Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When Forgiveness Carries a Debt

I was raised to do the right things like not lie because eventually the truth will catch up to you. To treat others with respect, and forgive when you are able to. It's not only the Christian thing to do but a Southern belle thing my mama tried to instill in us girls. My mama used to tell me sometimes though, it was easier to forgive than to forget and occasionally she would remind us that often she forgave but she never forgot something wrong someone had done. I never really understood that until I got seriously involved with relationships and then married. I didn't want to think like that and really didn't want to carry such baggage as not forgiving and forgetting. That baggage of a "rewind" button, can become very heavy. My 2012 list of erroneous New Year's resolution was to say out loud to my husband and to myself, repeatedly, that I forgive him. I had forgiven him for many many things like all the hell he has put me through, and I forgave him for giving up. So many things that I had this instant index card that scrolled through my mind at times I was angry and hurt that I tore up and threw it all away. I instantly did feel better and really haven't had a thought about past crap, or dwell upon things that he has done because I forgave him and that was the deal I cut with myself. I have accepted finally, I think, what is and what will be and that nothing is going to change. I may not like it, I may be miserable on some days, but there are good days where things happen and it lights up your life. Others though...can come down on you and it burns up the stress free zone that you finally just got yourself in. Suddenly forgiveness turns to remembering, and once again I am pissed off all over again for not just that particular moment but for the past five years. In counseling, this is one of those things that I am trying to work on because I feel like its eating me up. I try really hard, but its just one of those demons you must battle especially when you have the opposite team member shoving it in your face all the time.

We have had a rough month this May, there is no denying that one. I don't know what's going on with my husband except that I do know I can do no right. The Social Security hearing tore us all up mostly because this was the first time I didn't have a safety net in place, no aces up the sleeves, and definitely had no idea what the hell to expect. As in my last post, our attorney we worried about, did ok and the judge who we were prepped to expect to be bombarded with questions...never asked a single thing. I had to check to see several times if the Vocational Rehabilitation Expert who sits in these hearings and asks questions then suggests jobs for disabled people; to see what he was doodling was anything interesting and a couple of see if he was still awake. After our lawyer asked my husband if he had homicidal and suicidal tendencies, and his response was truthful that yes he did, but he didn't act upon them (which is normal for all of our Veterans); the Voc Rehab guy started packing his stuff up. I guess the last resort of "He can always get a job as a Walmart Door Greeter" went right out the window on those last questions. Twenty minutes turned to an hour and a half but it was over and done with, with a comment of "We will make our decision within 30 days". I held my husband's hand through it all, I softly patted his back when he started to get upset, I calmly explained anything he couldn't get out due to nerves and when he froze. Once it was over, we felt like we had been put through the ringer literally. With all this, his new therapy which he seems to really like and the med board paperwork is done and sent in. We got our tax return in finally which was a good surprise and other than the kids ending up their school year? That is pretty much it except for some much needed maintenance around the house.

For some reason, he just can't find anything to be happy about. If he does, then he counteracts it with something to be pissed off. It's like there are two people inside of him leveling out the playing field. This week and last, he has done nothing but pick on me, yell, scream and find things to be mad at me about. I know that stress and out of routine/structure "field trips" as I call them, can set him off and upset him. One incident recalled our relationship 12 years ago when I didn't marry him within three months of dating. He is still angry about this and I asked "Seriously? Is this the best you can come up with? We are married now and have been a long why are you mad?" If it's raining, it's my fault. If it's too hot, its my fault. I have to say this past two weeks have literally exhausted me to the point I can't even sleep or think straight. I clean the house once a week, and in between days and sometimes every day...I dust, sweep up crumbs, run the vacuum, laundry, cook and deal with my children. The kids alone take most of my time because with three boys there is always one who needs scolding, one who needs holding and one who needs advice on girls or school. There are fights, there are times where they are rowdy, and they are just boys. There isn't enough hours in my day to get it all done, so what's left goes on tomorrow's list. Last Wednesday before the hearing I cleaned so much that I have to admit I did things with an old toothbrush that someone would be shocked to hear. I only wanted to clean to wear myself out to sleep due to nerves and hopefully stay out of his way and his yelling because I knew it was coming due to stress. The house is cleaned, the laundry is done accept for a few odd and ends, paperwork is done, the kids have all their stuff completed, and things are scheduled.

In part of my "Saving My Sanity" plan, was to start allowing him to do more of his paperwork and to be more involved with his caseworkers. There were times where I didn't want to deal with it anymore and asked desperately, "Please, talk with them today. They are YOUR caseworkers and you need to be a part of this" only to get a blank stare and "You can take care of it". So I did and I did the best I could, always keeping his best interests in the number one slot. I thought if I could let him be more involved, step back a little and let him see what I have been doing; it would reduce the level of paranoia and the chronic weird comments he comes up with in regards to me. It didn't help and I have to say that some's defeating. He is angry now because he is having to do this stuff and I am not doing it all. I am always there to help but sometimes he needs to be a part of this or he has no right to yell at me. I didn't ask to be put in this position, I didn't ask to give up my life to care for him, I didn't ask for the stress or having no rock to lean on....but I did it and I did it alone. He isn't dead, and yes, he is capable of filling out paperwork but instead of just trying with me helping...he blew his top. Yesterday, he had to fill some of his Med Board paperwork out and just completely lost it over having to do it on his own. A bulk of it was already filled in. He yelled at me and said "Aren't you getting paid to do all this for me?" referring to the Caregiver program.

I have to say, it was a slap in the face. This comment has been brought up many many times and I know this is a statement that many of us have probably heard. If I am not doing something all day long and night, then I get reminded I am getting paid to do such things. He reminded me yesterday that I was easily replaceable and he didn't need my help. I felt sorry for him because of his behavior although I was extremely hurt, pissed off and confused why he was so upset. He wanted more involvement, I gave it to him and now he is mad. I took on the fight because he wanted me to, and he was mad about that. It's like no matter what....nothing is good enough. He just kept going on yesterday about crap that happened years ago. I once got a speeding ticket the first year we were together, I once bounced a check and was mortified although it was the bank's fault and not mine, and I once burned a dinner the first year of marriage. Out of all the years, out of all my hard work....that's it.

I realized yesterday that although my forgive and forget was an issue with me, I wasn't carrying anymore miles with me. His though? His will always have a debt with it. A debt so large, an enemy target painted on my chest so huge that there is no place to keep from being hit. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I fight...I will always be in the wrong. I stood my ground with him yesterday and told him calmly he needed to listen to what he is saying, walk away and then come back to the paperwork. That turned into all my hard work in filing, prepping, and indexing his binders for the Army and the VA (which there is so much paper that we probably are responsible for half of the tree losses in the US) wasn't good enough and I should have done it a different way. I should have "been smarter than that". All because he didn't want to fill out three forms.

All those hours working. All those hours reading, highlighting, putting in order by date and in specific ways determined by the Army and with no help from him at all. Not even a glance over. Not even a thank you, or an offer to help. He did sit down one day after hours of punching holes and my hands swollen, to punch the last few remaining pages. He never once offered to help me with the house while all the fighting with the VA and the Army...nothing. All the stress I carried for my entire family. All the times I had to figure things out on my own because I refused to be a quitter. I just sat yesterday at the table and the tears came. I cried most of the morning yesterday and just was so disappointed in him. I recently heard the news that a friend of my Army Wife community got the casualty notification of her husband. Her son's face always lit up my Facebook page with his grin and his "mini-me" looks of his father. Their pictures graced my screen and the look of love, happiness and togetherness always made me smile. My heart was breaking for her and here my husband was yelling at me for something so stupid and looking for reasons to again, give up. Her husband wanted to come home and I was dealing with a grown up child throwing a temper tantrum because he "just woke up that way" with the weekly reminders of how he didn't want to come home. It's a very big, hard, and bitter pill to swallow. You can judge me how you want to, but that's the honest truth. It's hard to think about that "knock" on the door because I remember every single day of deployment looking out the blinds at the front stoop. How my heart would stop when an unmarked black car would come up our street. When there were weeks that went by with no word from him and the call that I got when there were  wounded, but didn't tell us families who they were for almost a week. I was there on the other end of the phone, a million miles away from each other, with a hollow sounding man telling me he didn't want to come home from Iraq. For five years, I have been reminded we weren't important enough for him to come home to or to stay alive for. I cried in the tub for my friend, because I felt horribly guilty and for the sorrow I felt. I think for the first time in my life...I really felt ashamed. I know that sounds horrible, but its the truth and how I feel. I wish it didn't happen to their family but it infuriates me that my husband can't be happy that he is home.

All I can think is if the house is cleaned, he has no reason to be angry. If we can win just one more battle, he will be happy. If I can keep the kids quiet, the laundry done, the cooking to be perfect, his appointments running on time, and everything goes his way...then he has no reason to be mad at me. It doesn't work like that though because he will always find a reason to be angry at me. When he told me yesterday that I could be easily replaced, I told him he didn't have to fire me...I quit. "Good luck in finding someone else who will do what I have done for you in the past 13 years". So he huffed, he sighed and slammed the pen around. Then it was "Are you going to help me or not". Yes, when you can have respect for me and ask me nicely. Rather than choosing to ask me nicely, he said "Well I will do it and if its screwed up, it will all be all your fault". I just walked away.......

Eventually he calmed down, but I haven't. I went to bed early after a hot bath and another good cry. I wanted him to come to me and just say "I'm sorry" but I can't even tell you how many of those I have heard or even count them on my hands. I understand that he has issues, I have accepted his disabilities, and I know that he will never be the same man I married. However, I feel there is still a degree of responsibility of control and the facing of consequences. Just because they have PTSD and/or TBI doesn't mean they can act like an ass and then its excused.  I think what hurts is I just keep trying and he isn't at all. Yet, I have the most debt to carry in his eyes that will never be paid up. How does one determine which part is PTSD, what part is TBI, and what part is just being an asshole? How does one make up or try to combat things that I have no control over or ever did? How does one repay a debt when you don't even know what you owe it for? I can't make the battlefields greener, I can't take away the dreams, I can't make it any better....but God knows I have tried and have always been there to support him. I wish just once, he could see how fortunate he is, how loved he is by his family, and most of all....that his closest ally and biggest fan, he has hurt the most.

Hurting More Than You Could Ever Know,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Defending Your Life

The biggest challenges of living with someone who has injuries like PTSD and TBI, is the constant defending of the Veteran's life and that of ours. We sometimes live in silence due to fear of judgment of the outside world, in some cases, Child Services is a fear, and in others; the look of pity and the confusion that crosses people's faces when they don't really get it. Not too long ago, I didn't understand either and I try to be patient with people who show disdain or make judgmental comments albeit hard to bite the tongue. If not for me, deciding for myself and for my family five years ago...I wonder who would have educated me on such subjects? The outside world isn't the only ones we find ourselves in the defensive position. We must defend the injuries to the military branches and hope like hell they don't drop us over a large cliff somewhere, hoping we will just go away and not get back up. The promise of "The VA will take care of you my brother/sister" falls short and here we go right back into a vicious cycle of defense. We must then deal with the VA systems where many are finding they are having to fight for their rights and benefits promised to us and earned. In many cases, like that of Social Security Disability, some of us find ourselves facing hearings although the medical files are a zillion pages long.

We recently found ourselves in that exact position of trying to defend my husband's injuries to an attorney who had no idea what either injury was, or how it impacted his life and that of mine. I don't mind educating someone, advocating on these issues but there comes a time or two I wish that I could just walk in and say "He is a disabled Veteran with these injuries" and someone say "Oh no worries! I know all about this". Even our local American Legion VSO officer who is known for his shark like approaches and wins for Veterans, told my husband he was too young to give up and to get back on the horse and just ride it. "PTSD is just a nice way to say your depressed. Take a pill and deal with it". If only it was that simple......

I sometimes feel like the world just left us behind. I know during deployment that my husband had no other choice but to leave us behind in his mind because of his job. Time stopped for them but for many of us who survived deployment, it kept going slowly. It was always nice to drive down the road and see a fellow "Proud Army Wife" sticker on the back of a car, or a "Support our Troops" bumper sticker. For all those, it made the time worth it because I thought a bumper sticker showed pride, love of our country and respect. When they come home, the clock suddenly speeds up for all of us and we see that we just don't seem to fit in anywhere in time. Those we thought were friends have quietly withdrawn. We ourselves, have withdrawn into this safe haven we call home. After five years of this haven, it starts to feel like a prison. There are days where I drive down the road and I see my house that I fought for so hard to keep, we saved so many years for and represented a new life for us....and it now has an ominous look to it. It feels oppressive, suffocating and safe all at the same time.The bumper stickers we now see are faded from the sun, scratched off from many washes never to be replaced again. I sometimes wonder if that bumper sticker represents their pride still and respect? Or is just as faded, long forgotten and washed away from the sun and the rain?

I like to think of the positives and its probably my biggest downfalls as I am prepped by a past family who ran a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C when all else fails. When it comes down to say, the Social Security prep for the Hearing, and being drilled for five hours of grueling, bombarding questions of why we think my husband is disabled; it makes one think about all the wrongs that is in your life. We live in a certain lifestyle, we manage routines and structures, we try to be the best parents we can be even when one really can't do that. We deal with the obstacles, the ups and downs of emotions, the weariness of fighting all the time with the government and its become almost numbing and we then learn to do it almost by rote now. Mechanical movements almost with absolutely no show of emotions. To have an attorney not take the time to respect, show some sensitivity as she was portraying the Judge and how he will ask; was to say the least a little disheartening. I left that afternoon with a raging Veteran and a screaming three year old and cried all the way home. I have been put in certain positions and Lord knows had my share of stupid comments stemming from just ignorance, but never before did I feel like we don't belong anymore than I did that day. I felt horrible we had to put my husband through that, I felt ashamed and almost embarrassed for the attorney and most of all? I was angry.

It dawned on me that we just sat through five hours of defending our lives, to someone we are paying to defend us. It's difficult to pick apart your day, and to really look deep at what our Veterans do and can't do. To pick apart every little detail of what the spouse/family/caregiver does and then try to all of a sudden deal with the realization and try to defend it. It was five years all over again suddenly in front of the woman who is to defend my husband's rights and entitlements to Social Security Disability. Of course, I know much of this is a formality due to age. It's common knowledge that Social Security would rather pay out for an elderly person who might have ten to fifteen years left of their life span, than that of a wounded thirty something Veteran who will outlive the elderly person times three or more. Having to explain and defend our life just suddenly felt wrong, and we were both very vulnerable in front of her. I guess most of it is because we were one of those families that didn't get dropped off the cliff but thrown off. We fell in a crevice so deep it took us two years to get out. To be fair, the attorney didn't know our history. Didn't know the first thing about us except for our names and partial health history. It was just the fact we still to this day after five years, still keep defending ourselves.

To add all of this on top of the Medical Board, you then find you are defending yourself and your Veteran with the rest of the family. You find you are trying to explain to your children, then must deal with all the immediate family, in-laws, outlaws and the rest of the gang. Sometimes its tiring to hear how someone has a bad back, but Lord have mercy and "bless their heart" they are disabled and just can't expect to work. Someone else has cancer, or a bad car wreck...its the same "bless yer heart" and "what else can be expected of them?". With this though....its harder. Most of what I hear is "leave him". "Cut your losses and run". "I just don't know how you deal with it". Even with our Southern Appalachian twang, I hardly ever get a "bless yer heart". I still to this day wonder why that is? I find that I now stay away from having to explain it all over again to say, a non-profit organization. I know they don't know me, I don't know them and its just not worth the breath trying to get someone else to understand. The most that anyone has understood our lifestyle is those that live with it. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time finding those "others" close by although I can feel them nearby.  This leads me to some anger because I wonder why they can't step up, allow me to have someone nearby who is raising their hand with me. It's not that I am afraid of pioneering my way through a backwoods moo-cow town area, but God sometimes I wish I could just find someone.

Anger seems to fester quite a bit with me these days. Most of the time, I can walk away and try to focus on something else but it still is there. One thing happens and before I know it, I am angry about the last damn five years. I am hoping since I am receiving counseling, that is one of those things that I can work on as its just not me at all. I love to laugh, love to smile, love to talk and most of these I rarely do unless its with the right people. My defenses have been built so high I often wonder if I ever will be able to let them down? Or will they permanently stay up and how much will I miss if I keep myself closed off. Some of the comments made I can always deal with, shrugging them off with just raising my chin a tad bit higher. Some of them hurt to the core and those are a little harder to shake but I do it none the less. Explaining I can do, but with as much news and media is out there in regards to PTSD and TBI (minus all the negative crap) you would think people would pay attention. However, I have found that most people know more about the Kardashians or the infamous "Octomom". Why is it our society can worry so much about who wore what to the Oscar's, or what the latest gadget but yet, do not know that 1 Veteran in every 80 seconds commits suicide?

I think my frustration comes from having to try so hard to defend my husband and the reasons why I stay with him. Not from explaining his issues and not be ashamed of them, but feeling like I MUST defend us because there isn't anyone else there to speak out for us. Yet, "Octomom" seems to get front page Yahoo, and is one of the most "clickable" likes on Google these days. Some days I wonder if it will ever end, even after we leave the military and we finally get settled with Social Security and the VA. Or will we always be destined to defend ourselves to others and more importantly....trying to explain to ourselves that this is just the way it is and there's nothing we can do, than what we have already done. That is to keep going and survive.

Survival 101 Completed and Passed,