Saturday, January 30, 2010

This Might Happen to You

Good Morning Fellow PTSD followers! I woke up this morning to a literal winter wonderland! Lots of snow landed here in East Tennessee yesterday and I love it! Sitting here with my computer and my coffee, I thought more about what I would like to blog about today. After some hard thinking, and trying to keep within my second New Year's Resolution of being organized, I thought I would talk about symptoms and what those entail from my perspective.

The most confusing aspect I think of PTSD is not knowing what all accompanies this disorder. If you are a spouse or family member, more than likely you already know from firsthand experience.  Although the military gives you short list of "what you might expect", sometimes it's nice to know what all the symptoms are so you are better prepared. This alleviates that "deer caught in the headlight look" when one of these symptoms shows up.  I would like to reiterate that the military did not give me a handbook to go by, so most of all of these I personally experienced with ignorance on the subject itself.  I have been to the Army sites, Mayo Mental Health Clinic, and many PTSD resource sites. Thought on this glorious snowy day,  we dear readers will compare our scars...some of which we were informed might happen and some they failed to mention.

What I think is funny that the military gives you a "this might happen to you" scenario but in jargon most people don't understand.  I am a smart cookie, educated and a reader but no less I still didn't understand most of what they told us. I like how they give you one or two word explanations of Flashbacks, hyperarousal,  numbness and avoidance. Now if you don't have a full explanation of what these are, you are pretty much left in the dark.  So let's move on to the first symptom that your soldier "might" experience.
1. Flashbacks or Intrusive Memories. Well this one is self explanatory and although I haven't been able to witness it firsthand obviously because I am not psychic, it is simply reliving the traumatic moment for minutes or days at a time.  My husband did tell me one time it was like having a digital camera in his head, flipping through those moments over and over again. Sometimes he can think of other things and clear his head, other times he can't seem to rid his mind of anything but that.
2.  Upsetting Dreams:  Not really much explanation on this one. Can we lump this into the nightmare category or just every night dreams like we all have? Come on Military, who really knows what this means? I can say this though, in nightmares my husband has had he has relived the moment of terror for many nights after he came home.  Most of which I could make out, some of which I realized what it pertained to after speaking to one of his fellow members about some things that happened over there after the fact.  In this discussion, I realized then what my husband was screaming about or mumbling about in his sleep.
3. Avoidance and Emotional Numbing: Avoid what people? Emotional numbing? The only Doctor I can really relate to is Dr. Seuss, let alone define and understand what emotional numbing is!  This avoidance and emotional numbing includes according to the Mayo Clinic: Trying to avoid thinking or talking about traumatic event, feeling emotionally numb, avoiding activities they once enjoyed, hopelessness about the future, memory problems, trouble concentrating, difficulty maintaining close relationships.  Well readers, I can relate to all of these.  Open communication is something that doesn't happen in our marriage....not always, but since the two years he has been home.  It's not just about war related topics, it's pretty much anything and everything.  The most we talk about is what he might want for supper that evening, or perhaps the latest about his mother if he listens to me long enough to rant.  I have absolutely no idea what is going on with my husband's life.  What a shame huh? Considering this used to be my very best friend that we shared everything with each other.
4. Emotional numbing:  Oh yeah. Have faced that demon many times in the last two years. What irritates me about the military's maybe/might/possibly definition doesn't quite explain the lengths to which this numbness goes to. He doesn't care. Period. He doesn't care what he says, how he hurts people, how he lets them down. His explanation for everything is "well I have PTSD" and well everyone is just expected to say ok. Put a smile on boys, ladies take the hearts off the prepared to get walked on and your feelings trampled on because we got a man with PTSD. He doesn't even try to act like he cares. That's not emotional numbing, its emotional death. It's the end of my old husband and friend, it's an empty pod person with no heart and has no conscious.
5. Avoiding activities they once enjoyed:  Let's revamp that phrase. Let's add in, avoids all family members, buddies at work, lost interest in fishing which was his all time his favorite past time, working or putzing in his garage, and of course spending any time with his wife.  Let's not forget spending any time with his children, showing interest in their developments or achievements.  The only activity I can say he still enjoys and doesn't avoid is football.  Any and all football.
6. Hopelessness about the future.  I can honestly say I really don't understand this one and perhaps in  my situation this is the only one that doesn't apply to me or my husband.  Of course, since there is no conversation and he pretty much avoids anything and everything, I may be missing some of this.
7. Memory Problems and Trouble Concentrating:  Yes and Yes! Memory seems to have gone MIA somewhere between Iraq and Wisconsin.  Still looking for it.  I used to think he was so preoccupied with other things that he would simply forget...but it's getting worse and the more I think about it, the more I see it in everyday things. Some days it's just forgetting what I told him to pick up at the store, or simply forgetting family obligations or promises made.  Sometimes I feel he just forgot about us period. Most of the time it's like dealing with someone who has ADD.
8. Difficulty Maintaining Close Relationships:  Ain't dat de truth! Seriously....who thinks of this stuff? Should this even be a number in this classifications of symptoms? I mean, looking at the seven top signs listed here, one could possibly maintain that holding down a committed relationship would be quite hard.  Perhaps not just for the person with PTSD but with the other party concerned.
So there it is. The top eight signs you know your spouse has PTSD. Well, in some of these I can see just a typical ass of a man who really is self absorbed and selfish.  Although not true, this really doesn't give you much help or help a spouse understand what is going on. What happened to the "what causes this" if you didn't already look it up.  I really like the portions where they tell you if your soldier exhibits these signs then seek help immediately! Before I go into that topic, lets save that for another blog! My next blog will go into the stuff they don't tell you about and what my perspective is on each one of them and my experiences. For those who actually made it this far, I hope you found some comfort in there knowing that you aren't the only one who stays confused about symptoms. Until next time......

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Years Resolutions and Mountains

Welcome to my first blog! Never blogged before but always a new adventure and always time to learn something new! Perhaps more of self therapy than anything, we will classify this as one of many of my New Year's Resolutions. Maybe by my blogging and expressing my points of view, someone else may read this and understand what I am going through and the many ups and downs I face every day. Some days are easy to tackle and done before you know it. Other days however, can be as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest in the buff and with no way back down. It's those days that I need to know I am not alone. It's for those that need to know they are not alone either. Together perhaps, we can bind our problems together and face that mountain and reach the top.

First off, I am married to a soldier diagnosed with PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for those who need further explanation. Don't know much about it...wasn't issued a book from the military, even a book for Dummies would have been nice. Instead, my husband served his country proudly and endured many hardships along the way of his deployment. What you might ask? I have no idea. The thought of opening up communication on my husband's behalf of exactly what went on over there seems to be a taboo subject. I believe though in my heart perhaps that he believes that I will somehow be disappointed, angry or look at him differently. Other parts of me think he just doesn't care anymore to let anyone in.

I will be selfish enough to say that I endured as well. Many families suffer, but I think it pales in comparison to those families who wait patiently behind while their soldiers go off to war. Somewhere between phone calls home, emails or letters, my husband was listed MIA and never came home. Someone came home on that plane and I met him at the airport....but I just knew taking one look at him....I no longer saw the light in his eyes or recognized the man I loved. Yes, the love was there....Yes, I was ecstatic over him being home and no longer having to watch my front door for those men in the official car giving me notice of death....yes it was relief because thank the good Lord above I had someone to help me with the kids and items incessantly falling apart while he was gone!! Most of all I could not wait to have my best friend home. I can't describe the feeling I had, nor can I say I didn't try searching for him in this "pod" of a person the military sent home. Whatever Uncle Sam sent me on that plane, was darn sure not my husband I sent over.

Some days I keep trying to look and look, and I feel guilty like I should be seeing him and am not. Other days I am resentful because I see this man, and wonder why the hell am I staying here living with this nightmare? I live by the golden song of Tammy Wynette, but did she have to face all this when singing "Stand by your man"????? PTSD.....I totally read up on the subject although I find that in the military world not only is there a HUGE stigma attached which weighs down the soldier and prevents him from opening up. This subject of PTSD also seems to be a hush hush word like the word "gay" way back when such a thing was just not openly talked about. I search and search for help, resources lead into dead ends.....We as families get promised all this help before they get back but I have been sending up flares and the weekly SOS, but so far nothing. They teach you that your soldier may or may not exhibit certain types of behaviors......possibly should these get worse, then utilize what the military benefits cover and get help! When help is not there, or so far out of reach, then what do you do?

The VA sure helps somewhat...I can understand that the system itself has many many soldiers from the Vietnam era and Korean War, not to mention the Gulf War Vets topped off with our OIF and OEF soldiers. So many men and women, and what perhaps two doctors to see them all? It's easy to sit and say, yes you have PTSD...let's give you four types of medication to "help" combat the symptoms, and let's hope you don't kill yourself or someone else in the process...see you in three months."

One meeting with a PTSD counselor to talk about issues these soldiers face and the next one scheduled in three to four weeks down the road. Not much help there either there guys. Needs to be on a more personal basis, and definitely more help. Am I resentful towards all this? Sure....anyone in my position would be. I served proudly along side my soldier...I endured 15 months of hell waiting for that phone call....crying myself to sleep with his pillow. Unless you have had someone you love so dearly leave for deployment not knowing what will happen in the could never understand the sacrifices the family of a soldier gives up. No one understands the relief when their voice is on the line for just one more time, or the disappointment when they don't call or you hear from them period for days. I made it through and as an individual I discovered a lot about myself. I ventured onto many things that captivated my interest and mostly to just keep me busy....but a year and half, yes I sacrificed and so did my family.

With sacrifices made on a whole family who served and served proudly, you would think that our families and soldiers who do come home with PTSD deserve just more than anti-depressants, and other meds you aren't really sure of. I do know this, all these solid white medication bottles with little white labels aren't helping much at all. Do they help? Not really sure how to answer that one. Let's just say its simply a glorified mask on Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde. If I had to come up with a fair description, then that would be the first to come to mind. Although I am slightly resentful, I still maintain my respect for the armed forces, still hold true to my patriotism, and probably would bleed red, white and blue should I get a paper cut. I think what I feel most days is hurt and disappointment. Not only in my husband for allowing this disorder completely swallow him whole without a fight....but in the military itself for allocating money for stupid and useless items (hey, I watch dateline) rather than taking a portion of it and helping our soldiers.

I am hurt that when the call went out, our soldiers stopped and answered. They went and served with acceptance that if they gave their lives out of country, they died as heroes and died protecting all of us. So who wouldn't be hurt that the same could not be asked from our government? Why is it so hard to take care of our soldiers when they took care of our country? Is it really too much to ask for?

Wow. Reading over my very first blog, I have discovered that I am not too good at this! I also just broke one of my other New Year's Resolution of being more organized, when this is a little haphazardly written! I do promise though, that every blog I write will be somewhat sensible and hopefully someone else will feel better knowing that someone else feels the way they do. I am tired of sending out an SOS and pleading for help, only to get that blank stare and the "Oh just go to the VA"...honestly people, there is not a whole lot of help for the families with a soldier living with PTSD. I am not asking for a solution, or even having my husband returned back to normal. God knows what he went through, and my heart breaks for him every day.....I am just asking for someone to listen and give me advice....lead me down a path well lit rather than go through each day in the dark hoping I can find my way. I keep hoping and praying....maybe one day it will happen.

For those who made it through all this, thank you. You are a better person than I for listening to my rambles! Hopefully this will be a new start for myself and for you dear readers. Together we can possibly find solace within each other and lean on each other when those dark days are upon us. Here is to climbing mountains together!

Warm Regards,

A Survivor