satisfied but I was horrified! I knew my husband would serve in a bad field, and reminded him when he left that I knew he would take care of all of his soldiers...but some things happen and you can't save them all. I figured in my head this would be the reasoning behind his PTSD. It wasn't. The soldiers won't talk about what went on over there, and as a spouse and knowing what I know and hearing from others....the best thing for you to do is don't ask. Some spouses push and push trying to help, but in reality you are bringing to light experiences they are struggling to keep inside. More than likely, some have done some things they aren't proud to do but followed orders because they had to. Some feel that they may change their spouse's point of view or respect of them because what they have done. Some just don't want to deal with it period. Your job is not to ask. You can make a statement of "whatever happened over there, I will always love you and be there". Pressuring your soldier to talk about anything that happened over there is simply a mistake. You don't need to know. If they want to tell you, then listen to them without judgement.  Be patient, and not pushy!

Hurry up and Wait: Getting your spouse to even admit he has problems and getting help is a long wait for many. No soldier wants to admit he is having problems especially for those who are extremely all military and worried about stigmas, their fellow soldiers and their thoughts of them, and of course, their career. Stop and ask yourself this question. If you were in his position, and possibly the main source of income, insurance, and that is what you know and do/love...would you not be scared to say "I have issues?". Of course you would! It can take a long time, and its an uphill battle all the way to fight to get treatment for your spouse. It's not easy, it never gets any easier, and it will get worse before it gets better. Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day, so more than likely you are not going to be able to get help for him until he is ready, if ever.

Educate Yourself: The best advice I can give any spouse is to educate yourself. Seek out information, resources, stockpile your arsenal inside your brain. There are many misconceptions and stigmas associated with PTSD. Look up "Soldier's Heart" and the term "Shell Shock". You would be surprised to learn that PTSD in soldiers has been around for as long as wars have occurred in our civilization. Family Readiness Groups should have some information available for their soldiers and spouses. Most of the time, the Army suggests we send them to MilOneSource, but check out others. If you don't have an FRG in your unit, look next to your unit's chaplain. He/she is not just there for the soldiers only and often times, can be very understanding and of course, confidential. Look for resources near your installation, near your home, check near your local VA. If they are out of Active duty for the Res/NG, they need to be put into the VA system anyway to ensure disability benefits whether they readily admit problems or issues. If they are active duty, they can go to the Vet Center which is usually located in the same area as the VAs in most cases. Educating is sometimes soothing, because we can then tackle it as a problem rather than dealing with the unknown. Such sites as,, or have some insightful information for families and veterans. Find therapists in the area that take your military insurance. Nothing wrong with going "outside" the military to get help and no one needs to know. Stockpiling information and finding resources to help, will enable you as a couple/family deal with it when the soldier finally comes to terms that he/she needs help. Be prepared! Find out what needs to be done once you can get your soldier to recieve help.

Remember: Now that you are armed with information, you realize that your spouse has some problems that he/she can't help. Here is where it's tricky. Separating your anger from understanding. As a spouse, we blame...we get angry, we accuse, we get frustrated. That's completely normal!! When things get bad, try to keep in mind that they can't help the way they are. This doesn't mean they don't love you or their family, they just have problems. Their minds are constantly going and so many things at one time. It's very hard for them to stop and sort through all these thought processes in their heads. When you get angry, stop and remember your education. They may have come home to you, but the war still lives on inside their heads 24 hours a day. It's nothing that's going to go away and even with treatment they will struggle for the rest of their lives. Don't automatically just throw in the towel and give up, fight. Fight for your spouse, and once he/she comes to terms they will understand that you are there and willing to fight along side of them. This doesn't mean automatically blame every thing your spouse does to PTSD or TBI, because every marriage has some problems and every couple argue/fight. You will be in trouble, they will be in trouble, hey it happens. Just know that somewhere deep inside, your spouse is still there. You just have to help clear the fog and help find themselves once again.

Forget Me Not:  As we go through all these ups and downs, and the world suddenly seems to be revolving around our spouses with issues...its very easy for the spouse to be left out, and if any, the children overlooked. Your job as a spouse is to help your sig other but you have to remember yourself in the process along with your children. In educating yourself, you probably came across some things in reference to your family and yourself. You will need someone to talk to, your children may need some type of counseling. SEEK IT OUT. If you have insurance and don't feel like you can go to a military installation, then go outside! Having a therapist for yourself and someone you can relieve all this flooding of emotions, moods, fights, and struggles at home will help you tremendously. Keep a journal, or blog such as I am doing. You don't have to post pictures, or your names....keep it anonymous. Finding an outlet for yourself has got to be a priority in your life. Seek out other spouses. There are several blogs on the them! FIND A BATTLE BUDDY. Your soldier had one overseas while serving, so what's so different for you? Seek out others on post, or nearby. Call the VA to see if they have any resources for this. Every VA has a social worker for the mental health department. Call and harass that person for resources! Be aggressive in your search and don't give up if nothing pans out right away. If you can't find a group, start one! Seeking help for yourself is a necessity because I tell you....doing it alone sucks! Remember yourself first especially in safety purposes. If it becomes dangerous or hazardous to live with your veteran, then do what you must do to protect yourself and your children. Being selfish all the time is not a good thing, but there are times in everyone's world, that you must focus on yourself, your children and staying safe is a priority.

Facing the Unknown: Facing such symptoms and getting a diagnosis is going to be one of the many hard jobs when married to PTSD/TBI. Often times, PTSD and TBI is not screened among our soldiers coming home. By educating yourself, you know what to look for and by journaling what you have, you can help your soldier get the proper help he needs. By seeking out resources for you and your family, you have the ability to keep fighting. Look at these issues as an unwanted guest in your home. A burglar with the intent of stealing away precious items that you love...will you tolerate it? No! Face PTSD and TBI head on and as one. Sometimes its hard, sometimes it difficult getting everyone on the same team, but it can be done. Remember that you aren't alone, and that nothing is ever easy. Feeling the way you do sometimes, or having a breakdown is normal! If you didn't feel angry, resentful, hurt or wouldn't be human! Remember that families are like quilts. Although they tend to unravel at times, they can be sewn back with love. Corny I know...but it's true.

Do I have all the answers? Nope! I am stumbling along just like you are desperately seeking out more and more answers. I blog, I am quite vocal about these issues and trying every avenue. It's been a hard long road for me to travel, but my husband and I have found some common grounds to stand on. He helped me write these last two blogs and for that, as I'm sure he will re-read this, makes me love him more for trying to help me, help himself and others in the process. Tomorrow may be different and I will be so angry with him I could spit nails! However, in the long run, I know this will help and hopefully help you as readers who are seeking others that are in your situation.

As always, feel free to comment, add on resources or ideas. We are getting more and more readers, so keep it coming! Anything you can add may help another spouse in finding help!!

Until Next Time,
Uncle Sam's Mistress

Monday, June 14, 2010

For the Boys

As I sat looking through the comments on both sites I blog on, I wanted to let everyone know that I don't have all the answers. I am learning just as you are while you are seeking out information and finding blogs such as mine.  I can only give you my experiences, my thoughts, and my feelings.  Some of which will help you and, the other, helping me.  A comment that was left on a blog of mine, left me somewhat boggled because I get mostly spouses, and not Veterans.  I want to give you advice from my family's experiences and my point of view as a spouse married to a combat medic who has PTSD and TBI.  I am going to break this up into two different blogs, both of which will address different points for each. Hopefully this will answer a lot of questions and answer some comments as well.

For the Veterans
In the past few weeks, I have been getting several emails in regards to PTSD from my point of view and not just from spouses. I am in no way a professional and I don't have the answers. I really wish I did. It hurts me to see this many people suffering, more so the comments left with seeking help and not getting it. I can't give you much advice but will tell you what my opinions are as a spouse.

I can tell you that finding your local Vet Center is often the way to go. The counselors there are veterans themselves and like my husband's, "been there and done that" kind of guys. There is a common bond automatically set up when you walk in, because you both can look at each other and just know. I really like this factor because although not your "battle buddy", it can come close. You also know its not some doctor who doesn't really care or understand, and only knows about this subject from glancing at it in their psychiatric diagnosis manuals. I fuss about the system as ours sometimes has failed me as a family member, but that's not the case from every state nor is it the case for every veteran. The Vet Centers can also see soldiers who are not yet qualified to go to the VA yet. This helps because if you are not yet a technical veteran by VA requirements, it's a good resource for those who need immediate help. For soldiers who are still in, this is a viable option for you.

The Vet Center also has resources for family members such as marriage counseling which is free. They can also get you into the VA system and get you started in the right direction for disability paperwork. Most VA systems have OIF/OEF representatives which are also quite handy to have in your arsenal. Call and harass the hell out of them. It's their job and what they are there for. Check out your local Disabled American Veterans chapters as well. My husband and I are members in our local one. Each chapter has service officers who help veterans with their paperwork and fight for your disability. Most of them usually have 10-25 years experience dealing with the VA and all their bullshit. They can advise, explain and fight it when denied. Also your local VFW is supposed to have such officers within their groups as well, although ours does not currently have anyone.

On a more personal note to all the Veterans with PTSD/TBI, I want to give you some insight especially for our struggling ones who are just now seeking help and having family issues as in three emails I received from this site. The best thing I can say is: War is hell on the home front too, even long after you come home. The war may never leave you, but remember your battle has simply moved strategically to another place, your Home. You may not realize how much, as a spouse, we endured on our end while you were deployed, or even in the service. Wartime makes it so much harder because we not only have to constantly worry about our spouse overseas and the horrors that go through our mind, but our families that were left behind. It's a heavy load to bear sometimes and one of the hardest jobs I have ever had to do in my lifetime. Even if you were never deployed to a war zone, just being in the military poses stress on all family members because there is always the "what ifs?". Once you come home, and the battle wages on here....we never know whether to stand in and fight with you or simply retreat and save ourselves! In some cases, there is no other option but to leave you. We may not want to, but sometimes for mental and safety purposes, it's what is best especially if there are children involved.

If you are struggling with issues such as PTSD/TBI, often times you will shove us aside, take out all your anger, resentment, and your emotions on your family. The Spouse is often the gutter for your flood of problems and we too can get overloaded. If you are struggling with PTSD, TBI, reintegration or readjustment issues, talk to us. We don't need to know what you saw over there, it's not important. We don't need a reasoning behind your problems, but do need to know you are having some issues. We can't help you if we don't know. If you come home different, we are going to be shocked and confused. If you suddenly show problems and push us away, we are hurt and not sure what we did wrong. We aren't the enemy. I can assure you that you aren't the only one who isn't educated as many of our spouses do not have one clue to not only recognize PTSD, but understand and cope with it.
  • The first step is seeking help and that is often the hardest step to complete. Sitting down with your family/spouse and saying "I am having problems and I need your help". That statement will once again include us in your lives, lets us know that you still need us and puts us as a whole fighting one monster. Explain to your family and spouse what is going on with you. What sets you off? What type of things bother you? Is it being in crowded places, do loud noises startle you, what can we do to help you battle these things? Make a list of these problems not just for yourselves but also your primary care physician and your therapist and psych doctors.

    Sometimes a family member will notice more things about you that have changed than you will. Those little things can become serious red flags of problems and you aren't aware of it. Those red flags can also mean a difference in percentages of disability ratings that you get. If you aren't aware of it, you are missing out on your deserved disability. Most family members and spouses can tell if you have memory problems, suffer from sleep walking, and much more all the way down to a change in the hairs on your rear! We live with you, we notice everything. Once discharged, some questions may never have been asked by the were sent home and pushed on through the system. Many afraid of the stigma and losing their military careers, simply gave answers to get through the system without being flagged. In our case, my husband managed to give answers they wanted to hear and in the case of TBI, I was the one who noticed the problems which led to the diagnosis. Just because you have the VA or the Vet Center, does not necessarily mean those are the only options. Call around to different doctors who take your insurance. There are many soldiers I know who have opted to pay the small percentage of the bill just to get help in a different way other than using the medical facilities on post or VA help. In two spouses I know, going to a therapist who is retired military was the best step for them and their families.
  • Talking to your spouse or family: will make an eternal difference I promise. We as spouses lost our freedom just as you feel. We have lost our husband, best friend, our rock, sometimes a parent if there are children at home, and most importantly left with a lot of unanswered questions. You came home and locked us up right along side with you in hell and there are days where we feel no way out. Educate yourself, get help and then remember to educate your spouse. Ask for marriage counseling, find a therapist, seek help for your spouse even if it's the smallest of avenues. We can't help you or understand if we don't know what the problem is or how to tackle it. We were once on the same team and now enemies...find a common ground to build a peace treaty on. Now some of you have emailed me, so why can you not tell the same things you told me to them?
  • Work Together with your family: I know it's hard, and easier said than done but remember that we love you. When there is a family crisis, do we not stand together? If our home burns down, do we not stand together hand in hand and say let's build again? Health problems: we married you for sickness and in health. That includes PTSD and TBI. When something stands in your way, you have to band together and fight as a team. If your children are sick, or a family you not come together and sit by their bedside? There is no difference with your problems.
  • Listen: We know often that the issues you are facing consume you as a whole, but listen to us as well. Don't take offense and automatically get upset. We listened to you, now listen to us. You have to remember that often times, spouses do not have anyone to talk to whereas you might have a counselor or doctor. We don't have that option or in our case, that luxury. If you get angry when we talk about our problems, take a deep breath and count to ten. Walk away and pick up the conversation at a later time. We need you to understand how we feel, just like you need us to know what you are going through and understand. Sometimes a breakdown of communication is often the most reported problems when dealing with marriage and PTSD. How can you fight this enemy if you don't have a knowledge or a game plan put into place?
  • Seeking help and working together: is the best advice I can give you. When you are at the VA, ask about any type of family programs or resources they might have. Every VA is different and some have more to offer than others. Remember that you aren't the only one who is suffering. Try to keep in mind that your family is always there, you just have to include them in your life; not shut them out. Checking out sites together and reading them together is a great thing too. Sites like Family Of A has resources, information and education for vets and families. I really like this site because it's easy to read and none of that scientific jargon no one understands. Knowledge is empowering especially in these problems. Remember that asking for help does not make you weak. Letting your family know that you need their help does not make you less of a person. Find strength in each other and your family's love......
As a spouse, I could have better handled the situation and taken a stronger stance there at the beginning if I had known what was going on. Looking back over the last three years, I can see where we both went wrong and it almost cost us our marriage. Don't let PTSD consume you to the point of losing your family. We know there are problems, let us move in just a little to help you. If you just once looked at us and said "I need help. I am having problems. I don't mean to be angry with you, I am just angry at everyone.", it will make the spouse feel acknowledged and included. I know that most of you can't tell your spouse what's going on with you because you may not even know yourself what's going on. I would think just the acknowledgment of your issues and trying to include your family is all that it would take to form a battle plan. It won't work in all cases, but it will help in some.

I hope this answers some. I am just speaking from my experience and often that helps more than any book I was told to buy from therapists and doctors. I came across this site of resources as well that may be of some use to you. Interesting links. Some of this is looking back over the last three years and asking myself what would have happened if my spouse had come to me and talked about it? I don't have all the answers and never will. I don't want to let anyone down by not providing answers to their questions, but felt you needed an honest answer. Thank you all for the emails and support. I will address the spouses later in another blog.

Fumbling in the Dark Myself,

Uncle Sam's Mistress

Bullet Proof

So the past few days haven't been that bad, but I am awfully ashamed of myself. A few days ago I blew up on my husband for being late when I needed him home. He went out at 9:20 in the morning, and just didn't show back up until late that evening around 9. He sincerely looked baffled at my being upset and I wasn't sure why I was that angry. I mean hell, its not like I am not used to him being gone. I had gone to the doctor last week, and she put me on more medications. Not sure which one it was, but something has  made me ill all week. The night he was gone, I was violently sick to my stomach and trying to keep up with my three boys. I started to fix supper and just could not finish. My little ones kept saying "mommy I wanna eat done? You done? I'm hungry". All while I am praising the porcelain throne in our bathroom. I know they didn't understand. I called my husband once, again, and again with no answer or call back. I text-ed and said I am really really sick, please call. Nothing. When he finally got home, I just blew up.

I feel ashamed of myself for allowing myself to get that upset and when I talked to him.....I just let a whole lot of anger out and issues to flood him. He told me he didn't mean to be gone that long, nor is he trying to stay away but it feels that way to me. How else would anyone feel if this was done to them? I told him I have just had enough and I have. He said he loved me....I said I don't think he shows it at all and no matter what he said to me....wasn't going to make me feel any different.

So the past few days, he has done nothing but kiss my butt and do everything for me. Now I feel even more ashamed because well, I yelled him into doing it. Now he is doing things for me, and I don't want it. I guess what I am saying is, I don't want to have to have a breakdown and cry hence giving him the reason to suddenly stay home, help with the kids, help around the house and spend time with me.  It's like I guilt tripped him into and then when he is doing it, it makes me even more angry because then I feel he doesn't want to....he is just doing it because I got angry and yelled. He will do this for a few days and get a lot of hopes up and then drop and stomp them when he disappears again.

It's like you can't win or lose here. I should be grateful that I had this little bit of time and grateful that I didn't have to give the kids a bath because he did it. I should enjoy the fact that we ALL had a family dinner without the boys playing a game of "Where's Daddy?". We sat and chitchatted a little about the day and the little one's upcoming birthdays this month, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. However, in the back of my mind I am thinking, tomorrow will come and it will all go back to the same way. It's like a bad cock tease as some of the men refer to. I get a little bit of a tease of my normal husband and then when it all goes back to the same routine, I get even more angry. My kids enjoy that he is home and laughing with them or playing in the yard, running around and chasing them. The next two weeks I am left with trying to make excuses and making up for his absence once again. It's a vicious cycle and I don't know if my heart can take anymore disappointment.

Is it better to say anything at all about the way I feel and get the attention for a short bit? Or is it better to safe guard my heart and my children, and not say anything at all.  Most days like this, I feel numb and it's like I am on the outside looking in. I feel I have a right to say, what you are doing hurts me. On the other hand, I feel like I should not say anything at all because that leads to more disappointment. I don't know who hurts who more, my husband or myself because I am trying to make myself bullet proof.

Not yet Bullet Proof,
Uncle Sam's Mistress