Sunday, August 29, 2010

When PTSD Leads Them Astray


I often search out other spouses who are suffering like I am.....perhaps to fulfill my own needs as far as acknowledgment of my own feelings and suffering.  Most of them blogging about their days, their struggles and everyday lives living with Combat PTSD. While I like what I read and is somewhat comforting, I am seeking the unspoken subjects that I have endured and struggled with. Surely, I am not the ONLY spouse who is dealing with the taboo subjects which derive from PTSD and all the hell it leaves in its wake! Is there some unwritten code we as spouses are supposed to follow and not talk about? Are we not allowed to address these issues with the comforting knowledge that it's ok to talk about it? I thought long and hard about all these "hush hush" topics, but am going to grab the reins and run with them anyway!

Such a a simple word that can bring a whole hell of a lot of problems upon a family and a marriage. One of those subjects no one wants to talk about in the open and one that I gather should not be blogged about. My story started once my husband came home from Iraq. As you know from my previous blogs, my husband was not acting remotely normal and our marriage basically dissolved into thin air because of his issues. Coupled with not getting help, let's just say our house was not a happy home. When I found out I was pregnant with our third child, the whole world turned upside down and he lost whatever sanity he did come home with. The paranoia and disillusions really screwed his head up into believing that I somehow had an affair and must have been at the same time he was home for me to be pregnant. There were a lot of hurtful comments, lot of hatred and resentment from both of us. There were so many times in my head that I had wished I had cheated because it would have made his anger, resentment and the trouble he was giving me, worth it. Strongly a firm believer in marriage vows and coming from a family whose parents had issues such as these, I could not believe he would ever think or accuse me of doing such a thing.

However, he went back to work, I did my own thing at home with our other children and somehow things just rocked along albeit badly. During this time, a friend we will call E, was calling or texting which wasn't out of the ordinary. I have some male acquaintances, he has some female ones. Never been an issue with us, and never had any reason not to trust him prior to war. He worked part-time with a buddy of his on his off days, so it wasn't out of the ordinary that he wasn't home. He was always available by phone should I need him and home when he was supposed to be. 

The texting every once in a blue moon began to become an every day thing. That daily thing turned into almost what I would say as an obsession. Constantly, he was on his phone texting and if not, then he was on the phone with her. Now I know her, she seems nice, married as well....and her husband is not one of our favorite people. Often, it was questions in regards to fixing something and he would walk her through it with me on the phone. Then the phone calls became more and more often with her just needing a friend to talk to or the fact she was depressed. Me, being the naive and big hearted person, told my husband that he needed to make sure she had a friendly ear to listen to her. Little did I know that this friendly ear was becoming more of an issue than what I thought. 

It must have been probably six months of a rocky marriage and arguments over seeking help, that a knock on my door came one day. It was E's husband. I was kind of shocked to see him there and knew they were having marital problems of their own, but over what, not sure. He asked if he could speak to me for a few minutes and I let him in. He then proceeded to tell me that for over six months, his wife and my husband were having an affair. I pretty much felt the whole world get knocked out from underneath me. I didn't understand at first and was really angry with this man for playing such a cruel joke. However, he proceeded to tell me that he felt I needed to know and gave me many details on days where my husband was supposedly working. He said he knew I was expecting again and felt that I needed to know what was going on. They had separated and he felt that I needed to know the whole story and save me the heartache he was going through. 

I was shocked but things began falling in place. There was one phone call which came during supper time. He spoke softly and soothingly to this unknown person. Little did he know that his volume was up so high on his phone (due to hearing loss) that I could hear every word and know that it was a woman. When he got off the phone, I asked him who it was and he said "Oh it was a guy from work wanting to know if I could swap days with him". I think at that moment I knew, but when I confronted him with his lies he swore up and down they were just friends and that he would never ever cheat on me. 

The days he was supposedly working, I never saw any extra on the checks but he always had bills paid on time or came up with extra money. I learned later he was tapping into our savings account to cover his ass on his lies. That evening of the visit from the bearer of information, I threw my husband out of the house. When he came home that day he was so cold, so indifferent and when I confronted him about E's husband, he said "Ok, so I had an affair so what!". That's it? That's all you have to give me? 

He then began to tell me it wasn't about sex, it was just needing someone to listen to him. LISTEN to him? I felt like I wanted to smack him upside the head because all I have done is been there for him, talking to him and trying to get him help. Then, I felt resentment and pure hatred for this man because here I am at seven months pregnant and he was accusing me of cheating on him! 

I really can't tell you how things went from there but on the verge of divorce and the baby, we somehow managed to find marriage counseling. We salvaged much of our relationship what was left of it, and after counseling, it seemed to help him and me coping with this "interference". My husband was a trust worthy man, and we don't lie to each other. I could not grasp the whole concept of what or who this person was after he came home from war. In counseling, he told me that he knew he could talk to me but could not tell me everything because he was afraid of what I would think of him. It wasn't that he was attracted to her or remotely had any feelings for her, it was just a punishment to himself and the high of "not getting caught". Was it all bullshit? An excuse or an easy way out? I don't know. Maybe its true, that it had nothing to do with me and was all about him.....perhaps it was just him playing the Iraqi/PTSD card. 

He wanted to be with me, and I wanted my husband back....looking back over the last three years since this has happened...I wondered where I would be now had I just simply closed that door in my life. The sex part doesn't bother me as much as the personal closeness he shared with her. I feel as if I was robbed. I was robbed of a memorable pregnancy, robbed of a memorable happy time of the birth of our son, and robbed because he could not talk to me. The one person who would never judge, always listen and who, used to think, we were best of friends. 

I don't think in my heart and mind, I have ever truly forgiven him. Although he has never spoken to her since that time, I still see her from time to time out in town. The humiliation becomes unbearable and always re-opens old wounds. When he opens his phone to text his buddies, or he receives one...I can't help but wonder if that's who he is talking to. If he leaves the house, then I often wonder if he is seeing someone. Let's face it, being married to a Combat PTSD veteran is hard enough and sometimes that trust is broken in other areas....adding this type of break makes one almost distrusting of them. He thinks I should just drop it, leave it in the past and keep moving forward. I try. That's what you do in marriages right? Keep moving forward and let the forgiveness come later. I can't even describe to him how much damage he has done to my self-esteem or how broken I really feel. 

I try not to think about any of this....leave it in the past and hope that with time, I heal and trust again. The other night he made a comment that bothered me and guess it rehashed the old hurt that was buried deep. He was outside and I called him in for supper. He was texting back and forth and like a parent, made him put down the phone to eat. We always used to joke about me or him having a monday night or friday night man or gal pre-war. It's been a long time since we have done that, and not thinking I said "tell your friday night gal you have to eat and you will get back to her" and I chuckled along with my kids. He jumped up from his seat and said "Well I have been there and done that, now haven't I?" I don't know if what he said was hurtful or the cold mean way he said it. Either way, it was a reminder I didn't need. I don't even know why he said it. I mean, if I was some callous cold hearted bitch who loved to rub it in his face all the time, or constantly nagged about his would be totally different. Unfortunately, I think the PTSD has taken all his good sense of humor and our playfulness with each other to whatever depths that it lives in. 

So that's so my story. Of course, wrapped up short and sweet without a bow on top but nevertheless written on my blog out in the open. I guess when it's days like this one where he is in a foul mood and hard to makes me wonder if he truly appreciates all that I do for him and still loves me as much as I do him. I wouldn't put my life on hold and spend each day in hell, if my heart still didn't feel something for him as strong as it was the day we met. It would just be nice to know something at least. I do know this was the first time and the only time this will happen. There are no more second chances left in me. Hopefully, this will reach another spouse and they will say "holy hell, I went through this too"! If I can accomplish that, then I am ok with bearing it all out here. 

Not ashamed to write it all,

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Military What Source?

A dear friend asked me last week what my problem was with Military One Source since I had brought it up and thought this would be a good topic for this blog. Now my problem with MOS is not that I think they aren't a good company or have usable and reliable resources for many military families. My issue with this group is that they aren't helping us with anything remotely pertaining to PTSD or TBI, but I guess I should start at the beginning. 

So throughout the deployment process, we as spouses were bombarded with all this information usually in the form of packets. MOS always being at the top of the list, providing handy dandy magnets to place on our fridges in case of emergencies. The Army or in our case, the Army Reserves, really shoved MOS down our throats before and during deployment, making sure we understood that this company was our number one place to go to for all that fails while our soldiers were gallantly serving overseas.

Now when my husband was deployed, my oldest son was almost 10 years old. A friend of his lost his daddy over in Iraq and my son really just freaked out over the fact that his dad was going overseas and he was going to get killed like so and so's dad. No matter what I tried to tell him or explain, and no matter the promises from my son really struggled with this deployment. Walking past the fridge one day, I spot the shiny magnet with the big number "1" on it and decide to call. The woman who answered was indeed, very friendly and supportive over the phone. MOS offered to send my struggling son to counseling or to see a therapist in which I gladly jumped at the offer, all while singing my praises to this fantastic resource! While being placed on hold, I felt so much better and somewhat relieved as this was our first deployment and never had to deal with my son in this type of emotional capacity. It went downhill from there........

We were given a list of doctor's to call and told to call for the ten free sessions we get. However, each of the numbers were ones I didn't recognize. I did call and discovered that these ten free sessions were actually in Nashville or Memphis which is approximately four-seven hours away. I called back and found out that these were my closest and only options for sessions. Now, not sure about you, but at this time the gas prices were what three years ago? $3.50 to $4.00 a gallon? I hadn't gotten my husband's first check in from the Army, and to top it off, just gave birth to my second son. Driving this far was not an option for my family. I ended up having to go outside in the civilian world to get the help I needed.

I pretty much disregarded MOS all through the deployment process and even after he came home. Six months of reintegration problems and serious emotional problems, I looked high and low for help only to find doors closed in our faces. We don't live any where near a military installation and the VA was still months away from seeing my husband for the first time. I finally put my foot down and told my husband "Let's try Military One Source". He fussed and cussed for months, but finally relented and made the call. So here I am sitting at the table with him, holding his hand for support and beaming with pride because he took the initiative to call. Meanwhile, in my head, thanking the big man upstairs for finally giving me some type of hope and please God, just swing us open a door our way to get him help.

Two hours on the phone, five transfers husband bears it all. The drinking, the suicidal thoughts, the emotional problems he was having, the nightmares, the family problems, and answering all the consultant's questions. Two hours later we got this answer 'Well SGT *****, it sounds like you may be suffering from PTSD and you need help immediately. Unfortunately, we don't handle PTSD or anything medical so there is nothing I can do for you. I will be glad to give you a call back if we come across any resources that might come in that relates to you, but until then, I suggest you go to the VA". 

Well readers, I can assure you that this did not go over well with my husband. At all. The next thing I know, he is yelling at this man demanding to know why he just told him everything if they weren't going to help him. Why did they waste our time? Why ask so many personal questions and in depth ones when all along my husband was telling him that he thinks he has PTSD. My husband hangs up the phone, throws it across the room shattering it, and uproots my kitchen table and sends it flying across the room. He yelled at me with tears streaming down his face and looked at me so coldly and said "Don't you ever...I mean ever....tell me to call anyone else. I feel like a damned fool and you said they would help! They didn't help, they didn't do anything except close another door".

It was after that phone call that my husband went on a downhill spiral into the epitome of PTSD hell.  Our family severely suffered and we ended up separating for a while because he was so bad that I became worried about our children. Now I am not saying that the young man on the phone wasn't helpful or attentive, because he was. He was very polite and well mannered, always a plus in this Southerner's book. I blame them and the Army for not having the resources or help that was promised to us for two years. To give this young man credit, after being chewed out by an emotionally unstable person and then hung up on....he called us back! My husband refused to talk to him so I did. I gave him a piece of my mind and basically jumped down his throat and did a tap dance in his lungs! I did explain and apologize to him for taking it out on him, but he needed to know that my husband was in bad shape and basically on the verge of either drinking himself to death or planning a late night rendezvous with the business end of a Glock. Again, this man apologized and said he was sorry, but they just don't deal with this "stuff".
Still to this day, the Army is continuously shoving Military One Source down our throats as if they are the informational Messiah of all military branches. MOS is the resource haven to where you can get help for anything, the helpful saint of all that goes on in the military world and the families that live in it.  The "Dear Abby" of all military life issues........except PTSD. 

A year later, I decided to try MOS one more time after being told by my military commanding officers that MOS has increased their help options and that includes PTSD. I was assured that this resource would not fail me or my family.....guess what? Nothing had changed. I called again and they did offer some marriage counseling but the numbers they gave me were not participating in the program anymore, or did not want to touch us with a ten foot pole because of the fact my husband was a PTSD sufferer. They "simply do not have the experience with PTSD and all of its aspects to treat you or your husband". Hey, at least they were honest. The two others, again......six hours away or at the military post in KY which is over 5 hours for us.  Five free sessions through Tricare and the rest was paid out of pocket under our Tricare Reserve insurance.

Joining the FRG was a good thing for me and I really like being around the ladies that are in it. I love the men and women in my unit and it does make me feel better knowing no one has to go through any deployments alone like I did because our FRG is so strong. I have been sent on several training trips and been put through all the online trainings as well when the money just wasn't there to pay for me to go somewhere. It's fantastic that the military wants their FRG leaders so heavily trained and armed with their own personal arsenal of information, rules and regs, and resources. However, from trainings to Yellow Ribbon ceremonies (information debreifings that happen throughout the deployment cycle) there is MOS. Naturally, I always stop and question them to see if they have any additional resources for PTSD or help. Nada. Yet, in the same trainings and Yellow Ribbons, MOS is pushed yet again for all help pertaining to reintegration. re-entering civilian workforce and emotional problems such as PTSD. What is wrong with this picture?

I can be pretty outspoken sometimes especially when I know something isn't right. I call from time to time, and I get transferred more times than anyone else I know after giving my name! Some days, I think there are consultants in a room somewhere doing Paper, Rock Scissors trying to see who is going to get the lady on line three. They have always been nice and informative on everything but these subjects, but it just irks me that this resource is being pushed so hard as the answer to everything when it's not! Recently, I had a soldier come to me in confidence and ask for help because he felt like he was having some issues and quite possibly PTSD. I gave him a list of resources, but as FRG, we are asked to pass them on to MOS. I did tell him that MOS didn't help us, but things could have changed in the past year, give it a try. He called me back and said " They asked me all these questions and I answered and the lady said yes it sounds like you have PTSD, but you need to go to the VA". That part frustrates the hell out of me.

In most all units, there are horror stories floating around about Family Readiness Groups, the lack of one being there period, or bad experiences within one. You either like them, or you don't. It's not one of the easiest things to do to gain soldier's and families' trust if they have had issues with FRGs in the past, or if they are new to the idea. So when you do have the soldiers and families' trust, you got to treat it with kid gloves. To have this young man call me back and sound so pitiful, was a damned shame. I felt humiliated, not just because of Military One Source for not helping him, but because that is our only freaking option as far as help goes. 

Fortunately, from experience in our state and area we live in, I was able to get him to some help. We don't live in the sticks, or some hick county in BFE....but yet, we often hear from MOS that we are "geographically challenged to resources". This isn't in just our state, its in the surrounding states as well as I am hearing from more and more spouses like me and FRG leaders. Now in some states, or even other parts of this one.....MOS seems to be the shining beacon of hope in many things like financial budgeting, homework help, grief counseling etc. If you need language translation of documents, you are in the right place with them! The thing that bothers me is that with so many coming home with emotional problems such as PTSD and medical like would think that this one well advertised program would have something to give us besides "Go to the VA". I want to tell them so badly "how many have you turned away like my husband? How many I wonder went home and committed suicide? How many families decided to split because there is no help for us or our soldiers? Why is the Army pushing us on all this Military One Source, your one stop shop" if it truly isn't?"

It's very easy to naturally just shove us like a bunch of lepers to the VA. I wonder what some of those directors at MOS would say if they knew that the VA here, has 2 doctors to over 6000 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans? I wonder if they know when they plan their meetings if the topic of the VA waiting list to get in is no less than six to eight months? Out of all their information they have pooled to make this the number one resource for all that ails our military and their families, why haven't they got something better than "Go to the VA"? 

So dear friend, there is my "problem" with Military One Source. I know that they have hit/tweeted on my other blog in regards to PTSD and so glad they did. Just for the record, I am not saying the whole program is bad...just in the case of us who are living with combat related PTSD and TBI. Some of the fault lies in the Army because they are passing along false information and hopes for family members. Hopefully, someone will read this and say "hey, you know she's right", let's seriously look into this. I figure this way, they can't put me on hold or transfer me a dozen times, only to get someone who wants to transfer me back eleven more times and hangs up on me! So no disrespect to you Military One Source, but you gotta throw us Combat PTSD and TBI Spouses a bone.....we are starving! 

Still seeking the elusive resources for PTSD and TBI,

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dismantling Super Woman

A comment was left on my previous blog and one that made me think for quite a while afterward. Anonymous posted " Breathe, remember you are a parent with medical challenges to deal with. You are a full time caregiver to a warrior with multiple diagnoses.This can lead to burn out pretty darn fast. Please take care, take a moment, take off the super woman cape for a few minutes and take care of you."

Thank you Anonymous for the comment and kind words. When I read your comment, the first thing that popped in my head was "How do I do that?".  Once I chewed on that thought, the next was...."how many of us Combat PTSD/TBI Veteran's Wives are wearing that proverbial Super Woman Cape and unable to shed it?". 

Some days I am amazed how much I get accomplished and wonder how in the world I did it all. Of course, this would explain the exhaustion I feel most of the time but, still leaves me in awe that I was able to do it and get it done. I wake up at 6 a.m. and go until 12:00-1:00 a.m. and the days just seem to run into each other leaving me confused on what day it really is. Some days I feel like everything is piled up high and must leave myself notes around the house in order to remind myself of everything that I must do or remind someone else to do! There is one I must rouse out of bed at 6 a.m. to make the bus, one I must force out of bed to get him to Pre-K by 8:00, and then the little one who most of the time is just plain ticked off I had to wake him up! Once those three are done, then I must wake up my Pod Person which usually takes me an hour and a half of shaking, yelling and pulling off the covers because his medicine leaves him in a comatose state at night.

Breakfast is served to the little one while I am chugging what's left in the coffee pot, medicines are laid out for my husband, and then I am thinking of what to do about supper. Morning learning time for my little one, FRG paperwork/emails most days, and then tackling my other emails which involve blogging, candles, or just family and friends. Dishwasher has to be unloaded and laundry to be put in or folded/put away. The phone rings off the hook with my daily call from my Mother-in-law whether I want it or not, and my sister who usually calls me every day. Beds to be made, replies to emails and blogs that I just answered, and reminding my husband what he needs to do for the day. If I am lucky, I might be able to grab a quick shower to wash my hair and that is probably the reason why I just had it all cut off. I originally thought it was due to a mid-life crisis, but in all honesty, it was due to time constraints.

Before I know it, it's time to go back on my hour round trip to pick up my Pre-Schooler and smile like I mean it to the other parents although I really just want to scream. Homework for that one, fighting with the little one for a nap, and then while still planning dinner or prepping, the oldest walks in, has a ton of homework and asking if I had time to bake a special treat/snack. Supper is completed, baths must be given, teeth brushed and bed time stories which usually is three round of Dr. Seuss and then kitchen cleaned up from supper. Between all of this, I don't know how I am fitting in all this VA paperwork, research, blogging and dealing with my husband's daily issues! By the time I get to shower or bathe, it's almost midnight and I must get back up again only to face the same crap the next day! There are bills to be paid, checkbook to be balanced and then not to mention all the doctor appointments I must keep between the three kids and my husband!

I would love to rip off the mask and admit to the world, that this Super Woman can't do it all. I could reveal my true weaknesses and throw down my cape, stomping on it in pure frustration and disgust. However, in our do we as Caregivers give ourselves that luxury? If I stop and loosen the cape for just a moment, the whole world can suddenly stop and fall apart. I can't depend on my husband to get it done, or even remember to try and get it done. There would be no money in the bank accounts if I didn't manhandle and choke hold the checkbook, there would be no food on the table because no one else can cook or walk into a grocery store to purchase it, and my husband would still probably be asleep like he is now. There would be no homework help because daddy can no longer comprehend what he is reading, or begin to use thinking processes to tackle geometry or biology.  To reveal my real self, I must contend with the effects it will have on my whole family. There is no time for a break, there is no extra money to do nice things for just me, and of course, no relaxation or stress relief.  There is no help, no extra family nearby except for my Mother in law and well....there is no family that I can rely on and leave without worries or stress.

Dealing with the angry outbursts, putting up defensive walls, and being the safe refuge for not only my children but my husband, does indeed become very tiring. I don't honestly think that I could have one day without stress or even just a couple of hours. Just the emotional strain of living with someone with PTSD is exhausting but more so, the knowledge that it's never going to change! The resentment I harbor underneath my false bravado sometimes becomes more than I can handle. How in the world I swallow all that and still breathe, is the most amazing part of my whole existence. I get comments all the time from my Army wife buddies wondering how the hell I do it all the time. Beats the heck out of me but I want to tell them "If you only knew the half of it".

Some days when my husband wants to bitch and fuss because he had an "incident" somewhere or with someone or he yells because the kids are too loud, I really want to yell at him and ask "Are you really that far gone that this is all you are concerned about? I am worrying about fifty million things and the only thing you can pitch in to relieve some of it, is to add more stress on me? What the hell happened to you over there that made you come home to become this self-centered, selfish, irresponsible, mean and hateful person? There are no Iraqis with guns inside the grocery store, there isn't enough money to be blowing on such items as a new gun or tools that you won't use, and no matter how hard I try, kids are kids...they aren't going to be as quiet as mice no matter how much you yell!"

In all fairness to him, he does try to help me or often times ask if there is something he could do. Yet, everything that needs to be done he can not tackle it for a variety or reasons! The kids have become so accustomed to me doing it all, that they give him a hard time in such times like bath time. My husband becomes very easily aggravated and tense, so that leaves me with one pissed off man and two screaming little ones. If I let him clean up, he somewhat starts and is slow to get done all while asking a ton of questions like "well where do I put this? Can we not just leave it in the sink until tomorrow?" What's the point of that? That means I must still get it no matter what time of day it is! I wish I could just leave a list and say "you handle is going to the bookstore for the rest of the day".

I often stop and look at myself in the mirror and really don't know who I am anymore. Some people refer to me as strong and confident, while I view myself as being compliant and simply adjusting to my environment. There really isn't any strength because I don't feel strong and confident.... I am only confident that so far I have been able to keep my family together and making the best out of the worst possible of situations.  I get sick and down, the whole family tumbles down with me. Super Woman's biggest fear? Dying in my sleep or having an accident that is fatal. Morbid I know right? The fear is not of dying itself, but what would my husband do and my kids? I want to shed this stress, unmask and be myself just for a few worries, no cares, and just relax. It's not that I don't want to take care of myself...I just don't know how to do it. I know that in our situation, other wives are facing far more challenging aspects, but in all of us.....I think it's safe to say that none of us are capable of laying the cape aside and truly being free.

I did request some information on the Caregiver Retreat (tab up top) through the Wounded Warriors Program. I called over a month and a half ago and finally got a call back.....right in the middle of a doctor's appointment. My luck! I returned the call and still waiting for a call back. Not sure if I even qualify for it because my husband was not awarded a Purple Heart nor was he hospitalized. He was simply treated on site and pushed back into the war zone. I hope that someone calls me back though and I can see about attending such an event. This retreat I don't know much about, but I do know other caregivers attend and maybe that is what I need the most....just to be around other "Super Hero" Caregivers, let my cape down so to speak, and know that no matter what is said or unsaid......they completely understand. I will keep everyone updated on this retreat if I find out more information.

Woman Behind the Mask,

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Failure to Launch

I don't know whether it's just because I am emtionally and physically tired, but it seems like everything here lately is just so damn overwhelming. Between my little one being so sick, my other two in school, and then my husband....anything else is just like a big whopping smack in the face!

Recently, we found out that my husband must go before the Medical Review Board. Now, for those of you who know what I am talking will probably say "well you knew this was coming!". Ok, yes I did....My issue here is the confusion, the lack of no information or a straight answer and of course, trying to figure it out all again, on my own.  We recently sent in for an increase of my husband's disability which was currently at 40%. 30% for PTSD, 10% for Tinnitus (ringing of the ears). After reading so many other horror stories of fellow PTSD Veterans, we should be thankful for what my husband was originally awarded. However, two statements later from his psychiatrists, they deemed him unemployable...and pretty much in both letters, stated he really didn't need to be out in the world on his own and as his wife....I know this statement is most definitely true! His increase came back and of course, everything else was turned down. They considered that TBI was factored in, but he hadn't been to the doctor yet so they could not determine anything as of yet. Understandable. The thing that pissed me off, was yes he did get an increase of his PTSD to 50% but took away his original award of Tinnitus! 10% is a good chunk of change and we didn't realize they would take it away. Now he has hearing loss so severe that the VA placed hearing aids in both ears, and the ringing can last for hours in his head. Everywhere we looked on this paperwork stated DEFERRED DEFERRED DEFERRED! What does that even mean? Deferred for what? The VA originally gave it to him, and now they are asking for his paperwork from when he first signed up for Basic Training!The rest which was all documented and the VA is treating him for, of course, was turned down because they don't feel it's war related. We have documentation showing this! I figured I am going to have to put two large flags on each underlined word and then maybe they will read it!

So back to Medical Review. My husband was informed from his Battalion that they are now sending him before the board. My husband says he is ok with getting out although he hates to lose his almost 13 years in of service. The thing is, I have heard many many stories coming down from medical review boards such as getting booted with an honorable discharge, no medical retirement and that's that. Now I have been talking to a Veteran's Benefit Support group on Facebook (totally been waaay more help than anyone I have found) and he says that if they give my husband the boot, demand they medically retire him. Well A.....this is great help man, but if they tell us that "out you must go", what else could we do? Now VBS explained all about the GAF scores and the lower the better, and how that most soldiers just accept the boot without fighting it. My husband is having his first appointment for his TBI care soon and the VA just set his evaluation for disability appt in regards to the TBI. I am hoping this will help his review before the medical board.

So am I worried about him getting booted with the foot still up the ass from the Army? No. I look at it as simply another page in life and he seems to be ok with it.....What concerns me the most is that if they broke him, they need to fix him. If he gets the boot, then no more health insurance. I understand the Veteran has to have a certain score to be deemed enough for benefits such as medical retirement/temporary or permanent disability and at this rate deemed by the military, can we keep some type of insurance. We have had Tricare for a very long time, and then once he was home....we switched to Tricare Reserve Select in which our family gets coverage for 198.00 a month. It has been a God send for all of us, especially my little one who has had several hospitalizations due to severe Asthma and allergies. Between his monthly medications, breathing apparatus and so much more...I couldn't be more thankful for that wonderful insurance. For myself, I am on several medications such as Humira for Rheumatoid Arthritis that is really expensive. If we lose our insurance because he gets booted out and they don't offer it once you are out, and we can't get insurance for the family through the Army because of Medical retirement....I really don't know what we will do.

I looked up private insurance thinking, Ok....we will simply re-budget, tighten up in a few places, and then we will be fine. However, after 22 quotes, checking every ins and outs......there is no way we can afford to do anything! Many would not accept either myself or my son due to "pre-existing" conditions....the others, well let's just say the cheapest I could find was around 900.00 to 2196.00 a month, 10,000 deductible which is every year and must be met before the insurance even kicks in!! I tell you dear readers, I have been through ups and downs.....weathered many many storms and pulled through with strength and confidence. This time.....I felt like the wind was literally knocked out of me!

If my little one wasn't so ill, then I could find a daycare and head back to work. No one will touch him with a ten foot pole. My second son who is in public school Pre-K, gets out at 1:45 in the afternoon. A severe asthma attack can occur at anytime with my little one so that means hospitalization for at least 3 days....there isn't an employer who wouldn't fire me right off the gate. I always have a backup plan.....once plan A is into motion, there is always a plan B in place. Just my nature. This time, I don't know what to do. My husband is expecting me to deal with all this paperwork for the VA, then find out information on medical review board, and I just feel like all the stress is bogging me down to the point I am slowly sinking. My worrying and stress is simply feeding the bonfire of a meltdown. I know that he struggles with reading comprehension.....his attention and patience is like that of a three year old and once he gets frustrated, it makes it even worse.So I can't say "Honey, you are going to have to help with this".

It makes me feel better with the help of the Veterans Benefit Support, but on the other hand....I feel like some of it sounds so simple, that it just can't be that easy and we are going to run into problems. I have worried so much about our health insurance, I think I have a permanent headache from the stress. I often wonder what the Active Duty personnel do when they make the military a career and then they get booted by the medical board.....what happens to their family?

I don't mean to seem like I am whining....because I am really not. I am just so frustrated and wondering what we did to deserve all this? If it was as simple as me going back to work, leaving my kids with my husband, it would be a no brainer.....however, he can barely remember to take his medicine and the first toy that makes too much noise, all hell breaks loose! There is no way he could be home and deal with the kids.....what do other families do?

So far, I have been strong, trying to stand up straight for all of us....but damn, I get so weary of being strong all the time! I want to crumble and fall apart, even if just for a little while. I feel like I am failing my family who so depends on me because I can't launch that Plan B! I wish just once, my husband could stop and realize what all I am going through....maybe let me break down and shoulder some of the burden. I think out of all the issues with PTSD and TBI, this lack of shouldering the burden and providing support, is the worst one to deal with. I want to scream "you know what! I DON'T KNOW!".  I wish there was one site you could navigate and give a break down of this is going to happen at Med Board, this is what to do, and then......this is what you need to deal with after all is said and done. Not too much to ask for right? Hahah!

Sigh.....I keep hoping the Big man upstairs will just cut me a break. Throw me a job from home, throw me a better set of lungs for my little one, give my husband the courage to come of out PTSD and never go back. I know it seems like a lot, but all I do is give give give even when it takes away so much for myself. Couldn't the military and God give back to me just a little bit?

I need a good cry, but honestly don't think I have the strength for that even. Any ideas, suggestions or experience....I will take it all! Surely, there is someone reading this who understands what I am going through, and has already gone through the steps of all this and can share something positive.

Still clinging to the life raft,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Operation Enduring Care & Caregivers
I received an email in regards to my blogging about this particular event going on for Wounded Warriors and their caregivers. Although I don't normally promote anything unless it has: a) is something/someone I have dealt with b) is related to my soldier and his issues or c) I know enough information to feel confident about passing it on, I felt this particular request was important enough for me to share. I am a huge fan of the USO and they did treat my husband like royalty when he got deployed. I remember him calling home from Maine in 2006, on a pre-paid cell phone the USO had given him when they landed. My husband told me that they had to stop and fuel up there before heading to Germany, and he was in line to get a full Maine lobster dinner. I was astounded at the way the USO volunteers set all this up for our guys and for the hour, they could eat and talk all they wanted. This act of kindness put my backwoods Tennessee man at ease on his first trip to Iraq and although jealous of my husband eating fresh Maine lobster, I knew my husband would be o.k. So in thanks, I am passing on this information because it also pertains to all of us who have Wounded Warriors and PTSD and because I appreciate what you did for my husband four years ago!

On September 23rd, 2010 Ft. Bliss (Texas) and the USO is putting together for the first time, a conference for family and Caregivers of Wounded Warriors. This conference will have different activities ranging from guest speakers and a variety of topics that include PTSD, intimacy (we all need to hear that one), suicide prevention, financial and parenting, as well as caregiver boundaries. They are continuing to add on to the list of guest speakers but each of them have the "been there and done that" perspective and expertise. Spouses, children, and family members of a Wounded Warrior are invited to attend with childcare being on site for your little ones! Lodging will be available on post through the Ft. Bliss Lodging Facilities if you are an active, guard and reserve members of the Armed Forces. Retirees and Dependents are also authorized to use these facilities.

There is a shuttle service being provided from the El Paso International Airport and courtesy transportation. The conference is also providing morning and afternoon coffee breaks, lunch, and a BBQ supper that evening along with a concert open to Ft. Bliss and conference attendees. The deadline for registration was August 12th, but it looks like from the information online they will try to accommodate those who wish to attend this event after the deadline date. For more information on this event, you can go to the USO site and look at all that is offered for this day. The agenda is also posted for those who wish to peruse the activities before making their decision on going as well as the Registration for this event. For more information you can call the USO at this number if the site doesn't answer your questions or if you have troubles with the registration process, USO at (915) 217-5122.

Holding the position of caregiver, military spouse and a Family Readiness Group Leader for our unit here, I felt this conference would be something I would definitely love to go to and wanted to share with my readers and those organizations who are checking my site out such as the Army Reserve Command and ArmyOneSource. Looking over the agenda, there were several parts I would have been interested in hearing about such as compassion fatigue, PTSD, TBI and suicide prevention. I also like they have planned in this conference how to navigate resources that are available, and from my past blogs, you know how I feel about these "supposed" resources most of us can't find! I would like to see what they have! Perhaps when this is over, I can contact the USO and see what resources they have and check them out for all of us!

If you are able to attend this conference, please let me know how it goes! If I had the extra 388.00 for a round trip ticket, you'd better believe all you would see is my butt and elbows heading out the door! I am in such need of being around other people in my situation that it's somewhat depressing! Being this is the first one, I am hoping this will continue every year and in different locations. I find that being in Tennessee, I am limited to so many things as everything is always far away! If you aren't able to attend, shoot the USO an email and state where you are located. Perhaps with enough participation and interest, we can get such events a little closer to where we are!

Special Thanks again to the USO for being who you are, and for taking care of my husband during a most stressful time. I also send thanks for your invitation for me to write about this particular event and wish I was able to attend! I will raise my coffee cup to you all this morning for best wishes on your upcoming event and hope it will be a success!

A USO Fan,

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

So Very Tired

It's been a little bit since my last post.....In the last two weeks, I think everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong! My husband got placed on orders to go to Michigan, and I had our unit's annual Family Day to contend with in which it was completely NUTS last week trying to get ready for! Among my picking up 500 hot dogs, hot dog buns and a 1000 drinks, my youngest son had a severe asthma attack. Dragging him back to the doctor, it was discovered this was brought on by his simple runny nose two days before hand. His oxygen level was so low he was falling asleep, so back in the hospital we go. Due to his age of two, we had to place him in an oxygen tent and with the humidity and water from the O2, he developed severe pneumonia in his right lung.

A few days later, I am glad to report that he is home now but on O2, many liquid medications, steroids and breathing treatments. I probably could have used my husband's help but once on orders, it was too hard to get the Army to reverse them so he could stay with me here. I made it through alive, but my husband's attitude was quite hurtful throughout the whole process. Now he is all about his boys, and would gladly lay down in front of an oncoming train to save anyone of our children....but the PTSD beast inside of him left me with a bad taste in my mouth this whole time.

My other children have never had any problems at all with asthma or any type of allergies. My husband maintains that since I got pregnant right upon his return home from Iraq, that the elements he breathed in over there and many top secret numbered shots have contributed to such problems with my little boy. Now before, I always just wrote it off as him being paranoid and a little silly for blaming himself. The last time we had to hospitalize my son for the same issues, the pediatrician told my husband he could not rule out anything that he brought home from Iraq. This time, my husband was carefully questioned on his shots and things that he could have brought home which did not help his paranoia at all. Matter a fact, this led my husband to believe that he had something he came home with and has passed it on to our son. This in turn is eating my husband up with guilt and his attitude towards me, shameful.

Already stressed to the max about missing my strategically planned Family Day, my son's health and trying to balance out my other two children who started back to school....I did not need his bitchiness and attitude towards me in regards to our son. I felt like I was under attack the first night in the hospital and my husband was pointing the gun! I understood that he was stressed out like I was, but he blamed me for getting pregnant and this was one of those "See I told you so" scenarios. He left over the weekend for his training trip, and although I miss him.....was very glad to see him hit the road.

I needed to be comforted this time because I was really really tired. I was physically wore out, but also emotionally drained. I felt like his snide comments and constant comments about what went on overseas, just added more and more pressure on me. It may very well be that he carried something home and it may just be the luck of the draw with our son. He has severe food allergies and outdoor allergies, so any number of things could have triggered this. I truly don't believe that anything he had breathed over there, could have given this to my son.

It's been a long week and now I am sick myself with some kind of God awful head cold. More than likely due to my sitting in a hospital bed for four days under the oxygen tent with my son. Now my husband who has somewhat calmed down a little, is too busy to ask me how I am doing and fussing about the fact the roads are so bad in Detroit. I do wish he would cut me some slack sometimes and not pull the whole "you shouldn't have gotten pregnant" card when things are so rough. It's times like these I need help, comfort and the knowledge that he is there for me and my kids. It's like I am sending out an SOS and he is passing right by it blind folded. I know he can't help it, but a part of me really resents him for it. I know this is normal for me to feel this way, but I really do feel guilty for my anger towards him right now.

What I would not give for a vacation. Just a couple of days by myself with plenty of rest, relaxation, and perhaps a massage. I am so stressed out that I am getting forgetful, grumpy with the world, and my outlook isn't very positive right now. I am not normally like this but it's just been piling up slightly. My husband who had been very helpful, understanding, and loving suddenly pulled that 360 I was afraid of and now being someone I can't deal with. I could not help but think over the last few days that I am indeed a single parent, and dealing with all this alone. I love my husband, but it was just so bad at the hospital I made him go home. Stress can bring out the ugliness in him, but it was truly the wrong place and wrong time. I am so very tired and I think past the point of exhaustion from the lack of sleep, and just the stress. I wish I could have a whole day to get some rest and not do anything at all!  I will try to post some more in the next couple of days, but am trying to get things in order at home, my kids and a little bit of rest............

Hurt by the 360,