Monday, February 2, 2015

From A Stigma To A Statistic



I've been wanting to sit down and write for a while now. There has just been so much interference in my mind that I no longer know what is up or down. My mind is constantly free falling into blackness and nothingness. I had no way to express myself in an environment that would give me some sort of release. I feel the need to scream yet, nothing escapes me. So here I am.........

It was my husband's and my intention to share our story, our life so that others like us, possibly could learn or find some useful information. Perhaps learn a lesson, discover something new and, to educate all while providing myself a place of solitude that would let me express my feelings. Maybe just maybe someone out there would say "I don't feel so alone now" or "Holy Shit! So that's what this is!". Sometimes.....sometimes it was the only way I could reach him as he would read the draft and add something I had forgotten. Often he would see things in a different way and understood what I was trying to tell him but, in a written format. It's hard not to hear today "Youuuu writing Mommy? One day you will be on a book cover and I'll get your autograph!" which always made me laugh as he wondered if writers had "groupies" and could a husband be one of them? He was my biggest supporter in my writing and while some of it was hard to read and he would see that he behaved so badly, he would say.....he wanted the world to know that this is how it is. Sometimes beautiful and peaceful, often harsh and ugly, sometimes raw and cold but all this? All this was our life. My husband and I felt that even our own mistakes could possibly help someone out there and that just possibly....just one Veteran or family of, would be saved from the cracks of the hell we were stuck in for seven years.
Seven Years..........
2, 555 days...........
61,320 hours.........
3,679,200 minutes we shared trying to figure all this out on our own.

 Perhaps I couldn't write because all that we as a family shared with the world, suddenly seems all wrong. Imperfections, mistakes and, soooooo many corrections to be made that I didn't have it in me to write. Maybe another reason why I could not sit down and write was because I just didn't know what to say, how to explain, and even....the possibility that we would let so many of you down; because the truth is.........I feel I did let him down. Not intentionally but, I should have looked deeper and asked him to stop hiding and running.


After the midnight hour of New Year's Eve, my husband took his own life by self inflicted gunshot.

I am now drowning......
in the deepest end of the pool of confusion and sadness.
 I am so very, very  cold.
Empty........
like that of a vast canyon that once held a mighty river that had gone dry.
Shattered.......with fragments that will never be put back together.
I can't breathe or feel anything but, pain.

He had been doing really good although there were just little things that we as a family and his friends couldn't quite put our fingers on. We had bounced around this year after retirement which was bittersweet. In my last blog, we both weren't really sure what to do now. We used to be a military family, a Wounded Warrior's family, a Disabled Veteran, a Veteran and an Advocate; "The Expendable and the Collateral Damages of War" then suddenly mid Spring he no longer wanted to be known as a Veteran period. We shuffled that damn deck so many times that we became weary of playing the game and we agreed we were "Just Mr. and Mrs. Used To Be". It wasn't names or titles, just the identities that we were used to and wore with absolutely no shame and then it hit us both......what do we do and where do we go now? We decided to start putting our focus on something we weren't sure we could find; purpose. The fight was done except a few minor things that the Army didn't and failed to complete but, we made it through and, without pomp and circumstance, without a handshake or even a person in real life giving it to him.....we quietly exited the service.The car wreck and frontal damage done changed everything we had learned about Traumatic Brain injuries on multiple scales. I was warned that no one knew exactly how this new hit would impact him; gently suggested that it would be best to make a long term plan. However, I would look at him and he always joked about his indented forehead but, little things were new and different. So much so, we as a family had to learn all over again a new way of thinking, behavior issues, impulses and manic times vs down times.

We had a rough year in which I had hoped would smooth out on it's own all while he kept pushing us further away. Yet at the same time, put me in the middle of so much like family drama, making excuses for his behavior and taking care of everything that I just became weary. I kept his bubble intact, I was the sounding board for all the anger and resentment and there was nothing that I wouldn't do.........except hurt someone because of what he wanted nor could I repeat the things he said for me to say. It is not in my nature to be an unkind, cruel individual and he resented me for not saying these things. I never understood this part of him. One who had no filter, could be so unkind and hurtful to friends and family but, made me the fall guy and put me in some precarious positions that left me stressed; a scapegoat for both sides and always to blame. I have been stuck in the middle since he came home from Iraq and it became a heavy burden that was sometimes just too damn much to deal with. I have and would have done anything to see that man smile but, I just couldn't hurt family "for" him. He had his reasons but, we had no other family and I felt like I was taking punches on both sides.
So while protecting him from the outside world, wrapping my family in peace from all of it; I was also protecting the other person and they never had any inclination nor could they understand this was how it was.  His feelings, his hurt and pain needed to be something he had to deal with. No matter how I tried, no matter what I would say; it just wasn't enough....for either sides. One would be educated enough to know what is online through researching but, just never got over hurt feelings. I was the board for that hurt, and their pain. The other too angry to even express what he felt so another thing to blame me for to match so many others. I was literally the ball in between a massive tennis court,  being passed back and forth and it never stopped. I don't think anyone thought for a minute how hard it was to try to hold everyone together when I was falling apart.That was my job though. That's what we do as Caregivers.

He became dark; his face distorting like nothing we had seen before. The shadow would change his face faster this time around.  Pain from both mentally and physically, exhausted him and aged him so much that he didn't even look the same way.  His OCD behavior switched around to new attention and increased agitation like piling newspapers from 2012, hoarding pop tabs, magazines. He wouldn't talk to the family much and no matter how hard we tried to overlook the vicious temper of the beast that stayed......we still were here waiting for him to return. I look back and wonder where the hell I was able to pull the strength it took just to carry him through. Be that torch to light his way home when he got confused. The words of callousness changed and I told him mid December that after a while, the words began to cut deeply and some things you just can't take back. He would say something so very hurtful but like always, he would come back and say he was sorry and that he didn't mean to say it. That tragic night, he simply looked at me and said "I am so very very sorry mommy. I tried to hide it all so you wouldn't hurt anymore". I can't remember it all but, I do remember those words.
 I told him it would be OK, I would protect him. He had become so wrapped up in his lies that I couldn't help him sort out his messes and he was in a tail spin. Lies that were so intertwined in his mind that he would simply just not know the truth anymore, confuse what was real and what was not and he would get even angrier. He was weary from masking it all from the public, his friends and all in the effort to try to be "normal". He told me out of the stillness of the night in bed "do you know how hard it is to hide it all just to have something, anything that was taken from me?" Yes. Yes, I do I had told him. If I'd only known that was the most honest thing he would last say, I would have spent every night encouraging him not to hide anything anymore. We always joked about the word "normal". What the hell is normal anyway in our worlds? Friends who knew, understood he just wasn't right after coming back from Iraq and then definitely not right after that car wreck. Others just thought he was an asshole and he was okay with that because he felt like that was something normal. I didn't know exactly what he was fighting against but, I did understand the very thing he spoke of because I felt the same just on the opposing side of the team. I did understand losses, the urge to feel something normal, to feel adrenaline as he needed that to function. There is a song by Frank Sinatra that had a line in the song "My Way" that said "For what is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he is not. To say the things, he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. the record shows, I took the blows and did it, my way." His way was different than most but, as long as he felt safe and secure....he did the best he could do.

We were used to the coming of September as each year flew by. We planned each mode of possible attack with the skills of warriors themselves. We had the summer months to build up the strength, gather our armor and our strengths to fight back the coming of the beast. September came but, not with the same battles. He had been actually "good" at the VA which we all were surprised and I am sure the VA was relieved! He was usually up to his tenth or more incidents there but, he had only one minor issue for a year. I thought we were blessed but, in all that? The Beast was smarter than I and just attacked quickly; ferociously from behind. I became the enemy, the kids were doing things against him, neighbors were stealing, paranoia set in harder, drinking I suspected but, never could prove. Compulsive spending began to appear again but, not in the way that we had seen before. There was an onset of more confusion on where he put things and so much more that I am too ashamed to speak of but this? This. This was our normal. It wasn't something out of the normal eighth month hell that we haven't already trekked through each year. The spiral downward wasn't the first in our lengthy war at home and he would be honest and tell me that it wasn't anything more than just to keep from hurting me. It was easier to hurt others or himself. It was a way he could play the normal guy, easy to play along as everything was so bad at home and in reality? There was nothing here but, love. I couldn't get him to understand that he was hurting us while hurting himself. Hurting others intentionally or faking it, was not the right thing to do. I still do not know if he understood that there was nothing he had done that would make me turn his back on him. I don't know everything that he did as we have uncovered many lies after lies and still finding more. Financially, he left us in a massive devastation after the storm hit.
I can only know that he came home and none of this mattered because often in the nights he would lay his head in my lap and just cry. There were moments when the demons released him and the most beautiful smile appeared. There were many nights where he would come home and just start picking and tearing me down because in the apology something happened that day and he was afraid to show his demons. While it wasn't right to lay it all on me, it was my job to keep him going and encourage him that even the strongest have their own weaknesses. I was the caregiver, protector and the one who always had an ace up my sleeve. I started noticing he would disappear for hours on end and not returning phone calls from his friends. He would make excuses that his friends either stopped calling him, or they pissed him off when in all reality? There was never such a thing because so many stopped by or called and the most repetitive sentence was "I kept calling him and he wouldn't answer or call back". Two weeks after his death, I sat and heard this and so much more. In my heart? I now see how bad he had slipped but, kept it covered and hidden so well on his own.

He would often apologize for nothing at all and I never could understand what he was doing that he needed to apologize for. For many of us, the signs of a suicide are all written out. "If they seem depressed. If they withdraw. Call the suicide hotline number". However, what happens when you have no signs that are the norm for our families? He had made so many plans for the Spring, for the future, made fishing trips with others, helping feed the cattle of our neighbors, working on redoing our main bathroom but, those little things? They were not signs that said "Hey, I am planning". I have sat here for hours looking out through the back of our home and thinking of every little thing that could have possibly been changed or something that he eluded to. There was absolutely nothing that wasn't in our repertoire of been there and done that. We had a small Christmas this year but, he went overboard on me. So many gifts and I broke down and cried wondering how much had he charged or what did he do? He said "Mommy, don't cry. I wanted to give you the most beautiful Christmas ever. I hope those are tears of happiness." They were and yet, fear weaved itself throughout. The thoughtfulness in each item was so deep and full of love, of things that I had said and forgotten. That's how much thought was put into them all. It was the first Christmas with my husband since he came home eight years ago; not the angry pod person Uncle Sam sent home to us. It wasn't haphazardly put together, it wasn't just picked or had no thought put in to it.  He would call and say "I got you something spiiiiiiiiffffffyyyyyy mommy!"; giddy as a school child he was! He went all over the place looking for a particular item for each child and so excited that he even wrapped everything himself which was most definitely the first! Most of us are used to the ups and downs of finances with our PTSD and/or TBI spouses. I figured we would figure it out as the New Year approached and I would once again fix the damage that had been done. I didn't know the aftermath that he had spent on so many items.

The evening before New Year's Eve, he came home and smelled of alcohol. He was late for dinner and then angry that one noodle of his spaghetti plate had gotten dried out. Not wanting to fight, I said let me get that out but, you were also very late past dinner time; I held it as long as I could. As I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the boys ready for bed, he found every little thing he could think of to hurt me. It began and kept going for two hours. He followed me and no matter where I went, he found a way to yell through the door, or outside or in my face. Whether it be my being sick, house not perfect, the fact we had family coming for a late gathering for the holiday, down to missing his favorite shows because he was gone or would come in late, absolutely sure that his laundry didn't smell right. (sense of smell had been messed up since the wreck) One thing led to another and I broke. I had been taking care of myself since April, pretty much been alone save a few good days where he would help, and I was raising three boys as a single parent. He had pushed me to the point of exhaustion. I couldn't hear one more word about how ugly I was, how stupid I was, and all while in my mind I knew it wasn't him.....those words cut so very deeply. Then he said "I wish you would just hurry up and die so I can be normal. I want to be normal again. I've had everything taken from me". Knowing him, the nature of the beast, I knew an apology would follow soon and the same line of "I didn't mean what I said" would be casted. I was broken and stunned. I told him let's walk away until you can calm down and we will talk but, I can't do that or help you if you are going to beat me down with words and not tell me what's going on. Stressers would always be the cause of most of his meltdowns. There was always an underlying cause for his Kaboom! phase. Then something happened that we had never seen before. He began looking at all of us and began to count repetitively "One, two, three and four" and it was over and over again. We knew then something was seriously wrong.

My oldest son had in this process been cued to implement the safety plan that I had taught all three of my kids. I turned around and said "I love you but, you were not the only one that has had everything taken from them. Our children can hear every single word you are yelling and they lost too. Every time you start, we all, including you have something taken away from us. If you feel that we are holding you back and taking things from you.......then I will let you go. I am too tired to keep going this way". He completely lost it and honestly? After that it was a blur that our close family friend and I are still trying to piece together. He had gone from weaving in and out of that soldier facing the false enemies to crying because he was so angry and then laughing. It was not him at all....he was just no longer here period. All I can remember thinking was why could I have not kept that one damn noodle from being dried out?

Our children safely tucked away, our friend called the sheriff's department for help as there were several deputies that served as Veterans and we thought we could talk him down. He became outraged and began to attack us both of which my memory is very cloudy. From then on.....I can't remember everything. Our close friend and I have sat for hours trying to talk to each other and completing what the hell had gone wrong so fast. Tiny things that have gone black. He had hit us both with the butt of his gun and speaking in what we thought was Arabic. I didn't know that he knew any other language besides some German I had taught him. She feels she is to blame. I feel I let him down. She feels I saved her life that night twice. I would have gone with him if it meant saving her. It has placed our friendship in an awkward spot. All we remember is the face.....the distortion, the blackness that fully took whatever was left in my husband. He was no longer home, he was in the middle of a battle in Iraq. I remember saying "please please....you are home baby. Listen to me! You are home. Our children will see you do this. Please don't hurt us. It's going to be ok."

We both know and saw that he flickered for just a moment and after three rounds had already been placed into the wall that had missed our best friend.....he was home again for just that split second. He put the safety on. He calmly walked away talking to himself which allowed one of us to get out. I let our friend go still trying to talk him down. When the military and VA says "Try to redirect them" I often wonder have they ever faced this situation??? Redirect? There was no redirection at all. 911 operator called and I had told them I was able to get him calmed down and he wanted to talk to my husband via speaker phone. My husband was calm but, he was crying and hurting so badly. I picked up casings and hid the bullet holes in my wall by placing a jacket over it. I was so scared of the police and so was he but, he was calm. I do not blame our friend as she was able to get away and had she not? I am not sure we all would have made it through. He was so lost in a war that nothing made sense.

The rest was just gone. I don't know where in my mind that everything was locked up but, I do remember them making myself and the kids come out of the house with our hands up. I remember the ones who were Veterans themselves, friends of his, and others who were a Veteran's family member being so nice to us and promising me they would bring him back safely as he apparently slipped out the garage door and was gone. There were other deputies and officers who berated me, acting as if our family were criminals and then it hit me.......Stigma. The very same stigma we are all fighting against. Suddenly he was a criminal and his family was harboring him. We, as a family who never shied away from the truth whether it be good or bad; suddenly were dangerous criminals. There was no help for him and I felt sick and to be blamed because we should have sent him to a friends house when he began to act out. He just wouldn't listen. When one deputy who was so hateful asked me" So what the fuck is wrong with him!!" I went into protective mode and stood high and said "He is a  multiple head trauma brain injury patient,a Veteran of the Iraq war and he suffers with PTSD. He can go into flashbacks and please, please don't hurt him!". I'll never forget him looking at me deadpan and saying "So?". Everything in me that had fought for eight years, embracing the way things were, all the let downs, all the wins and losses, his sacrifices, his service, his wounds seen and unseen.....didn't matter to those who didn't know what it was like. I became enraged because suddenly we had gone straight out of  a news story that we all have read and feared. They really didn't care about him at all save but a few.

A simple word yet, such a strong and hurtful statement in the way of "So!". The ones who were Veterans and family members of, looked at him with looks to kill. They went as fast as they could to every spot they could think of, any hiding spot in the house upturned, and those that were his friends, fellow battles......raced faster to get him before the others; hoping. It was hours, and as each hour passed on New Year's Eve a little piece of me died. God, those hours took forever as time stood still. They moved us inside, outside and then back in. I stood in the backdoor facing the pastures where he loved to work with the cows; hoping that he would come over that ridge any minute that day. I just felt like that back door was tugging me to the core of my heart and, I was helpless as we weren't allowed to leave.

Around almost fivish that News Year's evening that was supposed to be full of hope and brought a promise of a new start on a clean slate; his battle buddy and close friend in the Sheriff's department came to the door. Tears streaming down his face, hat held in hand and behind him so many others with hats in hands.  The ones who were Vets or family of, deep pain and tears etched their faces and is an image that I can't clear from my mind. He cleared his throat, sobbing he sputtered out "He's gone honey, he's gone".  I just remember standing at the door, kicking in the advocate mode and mentally checking off a list of VA paperwork, lawyers, court and I must have said something to them as I went to grab my purse. He just kept hold of me and said "He is gone honey and he's no longer in pain. Honey, he is gone home".

For my entire life, death has been a friend who has visited me quite frequently. I have been knocked down quite a bit, especially over these last eight years but never had I fallen to my knees so hard than I did that evening. I remember through deployment putting mirrors up along the side of our front door on days that I saw news that was so horrifying that I knew he was near or in. There was a hidden alcove that you couldn't see the "death" car clearly coming around. I was scared that car with military members would pull up. I never planned for this. There was suddenly no mirrors, promises broken, confusion and my world just shattered. I was an EMT's wife, a volunteer firefighter spouse and much more.....I know the dangers on both sides of the fence because I have sat many nights waiting on him to call. Right now, I just can't get that "So?!" out of my head.Forgiveness? Maybe when I fully realize he isn't coming back over that ridge. I have sat up many nights by the back door searching the ridge line (where he also took his life) waiting.....and I will still wait until he comes back.

I will never be the same again.
We had become the very thing we all feared. 
I broke the promise that he would never become a statistic in any VA drawer; forgotten. 
We had gone from a Stigma to a Statistic in less than a couple of hours. 
My best friend and husband left this world in the only way that he knew how.
All our hidden secrets and things swept under the carpet suddenly buried us.
Our world literally has fallen apart and I still sit here looking out over the ridge,
Waiting..........
Waiting for him to come over that ridge with "Hey Mommy!" and with that sheepish grin. 

I wanted to give up this blog a long time ago. Kill the "Mistress" off and begin a new life with both of us having a purpose that fit our changes and of our moving forward. Starting New Year's, it seemed the blog pushed forward and soooo many emails from new families; asking questions as they embarked on the world I have lived in the last eight years. Please forgive me when I say I just. could. not. reply as we were going through our own version of hell too that night. How could I give you life experiences and what we did when here our ending was a suicide. I always was honest to say that there were things he did and I did wrong, things done right, lessons learned and, that I never truly had the answers for anyone; just our experiences. Looking back now, I see that he never could move forward with that many demons on his back. In my heart and mind, I had made up my mind that I would never blog again. I didn't want to write this but, there suddenly was a need that has haunted me in the wee hours of around 1:30 a.m. that I could not explain. Every morning I wake on exactly 1:30 a.m. and the strong tug to reach for my laptop and write it out. My Ipod has punished me severely playing his favorite songs sometimes back to back no matter how we shuffle, switch etc. I can't feel him or hear him answer me when I talk to him but, one of my best friends and soul sister said maybe just maybe, the reason the songs were playing was his way of reaching me and the tug? Was to let me know to keep writing as he was so very proud of me.  I don't know what it is but, am trying.

So I dug out the laptop, dusted it off and it has sat here while I am crying or asking him "What do I do without you? What do you want me to do?". When I allowed myself to let my soul sisters and brothers know, his story suddenly became known not just here or there but, everywhere. He was a man of his convictions, a big old bear with a growl so deep but, arms that could make everything just seem better. Yes, the demons within him became so great that one can almost overlook the good things about him. All he wanted was something so little but, so great. Those days brought an outpouring of readers who reached out to me and said "His story changed my life " or "His story and your family's saved mine". That was all he ever wanted.....just to save one. He pushed me to write, pushed me some days to my limit but, said when you write again you tell them. Oh, how I wished he could have seen the outpour and the messages, statements of how his story helped so many of you. He thought no one cared.....he was expendable just like so many others yet, he wasn't. Neither of us realized the impact of my writing it all out but God, I hope he knows somehow.

I don't know if I am crazy with grief, blame and regrets? Just somehow, perhaps....it's him telling me to tell this story. I still will keep my promise that he won't be a forgotten statistic but, right now? I am just too weary to fight anymore. I still haven't "gotten it" that he is gone. I just can't seem to break down as I need to and as the days tick by? I am becoming fearful of that breakdown. The only comfort that is given to me is to know he is with his beloved grandparents, our beloved "Sam" (first dog together) and, with those fallen brothers he just couldn't save and bring them back to their families. I hope they met him at the gate and the pain, guilt, the demons of war and punishment that he carried....is forever gone. That is the only thing that brings any comfort to me now. We learned a great deal from this; much more than just going through a death. Once I gain my wits about me, I will pass these lessons on in hopes that it may save just one. Maybe just maybe.....
 our tragedy can help someone and that be passed on to save one more. 22 a day is real and somehow we have got to fix this. I will hold his service in Spring because he loved the coolness, the flowers starting to bloom and the fishing.

The Widow of PTSD/TBI,




 









 

42 comments:

  1. So beautifully written...wish I could hug you right now.

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  2. I have been following your blog for years. I have always felt as though you were writing the story of our lives. We are there too, with the ER visits, hospitalizations, first name basis with the local PD as they have been at our home time after time after time to talk him down--and then escort him to yet another hospitalization. We have been there with the suicidal ideations, the fights, the flashbacks, manic spending, cheating, and "those" times of the year. There are no words to express how much my heart has broken in hearing that this is where your story went. There is also great fear I feel in reading this, as there are so many similarities between your blogs and our life. I hurt for you and for your boys. I feel the pain, longing, guilt, and confusion radiating through your post. Your words are so deeply painful and unbearably honest, and this is my greatest fear of all. If you need anything at all, please let me know. I pray for healing, understanding, and comfort for you and your kids through this unbelievable tragedy you have suffered.

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  3. No words are sufficient right now, but I am grateful you wrote this. You are a phenomenal woman and your writing is so strong and present. Others NEED to read this to understand the true situation and sometimes dire circumstances that family members and caregivers face. In general, people do not get it; either by looking away or by pacifying with "protocols". You are not alone, though I'm sure it feels that way; please know you are loved, appreciated, and respected. I am so deeply sorry for your loss and know your words will help others.

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  4. SSG Brian Winn and familyFebruary 2, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    Your husband's story saved me three years ago. The ball n chain made me read and I have been here ever since. To whoever you are, I want you to know that my family learned so much from you. we laighed and cried and now will grieve with u to. I know this was very hard to write out but, it made me think of how many times I have done this to my wife and to make me rethink suicidal thoughts. You are our family ma'am and we are ever thankful for all you shared, taught us and what we learned because you did share mistakes. I hope you know he will never become a numbered statistic.. I will have a beer and one left unopened just for him. I have been in this very break and I pussied out of doing it. I know the darkness you wrote about. I am sending an email to your address and hope you know that I will help no matter what. Thank you for all you have given to this world and for standing up for us soldiers who most definitley expendable. Deep respect for Doc and even deeper for you.

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  5. Avetcounselor and 101st Airborne ExpendableFebruary 2, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    I have been reading since the start. Found you accidentally by researching what the hell was wrong with me. I remember a post on medications, symptoms and dunno, it made sense. Point is? You and your husband helped get my ass in the VA and into treatment. I try to stay away from my family as they dont need to see my demons. This though? I have been through and it was like reading my own story had I gone through with my intentions. I now volunteer to help other brothers and that was you Ma'am and your husband. I think this needs to be read by the VA and whoever else is out there wondering what it likes to be at home one second and then not the other. He fought hard USM and you battled beside him. That is worthy of any award highest of the hhighest in my book. You got this tough guy crying because I don't think anyone has really written anything so to the point and honest. I cant imagine how you feel but know you have a lot of brothers and sisters out here reading. I wish I could have met him. This gives me more of a push to help more. Just know he will never be a forgotten number. I am sending my brotherly love in a hug and hope you know how important this blog made me feel and how much it helped me to get my shit together and help others. Shit. Can't believe this. I promise you though he will be remembered in every effort I do. Thank you for putting into words your loss because this needs to be more out there. Not some shit from a book from a VA doc who just got out of school. I hope you know how much you mean to us.

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  6. I am so sorry you had to go through this. When the numbness wears off (and it will in about 30 days, more or less) you will grieve and grieve continuously. That is normal. That is your new normal. Your world will crash and your sons will be dealing with their own pain and their own grief and I'm hoping you are surrounded by understanding folks when it happens. Again, I'm so sorry this had to happen to you and yours and I want you to know that I'm praying for you and your sons.

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  7. It took so much courage and determination to write that out. So many of us could have found ourselves in a similar situation. I don't know how to make it better. I wish I did. And I wish it was an easy solution. It's going to take an overhaul of the way society treats our military and Veterans, and their loved ones. Thank you for sharing your family's story with us. I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart that Doc's battle ended this way. My heart hurts for all of you. Sending you all my love~

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  8. My heart aches. I am overwhelmed by the courage it had to take to post this and share your story.
    I won't pretend there is anything I can do, although if you think of anything at all... please... anything.
    Know though, that your words, not just today but at many other times have mattered deeply to me.
    Your story matters so much. From my heart to yours much love.

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  9. Thank you, Kat, for reaching through your pain to continue the mission. Please, please know that it was successful more than you'll ever know. Your story has and will helped more than just one. We love you sister!!!!!

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  10. I am so sorry. I know that's inadequate, but if there are words that would help now I'm not sure. Prayers for you and the family.

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  11. May your dear husbands soul rest in peace. May your children feel the comfort and love from strangers that they may never meet. May you heal and know deep in your heart you are a survivor, a true hero and a selfless and loyal wife that did an amazing job at the hardest job of all. Please give yourself time to feel the pain, sadness and grief and then give yourself permission to heal and move forward with peace and love. Your entire family is in my thoughts and prayers. I have never met you face to face, but I have met your soul and it is pure and full of good. When you feel the pain is to much to bear I hope you do write and you give us the chance to be there for you like you have been for everyone else. May your loving soul be blessed with peace and love from this moment forward.

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  12. Kat, I send my deepest thoughts to you. I have followed your journey...read each word, felt your tears, cried with you, celebrated with you, feared for your life and your sanity, and cheered you on....from the beginning of your blog. This news saddens me. I know this new journey in your life is not the one you choose but you have many things left to tell.

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  13. I wanted you to know that you helped saved me with your writing. You and your husband did make a difference. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you.

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  14. Desertcoloredglasses (brother Jason)February 4, 2015 at 4:59 AM

    You also helped me. God so many calls I made remember? You saved me. My brother saved me. Please don't kill off the Mistress. This hurts me. I thank God every day for you. You helped me not by just reading but, getting me where my broke ass needed to be. Babe you're husband was more than just a "Doc" to me. I admired him and you for having the balls to stand up and say Here the fuck we am! Just take comfort in knowing all his brothers led him to the gate. He is in no more pain. I can stand and say I have tried multiple times and you know, I was fucked up pretty badly still am. You know where I am. You know how to reach me. I am your brother. Looks like this post went viral and damn USM, he would have been so proud of you. He was always braggin on you saying there isn't anything she can't do I must have read this a million times not understanding hes gone so I get it. We are family now sister. I would go back to war for you and your boys. I love you much and please let me know when his service will be. I'd like to try and drive down and get to see him off and to finally give you a damn hug. Im sorry honey. Im so very sorry. Just know a lot of fucking beers went all over the US unopened and us brothers toasted him with ours. Leave no man behind right? I am not going to leave you behind.

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  15. I know you in multiple ways both as a friend and a fellow writer. This has to be the most accurate way of documenting what its really like. You were given a gift and I can only imagine how hard this was to write. You did though and I can only stand back and admire you that much more. You are a beacon of light for many of us and I don't know what I would have done had I not found your blog years ago. He will never be forgotten because one, we who are left will keep his wish alive and two? You got spirit that is so great it shines more than you could ever see. I know there are no words to comfort you right now but, I know you. I know that smile and how you just talk to little people who think they matter not but, you make them feel so vital and important. You made me feel that way. It's not just your words you write it's just you in person and all the way around. I love you sister. Wish you could see that #22 has buzzed around you and that means so much awareness. It's time to stop this madness and the world pay attention. I think all of us felt time stood still the day you posted this. I wish I could say so much more but I have not the words. Please know you are loved deeply and we'll be there to support you.

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  16. I am so sorry damn i dunno what to say. He was a great man even with the demons. Is there no help for us USM? How do we keep them from falling? I wish I could do something anything to help repay all you done for us. My family was saved. I think he knows now that you fulfilled his promise. Rest easy Brother. You are family now USM. I will not fail you.

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  17. I was hoping we could have brought him home faster to you. Please know that I ran as fast as I could trying to get to him. Know that he loved you and know my heart is broken too. He thought the world of you and was so proud. I am so sorry I couldn't bring him back like I said. I feel I let you down. Don't worry about that man we took care of that shit real quick. I know the damage to you was great though and please know to hear your scream has not left my mind. I think many of us broke that day. I will be by soon to see you. I just need to know you forgive me. I couldn't bring him home to you and I don't think I forgive myself.

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  18. I don't know what tosay. Know we are praying and you are very much loved. Know his story saved our family. I know that doesn't make it better but, you fulfilled his wishes. he knows usm he knows.

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  19. I grew up with him in a small town in VA. He was so nice in high school. I wished I had kept up with him afterward. I was surprised to learn he had gone through so much. I just remember him being quiet and painfully shy. Please know our family is praying for yours. We are thankful for his service to his country more than you know and know that he is no longer in pain.

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  20. I just don't have the words right now to make you feel better. I sobbed through this and then reread it out loud to husand. That wasn't him husband said. He was in war with himself and he died honorably. Never forget that. I wish I could come and take away the pain the same way you eased ours two years ago when I accidentally landed here. Please know are thought of highly.

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  21. I wept when I read your post. We have never met, but we have known each other for years, through our respective words and the strength we have lent to other through our words and willingness to share our mutual struggles with PTSD. I will be honoring you and your husband, a fellow veteran, in my blog's next post. I will share it out to you as soon as it's published. Please find strength and solace in the love of your family, children, and friends.

    Max Harris, Combat Veterans with PTSD

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  22. I am just wow. don't know what to say. just know you are still my sister, my battle and i promise i won't call you so much. you know i have been there and you and Sarge just caught me before i fell over that cliff. i am so fucking mad because i should have been there for you and him. will u be able to forgive me? I knew by talking to him he had changed in just such a short time. ok well hell. i dont know what to say but USM you both saved me. you know this. i have emailed you rather than call but please let me know the service date. i will be there. i love you and will miss him. you still are my sister no matter what. you both never left anyone behind. i love u. miss you brother. David Mattherson

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  23. For loss of words, I almost skipped writing something. Please know you have captured the hearts of so many of us who also struggle to uphold our warriors. And who knows how many you have saved as you bare YOUR heart. Praying for you and your family now. THANK YOU. (Welby O'Brien)

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  24. This is my first visit to your blog and I am so heartbroken for you and your family. I am one of those spouses that you are helping with your writing. Thank you so much for being honest and saying what so many spouses feel inside but can't find the words.
    Peace be with you and your family.

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  25. I don't want to reveal your real name ma'am so will keep this anonymous. I really did not want to reed this but, I check "out" all the time and don't know what I do sometimes. I know that you know this and we all do it. I have thought of killing myself often but then i read this and it made me want to live longer. so if anything came from this? it saved MY life. I didnt want to see my wife and girls to have this much sorrow in their lives. it also made me appreciate mine more and my family cause all i could think about was what would help me. I could punish myself for grief and guilt. Wiskey helps the demons but doesnt take them away. my wife was crying and sobbing just by reading this. she said don't read it but i did. i cried too. he was a fine man and none of us ever came home. i wanted to say thank you and send you our number. we arent but two states away and we would drop anything to be at your side. this was very hard to read but its the damn truth. its probably the best example of what are nation is facing. i go online every day and we all see 22 a day but it never really hit me. its like ok, what a fucking shame. 22 brothers a day and no one cares. it really hit me hard because now i see that 22 different. I see his grin, his laughter and his face. I remember how kind you were to a complete stranger and how you both could just work as a team and not ashamed. my wife said when we met you that she wished she had as much strength as you did. but she does. she doesnt know though. i don't know how you know, or how you can just get it but you got all of us. you just know and its like talking to a fellow brother. i tell my wife thank you and remind her how much i love her every day because you said you cant be something if you both give nothing. fuck this just kills me. know you helped us. know HE helped us. He was haunted and i know why because its the same ghosts. you and him? you guys shined in the room. i remember gunny coming up to me and your husband saying its ok. he just knows im ok and i needed him more that minute than he did. he was unselfish and you hugged me and it just felt like family. so you have family in AL as we moved but we are not that far. i am emailing you my new number. just wanted to tell "Doc" that he saved so many and this post is everywhere. he changed the world and you held him up along with so many. you and the boys are in my prayer and call us anytime sister. i would like to know when his service is and will do my best to get there. thank you Mama K for all the things you did for me and my family. It will hoping come back around full circle. you are our sister and each day i wake up breathing i will pray to god and thank him for sending two special angels to lift our family up. god bless you both. Stephen J

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  26. I lost touch with him in high school. I had a friend in VA who deployed and came home messed up badly. I have been reading you for two years before i ever knew it was J. Last time I saw him was in Lebanon and he was talking about this girl and he was so excited. when i read his obituary and this post went viral i put two and two together. he was so shy in school but he was so happy he had found you. I dont know you but i see in my friend everything you write about and I've read all the posts from the start to learn anything that can help. My friend was able to get his VA disability but, the National Guard is not doing him right. I just wanted to say I am so very sorry that he is gone but, both of you changed so many. Its helping a lot more than just the one he wanted to save. I will keep you and the family in our prayers. God Bless You.

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  27. A Marine who was saved by an angel with a purple streakFebruary 10, 2015 at 6:55 PM

    He saved my life. You picked me up at 2 a.m. one cold night and you took me to the ER and had me admitted. He always said you could do anything and USM I believe it. He came to visit and so did you. I tried to overdose remember? I am doing good as I can as screwed up as I am. I sat and wanted to pick the phone up but I am lost for words. You took the ER doctor on like nobodys business to help a vet who was strung out. you both never looked at me with pity or with shame. I saw your husband in Oct when he was at the VA. hewas bragging on you but said you were sick. he said he was so scared that you would not make it and he couldnt live without you. I can see why because you shine like a angel. I remember you holding my hand and your husband said hang on brother. just hang on. He was very proud of you and every vet bitches about their ol ladies. We dont mean to do it honestly. Just know you holding my hand and putting one hand on my face and saying you arent gone yet and we're not going to let you go alone so lets get this shit out of you and we will help you. and you did. I cant believe i just saw him not too long ago. I just wanted you to know that there should be no doubt in your mind your husband loved you and we all do. you helped him and somehow managed all the rest of us. I will miss him and will try to call you soon. I wanted to give you time but after reading this, i wanted you to know he was bragging on you. he said you were really sick and on chemo. It scared him but he said shes a hell of a fighter so she will beat this too. If you need me, you have my number in your phone. It has VA ER next to my name. I dont want to break the confidence of your name. Just know Ma'am that those people in the VA respected you highly, you were able to help me and while no family, you patched me up, took me home and I would talk to your husband. He said my wife is gonna change the world. Something said you needed to know this. Doc is in heaven fishing up a storm and with those lost souls he could not bring home. I cant repay you for all you did just know I still remember your hand on my face and his arms slung over my shoulders all while you were fussing to get me in. You have a soul that shines like a lighthouse and your husband and you were the power duo to me. God sends. You made me feel I was important and to live. I wanted you to know I was able to complete the drug rehab and project oddessy through WWP. I would very much love to come see you and give you the same love and kindness in return. I will give you some time. I love both of you and know he is there still. part of the tug on writing you mentioned in this article? Thats him honey. In Oct he said you were planning on moving to books like a mystery or history? can't remember but you just had to see the awe in him when he spoke of you. you were more than his wife or a caregiver he said. you were the life he breathed but god he was so proud. please know that some of us do check out completely. I have found myself in many strange places and not knowing how the hell I got there. I started college like you suggested and just two like you said. All the tips and things you helped me with I decided i would like to work with other Veterans. It will be my gift to the world as two spirits once gifted to me hope. He left to save you honey from so much. He will always be there for you. Thank you for everything and will call you soon.

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  28. you are writing all of our stories whether it be the spouse point of view or that of us combat veterans. no one understands. I just don't know how to thank you or what to say that would make you feel better but know he still is changing the world. My family's condolences

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  29. I too am a widow. Husband took his life on Christmas Eve. I know your pain but commend you for bravely documenting this "side" of Veterans that we all love, care and live with. You have no idea how many people you have helped just by writing your story out. It was hard for me to read even four years after my husband's death but, you are right on point with showing the side that can happen to anyone at any time. Spouses, families and caregivers need to see this truth and understand that its NOT them that turn black and sometimes all you do means nothing because once they are back in battle? That can last for a minute to much longer. I am glad you wrote this. It is my story too.

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  30. I work at a VA so can't say much or leave my name. I was a military child of a Vietnam Father. I've seen this very thing happen to my family which is why I now work at the VA. I just wanted you to know it was very brave for you to sit down and document so others can see. I learned a lot here myself and often use your blog as a reference point. Your family's story has made me work that much harder. I am hurting in my heart when I got my email notification and read this. I did pass it around to ALL the social workers. You know the ones who just read the book and hope to hell they can bluff their way to look like they know what they are doing. Life experience and reading a blog as yours is where you really learn. It was this important you had the courage to stand up once more and share this tragedy. I am holding your family in my heart and hope you know he saved so many and taught some of us some new things. My condolences to you and yours.

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  31. 101st Certified Crazy VeteranFebruary 10, 2015 at 9:45 PM

    you both saved my life twice. you helped my wife get the strength she needed to put up with me and possibly why she is still here. I can't thank you enough

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  32. I have laughed with you. I have cried with you. I get angry when you do. I learned so much from you but, also you saved me from being so alone. I can never say enough to show my thanks. I sat here reading some of the comments and felt I needed to tell you not to kill off the Mistress whoever you are. I read a lot of books and study as much as I can on my husbands injuries but you? I learned more from you than anything because you are writing a lot of the wounded veteran's spouses. I never tire of reading your words and feelings because you echo my words that are stuck in me. I am so sorry your story ended up in tragedy and I know it won't ease your pain but, there are many of us who love, respect and adore you. Sending all my love from AK.

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  33. You both helped me get to the Vet Center and had called before to a counselor who was so nice to me. He took me to inpatient and drug rehab. I never forgot that and you holding my hand and telling me that I can do it. I did. Your husband kept in touch and I have tried to call since end of November. I thought maybe he would call back. Last I heard from him he sounded stressed. I feel guilty because you both were so nice to a total stranger and the fact he hugged me and said you can do this brother. While I didn't know why he did not call me back I am racked with guilt that I should have kept calling and maybe I could have returned the call. You both saved me and I am two years clean. It's been a rough ride but I would have never made it had you both not been there. I am so sorry to hear of his death. Just know it wasn't to hurt you, it was to save you. I will call you when some of the major heartache has hit. I dont want to hurt you or be a pest. I don't have the words but know I miss him and you. It took a lot of balls to sit and right this but its true. My wife read it and bawled but she said everything you wrote is almost where we've been. I don't know the darkness and I don't see the ugly side but she has and said no one described it the right way. That night we read this we went to bed and held on to each other all night. In some ways, his story helped strengthen my marriage. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and he most definitely saved more than one from falling.

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  34. I think we all came back with no souls. Its how I feel. I feel hollowed out and am fuck'n angry all the time at this world as they just used us and then treat us like trash. I did not sign up for anything more than to fight for my country and the freedom most take advantage. I think a lot of us vets can relate to this. I am sharing as I think it needs to be read by everyone. I wish I had good words to help the pain but know he is in no more pain. No more battles will he have to fight every day. Keeping you on my list so I can keep following. Thank you for writing this. I needed to see it and so did many others. I fought for people like you.

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  35. I shared this with a lot of my friends and family. They all say they "understand" but you are the first that I have seen talk about the distortion and blackness. It really is like seeing someone or something else. This is our story too. Mine has tried four times. I don't look to what if but what can I do. I learned a lot here. Look forward to more lessons to be learned as always. Sending you many XOXOX's USM. You rock as always. I am so very sorry that this is ended tragically.

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  36. Wow. Just wow. I think you just titled your blog with the most thought of sentence of this entire war. Stigma to a Statistic needs to be ready by all branches and VA's. Please accept my condolences and may our brother rest in peace.

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  37. My heart is absolutely breaking. I have been reading you for years. I just can't believe this. It's sad but a good reminder that we are so lost and the world forgot about the men and women who stood up when called. I just don't have the words right now to comfort you. I am bawling. I am going to share. We will all help you keep that promise you made him. I have learned so much but more I don't feel alone when I come here. I can check off things mentally and say this is so much like my life. Beautifully written and I hope somehow he knows how much he changed the world. Melanie B

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  38. The hurt will pass. This is normal and its going to take a lot of time. I lost my wife this way. It's been four years but I still ache and know the very same cold. He was a good man and you were his champion fighter. You both did a lot for so many of us. I am emailing you a support group for widows or widowers. Maybe you can find some comfort in knowing YOU aren't alone because by God you had a talent in making others feel not alone. God Bless you.

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  39. I love you USM. You did everything you could. I will be by to see you soon. I know you are having a hard time and this makes this ol vet tear up. He was a good man, he was my friend. We won't forget him.I'll be there at his service all you have to do is let us know.

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  40. I have seen this post being shared everywhere. His death will never be forgotten. I see the numbers but it never hit me because I didn't know what it was like. This blog is exactly what it is like in our lives as Caregivers. I am also going to share this with NAMI. I hope you find some comfort in knowing his story and yours changed so many lives. You kept your promise. Now let us help you keep the promise of not being just a number. We love you.

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  41. I am so sorry for your loss.

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