Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Questions to the Mistress (Take Two)

In response to some of the emails, the ones I have gained permission from I will be posting for others to see as I feel they are really important and relevant to many of us spouses. Thanks to the senders for allowing me to post these! 

"You mentioned that your husband has spending habits that are causing issues. My husband has spent, spent and spent to the point we are maxed out on our monthly income. How did you get through all this? I am starting to resent my husband as it's becoming a major argument with him all the time and he doesn't care! I am scared that it will get worse. Any suggestions?"
AT, Kentucky 

AT~ I wish I had all the answers but I am learning as you are. My husband has been a big spender since he came home from Iraq and at first, I didn't think too much of it because it wasn't that big of a deal.  I figure he was the "bring home the bacon" provider in our household, and deployment money was earned with literally blood, sweat and tears. Who was I to say no to a few extravagant purchases? As his PTSD progressed and got worse, I noticed an increase in his spending habits. Going from one that was very conscientious about money and being a tightwad, my proverbial Mr. Scrooge went to Mr. Money bags without a care in the world! 

It's not big things, just a pile up of smaller items. Occasionally newer large ticketed priced tools show up in our garage, although he never uses them since he has been home. I would and still get upset with him as we have three boys who are eating me out of house and home. With school, birthdays and not too far away, Christmas....I get so frustrated with him because he doesn't think! I am not sure why PTSD veterans do these types of things. I read on several sites that the reason behind spending is due to dealing with the guilt, trauma they endured, and with the losses they have suffered.  I guess it would be like us girly girls who have a bad day or a bad breakup and go shopping at the mall to pacify our sadness. This "spending" habit does fall under PTSD in the categories of Addictions, Self destructing/Unhealthy Behavior/ and failure to cope.

How to stop it? I have no clue. It has helped since he sees a counselor and finding other coping skills besides slapping a few dollar bills on his unseen wounds. You need to be sure though that a therapist or counselor knows PTSD. If you are utilizing the VA system, find someone else. Reason I say that is, you are looking at how many veterans walking through the door? Most spouses I have encountered and hearing their stories, some therapists/psychologists are really only concerned with self destructing behaviors like sex, drugs and alcohol problems. One therapist I talked to stated I am lucky to only have money problems and my Vet not be doing drugs or leaning towards being an alcoholic. Didn't make me feel better although he had a good point. I should be grateful, but does that make bankrupting us any less of a serious issue? No.

To be honest with you, it has come down to the point where I have had to hide money. Pay checks come, I move money into a savings account. Through our local bank, I can bank online with a variety of security measures and passwords. I have two accounts one that is joint, one that is personal and one that is savings. Once the pay check comes, I don't dilly dally about paying bills because that just leaves "extra" money in the bank he thinks is still available. I have all our bills for each month which rarely go up more than say 20.00. I immediately remove the money and put into a savings account so I can pay our bills. I budget our grocery, gas and amenities for the month and also set that aside. If there is more than three hundred dollars left, I move what I can to the savings account for emergencies. What is left, is what is left. If he wants something, he asks. If we don't have the money, or it's too much...then of course I nip that in the bud.

It has come down to the point of lying to him to save us from being broke. Now we live modestly and check to check some months. Hell, we are homeowners now and that means we will be broke for a while! lol All credit cards have been surrendered and hidden. He does have a bank card but our accounts are set up that if the money isn't there, he can't go over. Now we try to have "pouting" money as we call it here, or pocket money for the occasional drinks, McDonald's sweet tea, or his can of Skoal he buys. This allows him to have some spending money and once it's gone, then it's gone. Credit cards are now being paid off and I hate that I must treat him like a child. However, the sane part of him that surfaces occasionally understands and why I must do what I do. That may not help you any, but it's what I was forced to do in our situation. I know how you must feel and in today's economy, being broke is down to the level of being "not enough 0's in the word POOR" for many of us. It may be treating him like a child and teaching him to save his allowance, but sometimes I have to do what I have to do to keep this marriage and family afloat. Hope that answers your question..........

"I noticed that you have TBI on your blog title and in some of your blogs, you mention your soldier has TBI. I have been following your blog since March and haven't see you talk about it much. I just wondered why as I believe my husband may have the same thing. We are going to the VA for other things but when I mention it to the doctor's, they just act like I am one dumb wife. Thanks. "
CD in AL

Been there and done that with the VA! Let me give you a brief "what happened" with my husband. My husband was injured from an IED blast with knocked him backwards, knocking his head pretty severely. I noticed when he came home along with the issues of PTSD that he was exibiting symptoms that didn't fall under PTSD or what most sites give you as guidelines. TBI is not one of those things that was actively discussed three years ago. Upon demobilization, the standard "let's hurry up and get you on through so you can get the hell out of our way" questions were asked our returning soldiers. "Are you suffering from suicidal thoughts or feel you are a threat to society?" This is their idea for screening for PTSD and yes I know, nosebleed right? "Were you severely injured in an IED explosion causing head injuries reported by Medical while in Iraq". 

Ok...now if you look at both questions, what are we missing here? A TON! Number one, not all soldiers exhibiting emotional issues or signs of PTSD think of killing themselves or someone else immediately upon returning home. If they did, how many are going to say "Uh yeah, that would be me". Second, the TBI questions are not asked specifically or given situational examples as you can get TBI in many different ways. Being in an IED explosion and being hospitalized is going to make some soldiers say "No. I was never severely injured". However, TBI can come from many things other than just that. This was a way to push this many men through the system and left many soldiers undiagnosed with the condition. 

In our case, I noticed my husband was suffering from dizzy spells, headaches, sometimes severe headaches with numbness, stumbling or tripping over his own feet, problems with comprehension in reading or solving basic problems. He used to be a Duct Tape McGuiver. You give him a pocket knife and some screws, and the man could build you a mansion. His memory loss was what concerned me the most and was so bad that he would forget where he was, or sometimes he would drive and just get lost. The Army sent me to FRG training and there, was a doctor from the VA. At this time, they were discussing TBI and completely skipped over PTSD which really made me irate. However, that training gave me some insights to this mysterious TBI subject and suddenly I started connecting the dots. He matched up with many of these symptoms. The biggest thing was when the doctor stated sometimes they don't screen for TBI upon demobilization and often symptoms get lumped into PTSD. 

You better believe when I got home I dragged my husband back to the VA for a screening. First you need to call the VA and ask the operator who you would need to talk to, to get a screening. In our case, we were connected to the correct department and they asked him some fairly simply, direct to the point questions. This is called a "Pre-Screening for Traumatic Brain Injury". Here my husband passed this first test and they set up an appointment. Go through your PCM or psychiatrist even though they are giving you crap. You can let them know on the next appointment you attend that you are concerned that he may be having signs of TBI and that you feel it's necessary that your soldier be screened for this. It is still recorded in their files that this has come up. They need to be aware that you feel you are being ignored in your concerns. If you choose to call the VA and do the pre-screen, we didn't have to worry about going through psychiatrist or PCM for my husband. 

After the pre-screen, they then set him up an appointment for him to be asked a million questions. Our appt took about an hour to go through. This you NEED to be there for. Reason I say this, is because you live with him. You know the differences and changes in him. You also know when something is wrong. I will tell anyone that if you can attend with your soldier, do so. We notice the slightest of changes and often times our soldiers don't remember or just don't realize it. Mine simply forgets. There were many questions in that exam that I answered that my husband didn't know about. Once you get through all that, they will do an MRI and Xray. (Again all in our case) After that, they will set up an appointment where the Vet must go through around 6-8 hours of a series of tests. Most of which is written and graded. We had an appointment just recently stating that he had mild TBI, but yet his scores on  some of the tests were so low that the Polytrauma Doctor could not grade them.  We have an appointment that was set three months after his diagnosis in May to discuss care plans for him and treatments. 

I do occasionally mention TBI in my blogs or make reference to his memory loss. However, we are relatively new to this other unseen wound and  I don't feel comfortable in giving advice on a subject that I don't know much about. I am learning as you are about the whys, the how's, and the treatments of Traumatic Brain Injury. I can say as much as I get tired of Family Readiness Group training, I was ever so happy to been lucky enough to go and discover all of this. If I had not, it probably would not have been diagnosed. My husband was involved in several explosions, one that knocked him back a good ten feet; another the concussion of a nearby blast knocking him down. There are several incidents where TBI could have occurred, but he was never in a humvee or truck that rolled over an IED. Make sense?

I came across this article from Veteran's Journal in reference to TBI a while back and bookmarked it. I really like the laid back explanation of TBI that doesn't require you to have a John Hopkin's Medical degree on your wall to understand. There is also this on Wikipedia . I hope this helps you somewhat on answering your questions and there are several spouses who we all comment on each other's blogs. One, PTSD: A Caregiver's Perspective (her site is currently on the fritz temporarily but you can find her in my list of blogs) is familiar with TBI and Wife of a Wounded Soldier also I believe, is going through this. As I learn more, I will discuss it more. As for any issues that you see in your war Vet, take note, listen to your gut instincts, and fight for the screening and treatments! 

Thank you for all the emails,

~Uncle Sam's Mistress~


  1. I am glad that you pushed for you husband to be tested. We always have to advocate for them and we know them better than anyone else.

    With TBI and my husband he had a concussion and was on life support for a while. He also lost almost all his blood and got 16 blood transfusions at time of injury and many more later. With that being said it's hard to say if it was a TBI or ABI. Either way he has deficits in many ways. However I feel there is finally treatment for this.

    At Walter Reed they said give it two years and if it doesn't go back to the way you were before than so be it. I didn't accept this as an answer. My husband can't have an MRI due to all his shrapnel but a SPECT scan and psych testing can also prove a TBI. Please ladies ask for this testing. Once it is done then you can look towards treatment and education. Thanks for posting this.

  2. I thought you guys were going through this. Can you give some insight yet on treatment process? I am just curious as to what they do for all this. Mine is in the "cognitive" dept and don't really understand what this means. After three years, nothing showed up on the MRI but they said it wouldn't unless it happened recently. I am pretty much clueless in this department. Hopefully will understand more when we finally get to see the TBI doctor. We were assigned a TBI caseworker as well and not sure what that entails either or what she is there for. Will say that we have talked to her twice and has been suuuuper nice. Thanks WWS for jumping in here.....

  3. Not to be condescending. But it doesn't take PTSD to make a male spend money like a drunken sailor. If not for the frugal nature of my loving wife, I wouldn't have a pot to piss in. Or a window to pitch it out of.

  4. Ever so true dear K!! You are absolutely correct but in the cases of our soldiers with PTSD and them suddenly doing this after they come home, it does tie in. I have a friend who's husband spends like no tomorrow and he is not military or has PTSD. I am not saying that every man is spendaholics just because they have PTSD. This is just in the case of my situation and the lady who wrote me. Mine was always frugal and a major tightwad but since he has been home it has changed drastically. Psychiatrist says its just a self-destructing method like the use of drugs or alcohol. Don't know...but not all of PTSD veterans spend like crazy and not all men who are spending maniacs have PTSD.

  5. My Father is a Vietnam Vet with PTSD and in his case it is a symptom spending money until he has none. You could give him a thousand dollars a day and he would be broke at the end of the day. He does not spend it on himself, but gives money away to people he meets in bars, bars girls, crack heads etc. I am afraid he will end up hurt because of it.


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