Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Embracing of PTSD

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around it, does it make a sound?

That question has stumped many and often causes a healthy physics vs philosophical debate because many believe that sound is only created when its heard. I don't know much about science or sound waves. Whether if it falls and does indeed make a sound because of vibrations, cosmic patterns and movement, or whether its silent because no one is there to hear it. I do know that I often think of this topic my Science teacher once proposed to us back in 5th grade. Funny how we can forget the 80's and the God awful hair and clothing, but yet one single question from a teacher that I particularly didn't care for, has always remained in my mind. 

Through Not Alone, I was able to get counseling in which I had my first appointment yesterday to assess my needs and what type of counseling I needed right now. I was at the point where I felt like I was screaming out and no one was there to hear me. I had suddenly become the tree that fell and no one heard it. It wasn't that I was acting like a lunatic, or feeling like taking out a Walmart. Just confused, hurt, angry, having a hard time processing much of what has been going on and trying to deal with emotions that I no longer had and should have. I looked forward to this appointment and had a positive attitude, even a playful sense of humor about "The Help getting the Help". My sense of humor is my defense mechanism when I am nervous. I got ready for my appointment, made the drive to the office, got out of the car and immediately was spoken to by a man standing outside smoking. He said "Hello". Surprised, I said "Hello to you!" back. He looked at me quite deadpan and said "I wasn't talking to you!". I looked around me as it was just me and him and a part of me started to panic a little. Was I making the right decision to be coming to a mental health clinic for an assessment for counseling? How could I be falling apart to warrant the need for counseling to begin with? All sorts of things ran in my head as I walked in and signed in at the front desk. I looked around me and the panic began to build more because I felt I did NOT belong there. At all. 

Before I could pick up my skirt tail, so to speak, and run like hell to my car....the Doctor who was supposed to assess me came out and took me by the arm gently. I felt a little better after seeing her because she was just kind looking and well, understanding. She didn't have that judgmental scowl upon her face, and one that said "Trust me, I have heard it all". I sucked it up, felt how could I walk away now when my family is depending on me, and how could I run when I advocate getting help for the caregiver? After getting through some paperwork, I let it all out. She explained to me that I must have been a pretty important person, because someone had told her that I was an online superstar. Although that made me laugh out loud and smile because I knew it had to come from my dear friends who set this up, it somehow just made me feel better and gave me confidence. When I said I let it all out...I meant it. I let the last five years tumble out of me and I went on overload flooding with tears. I don't know why I felt so comfortable with her, and even the past that has burned us so badly as far as therapists and such, didn't even bother me at that time. All I knew was that she was there, and she heard me. 

After two hours of telling our story; the ups and downs, sadness and grief, the loneliness and the anger.....she got it. She kind of sat for a minute with pen in hand and chewed on all that I said. I felt suddenly naked and very vunerable with her stare so I laughed and said "Let me guess, secondary trauma which is common among family members, spouses and caregivers". She chuckled and said "Oh no honey...we are WAY beyond that!" I really began to panic because all I could think of and ask her was "Like call security, way beyond, or white jacket beyond?". She really got tickled over that and after laughing with me, she said no, in her professional opinion....I had moved beyond secondary trauma and now suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

There it was. 

I huffed and told her its not possible. But she explained that when I said spouses relate more to their Veterans than what they gave us credit for as I was using my husband and I as examples, it was exactly correct. Where my husband suffers from panic, I suffer from panic because I anticipate his reactions. My reaction to the crowds at Sea World and panic, was similar to that of his because we have a tendency to isolate ourselves and there again, anticipation of how he will react. My husband sees pictures flash in his head or memory of Iraq, I see pictures of him with a gun in his mouth. He fears dead animals or trash on the roadside, I fear his "beast" will rear up and I must yet take on another battle. With all the ups and downs, came the natural instinct to compartmentalize my feelings and just take on the protect mode because I had no other choice. With my writing, she said it was no surprise why I tended to understand and could relate to so many Veterans who write in and then could still hold the power of words to reach out to other spouses and caregivers and understand them. It's because I sit on both sides of the fence. I never really thought about it that way.

It kind of made sense for me. I was extremely upset. Extremely defensive and probably looking like a deer caught in a headlight yesterday. I was angry. So very angry. Here I was, "Uncle Sam's Mistress", the one who is supposed to have the answers or at least try to find them for myself and others....suddenly carrying the label of PTSD. I am the one who is bringing the non-sugar coated day to day life to light, when in the midst of it...I am suffering now myself. It made so much more sense though and then I could pinpoint and say "I am not scatterbrained or just overreacting, its because of this". Then when she asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I told her. I want to write a book. I want to start a support group for not only spouses, but all of us who were discarded by the military and walked past by the rest of the world. I have so much to give, and there is a part of me missing. Everything I knew was taken away from me and I haven't had time to grieve for any of it. Much of it is because I need to be around people. However, all of us know, we no longer fit anywhere anymore. I laughed and said, "I want to create that community for all of us lepers because I know I am not the only one in the dark desperately trying to reach the light". She shook her head and said "Well get off your ass and do it. Write that book. Do the support group. Be that light. What is stopping you from taking chances? Why must you be superwoman, super wife, and super mom? It's not your responsibility alone." 

She is right. 

I no longer feel so burdened and lighter, so I am glad I went and will continue to do so weekly. I know my "inside my computer friends" have told me this very same stuff, even our Federal Recovery Coordinator but I felt like it was a biased, just "make you feel better" comment that friends make because they love and respect you and you can count on them to make you smile. Most of it though was me, scared of taking the jump, letting go of some of the reigns and taking myself seriously. I realized then that most of us all know the answers, and we don't have any fancy degrees of psychology on the walls or Masters Degree in Psychiatry. I didn't shy away from the stigma of being labeled as having PTSD. I am going to embrace it. Although my friends live inside my pc, social networking and online friends are still very much just as important as real ones and studies have shown that those we befriend online? Actually last longer than those people in person. So I can't discredit my friends whom I have never met face to face with, but have known for the past five years because they are the truest of friends that ever could be had. The only part I hate is not being able to give them a hug in person. 

I decided on the drive home yesterday that my husband isn't dead. I shouldn't be held responsible or try to make up for his mistakes. If he screws up, he needs to learn responsibility and consequences. I told myself firmly that I am going to back off and let him do some of this paperwork and talk to his coordinators and make his own decisions. I have always included him and always asked what he wanted, but he refused to talk with anyone. He always said "take care of it" but I feel like it was the easy way out for him to let me do it all and it was my fault for not drawing the lines sooner. I will always be there to help him and he is going to need it, but he needs to try. I will be his Caregiver and remain the best that I can be, with limitations and not so many heavy expectations from anyone, especially from those I put upon myself. I feel like I took on the fight, but then he kept piling more on me. After all is said and done though, he resents me for doing it all rather than be appreciative just because its so much damn easier for him to be angry than be happy or grateful. So the best thing I can do right now is let him try, and be there to help him IF he needs me and comes to me for help. It will be hard because I am so used to doing it all and really, other than a few minor things....the major fight has been fought by me and done. I have brought him this far and on my own. He needs to be able to stand on his own. It's time I put down my battle weapons, lay aside the deck of cards that I have so carefully held in my back pocket, and take a rest.

I don't need to keep myself locked up in the tower and blame everyone, I need to take responsibility for isolating myself and not doing anything sooner about it. I made a lunch date with a friend that is about four years overdue this Saturday and super excited about it. My mother in law is coming to get the family and Mommy is going to have the weekend by myself. I am going to be working with an organization to get this support group started and dammit...I may just write that book. It wasn't that my husband's words of "You didn't accomplish anything" that he said out of anger to hurt me, that made me step back two weeks ago. It was a blow and a heavy one as the beast knows how to go for the jugular. I realized this week though, I did accomplish a lot... but for everyone in this family. I may not have made accomplishments for myself, and this blog is really all I have that is my own but it still counts. He counteracts that its about him though, but my words are my own. My writing reflects my feelings, my pain, my love, happiness and my hurt. Not his. 

My husband and I talked a long time last night, and he was angry that I am stepping back but it is time. I am placing myself first and going to stick with it. I told him that I am weary of being the enemy all the time, I am tired of fighting with him, and most of all....I miss my friend and husband. I will love him always and always be there to help him, but he is going to have to step up to the plate and take one for the team. I got him this far and its time he started standing on his own. I think its only fair.

I don't blame him for my issues, and God knows sure can't compare our issues as one and the same. I just feel like if we are going to make it, we are going to have to be on the same team and not opposing ones. The one thing that the Psychologist did tell me and something I probably never will forget....was my fear of my husband and possible suicide. I have friends who have been through that and truly, scares and confuses me. She told me that when dealing with such issues as PTSD and TBI, along with the combination of Veterans, its not a possibility that we can ignore. We have to be able to think about it, process the idea and have the knowledge that the "What If's" are there. I understood what she was saying, and she is right. However, it shouldn't be that way

The "what ifs" for me have always included health problems like heart attacks, getting hit by a car, thunderbolts from the clouds, sudden illness like cancer...never suicide. Why must we spouses and family members accept that suicide is part of the "What Ifs" and mentally prepare ourselves for it? Are we the generation of war that suicide has become an automatic part of of life's plan? Something is wrong if that is the case. We all know that it's a possibility. Hell, our Veterans tells most of us every day how they wished they had died overseas or that they didn't want to come home. Mine tells me often that he wishes he never came home to us at all. So why can't my mind wrap around that and accept that as a "What If"? I guess a part of me still refuses to give up on him and let him give up on himself. If this is the case and its expected...then that is something I want to change. If not for my husband, then maybe help change it for others.

I don't know where to start on my plans. It's weird to wake up and say "Today I am doing something". I think there is a reason for everything and somehow someway....we have made it this far. For once though, this ol' gal is heading in a different direction and one that is on my own. I know it will be a challenge, but one that my kids can be involved in and one that my husband can do if he so wishes to join his family. Most of all...I need this for me and to fulfill something that is missing inside me. It's time I took back my life and quit living his. 

I Finally Heard Myself Fall,

Monday, April 23, 2012

Veteran's Surplus-Guest Blog

We have quite a bit going on right now with Social Security Disability, MED Board and PEB. I have been meaning to get these guest posts on here for a while now, so going to start adding them in when I have too much on my plate. I welcome family members, Veterans and organizations that live, work, or help our Veterans and their families with PTSD and/or TBI. Please Welcome them all. ~Uncle Sam's Mistress

Hi everyone!  First, I want to say thank you to Uncle Sam’s Mistress for letting me guest blog on her site.  The project I’m here to talk about today, Veteran’s Surplus, is very near and dear to my heart.  Unfortunately, I am a tiny voice in the blogging world and haven’t been able to get it off the ground on my own.  I’m so grateful that USM is willing to let me use her platform to get the word out.

Before I go into the details of VS, I will tell you a little about myself.  My name is Brittany, I’m a semi-anonymous blogger at Delightfully Awkward.  My blog falls in the “daily rambles” category because I talk about pretty much any and everything.  Some are veteran specific issues, some are education related (especially lately, with graduate school drama), some are about being a Southern transplant (although not for much longer!)…you get my point.  But I’m not here to talk about myself.  I’m here to talk about my project, Veteran’s Surplus. 

Veteran’s Surplus is an idea that I came up with because I felt alone.  When my husband first joined the Army, I felt alone (this seems to be a pattern in my life, huh).  Then, I was blessed to find a wonderful (and large) online community of Army Wives who were my lifeline when I had no idea what was going on.  Once my husband ETS’d (meaning his contract ended), I hoped for a Veteran version of the same thing.  You see, my active duty friends no longer understood the position we were in.  The people who had once provided me with PCS and re-deployment were unable to help with the G.I. Bill or disability services.  We may not be active duty any more, but I assure we do not feel like civilians (and civilians can definitely tell we are not like them).  I often feel like I’m living in an odd limbo world, where I don’t quite belong to either sector.

So I created Veteran’s Surplus.  The goal of VS is to be a master “link list.”  Basically, I want anyone in the veteran community (veterans, veteran spouses, veteran children, veteran workers…anyone who deals with veterans) to provide a link to their blog here.  I will then put all of these blog links in one list, on the VS page.  I also ask that if you provide your blog link, you take the Veteran’s Surplus button and put it on your blog.  Then anyone who clicks the button will be brought to the VS page and have the opportunity to not only share their own blog, but to find other blogs (and people) who are dealing with the same issues.  Whether you are a blog that focuses solely on Veteran issues such as Uncle Sam’s Mistress, or you are a jumble of things that just happen to include Veteran topics (such as me), I highly encourage let’s be honest, I beg you to come link up.  This project means so much to me, and I think it could have a wonderful impact if done properly.  But I can’t do it alone- my one little blog is hardly much of a list!  I want to help bring the veteran community together, and I hope you will help me in that quest.

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 and to; 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 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 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 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 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 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,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vacation Challenges, Weird Obstacles and New Lawn Care Records

This week has been filled with some weird obstacles and semi-frustrating challenges much of which has left me somewhat scratching my head. My husband has been relatively in a good mood, much of which I am not sure how to (a.) react to (b) makes me feel suspicious of him and then (c) has me somewhat torn inside because I know any minute he is going to blow. I really hate that we get so used to having our Veterans in bad moods that when they do come, we really don't know how to accept the good stuff. I know my ex-therapist would probably have a book he would tell me to read or maybe tell me to just enjoy it. Easier said than done. However, I know my "PTSD Pod Person" like the back of my hand. Some of the time, yes, the "beast" throws me a curve ball. Overall though? I somewhat have him figured out. Usually when the good moods hit, he has done something or wants something as he can be very manipulating when he wants to be. It's been that way since 2007. I probably really need to talk to someone new about my issues now. I know I am not crazy, but he sure has given me one hell of a good start!

The OCD I had mentioned previously has been in full force with such ferocity that he isn't able to focus on much else. This is what frustrates me because he can be so obsessed about a fishing rod that he wanted to submit for competition through Project Healing Waters, yet leaves his socks and underwear on the floor or other tasks unattended to. He will literally walk on top of this dirty clothes, not listen, not focus or have any attention on any other matters. He focuses solely on one thing until it's done and is pretty much all he can talk about. We can be talking about upcoming projects or the kids, then out of the blue...he has the look on his face. I ask "What's wrong?" He replies "Oh I was just thinking about that string that has come undone on my rod and if I will be able to finish it before Tuesday".

I am sure as family members, you can probably understand the term "deflate" when you realize then he hasn't heard one single thing you have said. Little things like that I should be used to by now, but with the fifth year in bringing new issues and other problems....things like this really bother me and slightly hurt. The other issue that I am seeing is the conflict of OCD fighting it out with the lack of focus, attention and of course, frustration. This can become a challenging battlefield to walk across with my Veteran and one that must be tread lightly upon. He finally finished his rod to turn in today which I am relieved over. I am extremely proud of his efforts and all the attention he put into it as it is indeed a beautiful piece of work. However, I will not miss the ranting and raving over one little tiny place that even the sharp eyes of our children couldn't see. I do regret all the attention he spent on it and such focus, that he forgot about his family.

"Keeping up with the Jones'" has become another challenge here as of late. It has been with good humor and out of love in the past for our elderly neighbors, to joke about who is mowing first. Now you must realize that we live out in moo-cow town with only three houses near by. We are sandwiched in between two elderly Veterans, one with PTSD as well. Bright and early with the roosters crowing (literally) you hear the lawn mowers begin. Since the Spring has come early and with warmer weather, the grass of course has taken on the attention of the men folk in our area. One neighbor mows, then maybe a few hours pass, the next neighbor mows. That creates a domino affect in which all of us then must mow so all of our yards are completely mowed. It is with deep concern that they then all convene and discuss mower issues, the latest John Deere mower parts or products and what should be the correct length in grass to be cut.

Now our elderly neighbors have tons of time on their hands and mowing, well seems to keep them preoccupied. I honestly wonder by Summer how it is they have grass at all. My husband and I just mowed and since the building of this house, we are still attempting to get grass growing in the back yard in some bare areas where the construction equipment laid. The yard looked great to me but when the firing of the motors began, my husband was itching. It started by him peering out the window shades every five minutes. He talked about the grass for four hours that day, debating why we shouldn't go out in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm so our yard is just as mowed as the others. Don't get me started on the topic of dandelions.

I have to admit. I was kind of pissed. I really at this moment wanted to rattle his teeth, drive him out in the middle of nowhere and leave him, or maybe just walk away. I don't know why this bothered me so badly but damn, I have SO much to do here and trying to tackle it all on my own. I am tired, still fighting staph infection and trying to get things caught up and done. I guess I wished that focus was split up on other things than just the stupid yard or a fly fishing rod. I in the end, lost the battle and we mowed the yard anyway. It's like watching NASCAR racing on lawn mowers here and sometimes I just want to say "you know what? Screw the yard". I know its been hard on him being considered disabled and not allowed/able to work anymore so am trying very hard with my patience...but days like this can be the ones that make you cry and wish things were normal again. Days where he becomes frantic in motions, words and thoughts are the days that remind you how much you miss your "real" husband. Since getting the letter stating he was now 100% permanent and total, little things like this have turned into really big problems for him.

The next challenge we have had to face is dum dum vacation. Yes, the Mistress is about to embark on her family's first vacation together. An anonymous donor wanted to give two caregivers who were burned out (don't ask me how they know. I must really look bad these days) in our local area a weeks long vacation in Orlando, FL with all expenses paid. I am super excited for my children, super thrilled that we get to go...but damn, what am I getting myself into? The point of this is to relieve the tension and stress of the Caregiver. Yeah, go ahead and snicker while you ponder on that for a minute. 11 hours and 15 minutes will be the drive. The mileage is 666 miles (going to have to change that somehow), and then add in a paranoid, OCD, severe PTSD Veteran in the car with three kids and a service dog not to mention the "extremely burned out Caregiver" leading the crew. To me, its a recipe for disaster just because all the above mentioned but we are going to attempt it anyway. I am more worried about taking my husband than I am my small children and pre-teen. We won't be doing the big theme parks but decided to hit Lego Land as we are all fans, and Sea World through the week, ending with a ride up to Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral . I am hoping that my husband can behave and not ruin it. I hate to say that, but God, my children and I need this soooo badly. Every moment, every holiday, every good time, every laugh the kids mention "well until dad blew up" or "well, it was fun til dad screwed it up". For once, I really want this to go well and can only hope that my husband realizes this will probably be our first and only vacation with our children. He has missed so much already.

I want to wallow in their pleasure of seeing Sea World. I want to bathe in the sunshine and in their laughter. I want to see my husband in the pool with my kids and well, just be happy. Just once without any spells or incidents. With this trip, it has brought on more paranoid thoughts from him of leaving the house, people breaking in, tornadoes, more than likely the yard not being mowed for a week, and then of course the complete lack of focus on what needs to be done before we take this trip. I have had to pay bills, do a home visit by the VA, still have to get to the store, pick up medicines, pack for a family of five, make arrangements for my other little dog, lock up the house, clean and get the car ready. Then we must make sure all is packed, no one is going to kill each other in the car and making sure we have the FL VA information before we go just in case. All I can think of is "Please God...don't let us be the family that gets escorted out by Sea World Security" although that would make a hell of a blog wouldn't it? I am going to have faith though in him and try to be patient. With this trip, I have planned stops, breaks and plenty of down time as not to overwhelm him. So we are just going to have to see how it goes. I will be happy with a grumpy person than one who is constantly talking about what could go wrong for almost 12 hours.

This is the count down week as we go on Saturday and of course, the Army decides after four start sending us paperwork to fill out for the PEB. I laughed out loud when I read the "I need this back in 2-5 business days". Readers, I have to tell you that I really wanted to email him back and say "I will get this completed in the next four years like you have made us wait. Get in Line buddy and take a number". With the lack of focus on my husband's part, every bit of this has me stressed out and already wore out...we haven't even left yet.

The PEB paperwork has me pretty scared especially since once reviewing carefully, this smart cookie figured out they had it all screwed up. I was nice enough to let our PEBLO know that I can be a thorn in someone's side and will ask a lot of questions after he sounded miffed that I called out the mistakes. Hey, he can't fault me for being honest but I realized this week you have got to stand up, not be afraid to confront and ask a lot of questions because they will screw you in a heartbeat. Now that our PEBLO and I are on a mutual understanding, I am freaking out a little because I don't know what I am doing at this point. It's easy to be firm, question and then confirm answers...but really kind of not sure of yourself on the inside. Paperwork was fixed but now its more confusing than it was before. I am to the point of turning off the computer and just waiting until I get back from our trip.

So with all that, I must close this post out and do some gathering for suitcases. I always tell myself that we will get things done ahead of time and this once, I was bound and determined to do it. The biggest obstacle right now preventing me from doing it is my husband and his cooperation. Am keeping positive thoughts in my head, fighting out the questionable and the "yeah right" thoughts of his "I really want to go"  and just this once? I am going to not worry about the damn yard. See you all in a little over a week as this Mistress will be reporting how it all went!
 I am really not going to rattle his teeth or drive him out to the middle of nowhere and leave him,