Friday, April 20, 2012

A Damage Control Confession for the US Army




I am going to write about this because after a long debate, a healthy cry yesterday and many questions to my dearest friend, Brannan, over at Familyofavet.com and to NotAlone.com; I came to the conclusion that there isn't enough said about some parts of living with PTSD and TBI. We bloggers pick and choose based on what we can say, who knows us, and whether we think its relative to our readers. Then we must debate the decision on whether we can write it out, find the right words that make sense, and do our best to hide the pain and the shame. I thought this particular blog, based on many emails and Facebook messages, relative. Some of you may judge me, some may be disappointed that I am admitting I don't have all the answers, and some may offer advice or criticize me for my confessions here. If that is the case, so be it. I will simply add it into my long and lengthy list of damage control that is my life right now.....

Love, Faith, Trust and Marriage all come with a cost I think when it involves the military. When your loved one comes home a changed person, and there isn't a physical scar to look at and blame....your world becomes upside down. You are challenged in so many ways that you never know what is "easy" or "normal" anymore. You find that the military just throws away what is broken, leaving the family to pick up what's left of the discarded pieces they sent back to us. The ones diagnosed with PTSD are far better off than the ones with the lame excuse of Personality Disorders that the military and the VA label soldiers to keep from having to deal with them. You become just another number and statistic in the VA system. It's just the way it is. There are good days, and then there are bad ones. There never seems to be a safe middle for all of us. "For better or for worse; In sickness and in health" is not only challenged in great lengths in your marriage but you find that you are constantly defending yourself and your wounded warrior against the outside world. It's easier for those to see physical wounds and say "Ohhhh I see. I'm so sorry. I appreciate your service." To the spouse its expected that "you just have to stick with it". When its not seen....you automatically see the question in people's eyes, the ignorance of the subjects spews forward, stupid remarks are made and then people are quick to judge. Then it's very easy to say "screw him/her and leave him/her". It's hard to explain but I always wonder if those would leave their spouses if they suddenly had cancer or a bad car wreck?

Our trip to Florida was wonderful. My husband did so well and much of the time I knew he was in pain but trying to cover it up for the sake of our children. I planned breaks, made sure everything wasn't overbearing or overwhelming but I knew he struggled. He didn't want to ruin this one memory and I know I was hard on him before we left for just that reason. Selfishly, I wanted this one week to be the best week we have had since the war. He kept telling me he didn't want to ruin our trip and just this once, give us this. I told him that if he felt overwhelmed, then we could just stay and not go anywhere. We could spend a lazy day at the pool at the hotel or maybe just take a nap. Something...anything to barter with the underlying beast that struggled to rear its head. I wanted to give my children the time of their life and a part of me was hoping that we could spend our evenings in the Florida sunsets and spend a little long, over due, quality time after the kids were in bed. This was our first family vacation and one that was given to us. One that we have never been able to take them on, and one that I know as a mother...we will never be able to give them again in my lifetime. Most children get to go to the movies, parks, have sleep overs...but not ours. We can't really even take them out to eat.

The week went smoothly with minimal issues, although quality time together didn't happen. Instead of de-stressing me as the gift was intended, it caused me to be more stressed out. I was so proud of him and made sure I told him how proud I was but in the back of all of our minds...we kept waiting for the explosion. I can't kid myself though I tried, I did see it in his face. I felt the tension, I saw the look of confusion and mental anguish but he kept telling me he was fine. I wanted to allow him freedom and some say on the trip so I trusted his "I'm ok". That was until coming home on Saturday. I can only guess that pinning it up for a whole week, struggling with the beast and fighting the demons off for a few days proved to be too much for him and Sunday evening...he exploded.

I will admit this, because everyone knows now as far as the VA, Unit, Federal and Recovery Coordinators etc. Sunday proved to be the worst episode, next to last year's suicide attempt, that we have experienced. I am ashamed to say that my husband hurt me, damaged our home, and when I reached out for help....the Sheriff's department came and arrested him. He was belligerent, confused, didn't know who he was or where he was, so angry that he was purple and spitting as he screamed, and crying like a baby all while laughing. I thought he needed medical treatment, the police felt differently. The Sheriff told me my husband was "off his damn rocker", so I guess the best solution was to throw him behind bars because well that helps doesn't it? (Note my sarcasm) The VA suggests that you call the Veteran's crisis line, and I tried many times only to find the number that I dialed led to a sex number for men. It could really..only happen to me. Of course, this isn't the VA's fault...it was my shaking hands and not being able to see with tears. It figures the time I get upgraded to a fancy touch screen phone and not knowing how to operate the damn thing...this sort of thing happens. The only thing next I could think was to call a friend who worked for the Sheriff's department and is a recently returned Veteran himself. Battle to Battle I thought with someone he trusted, could back him down...but he was so far gone by that point. I have to admit I didn't recognize my husband at all that night.

Last year seeing a gun in his mouth was easier to digest for whatever reason and I know that sounds harsh but there I said it. I think its because in "our" worlds, its somewhat become expected that eventually it will lead to a suicide attempt. Even if the Veteran doesn't have any tendencies, talk or mentions it...the family member automatically absorbs that protective state and expectations from the news and related organizations, groups and articles you read. After hearing for years how he wished he had died over there and not come home....it just didn't shock me as much to have to deal with that incident than it did this one. In the back of my mind, I knew that moment would eventually come and somehow I found the strength. I was able to help him and get him to the emergency room. I found the courage afterward and I stood up for him, all while being scared to death on the insides. I still haven't gotten over last year and now trying to reconstruct my feelings and thoughts on this episode.

While it was tough, extremely traumatic, and a difficult time....I dealt with last year better than this episode. This time I had no answers. I had no rock to lean against. This time I had no way out or in my panic mode, didn't have a clue what to do. There isn't an emergency manual or box that reads "in case of emergency break glass". I have prepped my children with safety plans, in which they remembered and followed through that day; but there just isn't enough preparation to give you that sense of everything is going to be ok.

As a courtesy, the Sheriff's department who hold many "once upon a time" friends now, kept him overnight in jail and to see if they could get him to calm down. They did refuse his medications, and would not allow his service animal to accompany him but because it was a welfare check called in on my behalf by his Veteran friend, he had no other choice but to go on a pending domestic assault. Sunday late evening, left me feeling so ashamed, confused, hurt and extremely embarrassed for the both of us. The wounds went much deeper than physical and my God the verbal part of the whole thing left me reeling. They still are. All I could remember was hearing the sound of breaking vinyl siding on the side of the house and the breaking of furniture outside while I was trying to frantically talk him down through the door. For the first time since the Army sent my husband's "shell" home, I was terrified.Through all that, I could not help but think of the woman from the MED board tell me that I wasn't trying hard enough. I wished I could have video taped it and sent it to her and said "Dear So and So, see how much you can try with this shit!"

Seeing the blue lights haul him away, I sunk to my knees and I started sobbing hysterically. I don't even remember my EMT friend coming and checking me for injuries. I just kept sobbing. It was fine at 1:30 that afternoon. He was doing great at 3 p.m. with nothing going on. I just kept thinking how did I miss all of it? How could I have not seen this coming? I am the first one to say physical abuse is NOT ok, and the one to tell others to get help and here I was...the victim. To be honest with you and looking back over the last couple of days...I handled the physical pain better than I did the verbal assault the PTSD Beast launched at me. It was a full out war leaving me with no way to fight back. A war in what I felt, was the safest place you could ever be in. A safe haven from the storm because I made it that way for him. I have spent the last five years making this battleground hold some kind of peace. It's all we can do as family. We did it alone with no help at all from the Army. I did it with no help from anyone.

So much hate came from him. I didn't and still don't understand. Much of his anger had nothing to do with me. Much of his verbal assaults had no ties to me. I couldn't understand where it came from. It's been five years since he came home and everything this family has done has been for him. We no longer have memories that aren't scarred, we no longer have our own identities, we no longer have friends who care, and we don't matter to anyone. The only real friends I have who answered my call in the middle of the night were friends whom I have never met face to face and literally live inside my computer. I have taken on the world for him losing everything I had that was important to me because I meant it when I said I loved him. We have been dropped in the cracks and forgotten about. We have been tossed in the trash by the Army with no care what happens to us later. We have been walked on by our friends and passed by when we were there for them. We have been told that we would be helped only to have those who promise, never return phone calls. Our unit just wants to cover their asses in front of Battalion. I don't care who reads this because its the truth. The flat, "oh great now all this is going to come down on me" tone that asks "how is he?" still resounds in my head from last year. This time, it was them calling us and asking my husband for the police report and charges. There was none to give them but the day after he came home, it was the wrong time to work him up and then demand paperwork we didn't have, and not once....did they ask if we were ok.

I don't even recognize myself anymore. This Mistress who stood proud, who took on not just our VA, but the entire system. The one who stuck her chin up and took on the US Army, the Marines, and the Pentagon. The one who still stood tall when our unit I worked so many hours for, threw us to the side and treated us like lepers when my husband couldn't serve anymore. Yet, the one person I could not handle or take on...was my own husband who views me as his worst enemy. It is a defeat in its own when you can't fight PTSD or love them enough to help them. Although you try and try, its just not enough. All I could think Sunday night was how could I have handled that episode differently? Was I to blame? Was that vacation really worth it? What could I have said to him to make it better? I have waded through oceans of paperwork, spent thousands of hours on the phone, fought until I was exhausted, took care of everything all while taking blows from the outside; just to protect my family. Right now? All I can think of now is...Damn you Uncle Sam. Damn you U.S. Army. Damn you all. YOU LEFT ME ALONE TO DEAL WITH IT ALL.

My husband was placed in hold overnight but with no charges that will stick. The District Attorney understood the situation and told me I was doing a hell of a job. All I could was smile at him thinly and think "must not be doing that great of a job". The sheriff's department entered that he had no memory or no idea where he was during this moment, and he really didn't. He was there physically but somewhere his mind was just completely gone. An agreement was reached that no bail/bond was needed and that he was court ordered to go into counseling more than once a week. It's been a long time coming. He has refused to talk about Iraq, talk about what is bothering him, and maybe this is what he needed. I walked up to the podium after the judge asked me about releasing him into my custody, with no charges and I stood proud. Among child killers, child abusers and molesters, a murderer of six, a seven time offender, a drug user who killed a prostitute stood my husband white faced, shaking and in shackles and chains.

I don't know what was more horrifying; dealing with Sunday or seeing his head hung low and tears falling. I wanted to go up there and smack him upside the head. I wanted secretly inside to just walk out and let him be fed to the wolves for all the hell he has put me through. When his name was called though, I just couldn't. I caught his eye and the tears falling and knew then...no matter what, he needed help. He didn't belong in chains and a orange jumpsuit. He needed a therapist and a psychiatrist, not just pills. I stood up for my husband and I once more helped him out.

With a mediator involved, medications in him and a good hot meal....I told my husband that would be the last time his hands ever hurt me. He would go to counseling not just to keep him out of jail or fear of charges brought against him, but to get help and to continue it long term. If he doesn't follow through, I will no longer be there to help him. I explained to him that I just couldn't keep picking up the messes he made and go on with a smile. I know my husband can trust me, and knows I will always be there to have his back. I will NOT carry him though and Monday I told him until he does something for himself, my hand will not be there anymore to hold his. I think being there and seeing where he could end up, if had not been a lenient judge...honestly scared the hell out of him and into treatment. Looking back over the past couple of days and listening to him to talk with the VA, I think perhaps this was the best thing that could have happened to him. He has given in to the beast without a fight and not even tried. My husband has never been in trouble, not even a single speeding ticket. To go through all of that with his dissociation and paranoia at an all time high, hopefully will put a boot up his ass that I couldn't find large enough to shove him in the right direction.Trying to fight back is all I have ever asked for.

He can cover and hide very well, using manipulation when needed. The lying, the sneaking around, the garbage disposal of a mouth, selfishness, self pity all has to be worked on and those are my demands right now. I guess we will see whether he will follow through. So far though he has been on the ball and working more with his service animal. He has always worked him but not with so much interest and fervor like he is now. I am hoping he has seen the light perhaps being in the back of that car and in jail. Hoping that he saw a sign that he is literally at the end of the road where I can no longer lead him.

I have since been in a fog. I can't seem to process much of what's going on right now with everything. Social Security must be trying to set a record hearing date, as they scheduled one within four days. It's been a blur trying to get MED board stuff done and then dealing with the VA to get him help. Unfortunately, it took the VA hearing he got arrested to get serious about getting him treatment. I guess I should thank them for being on the ball on Monday, but inwardly I wanted to scream at them "Is THIS what you needed to see? Is this how it's done?" Its been years we have asked for help and that medications weren't helping. I am starting to wonder if they are even listening to us family members and jokingly to myself, I could see them probably labeling us with personality disorders. I finally broke down and admitted to needing help/counseling for myself and while I am at it, getting some for my children through Not Alone.org which have been very kind to me. Family of a Vet of course, is my family and has been there all the way this week. I don't know what I would have done without them.

There is no point to this particular blog. I don't really have a purpose or a story to tell, except that I feel alone. No one wants to talk about this part of it. I will suck up the shame, bite the embarrassment, hold my head up high and be the first to talk about this in first hand experience. Mostly because right now? I feel like I am the only one going through this although the smart part of my brain knows better. I know there are more of you out there. I just wanted you to know you aren't alone. I don't know all the answers and I feel like a fake as many of you think I do. Truth be told, I am just learning as all of you are. Only difference is I put it out in words. I am hoping that my husband will take this and go with it. I think having that personal scare and going through what he did, will give him a new direction that I just simply could not. After that? Who knows....I guess we will take one day at a time and one hurdle as they come. It's all we can do right now. I don't know how to move forward from this, or even if I can stop the words that he said from echoing in my head but I am not giving up on him. Most of all, I am not giving up on myself. It's more than I can say for the government and the Army who just walked away from all of us.

Still Seeking the Calm After The Storm,


16 comments:

  1. Dear K -

    I love you & your heart and am continuously amazed by your courage. I (and FOV) am here to help no matter what. ((HUGS)) honey, ((HUGS)), ((HUGS)), ((HUGS)).

    -Brannan

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  2. It's hard to put into words how incredibly proud I am of you. This had to be the most difficult post you've ever written. Thank you for putting into words what so many cannot understand or relate to. My God, I wish I could reach through this screen and hug you.

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  3. Sitting here in tears for all you have been through. I can only imagine how much this will help others to know they are not alone. I know your writing has helped so many to know that their experience is not abnormal and to give the courage to speak up to not only find help for their soldier but to know it's okay to find help for themselves too. You are an incredibly amazing person. Please know that even though I may not have the answers, I ALWAYS am here to listen. You still have many who love you and care about your well being - they may all very well "live in the computer" - but that love and support is no different than if they lived next door.

    I hope this next chapter brings the calm that your family deserves and that you and your kids have many brighter days ahead with new happy memories just waiting to be made. Love you!

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  4. I'm.am.so.sorry that you and your family are going.through this most difficult.time right now. I can say that I do know how you feel and I have been exactly where you are. My husband was arrested numerous.times they labeled him.as criminal that's how everyone saw.him. I lost all my friends because we couldn't do anything BC.of fear of what may happen. Noone came over BC we all had.to walk on eggshells. I have been called named cursed at, told he was going to.murder me and even had a gun tl my head and it was all times that he blacked out and doesn't remember. He loved me a.d would have ne er intentionally hurt me and I would have stood by his side and endured it for a lifetime. I do wish I would have had the understanding that you already have. I was young and bitter at all he had done at the time all I could.see was what he was doing wrong and I let that anger consume me. I stayed with him but harbored anger Inside and it effected us. I wish I would have the understanding I have now back when he was still alive. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to get to where we need to be. God bless you and your husband. Thank you for serving too. Keep your head up. I can't say it gets easier but look for the good moments. Also I have never thought of the it the way you put it "the Army sent home my husband's shell" that is so true amd heartbreaking. I love you and your family with a connection only families with PTSD can understand.

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  5. I just want to say that you are not alone...I have felt and continue to deal with every emotion you have talked about. I understand, and my heart goes out to you.

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  6. Thank you fot sharing this! It is not easy to talk about and not easy to explain either. My husband struggles with this beast as well. You are not alone even when it feels like you are. The verbal abuse is def the worst because in the back of your head you know that it is a result.of the beast but it doesn't hurt it from hurting. We too are getting counseling n taking it one day at a time! God bless you n your Family n you all r in my prayers!

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  7. Sitting here sobbing for you. As someone else said, I get it, I've been there (though not to that extent--but you know I left because I was afraid it would get to that point. For staying you are much, much braver than me!) My heart is broken for you...and at the same time (and this is awful to say out loud, but since we're being real here...) I am relieved that Brian is dead. I totally agree--they send us home these shells, these shadows of our former husbands, and dope them up and the rest is our problem. I have already been missing my husband for 3 years...at least now I know he's at peace It will be years before we'll be able to heal, if ever. I am so proud of you for your words, your actions, and for really telling it like it is!!!! Think of the thousands of wives (and probably husbands) going through the exact thing and YOU are bold enough to say it!!!! And seriously, call me any time if you still have my number, if not I will send you another e-mail. You are NOT ALONE!
    Hugs and prayers, Brooke

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  8. I know what you feel all to well though I wish I could say I didn't.I have known my husband since we were teenagers...to see what the numerous deployments have done to him to our family is heartbreaking and everyone close to me wonders why I don't leave. Because I love him with everything in me, because sometimes I get a short time with the man I married not the "shell" the Army sent back and that short time of having him is worth every fight to keep him here. My God keep giving you the strentgh

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  9. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You have thrown a life line that I am not sure I would have found on my own. My husband was recently diagnosed with PTSD and TBI after his second suicide attempt in 5 years. I knew my husband before the war, but began dating and married him 3 years ago, less than a year before he came home. I knew he was a different man than the friend I had in High School, but I also knew that he was the same. When we married when he was in the throws of this illness, before he knew what the monster was that was taking over his body. I had a clue- but saying "The P word" was out of the question in our house. He didn't have it and that was final. After a few very violent nights, tearing apart our house and sufficiently scaring the crap out of my son and me both, I knew for sure, and so did he. I told him we needed marital counseling. We sought help at a Vet Center, because there were no paper trails and he didn't have to use his last name- he was so paranoid about losing his job for seeking help. At the first appt, the counselor told him he wanted to see him back, for a PTSD assessment- he didn't go back until Months later- when he felt like he was going to do something drastic if he didn't talk to someone, and after I begged. After finally consenting to the assessment and opening up about it, things got worse... everything boiling to the surface, rising up out of that deep dark hole he dug out in the middle of his heart and reserved just for the horrors of the war. About 4 months later, he tried to over dose on his sleeping medications. The part when you said that you knew- that you expected it.... it's so true. I was numb, I felt guilty for not doing something- anything- before he felt like taking his own life. He was sent to an inpatient facility, it was the longest week of my life. He is doing great right now, sober, on meds, and keeping his counseling appt., but I am afraid everyday that this is just the calm before the storm. I now that this peace will not last forever- it never does with this monster. You may be able to chain it up, hold it back for a while, but eventually it rears its ugly head. It lashes out at the most insignificant thing- crumbs on the counter, too many light on in the house, someone used all the hot water, I could name a million. All I can do is be here- put on the the ear muffs when he spews the venom during one of his "moments", try to keep my kids safe and with the knowledge that Dad loves us, he is just confused and scared, and it has nothing to do with you or me. And make sure that my family and friends know that this is us, this is who we are. We are a family still dealing with a Soldier who never really came home. A Soldier who still fears for his life, his safety, and never will be a hundred percent comfortable in his skin. And if you cant handle it, then you might as well walk away, because I am not going anywhere. I told him that when we first started dating, when he did everything to convince me that he was no good for me, to show me that he was broken- and it didn't work. I know he might have been broken, but not damaged beyond repair, and I am willing to stick around to help put all those pieces back together. It might take years, it might never fully fit together right, there might be holes, or pieces missing, but I am here until the end, and I hope that those who choose to stay are too. I thank you a million times, for the knowledge that this is not just our life. That there are more of us out there. More wife's who love their "shell" of a husband to the end, and that our decision to stay and fight this battle with him is not a crazy one. You are truly a strong and powerful woman, and your husband is so lucky to have found you. Prayers for you and your family, I hope someday we all find the Peace we are looking for.

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  10. Kat, I am so, so sorry this is happening to your family. I was hoping that after the suicide attempt last year help would have come and made a positive impact. I wish I had the words to make you feel better and the cure for your husband.. but I don't. Please, please know that there are people out here who care. From your writing, it seems that you are dealing with things as well as anyone could. You planned an escape for your kids, you asked for help in all the right places. That it wasn't provided isn't a reflection on you. Shame on them. I hope this reaches the right people and that something is done for your family.

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  11. I've been sitting here for the last ten minutes trying to think of the right thing to say. I've got nothing. All I can say is I'm so sorry you're going through this, and that you're not alone, and that I'm so proud of you for doing what you did to protect yourself, your kids, and your husband.
    Hugs

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  12. You are not alone - and my heart beaks for you. You have been to hell and back. There are so many wives out there suffering through ptsd/tbi in one way or another. Some of us still have husbands in active duty. Mine suffered a tbi in Iraq in 2009 (categorized as mild to moderate) and was also diagnosed with ptsd upon his return. I live with a stranger - a shell of a man. The kicker? He functions well at work, and deploys to Afghanistan in June. Dealing with an angry stranger 24/7 along with a teenaged bipolar son has left me somewhat shell-shocked. I work fulltime and can't even explain how I get through the days - auto pilot I guess. I gave notice at my job and I'm taking my son and moving back home with my family for the year my husband's deployed while I figure out what to do. Wish I could be strong and say I'm willing to "stick this marriage marriage out" for the long haul . Not sure I'm willing to do that. Can't speak out in a real way for fear of hurting his career (the one thing he DOES care about) What I can do? Figure out the best way to take care of me and our son.

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  13. I just found this blog today while at the VA with my husband for a second attempt at getting PTSD diagnosed. My heart breaks for you but I want you to know you are not alone. So many of the symptoms you have described are just like my own experience. This disease is horrible and I feel so naive that I ate up ye Army line. My husband is not the same and damnit, I am not idealizing him either. May God bless you and your family for your sacrifice.

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  14. I thank your husband and you for your sacrifice both during active service and especially now. My life has not been directly involved with this exact issue, but I too have been frustrated with searching for answers in my life and not finding them. I am better now because I was forced through experience to turn to complementary/alternative methods for answers. One of the best things I did for myself was to find an essential oil that triggered my relaxation response through breathing. Essential oils have a (nearly) direct influence on the amygdala which is also involved in our flight or fight response. Good luck. I'll pray for you and check back later.

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