Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mail for the Mistress

Sorry that I have been's been kind of a funky week and BUSY! We must have had 10 VA appointments and between the kids stuff at, did the time go by fast! I had quite a few emails these past week or so, so going to put some on here for this post!

It's that time again!

" Dear USM, I love reading your blog. I just had a quick question for you. You mentioned that you take medication because your stress level was pretty high and you had depression. I think I may need some help as well. I don't want to talk to my doctor because she has been our family doctor for my entire family. It just feels sort of weird telling her I need medication. What if she tells me I am just crazy? Advice please? Thanks for all you do and for the smiles in some of your posts you give me daily. I hope you are doing better and next week is better than this past one"

Anonymous, I have been there. The hardest part was our family doctor was actually a fellow Reservist soldier/friend in our unit who has his own practice here. How screwed up was that huh? He is one of those "manly man" doctor's too, so talking about female issues, really made him feel uncomfortable. Between this, and feeling like a nut bag going in and saying "I need to be medicated", slightly bothered me some. I knew I was suffering from depression and severe anxiety. It got to the point where I really didn't like myself, probably like you are feeling now. Finally I just sucked it up and went in. I talked to the LPN there because I really needed a fellow woman to understand how I was feeling. She listened and looked at me and said "Holy Crap! No wonder your nerves are shot!". Talking about a sigh of relief! She had put me on an anti-depressant before because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and I didn't think I needed it. This was suppose to help me cope with much of the pain. She fussed at me and then prescribed me a high anti-depressant along with tension headache meds because I suffer so badly from those. She also checks me regularly for high blood pressure.If you think you need some help with depression or nerves/anxiety...girl go on and get them! There is no shame in us having times in our lives where we need a little help. Sometimes our bodies just can't function on overload and we need help. My visit rewarded me with the confidence I needed and eased the worries of going on meds. Now a pill isn't the cure for everything of course! You will also need to find some time to unwind, do something you enjoy and help yourself. Relying on medicine will not help you any as its not a complete cure all. Sometimes we just can't do enough to change what's going on and there is nothing wrong with helping our body along with medication but there has to be some part of you that wants to help the meds along. If there is a female LPN or doc you feel comfortable, just spill the beans. They can't help you if they don't know anything is wrong and you will be surprised at how easy it will be....promise! Keeping yourself sane, healthy and under control will make living with PTSD much easier!

Dear Mistress, I really enjoyed your PTSD Turns Physical blog among many of them. I am a Vietnam Veteran's wife and went through what seemed like absolute hell. I have been reading you on a weekly basis and find that your honesty is refreshing and eye opening. I sometimes get aggravated because so much is so "fluffed" that it seems somewhat fake.  Although I am one of the old timers, I like to keep up to date and see what other spouses in this war are going through. I wanted to email you because I really liked this particular blog about physical abuse and the fact you took into consideration the Veteran's side and included that poor man's email. It showed that there is always a side that most people don't see although the subject is so terrible and heart breaking. I just wanted to let you know that it does get better and as a spouse living with my Vet with PTSD for over 27 years, you can overcome and learn to adapt to the many changes. Sometimes you just got to ignore them and let them rant and rave, and get it out of their system. It does get easier. It just seems those first few years are such a struggle for everyone. Just wanted to say thank you from one old Vet's wife to another!

Dear Vietnam Vet's Wife, thank you soooo much for the positive email! I am very appreciative of your following and hope that I can only learn as much as your era has. I know of so many Vietnam Veterans in this area where I live and its somewhat disheartening that so many fell through the cracks. It saddens me to think of the many families and children that also slipped with them in the process. I wanted to include that soldier's email because its often been said "hey, just leave" but I wanted people to see both sides of the fence as it makes it hard for some us to walk away and just say screw it. I am learning as I go and hope that in the process it helps others to understand what I am going through, what I feel and hope that others say "yes, I get you!". Thank you for the support and for giving us all the hope that we can indeed survive. Although we are from a different generation of war time, I find that all of us spouses are exactly the same. Much love from a war wife to another!

Dear Uncle Sam's M, I found your site because a few wives in my unit passed your information on at our FRG meeting. They are going through similar issues at home. My boyfriend/fiance was National Guard and deployed to Iraq twice. He was injured in the Spring of 2008. Similar to your husband, he wasn't screened for anything when he came home. He is having some serious issues and I have been researching TBI after I saw your post about it. Can you tell us how I need to go about getting him screened for TBI? I know I can't do a lot because I am not his spouse, but am really worried about him and not finding much help. Also, I know there are other wives like me that are asking the same questions, so please feel free to share my name and my email to you. I don't mind at all as I am just as confused as they are! Thanks for a great blog, you always give us National Guard wives something to talk about at our FRG meetings! Carrie

Carrie, thank you for letting me post this for others. As a significant other, that doesn't mean you are any less significant in his treatment and his well being. Even as a spouse, we are unable to attend most appointments and set up things. First off, I have come across many MANY stories just like yours in my searches and experience. There probably isn't a week that goes by I don't have several emails asking the same questions as you are now. Although its pretty much the same with all ranks, our Weekend Warriors do seem to be pushed on through the system upon demobilization. Often times, like in our case, they aren't asked any questions...and well, if our soldiers don't say one knows anything is wrong! So in my experience ONLY, I can tell you how we did it. Other wives might be able to chime in on here and give you some ideas. First off, if he is signed up with the VA and seeing a Primary care doctor, he needs to go in and talk to the PCM about it. If he is not signed up, we as RS/NG can receive up to five years medical care through the VA without having to file for disability/claims. However, I can not stress how important it is to get into the system. If something ever comes up in the near future, you have at least the VA documentation to back up your claims of disability. Remember the term continuity.

In our case, there was just a ton of things that got lumped into the diagnosis of PTSD that just didn't belong in my opinion which is what I suspect has you concerned. However, remember that so much of it can be PTSD and other parts can be TBI. They have very similar and overlapping symptoms. What I did, was once I looked up TBI and discovered the signs and symptoms that didn't fit into his PTSD...I immediately called the VA. You must remember now that my husband was already in the system and had a diagnosis for severe PTSD. I talked to the operator and just asked them who do I speak to, to get my husband screened for TBI. They transferred me to that department and I talked to a nurse. That nurse said they would set up a pre-screen by phone and gave us a time. My husband answered some basic questions, it was about a five minute phone call and he was screened at that time "positive" in the pre-screen. After that phone call, they set up an appointment for a TBI evaluation.  

It takes a while, so might as well "hurry up and wait" as the old saying goes. I believe it took us three months to get that appointment. Once there, its a very long process of asking questions, physical exam. Once you get done with that, then they set up another appointment for written testing, and so on. This determines cognitive damage, memory loss, motor skills losses etc. IF he is screened positive for TBI they will then set the soldier up with a TBI case manager and they will determine what type of services he needs. In our case, they felt my husband needed to be seen for the memory loss, coping skills and a few others. Unfortunately, this was back in April and our next appointment for this is in May of next year. Yeah...I know. ** Insert nose bleed here** let's say he isn't in the VA system or even going....back to square one, HE NEEDS TO GO. Get signed in at least just for medical treatment and he will be give a primary care doctor. If he has anything wrong with him at all, which he obviously does....he needs to get seen. If you have issues with going through the VA system like we did, go through the OIF/OEF Social worker, the Veteran's Benefit Advisors that are usually on site at the VA or if he goes to the local Vet Center, they can also help point him in the right direction.  A good friend of mine works at a VA in California...she was telling me the other night that TBI is a serious condition. She is a therapist that works with TBI patients. The longer they wait for treatment such as motor skills, vision, memory, and many more...there is a 25% loss of it permanently. 

I hope that helps didn't mention whether he was bulking at the idea of seeking help, so hopefully that is not an issue. My email is always open and if you need to post a question for other spouses to read, feel free to email and I will post it!! Good luck!

USM, I was reading your post about the retreats you went on. Can you tell me how I can get into something like that? Also, just from curiosity, what do you do for stress relief? How do you do it with your husband there with you? I am a full time caregiver, so I just don't see how I can get anything like that put into an already hectic schedule.  

The retreat was sponsored through several people. It was through Quantum Leap Farm, a grant through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice and Operation Homefront's Wounded Warrior Wives. I don't know any other way to get into this particular retreat or others, from my experience, other than to join Wounded Warrior Wives. That was how I found out about it. Go to their site and register. Once you do that, it will send you information on how to join Operation Homefront Online. There we have a Wounded Warrior Wife section for just us wives. You can also visit WWW on Facebook. Definitely go and add yourself! There on either place, they will post any opportunities for Wounded Warriors and wives that come along. I know that the forums will be changing soon, so at least go to Facebook and register so you can keep up there of any changes! 

So now on to stress relief. Well besides, duct taping my children and driving my husband out to the middle of nowhere and leaving him....I totally get you! I am still working on it to be honest with you. I make candles for troops, so this keeps me very very busy. I find that type of art/crafts is very soothing for me. I can sort of get lost and you have to pay attention so its' not one of those things where you can be thinking of fifty million other things. I love to I haunt second hand bookstores because I can't afford to buy new ones. During the day with my little ones, I lay down with them. I don't sleep good at night because my Rheumatoid Arthritis, my husband and his snoring, and just stress. During the day, I will lay down with the boys whether I am tired or not and that is my time to unwind, read, close my eyes and clear my head. I know not everyone has that luxury and mine is slowly slipping away with my middle son getting out of the nap stages. I am hoping to get with a friend and maybe learn how to crochet if that's possible. I am involved with several projects/organizations so that keeps me busy and its stuff I can do at home. This keeps me kind of occupied. Some of the other wives might be able to let you know what they do as stress relief. Sometimes, I just go and tell everyone..."hey, I am going to go and soak in the tub. If anyone knocks on the door, they had better be dead." I also try to plan a day to myself out once a week. Now it hasn't happened here in the last two weeks because we are tight on money...but I do try to get out, just me...have a cup of coffee, get my hair trimmed now that its short and grows out, or just get out and window shop. You need this time to yourself for sure and only you can make it happen. Definitely go and sign up for the Wounded Warrior Wives. Its a great group and I honestly, don't know how I made it through now that I have some wonderful friends in my life. Get a sitter, round up family and harass them to take them....take a break. Its the only way that you can get some peace of mind and that is the most important thing I learned at this retreat with Dr. Bridget Cantrell and Carla Staats. 

Hiya USM! I am emailing because I want to know whether I am being too hard on my husband about picking up after himself. It is driving me nuts and the root of most of our fights! I have two kids and its not setting a good example for them. I hate to be the nagging wife but I work full-time, go to school part-time and he is home. He does have PTSD and some back problems but nothing major that prevents him from doing things he enjoys. Am I being too hard on him for expecting for a little help? Thanks!

Hi ya back! Thanks for letting me post this! OK, well I am not a professional and don't claim to I am just gonna give you my opinion as you asked for it. I don't think it is and I most definitely know where you are coming from and how you feel! Often times, the PTSD card comes out here at home and I must lay down my cards and trump that "I went to war and have PTSD" card he uses up his sleeves! PTSD doesn't make you lazy and incapable of picking up dirty clothes, drink cups, or what not. I can't give you advice on this because I too, suffer from the endless arguments. I finally just stopped doing it one day. I know it's not a grand idea, and probably wrong of me...but I hate to nag him. Nagging leads to arguments and resentment in my household. I just decided one day, hey, you all won't help...I won't do it either. While on "Mommy Strike", the dishes piled supper was served....laundry wasn't done. It was amazing to me to see my boys jump on it but man did my husband buck and snort at the way I was letting it go. He eventually gave in and begrudgingly helped me.

After the retreat, I learned from Dr. Cantrell that I can't really set that many expectations on him but we also can give in to their helplessness either because that makes them that more helpless. If that makes sense. Since I have been back, I sat the family down and made a calendar on the fridge. Each family member, even down to the 2 year old, has a chore for the day. I finally just told my husband that PTSD doesn't mean he has to be nasty. Once he figured he was out of clean clothes, underwear and such...he finally got up off his butt and helped. Also, Dr. Cantrell told us at the retreat that often we take away our Veterans masculinity. I never really thought about it that way. She suggested giving them small tasks to complete and really praise them for it. I tell you, it does work. I made a HUGE deal out of my husband's few tasks that he does. Often times, I will leave things for him to do and let him beat on his chest when I praise him. I don't give him a lot, but I do give him certain things he does on a rotating schedule. Now that the kids are involved as well, they think it's a game and get dad up and at 'em do get it done. Today is house cleaning day, which I am late getting started on. BUT the hubby is doing the bathrooms, and the kids are taking out trash, my oldest is putting laundry in, and I will mop and run the vacuum. I have been trying to make Saturday nights "Movie Night" where we all watch a family movie we rent and eat popcorn. My husband actually enjoys this now. lol Tonight its Toy Story 3 and he is also itching to get back to his Xbox game. During cleaning time, we shut TV off, games off, and we jack up the music. So that's what I do here...not that it wouldn't work for you, but everyone is different. Just got to find what works with you...maybe the other ladies have some suggestions for you! Hope that helps you some!!

Thanks all for the emails! Keep 'em coming!!