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- Yellow Ribbon Foundation
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Well, it's been an uneventful last two days for me since I last posted. I spent some time off line and not really doing much of anything. I sort of felt like after Sunday, that I really didn't have any interest at all in helping my husband. His words just constantly bombarded me in my head, so it's been rough trying to shake all the nasty things he said. While my head says, all of that on Sunday wasn't directed towards me, and the comfort of knowing I am not alone in dealing with all of this....it really didn't help the hurt to go away. We haven't said a whole lot to each other and I have to admit....I have been awfully withdrawn and indifferent towards him. I don't mean to be but, I just am really sort of broken after Sunday if that makes any sense. This morning I came across another blog for Veteran Caregivers which is fairly new it looks like. This, even though I have been there and done that, reminded me again that whatever the hell that was on Sunday....wasn't my husband. It kind of gave me a little bit more sense of belonging and gained my focus back. However, the hurt is still there and he hasn't said anything about it.
My husband's shows were on last night and it was Top Shot on History Channel. I sat and watched it because although I would adamantly say the show sucks to my husband...I secretly want to be able to shoot like those competitors do. Yes, the Mistress would like to be a legendary gun slinger or Amazonian female warrior. However, admittance of such a thing would probably excite him and there we go back to having guns in the home. This would lead to buying my own gun because I know my husband and he would obsess over my not having one. After January, I don't want any type of weapons in the home which was also heavily advised upon from doctors and such.
Out of nowhere, he starts talking about this Veteran Group meetings he was thrusted into right out of the gate upon his completion of the PTSD rehab he was in. As you know, this didn't help him at all and really...only made him worse. I listened to his ranting and raving of course, figuring this would allow him to vent and get it off his chest. This particular first meeting had set him off in a number of ways..and I have to agree that it's not really making him all warm and fuzzy being there or helping him. That conversation led into being strapped for money, which led into us discussing the possibility of tightening the budget.....which led him into discussing his issues. Although he was somewhat hateful, snarky and angry...he complained he hated not being his old self and then started complaining about his buddies. He complained about the men in the commercials driving the cars, and then he started in on the competitors on Top Shot. I wasn't really upset, I wasn't really anything...I was just there and trying to grasp why he was so mad at these strangers on tv.
I listened, commented, tried to be understanding and then he just got quiet as if suddenly, someone just threw the circuit breaker on his fuses. Here I was kind of on the edge of my seat thinking any minute now, I will see the exact scene from the movie the Exorcist where her head starts spinning around, and all hell is going to explode in my living room. He just stopped. He was watching Top Shot with such deep interest, that I could have walked in the room completely naked with 50 other men and he wouldn't have even noticed. I realized then...my husband is suffering from a form of penis envy of the "normal" guys.
Ok, now I know I am going to get some emails stating psychology facts and what they have learned in school or while getting a clinical psychology degree about the term Penis Envy and "do you know who Sigmund Freud is?". Save your breath because this gal is a little educated too and yes, I did refer to my husband having a form of penis envy...not that he is suffering from Freud's exact definition of it. Let's just say this is the Mistress's definition from our "The Things You Learn From Living with PTSD and TBI" dictionary. So you are probably asking yourself "what does she mean when she is talking about penis envy"? It's simple. From the conversation last night and his complaints, my PTSD Combat Veteran doesn't bang on his chest anymore. He feels like he has had everything taken away from him, and I have been forced to take on so much because of him and for him. He is not allowed to have his guns, which for manly men...is like taking their testicles. He has to have someone help him with basic necessities, basic needs like reminding him about bathing or medicines. He has a time limit of how much time he can go out and when he is expected home, is not able to drive or perform normal every day tasks like he used to be able to. He struggles with reading, with normal every day tasks and is constantly fighting off the demons in his head at the same time. My husband was a McGuiver, give him a tool and duct tape...the man could fix anything. Now he struggles with simple tasks like changing the guts out of the toilet, something he could have done blindfolded.
I realized he wasn't angry or his complaints were without merit, just that he envied being a normal guy. He kept saying "You don't understand what it's like. I can't explain it. I have had everything in my life taken away from me. My job. My lifestyle, my body and hell, I can't even have sex without help from pills." I wanted to argue on all of this but I kept my mouth shut about it. I just listened. I realized last night when I went to bed and thought some on his conversation with me, that he felt like he didn't belong anywhere with the old crowd. He doesn't feel normal beside them, can't seem to find his place with any of his old buddies, and is envious that they are normal. It isn't envy of body,muscles,how much money they have, jobs or cars...its the fact that they are just normal and don't struggle with simple tasks. They can come and go, not get lost, and can perform like a man.
I told him that sex wasn't a serious issue with me. It really isn't. Not that it was bad, or he has serious troubles with that department downstairs. He says he has problems, I say it's fine...he says "No the hell it isn't. It's not fine with me!". He was given a prescription for Cialis, which I was concerned about since he has a long family history of heart problems and the possibility of it counteracting with his regular PTSD meds. However, I felt if it makes him bang on his chest a little, and it was safe, so be it. I don't want him thinking I am unhappy and worried that he was going to all this trouble just for me...but mostly it was just for him. To feel normal once again, somewhere...anywhere.
I felt sorry for him. I really really did. Not so much pity, but genuine sympathy for him because yes, I do understand. We as the caregivers of our Veterans find ourselves outcast-ed unintentionally by our friends and well, society in its whole. THEN you feel like an outcast or leper in your marriage. I may not know what it's like to have to depend on someone like he does, but I do envy other women. I don't fit in anywhere anymore. We as families of PTSD really kind of fall into our own category and we are constantly on the search for people like us so we do fit in. When we finally do find that someone, we don't care about who they are or what they have...it's all about "getting" it. Now I have non-PTSD friends, but sometimes I feel like they really don't get me or perhaps they really don't understand.
I also lost too. Maybe not in the sense that he has but loss is still loss no matter how you look at it. I find that I struggle finding my place not only on the outside, but here at home. I am constantly waging a battle with myself trying to figure out whether I am wife, caregiver or the evil mama who won't let him spend every dime we have, or let him go out and "play". He has his demons, I have mine. He wants to be normal, and so do I. Somewhere between all of this...I need to find a way to help him "belong" somewhere. Too I realized, I need to find a place too. I can totally understand his longing, his envy and the battles he is enduring.
I tried letting up on some of the control and allow him to do things on his own...but sometimes that backfires on us and it turns into one huge mess. I try to be supportive, encouraging and allow him room to strut those feathers...but it's not what he needs. He needs to feel that on the outside with his friends or society. I know one time he told me that it wasn't the outside that scared him, keeping him freaked out or scared all the time of getting attacked. It was the people. When he feels not-so paranoid, he feels like people are staring at him or judging him because he is sweaty, nervous, jumpy and has outbursts. I really don't know how to fix all that. The VA doesn't give us manuals on how to help in these departments and in the last four years, never really heard anyone refer to these self-esteem type of issues.
So I guess the purpose of this blog is to find out what all of you are doing to combat "penis envy" with our Veterans. Anyone else finding themselves in this situation? From the men, what could the women do to help you to make you feel more manly? Lots of questions for this Wednesday I know. I wish sometimes that we were equipped with a magic go to guide for all of this. There isn't anything I can do to protect him or anything I can say to make it any better in this area of jealousy that he has. I don't want him to shut himself off from the few friends he has left just because he feels like he doesn't fit in. I am afraid this will cause an increase in the already high amounts of depression he has. I so hope that we can eventually find a family like ours, and perhaps feel like "normals" again. Who would have ever thought four years post-war, we would find ourselves jealous of those on the outside who are normal with no issues and longing to be anyone else besides ourselves. We were totally happy with who we were and what we had......
Posted by Uncle Sam's Mistress at 7:44 AM
Monday, April 18, 2011
It wasn't a good weekend. At all. Monday has come bringing on some depression within me, some anger, and well....just sadness. Since my husband has been home from the PTSD Rehab program, we haven't really gotten into a structured routine at all. I had hopes, he had hopes; we both came up with a mutual "plan" to fight back. It hasn't worked so far, mostly based on lack of interest on his part and he is still running away every chance he can to avoid the family. Some days I think its better because at least he isn't here yelling all the time.
Dealing with the VA, Federal Recovery Coordinators, Social Security, Wounded Warrior Project, and many many others...I am exhausted. My mind is constantly going so I can't shut it off long enough to get a good night's rest. I find that my memory is shot. I write it down and remember most everything but from time to time, I do forget something. I forgot to pay one bill, which was just one day late. There wasn't a late fee, we didn't have anything cut off, the end of world as we know it....wasn't going to suddenly just stop. This caused him to blow up on me. I thought to myself "Ahhhh there you are!". I wondered how long it would take before the blame game and yelling would start. I had done nothing but scan, email, run to town to fax since we don't own one, go to his appointments, keep up with all the appointments, the kids, the house and all that goes in between...and one day late on a bill wasn't that big of a deal. There are days where I am on the phone for six or more hours a day....all for him. Its been this way since January.
This led into "me being lazy. Everything I do is not good enough. I don't understand what he is going through. I don't get it. I don't try hard enough. I don't know what I am talking about most of the time and boy was I a hypocrite for writing a blog when I don't "get" it. You don't have a clue. You are the crazy one." I have to admit...I stomached most of this until the "you don't try" and me being the crazy one. God knows, that's all I ever do. My life has done nothing but revolve around him and his problems. I have no identity anymore. I am just the wife of a Combat PTSD Veteran. My life breathes, eats and soaks up PTSD and all that goes into it. It hurt. It really really hurt.
We got into it. Pretty heavy. I kept my voice low because I didn't want to upset the children or wake them up. Everything came out in that argument. The fact that I have to stay home and can't work (which is because of our child and because of him by the way). It was my fault I got pregnant after he came home now look at our kid who is sick. I am too lazy because I hadn't unpacked HIS suitcase from the Rehab program a week and a half ago (which has model cars and such so don't touch it because he wanted to unpack it). It was my fault he can't work, my fault he can't remember stuff and much much more. I have to say the things he said hit below the belt. It really really did. I know I am his only sounding board...but I got to have a break. His sounding board just keeps pounding me lower into the ground.
The worst part was having him scream at me and tell me that I should have let him kill himself. It was my fault because "God forbid that I wasn't his savior" on that January day. I think I could have heard all the rest of it and just ignored his ranting and raving. However, the latter part really really bothered me. So now he is blaming me for that? Out of all the things he could have hit me with....it seemed like that sucker punch was the worst. I could have dealt with all of it. Possibly swallowed it and let it ease on out throughout the week. Subconsciously push it back to the "ignore it and it will go away" portion of my brain. This I just can't.
All I kept thinking last night after I finally walked away and went to bed was....did I make the right judgment back then. Is he really that miserable and that bad off to blame and be so angry with me because I didn't let him kill himself? I stood there looking at him while he is yelling and screaming at me, but all I could think was "he is pissed because I didn't let him do it". I tried to keep him focused on what was bothering him hoping that he would calm down. He finally did somewhat, but I have to say.....I was absolutely terrified. I was so scared that January would happen all over again. My legs were shaky, my hands were trembling and I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest. The more I backed up in the corner, the more he threw at me.
I feel broken inside today. How does one fix that?
He wakes up and gets his meds, acts as if nothing in the world is bothering him right now. I am still here this morning, and debating over coffee whether I should even bother continuing this blog. Maybe I don't have all the answers and as always, never said I did. I am learning just like you all are. Only difference is....I write about it. What could I possibly have to offer you all that I can't find myself? Am I really helping anyone or am I hurting myself in the process?
I didn't get an apology. I didn't get acknowledgment at all. This morning he is pissy with me because I am "acting funny". I guess I should try to take some Tylenol, force a big ass grin across my face and act all perky because I am not supposed to hurt or have feelings. I am not supposed to cry. I am not supposed to feel hurt.
I am angry too. I am so angry my insides are going to burn up. I feel like I could self combust. I am angry at the PTSD Rehabilitation program that failed us. I am so pissed at the therapist who I drove all that way...only to tell me to take him to another one. I am angry at all those who looked at me and acted like I was stupid because this program didn't help my husband BUT, wait....it helped SOOOOO many others. One comment left by a friend of mine mentioned that "You can't use a one size fits all approach with PTSD Veterans". That line stuck in my head because she is absolutely correct. I am so very happy for all of those out there that found God and can cope. I am overwhelmed with happiness for those that found the right treatment or doctors to help them get to the point they can live with their PTSD. I am super thrilled for those that tried acupuncture and the "tap it out method" and it worked for them. However, a part of me wonders why my husband is so bad off that he can look at me, straight in the eye and blame me for not allowing him to kill himself. Yeah, one size doesn't fit all. So what happens to those of us who have Veterans that the one size fits all approach doesn't work at all on? Do they just keep going and someone finally say "Yep...I quit...can't do more for him." I wish just once...someone would look at me at the VA and say "You know what? He is bad off. We really don't know what to do with him." Instead, its change of meds...its "lets stick you in a six week program that is wonderful" or the "let's try you in a veterans group twice a month".
On his disability...I wish they would listen to me. Ask my children. Ask our family. Someone. Anyone. I have talked to all these other spouses, all these other Veterans with Acute PTSD and their temporary disability was granted on a three year basis. Ours was one year. So after I get done battling the Social Security department which I know will turn him down more than once, I am heading into Medical Review Board in which I am alone and not understanding. THEN when we get all these hurdles, we must then battle to keep his 100% for PTSD come next year because well hell, someone seems to think up there he might just get better.
I hate to disappoint you guys at the VA or burst your bubble. It ain't gonna happen fellas. He is just getting worse and I honestly just don't know what to do with my husband anymore. Some days are tolerable and that's about as good as it gets here. I wish the VA would have someone come in our home and oh I don't know....stay about a week. See what its really like when they fill out those exams and stupid forms. Maybe they would see a different side to it than base their decisions behind that safety glass of a desk.
I am sorry. The Mistress is just down today and in need of a hug. I guess it just hurts because I have fought so hard and for so long and not really seeing anything come from it. I don't want to say "I give up" but at what point do you say I quit? The stress of all of this is eating me up. I try to hide it most days but its still there. I wish I could let it all go and when I do...there is just something else coming at me. I know a part of me too, stops and asks myself "How far would my husband go for me?" How hard I wonder, would he fight if at all.
I am writing this out so I can move forward today and try to get some things done as far as more paperwork. I don't have any interest in it because well, since he seems to think I do nothing...what am I really do all this for? Just once....I wish he would stop and realize he wasn't the only one in the family who lost. Not the only one in this marriage who is grieving still after four years. He just doesn't think of anyone of us in the family at all. He just continues to get worse and it doesn't seem to concern anyone but me.
I needed to get this out. I hope it doesn't disappoint anyone because I am showing my weakness today. I am allowed to have "those" types of days too, so not going to really care what anyone thinks of me. I will get through this day just like any others and just keep hope that tomorrow is better. It's all I can hope for anymore.
One Size Didn't Fit Us At All,
Posted by Uncle Sam's Mistress at 8:07 AM
Thursday, April 14, 2011
As I was sorting through emails and trying to answer what I could as I am behind...I came across this one and wanted to answer as well as post with his permission.
"Hi. A buddy of mine forwarded me your blog site and I have to say I like it. I wondered if it would be more for the ladies than for Vets, but found your blog to be fair to us men. I have been reading your blog for a while now cause it helps me to sorta understand my wife. I am a SSGT, in my third deployment here in Iraq. I don't think I have to explain to you the issues I am having because I think you would get it. My wife is constantly pushing me on talking to her and there are just some things I can't tell her. I want to but when I feel I can open up, I close up. I don't know. When I want to, I cant. When I cant, she gets mean mouthed and pissed. Its like I cant win. She seems disappointed in me as a man and gives me hell because I cant take her to dinner or go see a movie while I was home. I want to and man do I wish she would understand. Its not like I dont try. I do take medications for anxiety but still cant shake the pain, visions or smells. It just sticks with you you know? The more you wash, the more it just stains you. I fear being on the outside in the world even though I know its not gonna harm me. There are days where I wish I could turn it off but it never goes away. I don't want to lose her because she has been there for me and we were childhood sweethearts. I want to give her the moon but just the things she is asking is so difficult. I am almost out of here and panicking because I know she is expecting all of me to come home. I made it through the first deployment without any probs, just the second one had some serious shit happen. This time I am living a lie and just trying my best. I try to block it all out the second time and ended up in the bottle. I don't drink anymore and it seemed like I just wanted to run away, but its easier to volunteer for deployment again than deal with the shit back home. Oh and I am a Reservist like your husband. Don't think many give us Reserve guys much notice. Anything you can throw my way for a Veteran coming home that might could help me and her? She says she is not upset with me, she just doesn't understand. Shes saying Im a hero but I am not and dont want to be called that. Thanks for supporting us and for writing. You say you don't know much or not a professional but you know more than some of these quacks I have been seeing I think. I have been reading the past six months and enjoy the topics you choose. Sometimes its like you are talking bout me and my wife. Damn shame we serve our country and end up in the nuthouse. If you don't answer this, its totally cool. Oh its cool to post as I see you sometimes answer at once with the mistress box. Thanks for raising the awareness USM. You got quite a following of soldiers over here who read. Your Friend in the damn desert again. SSGT Hi***"
Dearest SSGT Hi***,
I am most definitely answering your email and really appreciated your kind words as well as your service. I wanted to answer this and post this because I think this will help other spouses who are probably in the same boat as your wife. While you gave me permission, I blocked parts of your name just for OPSEC purposes and for your privacy.
First off, you know I am no professional and never claimed to be. Some days I feel like the blind leading the blind here! So the only advice I can give you is from my point of view as a spouse, caregiver to my husband and as a woman in general. So here's the deal:
First off, I know she isn't disappointed in you as a man. Don't ever think that. I can bet you that she is probably hurting a lot more than you are as some of your emotions are bottled up and numb right now. She is probably confused, angry, resentful and sad because each time you deployed...a little less came back home each time to her. She more than likely doesn't know what's going on with you or how to help you, and well, that scares the hell out of us. When spouses get pushed away, I know I feel like the world is crumbling apart and I don't know how to save my husband. The best thing my husband ever did....was talk to me about some things that he experienced over there. While I still maintain that it's really not that important for the spouse to know what all goes on over there in the sandbox, and they have to understand that you guys just don't want to talk about it; it does help in the end with the so many "why" questions we have. Talking with her about a few things will allow her to understand why you feel the way you do. I do understand though why you don't want to or feel like you can open up to her, but you got to try. It took four years for my husband to finally tell me one specific and horrific thing in Iraq that he had been through. I am telling you Sir, it was like a light went on and it was "Ohhhhhhh.....so that explains it!". Before that? Bits and pieces. He did it at his own pace and I respected that. You will need to do the same thing and at the rate you feel comfortable with.
When you get home, do try to get more help. I don't have to tell you how important it is to seek help as it seems you already have since you are on medication. Medications just aren't enough though. However, talking to someone such as a therapist or counselor can help ease up some of these issues you are having. See if you two can get into therapy together. Not necessarily marriage counseling, but PTSD couples therapy. While they do not have anything here locally for us, I do know that NAMI was starting some military groups that included such counseling after talking with them. Sure, I hate going to these things. I hate rehashing the same stuff over and over again..so I know that you are probably giving the mistress the ol' eye rolling! However, I find that when my husband can release some of his frustrations, thoughts and feelings on someone who does understand like his Vet Center Therapist (who is also a fellow war veteran and therapist), he is able to communicate a little better with me.
I don't really think, in fairness to your spouse, that she understands fully what PTSD is and all the issues that go with it. That can be fixed through education and support. Send her the link to the Wounded Warrior Wives which is just that. It's online and is a wonderful resource for wounded warrior spouses. There are several resources on here in the tab resource as you know...so copy them, send them to her in an email and then send her some mushy lovey dovey words to go along with it. To be fair to her also, what you may be interpreting as being pushy, may simply be her way of worrying about you and trying to understand what you are going through. In fairness to you, I can see why this would put you off. I may understand some of the time because I fought back and educated myself on the subjects but, to tell you the truth though, the Mistress still has her days and I am still learning as we go along. There are going to be days like that, probably each week for us and the same will apply to you. It just takes time to get settled in. When you get the chance, take a notepad and sit down and make a list of some "to do" things when you get home. Be realistic. Be honest. What do YOU want to happen when you get home? What do YOU think you are capable of doing when you get back? Getting back on that high horse of regular civilian life sure is a jolt to the ol' system I know! I think it's also an issue that goes unnoticed with our Reserve and Guard components as you said.
When you get a chance, write out what you fear...maybe things that set you off. You know more than anyone what makes you tick. If you fear of talking with her, place that on there. Why are you afraid? When she gets angry, or mean mouthed as you call it, place that on there as well. If you need space, put it on there. If you need to walk away when things get heavy, many spouses have told me they use time outs or code words to walk away and when things calm down...they come back and talk. Maybe it won't fix everything, but have her do the same thing/list at home. When you get together back at home, make some time and swap lists. No fighting, no arguing, no throwing stones...just swap lists. I think you both would be sincerely surprised at how much communication can make living with PTSD easier.
While making that list, you will have to compromise some just as she will. You can't live life behind closed doors and you know that. Try to think of some things that you CAN do within your boundaries. Include those on your "list". Carefully read each of her items and what she would like. Is there a way to make yourself some goals to get to those items that she needs at your own pace? Set some smaller steps before you take the bigger jumps. Your spouse has been there since childhood, so ya'll must have been through a ton. Ups, downs and probably even sideways. This is going to be just another hurdle you guys will go over.
I know going out is hard on my husband. I used to have fantasies that really involved around a cute cabana boy, a pool man in speedos, a pool over looking the island water and landscape, with the never ending strawberry margarita! Now.....that fantasy just includes actually getting to make love to my husband and getting to go out on a date with him! I know in my mind those days are over, BUT a small part of me is resentful, hurt and disappointed. I miss those days most of all. Looking back now? It wasn't the going out part, it was just the time spent together and the attention my husband gave me. Not the overpriced dinner in some chain restaurant! She may be feeling all of that, and that's OK to feel that way so don't ever blame her for that.
In all of this, my husband and I have started to begin to talk about our feelings. It's been almost five years this September. So it may take a while. I accept his feelings and he accepts mine. Some days Sir, that's all I need to keep me going. The only way my husband will venture out is on less busier days like through the week, at earlier times with the seniors (ps the food is always better too) or late lunch. Trust me, this is a very very rare occasion! To be honest with you, I could do without going out. It's expensive and I feel like I have to compete with his constant nervous scanning of the perimeter and the focus isn't there. You know what I would want and be thrilled with? Attention. I crave it. I want it like a dieting lady standing in front of a chocolate store. I want that few moments of "just me" focus from my husband. I want to be loved like crazy, shown appreciation and that you care. We know that you guys love us, but sometimes you just get so wrapped up in everything else, we feel we get left behind.
As I told another Veteran on Facebook, I bet if you came home and wowed her with a rental movie (hey pointer here, chic flics will get you some nice points-don't choose a military related or testosterone laced films that you would like), no kids (if you have them-make arrangements with the family or someone to watch them for a while), get her absolute favorite candy or icecream, pop some popcorn and settle in on the couch. Take that small time together and chill out. Show her the attention she needs like telling her how much you love her, or how much you love the smell of her hair...something along those lines. Romance her. It doesn't need to cost a fortune or go to a lot of trouble...it's the little things. Leave her hidden notes she will find around the house in the least expected places. Wake up and pack her lunch for work with a cute note in there, do the dishes and leave an I love you note on the drain. Run her a hot bath with bubbles when you have had a very bad day and been hard to deal with. Light some candles. Cook supper one night, even if its grilled cheese and canned soup. My hubby ordered pizza the other night because I had a rotten day dealing with all the idiots in various places and had a migraine. I was so very appreciative of just that little thought. On to the more intimate things, if meds are causing some issues in the love making department...there are other ways to enjoy intimate moments than just sex. Explore and learn new things. Try and remember important dates. Automatically come home and program them in your phone.
Talk to her. I truly believe if you have been together this long, nothing will make her love you any different. Yes, I understand your reasoning behind not thinking of yourself as a hero. She however, does and you need to acknowledge that fact. She would think of you as her hero no matter where you went, no matter the war, and most definitely whatever you did or didn't do. So don't argue with her when she calls you that and take it as you are her hero no matter what. You were her hero before you went to war darlin'! Learn that she will have bad days just like you do. Know that she has lost just as much as you have; we are all in different stages of grieving I think. The fact that you don't want to lose her and acknowledge her suffering is a great step forward. Make sure you keep taking those steps. She will be forever your number one fan, your advocate, the coach in your corner rooting you on. Don't lose sight of that. If you guys try something, and it doesn't work....then get back up, dust each other off and keep on going. However, in all of this....If you can't help yourself, you can't expect her to help you either. You got to allow her to be a part of this new life. Make sure you include her and not push her away.
Running away doesn't solve anything as I am sure you realize deep down. You realized that the bottle wasn't going to drown it or flush it out...so why run to the middle of the desert to get away from home? While I am sure your volunteering was an honorable and wonderful thing to do, is it really helping you or making it worse? On your list, set some goals and some restrictions on your list. Coming home can be very bombarding like it was in our case. Everyone wanted to see the soldier ASAP and I swear, we didn't get much time together right off the gate. Limit family and space it out. Don't leave this up to your wife to do all the explaining to the family, especially if its yours. Often times, I feel like I am the one who has to make all the excuses, all the explanations and get the brunt of " why doesn't he?". Its all my husband and while I try to help and deal with his tolerance level, I end up with everyone mad at me! This can cause friction. It's ok to say "you know what, I just need some time to get adjusted. Let me have this time and I promise I will have a visit with you". They don't understand that Reserve/Guard components do not get down time. There is no time to decompress from military life. Most of the time, one minute you are in the desert, then stateside, and BOOM you are home. Suddenly you are yanked out of that comfort zone. Hell, I think honestly, I would be freaked out myself! Try to remember that your wife and family only know you as who you were and not who you are now. We as the family expect everything to be normal, but it's not. They need to be educated, so there is less expectations on you to meet.
I promise you if you talk to her and let her know what's going on...let her in just a little, it will be easier. You wrote to me all the way from Iraq, and that shows you care and love her enough to do so. So take what you just wrote me, and turn it towards her way. I think you would be surprised just how resilient we have become while you guys and gals have been gone, and how much strength we have gained through deployment. I hope this helps you a little. Again, no professional but just speaking as a woman who knows what your wife is going through. Keep your chin up, and don't let PTSD take over. You can't fight it alone, so allow your spouse and even your family to help you if you feel comfortable. It's not going to cure it, it's not going to take it all away...but having that support system will help you through.
I sincerely appreciate your serving our country and pray you come home safely. I know you may not want to hear it, but I really do. I know some of what you all have had to do over there from talking with Vets and the emails and how scary coming home can be. I don't have all the answers but I am trying to share what I have learned so it helps others on both sides of the fence. I am so thrilled to know there are soldiers over there reading and I am deeply honored my little blog has reached that far across the world. Anytime I can lend a friendly ear, or give you a gentle nudge forward...my email is always open! I promise, I really don't think you will end up in a nuthouse!
Still Fighting Here At Home,
Posted by Uncle Sam's Mistress at 6:32 PM
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I was reading an article in the paper last week about an Iraqi Veteran who had himself, called 911 for help and clearly told the operator he had PTSD. Clearly not in his right mind, sobbing hysterically and talking about Iraq (flashback) the operator stated, they dispatched several police officers to his home. The spouse there said at the time that she felt it was under control and had been this way several times before, but he felt he needed to go to the hospital. The police arrived in full force, expecting a shoot-out and treated this Veteran with extreme force and abuse. Struggling, and then handcuffed, he tried to fight back. The cops arrested him and rather than getting him to the hospital or VA ER, he got to spend several days in jail awaiting a charge of resisting arrest and assault of an officer. The case was eventually dropped in court due to the fact that one of the police officers defended the Veteran and stated they "used extreme caution but some officers were excessive and stretching the truth a bit". Never did state whether this Iraq War Veteran ever made it to the hospital. My husband had told me of similar stories with Vietnam Veterans that have some of the same "force" being used in this area.
Being the fair person I am, I always try to take consideration from both sides of the scenario and understand why the police took such care when faced with the possibility of a Veteran, possibly armed, and often times trained to kill with their bare hands. Looking back over these past ten years of war, how many scenarios such as these have played out on our television screens and ended is causalities? Who can really blame society for treating PTSD Veterans with caution, suspicion and consider our Veterans to automatically be the menaces of society?
So this led to the Mistress thinking of course! In January, when my husband's bottom fell out as we call it, it got so extreme that I had considered calling 911 for help. In all the chaos of yelling and screaming, the tossing of items in the home and the pushing around on me....I did panic for a minute and tell my son to call 911. We never got that chance because he destroyed our phones. However, a part of me didn't want to do that because of so many factors that rang out in my head. One, he worked for a part of emergency medical services so that would mean losing his job. Two, he was truly afraid he would be arrested as he has seen it in his line of prior work, and three? Well, I don’t know why I didn’t want them here. Maybe fear, maybe embarrassment, maybe because so many other stories pushed their way through my “what to do” thoughts and reminded me that bad things usually end up. What if he got arrested? What if he went to jail and I had to bail him out? What if he got charged? The "what ifs" seemed to ride around in my head like some psychotic merry-go-round.
As children, we are constantly bombarded about how police, fire and emergency medical members are the good guys; they are our friends. It’s one of those occupations that many children, especially boys, act out in dress up at home or decide at five that’s what they want to be when they grow up. So why is it now, after post-war, we as the caregivers and spouses fear calling them when we are in need? When did our friends suddenly become our feared enemies?
I have to admit as I did early in my post about the “bottom falling out”, that calling the cops was the last thing I thought of. My first initial call was to his battle buddy who at the time was at work and I couldn’t reach. The second was to a fellow wounded warrior wife who well, is really my voice of sanity at times. She told me repeatedly to call 9-11 and I just couldn't do it to him. I think the fear of the unknown of what happens if you call 9-11 really plays a huge part when dealing with Veterans with these types of issues. Of course, reading online while searching for resources, I came across many stories of those that have been arrested for calling 911 when they needed help or were calling because they had suicidal thoughts.
While in my search, I came across several stories similar to each other and all based on trying to call for help. This story about a Marine ended up in suicide. Another one, which is rather interesting, involves a spouse trying to save the life of her Veteran, and how things got out of control but he ends up with an attempted murder charge. In due fairness, I am also posting this article I found because in the midst of calling 911 a police officer was injured, so when one reads this blog I won't get bashed because I am saying I am not considering both sides of the fence. Another good link was the story of a former soldier, Zac Hershley and his spouse, my friend.
An attorney for a former soldier who says that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he called 9-1-1 and allegedly held a gun when police arrived are firing back against the felony charges filed against Zac Hershley, saying that he is the target of prosecutorial vindictiveness.
On Monday, a Platte County judge found probable cause to put Hershley on trial for felony charges of placing officers in fear for their lives. But Hershley and his attorneys say that the only person in danger on that night last spring was Hershley himself.
Early on the morning of April 23rd, Hershley was standing in his front yard with a military assault rifle, talking to 9-1-1 operators. According to transcripts of the 9-1-1 call, Hershley at times seems to think that he's in Iraq, and he informed the operator that he called 9-1-1, and that he had PTSD.
"I called for help and now I'm charged with a felony," said Hershley.
At the preliminary hearing on Monday, Platte County deputies admitted that Hershley never pointed the gun at them, always at the ground, and when he did finally surrender, he was armed only with a cell phone. When they later went back inside his home, the deputies discovered his gun had never been loaded.
"No one was in fear for their lives at all or other things would've occurred," said lawyer Matt O'Connor, Hershley's defense attorney, who says that if the deputies were truly in fear for their lives, his client would have likely been shot.
O'Connor says that he believes prosecutors charged Hershely with a felony because he refused to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Now O'Connor has filed a motion to dismiss based on prosecutorial vindictiveness, a claim that Platte County assistant prosecutor Mark Gibson strongly denies.
"(Hershley) indicated that I'm going to get spooked and start shooting," said Gibson, who says that it's not vindictive to charge someone for placing officers in fear for their lives.
"They did not know if the weapon was unloaded or not," said O'Connor.
On the 9-1-1 recording, Hershley says that he did not have any intention to shoot at police unless they shot at him first. The 9-1-1 operator then told him that the police would not shoot him.
Hershley, who was taken to a hospital and not jail on the night of the incident, says that he would never shoot at a police officer. If convicted of the felony offense, Hershley could face up to a year in prison.
"I had enough of that from overseas," said Hershley. "I don't need it back here."
After bringing this question up of "how many of us spouses feel comfortable enough to call 911 when things start going down hill?", I was surprised to see how many responses were given that were in the form of absolute no way in hell would they call 911. Between that posted question, and a small poll I conducted, there were only a few that answered that yes, they feel comfortable enough and trust emergency services to handle their PTSD vet. Some of the experiences they shared really upset and angered me!
When trying to get a support group up off the ground for area/state, I did ask the Emergency Medical Services here, whether they had a protocol to follow when they get a 911 call to a home with a veteran with PTSD. The answer was "Uhhhhh no. We have had training with Autistic and Mentally Ill patients but that's it". I also called the Police Department here who answered carefully but honestly "We try to handle the cases with extreme caution because we never know who we are dealing with. We have had training in dealing with Autism and Mentally Ill patients, but not Veterans. Look at all the ones who have gone crazy and killed people". I didn't like the "go crazy" part as often that highly offends me, but I could see his point. I don't think that ALL returning Vets with PTSD are untrustworthy though.
I had to say this was quite upsetting because in our area, it is estimated that we have more than 8,000 OIF/OEF Veterans, Thousands of Vietnam (not to mention the many homeless ones here on the street), Gulf War, and yes, even Panama Veterans. Some states other Wounded Wives stated, have training in dealing with combat PTSD so why isn't this mandatory for all states? If they can spend money taking classes for mentally ill and autism (which by the way am a huge supporter for because that was most definitely needed) why can't we add in one single crash course of basic knowledge and treatment? Instead, most of us that have had bad experiences.....feel like we know more than the cops do and they act as if our heroes have suddenly become the menaces to society because that is how society automatically classifies our PTSD veterans.
I remember being cautioned by other wives on calling 9-11, on the threat of Child Services coming in to take your children. I used Familyofavet.com my first two years as my go to book and I remembered she even had to caution families on seeking help in counseling and how Children Service's could be called in. I was informed the other day that in our particular state, that an attempted suicide can result in the bringing in of CS. So now, if we call 9-11, we must first worry ourselves sick about our Veterans, then we must worry about the way they are treated by the police department or EMS, THEN we have to worry about child services being called in and then all the aftermath that follows each of these. Like we aren't stressed enough right?
This past week my husband came out of the PTSD Rehab I have mentioned before with disappointing results. I was cautioned by more than several people to keep an eye on him at all times, make myself a safety plan, call 9-11 if things get too bad and all I could think about was.....Can I really do that? Now I feel that "safety plan" isn't really safe like I think it should be so what's the point of having one? I remember talking to my husband's psychiatrist after the bottom fell out and he came out of the hospital. I had commented that I didn't know how to help my husband and all I could do while he was going through what he was, was stand there. She looked at me and said "You can't feel guilt because there was absolutely nothing you could do. You could have been seriously hurt and you were smart not to touch him. The last thing they want to be is touched. You aren't trained to handle such incidents." While that made me feel better, I thought and the police department and other services are?
Since my husband was taken partially in by EMS, which was thought of as family (they stick together), the ones that took him to another hospital for psychiatric evaluations, of course told everyone at work. I probably could have pushed on the HEPPA law, but how does one do that? People will be people and they will gossip about their co-workers. However, even going down to the main office, people looked at us like we were carriers of leprosy and turned their heads to avoid looking at us. Our police and sheriff friends who used to call all the time and just shoot the crap with my husband, never called again. I like to think that its just because they don't understand. In this small town, if we had to call 9-11....I could bet you that they would probably come fully armed and prepared to fight. I feel we are marked now.
I know I am just rambling, and I know there are many cases that the police DO need to be involved. Please don't feel that Uncle Sam's Mistress is stating do not use 9-11, but I think there needs to be some type of training done and education. I don't like the fact that ALL PTSD Vets are treated as common criminals when emergency services get to your home and lumped into the same category as the uni-bomber. All it does is add to the fuel to the fire, the cops can go home and tell their wives about the war crazy they had a call on and the spouse is trying to figure out how to get their vets out of jail ON TOP of getting the necessary help they need. Just doesn't sit well with me. It's not just for the safety of the Veterans either, as I know there are many cases where shootings have occurred with a PTSD Vet and has ended up in death on both sides. I think that if there is training, education on the subject and a protocol in place...it could help both the Veterans and the police. If nothing more, it will give the spouses a reason to trust these people who are supposed to help. The worst thing I could hear last week was that some would NEVER call 9-11 if the PTSD beast reared its ugly head in the home. This could cause some serious problems and I don't want to see another spouse story of their deaths on tv or the internet. In the same thinking though, after hearing their stories I can't blame them for not wanting to call. I can't even begin to think of our active duty families and what it must be like to deal with the MPs on post.
So if you can't call 9-11, then who do you call for help?
Posted by Uncle Sam's Mistress at 8:24 AM
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I read Brannan's (FamilyofaVet.com) blog post this morning and thought enough of it to re-post it here with her permission since some of you may not see it and some are still military. I like the fact she has some good tips in here along with a simple layman's terminology, even the ol' Mistress here can understand. If you haven't already, go check her site out and add her to your blog roll. Here are her tips to manage the government shut down:
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tips for Handling the Government Shut Down if You're in the Military
What will happen to your military pay when the government shuts down? If you or your spouse are currently on Active Duty, possibilities are you’re nervous about the next two days. Unless lawmakers come to some sort of an agreement, or at least approve a measure to cover military pay until an agreement is reached, the likelihood is your pay will be short on April 15th. Here are some things you need to know if that happens.
FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH YOU’LL BE PAID
On April 15th, you’ll be paid for the first eight days of the month (from April 1st until the shut down on the 8th). The only way to begin figuring out how handle your bills is to first get a general idea of what you’ll be paid. There’s an easy way to do this! Look at last month’s LES (Leave and Earnings Statement) to see what you were paid on the 15th then divide that amount by 15. This roughly tells you how much you make each day. Then, multiply that number by 8 (the number of days you’ll get paid for).
Here’s an example:
G.I. Joe got paid $963.83 on March 15th.
$963.83 divided by 15 = $64.26
$64.26 multiplied by 8 = $514.08 (the approximate amount G.I. Joe will receive on April 15th)
The people you owe money to are more than likely going to be aware of this situation. They probably have a television… and hopefully they have a heart. But, assuming they’re going to automatically know why you’re not paying or let your bill slide is not a good idea. Besides, sticking your head in the sand only makes for a hot and dirty head :).
Instead, go ahead and call all of the companies that you will be late paying. Explain to them that when lawmakers finally reach an agreement, you will receive back-pay for everything you are owed. Ask them if late fees and penalties can be waived, grace periods can be extended, smaller payments can be made, a payment can be skipped, etc., etc. Be honest and upfront about your situation and do not let your frustration about the shutdown spill over onto the person you’re talking to. Make sure you write down the name of the person you talk to and the date you spoke with them and, if at all possible, get them to mail or e-mail you something that confirms the details of whatever agreement you reach.
The idea here is to push back as many bills as possible so that you free up the remaining money for essentials like food, gas, utilities and housing. You'll be able to catch up those you have pushed back as soon as you receive back pay.
This is the time to think like you’re getting ready to PCS and need to use up all of the random food in your cabinets! The very first thing you need to do is go through your cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and make a written inventory of what you have. Then, figure out how many meals you have in the house.
Next, call your installation’s Family / Community Center and ask if there is a food pantry on base and if there are any food pantries close by. Even if you don’t plan to use this option, you need to have the information just in case you need it! Besides, the most important thing is to get your family through this situation with food on the table until it is resolved.
Another great option for inexpensive food that few people know about is Angel Food Ministries. They are a non-profit, faith-based organization that operated in 45 states. Through them you can order discounted, high quality food (normally at about half-price). Their website is http://www.angelfoodministries.com. Be aware, though, that you’ll want to go ahead and order as soon as possible. Typically, there is one delivery point and day in your area and orders cut-off around the 15th of the month. We used this service while waiting (forever!) on VA benefits. I was always impressed with the quality of the food and the kindness of the volunteers. And, there is no paperwork to fill out, no income requirements, etc., so it’s a pretty painless process.
Carpool, carpool, carpool… and did I say, CARPOOL. The 8 little days of pay you get on the 15th needs to last as long as possible. But, if you live near base or on base, if have one huge benefit in this situation. Everyone else around you is trying to make their tiny paycheck last, too! Set-up a carpool with people in your building or neighborhood. Ideally, you’ll want at least 4 people (maybe 5) – the idea is to get as many people as it takes to max out the smallest car in the group. Then, rotate who drives each day. Spouses who don’t work outside of the home should consider drastically limiting their use of the car. And, they may also be able to use the carpool idea!
Call your utility company at the same time you are calling your other creditors and service providers. Explain to them what is going on and ask what your options are. Most utility companies have some sort of emergency payment plan in place (after all, life happens!).
Of course, at this point, you know the first thing I’m going to say… call your landlord or mortgage company. They may be willing to work with you. If so, wonderful, my work is done :).
If not, you need to go immediately to your service’s financial aid / assistance organization (you’ll find a complete list at the bottom of this post). The roof over your head is not something you want to play with and while, in most states, eviction proceedings take at least 60 days (and in most places 90+), it’s better not to head down that road. The various aid organization are in place for exactly such times as this! More than likely, you will receive an interest free loan which you’ll be able to pay back as soon as the government pays you back! (Which is much better than putting your rent or mortgage on a credit card and paying interest on it… no one is going to pay you back for that interest!)
HOW TO CONTACT FAMILY / COMMUNITY SERVICES
Airman and Family Readiness Centers (Air Force) - Search online for the website for your installation and then for your local office.
Army Community Services – Search online for the website for your installation and then for your local ACS office.
Coast Guard Community Services - http://www.uscg.mil/mwr/hqrec/UnitMWRWebSites.asp
Marine Corps Community Services - http://www.usmc-mccs.org/installation/
Navy Fleet & Family Services –
HOW TO CONTACT SERVICE AID / ASSISTANCE ORGANIZATIONS
Air Force Aid Society - http://afas.org/
- Application - http://www.afas.org/Assistance/Apps_FinAssist.cfm
- Application - http://www.aerhq.org/download/Forms/Form700.pdf
- Application - http://www.cgmahq.org/Assistance/applications.html
Navy – Marine Corps Relief Society - http://www.nmcrs.org/
- Pre-Appointment Form - http://www.nmcrs.org/info.pdf
CURRENT ARTICLES ABOUT THE SHUT DOWN
Posted by Uncle Sam's Mistress at 10:52 AM
Monday, April 4, 2011
NOTICE: I am writing this based on our own experiences and encounters. I have omitted names, specific program details and intentionally left out any other detailed information so no one gets their underwear in a wad. Individual results will vary just as the severity of a Veteran's PTSD will vary.
Last weekend I made my way to see my husband on his weekend pass and to meet with his therapist who had requested a meeting with me. I haven’t blogged much about this because; well…I have been stewing on how to write this. For the past five weeks, I haven't seen any improvement in my husband except for some tiny little things like missing his family, trying some new things like equine therapy and well, just trying period. Because he tried so hard, I think this is why the Mistress is so upset and bothered. I most definitely had some legitimate concerns regarding my husband’s stability, in patient treatment, types of treatment given and whether they could assure me he was considered “safe” for my family’s safety and for himself. It's been a roller coaster ride of emotions and issues, and to be honest...I am disappointed.
For those of you who haven't read past posts, my husband voluntarily opted to attend a six week rehabilitation program for acute PTSD through the VA. It was quite honestly, our last hope. It had been one of those "if only we could get into that program" wishes as finances and job dependency kept my husband from going in the last two years and one that was made possible by the temporary granting of his 100% disability. This year, it wasn't put on the back burner because his stability had gone from tolerable to complete zero. It seemed like it took forever but my husband remained optimistic, hopeful and willing. This was a huge step for him and one I was really proud of him for.
I wanted this to work so badly not just for him but for our whole family. It seems like I have done nothing but try to keep our bubble intact, but the cracks kept getting bigger than my ability to repair them. More importantly, I had hoped that the time apart would help me find myself and give me the opportunity to work on my family, marriage and my stress level. Instead, I found that I am probably one emotion away from a complete nervous breakdown. Rather than find any sort of peace and healing, I found it to be more stressful and exhausting. I have told our caseworker, our Federal Recovery Coordinator, and anyone else who listened to me that this wasn't working for my husband. Some acted as if I had suddenly grown two heads or acted surprised that it wasn't "wonderful" when asked how it was going. There are many programs out there for acute PTSD and some do work for some...and then some don't work at all which I think should be discussed. Not every program is going to work for some individuals as their PTSD is different just like the programs that treat them. So now that statement is out of the way...I will explain to you just how bad our experience was.
First off, the trip up there to see the therapist? I was initially quite impressed because finally someone wanted to talk to me from this program! When I got there? WASTE OF TIME. While professional and very nice, it has been bugging me why this person wanted to meet with me a week before my husband is allowed to come home. I guess I was hoping for some instructions, some advice, and maybe just someone to listen to me for a while, reassure and give me some tips I could utilize. I wanted desperately to find any help to continue helping my husband here at home. I assumed (there's my problem) for a while that my husband was receiving one on one time with a therapist, a doctor, and got some type of structure in therapeutic treatment. Instead, he has seen a part time therapist, once a week and this particular weekend was only his fourth or fifth visit.
I was taken back! I assumed my husband’s complaints were based on being away from home, and of course, the "snowball effect" of having to talk about issues he doesn't want to talk about. (The snow ball, as I refer to it, stems when the PTSD Veteran gets upset over one issue and then it escalates to include everything under the sun, has nothing to do with the issue at hand to begin with and of course just escalates the anger, and agitation.) I wrote off much of his complaints due to him just being him and now being there...I see what he was talking about.
Repeating back on what I said...this therapist was very nice and pleasant to be around just so that's out there. On the outside looking in, I would have thought that a meeting with the spouse or family should have been done early so issues that my husband couldn't remember or just didn't think about, could be worked on throughout the program. As I always maintain, the most important person and vital to the Veteran’s health and recovery, is the spouse or caregiver. We notice so much more because we don’t have any blinders on and we know what they were like prior to war. Working on the issues at hand such as the "reasons" why he is suffering from acute PTSD just recently was discussed this past week. The "guilt" portion of that will be discussed this week before release in a short session. This upsets me highly and disappoints me in the methods of treatment. Sure, let's break open the egg....shake it up and scramble it...then let's send it right back home to the family! This made no sense to me but what do I know right? Why are we just now working on "guilt" a few days from release and this being the last time he will see the therapist?
Now to be the devil’s advocate here, and to give anyone the benefit of the doubt like I usually do... I will state that I am sure they know what they are doing and I am sure that they have had plenty of success stories to back up the failed ones. I don't have a fancy medical degree hanging on the wall but just going by this ol' gal's common sense. I was nervous and a little leery of doing this visit to begin with because we have been burned before, but I drove the five hours with optimism and high hopes. While the visit was ok, I just felt like looking at the therapist afterward and saying "Is this ALL you have? Is this it? Really?" She had some good insight for him, but how can you really help anyone when you have only seen them a couple of times? I spoke about the stress level, how it has affected our children, and the fact that I just can't take on anymore. The therapist did listen, but really didn't offer me anything. It seemed to me the previous day, all that was discussed in my husband's "treatment" was one particular incident . However, this didn't completely scar my husband, it was a year's deployment worth of incidents...so why are we only focusing on one particular thing when there was so much?
I appreciated her taking her time out on a day off...I really do. I knew that doing a Friday with three children and school, would be impossible trying to juggle pick ups and getting there on time with that amount of driving time. I was impressed she was willing to come in and meet with me. However, I did notice throughout the meeting, the eyes kept darting towards the clock on several occasions. I know, to be fair, it was probably a day off and she didn't have to be there...but really didn't feel like we should have even been there to begin with especially since we didn't get anything out of it or we instead felt like we were taking too long. I would rather have someone say "Hey, I only have an hour and so let's focus on such and such". I get it. I would appreciate the honesty...but not constantly checking the clock. It's rude.
I thought maybe there was something at home I could do or set up for him such as certain times to simulate hospital or military environment such as having "chow" on the table at a certain time or having a certain day for particular things. My husband seems to do very well under a guided structure of such and such time for chow and you have to report for such and such time. As someone mentioned before in a comment, it's similar to that of being in the military and being told what to do. So I asked "Is there something I can be doing at home? Is there a way to help with structure for him when he gets back?" She looked at my husband and said "You need to work on a structure". Yes, I agree...but half the time the man forgets his head if it wasn't attached and can't even remember to shower or take his meds! When we talked, I mentioned that my husband had suicidal tendencies and thoughts, so therefore I didn't feel safe and damn sure didn't want to lose him. It scares me most of the time with him home now after the bottom fell out. I didn't get any type of reassurance at all from this doctor. Not even a "let's just hope for the best" yada yada talk. Nothing.
The therapist said of course, this was understandable but he needs to see a therapist. During this time, my husband stated he thinks about stuff like this all the time and "he feels more hopeless now" than he ever did because the program didn't help. I just sat there....frozen. I looked at her, she looked at him and that was it. I felt it coming...burning deep and low in my belly while my heart was pounding and I thought I was going to lose it. So he is supposed to come home this week, after six weeks...and he is still thinking like this? Something is wrong here! I looked at her, and thought maybe I misunderstood. "Go see a therapist?" What the hell did we send him up there for then? Now as a stipulation of mine, I have put my foot down and told my husband he WILL go see his counselor at the Vet Center who is a licensed therapist. However, she backed that with "Don't go to the Vet Center because although they are there to listen, they can't help you with techniques". Ok,yeah like the techniques you have been working on so diligently with him this past six weeks right? So now the Vet Center is bad or my husband shouldn't be seeing a licensed therapist and one he completely trusts and is open to?
We did make it through the two hours of whatever you want to call it and I was handed the same PTSD Education Group Participant's Handbook. I took it graciously, when I really wanted to say "I drove all this way..$150.00 in gas money we couldn't afford not to mention the overnight stay in a motel....and this is all I got? A PTSD handbook for the patients?" I am sure there is a reason for her giving it to me, maybe its because I seemed skeptical of the program...but the book actually made it worse!
I walked out with my husband and was upset. So upset I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears and I just couldn't decide whether I wanted to scream bloody murder or sucker punch someone. Hey, never said I was a Saint right? I didn't want him stressed out, didn't want him upset or mad...so I hid my emotions and bit my lip. We got in the car and as we were pulling out, I told him "I walked out of there and didn't get anything from that at all." He said "See, I told you". I was so disappointed, and well...hurt. This was the "savior" of programs and one that helped so many others "supposedly". So why is it the ones that just left have all the same complaints, or our same sentiment heard from other Veterans and some employees? All that wait, all that hope....all the worries...and that's what we got; to be told to send him to another therapist.
Flipping through that stapled copies in the hotel, there wasn't anything at all I haven't already learned on my own or that we have tried. The information is somewhat outdated and nothing new I haven't seen before. Just the same old reshashed standardized PTSD definitions and symptoms. Hold your breathe, count to ten, hold it again til your blue, relax, stand on your head etc etc etc. Here I was thinking my husband was going to be seen by a therapist several times through the week and get to the root of the issues at hand. He is also doing group therapy but with some of the guys, it was "shut up..the more you talk the more we are stuck here" so the guys just stopped talking. While my husband liked the group therapist and his therapist, he wasn't happy about the little of time spent on any issues or problems he had. The most he has done is rehashing breathing relaxation which didn't work or deep muscle techniques which didn't work. Rest of the time? He sat, sat, and sat some more. Other than a few "field" trips, he spent working on crafts, half of which again, we had to pay for and definitely could not afford to cover the costs on. This was because they were allowed one at the Volunteer Services through the week, but you can put together a leather wallet fairly quick so he had to find something else to fill the time.
The one thing I did find pleasing, and I am sure you know why by looking through the other posts I have written; is the introduction of Equine Therapy which he absolutely loved. This gave him something to look forward to each week and seemed to thoroughly enjoy working with this particular horse. I think Equine therapy is a wonderful stress reliever as I went through such a similar program at Quantum Leap Farms in FL through a retreat I went on. There seemed to be a few "drama" issues among the higher staff which rolled on to the patients and made my husband more agitated and frustrated. This caused tension and stress in all of them. Wrong place to be having issues on the mother ship with unstable PTSD Vets on board! The more they sat, the more my husband got angry and festered. Not good at all. The program itself in our experience wasn't set on a regular schedule, so you may be in your third week and getting to know the people with you...then boom, they are gone and new ones brought in. This leaves the ones still remaining to repeat all the classes they have already done. After a few times, it becomes monotonous, annoying and therefore setting the Veteran off and they lose their focus. They don't know the new guys, having to talk in groups about their issues once again to new strangers, and then ticked because they are having to go through stuff they have already done.
What I don't understand is there is obviously a list of Veterans awaiting to get through this program. So if that's the case, why not have a set six week schedule with the same set of guys starting and ending together. Makes sense to me, but perhaps there is a reasoning behind the way they are doing it. Now although we don't agree on the program and its failures, we will say the guys and gals on the floor...or the "peons" were really nice, kind and wanted to be there. That was the only thing we got out of this whole thing, was seeing another person's compassion for working with Veterans and their genuine concern for their well-being. These individuals took their time out and listened, offered advice and well, just friendship. It speaks volumes when you can come across a group like this in one area.
So in OUR experience, the six week program didn't help him at all and only made him worse. His anger and frustration level is higher and faster, meaning he can now rear that ugly PTSD beast in a split second where before he had small levels to climb before full demonic posession began. He has now discarded all programs for PTSD and feels more hopeless. Depression has settled in at an all time low. We never expected a cure or even all the bad stuff to go away. My husband simply wanted someone to help him dig the foundation, lay the first blocks and teach him to keep building and go beyond the demons haunting him daily. No matter what I look into or say "Hey they have this one", I get the "look" and the ranting and ravings of a PTSD Veteran who has been severely burned. I think the most disappointing aspect of all of this, is no one really seems to care up there. The main doctor doesn't seem to be concerned, the therapist didn't seem to think my husband blatantly stating he feels hopeless and all is lost all the time, was an issue...and the comment of "go see a therapist" when you get out of this program is going to be our saving grace. Unfortunately, our saving graces have come few and far between which is even more disheartening.
I have to agree with my husband that if all we got out of losing six weeks of our lives was all of this...we might as well just give up on any other possibilities of getting the help he needs. I got more out of trying to figure out things on my own than anything the therapist offered us which was nothing more than go see another therapist. I don't want my husband to become another statistic, I don't want my children to be in those numbers...so I guess it will just have to be my husband and I trying to figure everything out on our own. Again, this is our experience for an Acute PTSD Combat Veteran, and results will vary for everyone. I don't want for anyone to think that I am completely bashing the program as I have seen several miracles performed on other Veterans and the programs did help. I am writing this because for the ones it didn't help...I want you to know I get it. I have been there. Unfortunately, we just were one of the failed cases. I wish we hadn't been and could have written with positivity and happiness.
Six Weeks of PTSD Treatment And All We Got Was This Lousy PTSD Manual For Patients,