Monday, June 27, 2011

National PTSD Awareness Day

Today, Monday June 27th, 2011 is National PTSD Awareness Day. The Mistress knows that many will probably look at this, skim over it and think "huh, didn't realize we had a National PTSD Awareness Day", then they will keep on trucking through their day.  We do have one thanks to our Senate who designated last year, June 27th, to be officially a day for nationwide awareness. So what does this day mean to many? Probably not much at all unless you are someone with PTSD, a Veteran with such issues or a family member of those affected. This day wasn't solely designated for military related PTSD but for all types of trauma related post traumatic stress. While it is a step forward, shame it took so long for it to finally make it a recognized awareness.

So for this day, the Mistress asks that you take the time to do something yourself to give part in creating awareness. Since 2007, I have been simply amazed at how far we have come as far as information is concerned for military families and outreach programs available. Programs or non-profit organizations that weren't even a twinkle in someone's mind are now full blown operating ones and that is thanks to those who weren't afraid to stand up and speak about it. It still blows my mind to see how many don't mind speaking up about their PTSD or their families these days, in such places as Facebook or twitter. Many families and combat veterans themselves have started blogging, which is in fact helping spread the word all over the world.

In recognition for our second annual National PTSD Awareness Day, the Mistress decided to take a few minutes and give my Readers some ideas that YOU can do to help pitch in with the awareness of such issues.

1.  If you aren't a blogger, become one: While there are many ideas given to us as veterans and family members coping with or living with PTSD, some things they offer as stress release techniques are not really accessible or feasible in our lives. I don't know about many of you, but getting a massage at the drop of a hat would be a luxury item in my lifetime! Then I have to worry about several things; leaving my husband alone or is it something he can and will participate in? Or, is it something we can afford and where the hell do I find the time to do such things! Anyone can write, and is something that can be done anywhere, anytime, and is a release from some of the stress. This ol' gal never would have thought in a million years that my writing it out, would have taken me so far! Now I know, I know...many say "well I don't want the whole world to know all about my problems! It's on the internet and everyone will know!". My answer is simply this: I wasn't born with the name "Uncle Sam's Mistress" you know. I write in a no named area, I leave names and cities out, and I do not write some things that I think could possibly harm my family. I was quite surprised to hear in a writer's guild several women discussing my website while waiting in line for lunch. They never knew that it was me standing right behind them and I like that! Very few and only ones that I feel comfortable with, know who I really am. and Wordpress are relatively easy to do and trust me, this woman is most definitely technologically challenged. You could be SGT PTSD or Mrs. Sally Jo Blankenship; whoever you choose to be. It's a good way to document things going on as well especially when you need to go back and reference something! Also, a good way to think about blogging is this: If our voices aren't heard, the harder it will be to get help. I know many fuss because some programs and help comes a little too late for us, but I don't want another person to go through what I I am happy even if it means I can't use it.

2. Volunteer your talents and your time: So you are probably arguing with me right now on the time issue aren't you? Let's say your day is like mine. You might have 20 minutes where you want to kill someone or run into the bathroom and cry, just to get it off your chest. Take that 20 minutes and see what you can do with it. Many organizations, websites are looking for stories just like ours. Share it! You can click on such sites like the USA Cares banner above or click here and share your story. The more we share, the more others can eventually try to pitch in and help our challenges we face. Brannan, from, could use some good help with just smaller tasks such as taking brochures/fliers to the VA. This can be done and hey, more than likely this month, you will be there at one point or another. Check out her Grassroots tab for ideas on how you can help! There is also an article she posted on National PTSD Awareness Day as well on ideas on how you can help.

3. Pass on and share such links on your FB, twitter or email accounts. Some good ones are, Operation Homefront's Wounded Warrior Wives, Wounded Warrior Project. Instead of getting that second frappachino at Starbuck's or buying an overly pricey lunch, drop a few dollars in the "donate" box for these guys. If we all donated one dollar, imagine what that could do for some of these organizations!

4. Please pass on a story about this young veteran who is a purple heart recipient and who has been missing since last year. His family is desperate to locate him as any family would be! His story can be found here along with some photos. Passing on through such sites as Twitter and FB can reach a ton of people!  has a down-loadable flier with story and description of this veteran and it would take you just a few minutes to pass on. Your taking a minute to share this, might be another minute closer to finding this veteran.

5. For those who are NOT living with PTSD, take the time out to pitch in a helping hand. I don't know about many of the families who are reading, but some of our veterans have physical injuries that limit items such as mowing the yard or trimming the bushes. Even with mental injuries such as TBI and PTSD, these items can be daunting for a spouse trying to be superman and doing it all on her own. Give a call, and just see if there is something you can do for them. The best gift a dear friend of mine has ever given me are these kind of phone calls "Hey, I was wondering if I can steal the kids away for a little while to go to a movie or bowling". While that might not seem a lot to some folks, I can guarantee you that the families who are juggling PTSD and any other issues, this is a gift that no price tag can be placed upon. Offer to run to the store, clean up or perhaps give the spouse a break for a few hours so she may have time to run by and get that double scooped icecream cone with her groceries. Those little breaks are few and far between. Trust me, we won't ask for this but if you offer, our little hearts are going to go pitter-pat as you see nothing but elbows and ass running for the front door! Now for those that can't afford to offer much, offer support and a lending ear without judgment. The best thing ever given is just an opportunity of releasing that pressure cooker going off in the Veteran's or spouse's head!

Simple simple things. Nothing overly drastic, nothing overly time consuming, but enough to make an impact. Just by standing up and saying "We are the family of PTSD" or any other issues creates that first awareness. Many try to hide it and that's not going to help us in the long run. It's not going to help you at all by hiding it. Now I am not saying rent a billboard, stand out on the corner with written signs, but just standing in front of a mirror and saying to yourself  "yep, our family represents the very many and I am not ashamed" will be creating awareness for yourself and that my always the first step in fighting back.

I am a spouse of Military Combat PTSD. This is my family and we are not ashamed,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rolling with Stranger Tides

Wow! Has it really been almost two weeks since I last wrote? Where did the time go? I don't know about you all, but this year has completely left us in the dust as far as time flying by! Now....where do I start so you can get somewhat an idea of where we are at right now? Lots of changes happened in the past few weeks, so its all been one big blur as far as keeping up.

So in my last post about just us, we were assigned another recovery coordinator that I wasn't so sure about. Mostly because I hadn't had a chance to really talk to her or give her what we have done and haven't done in the past. We are after all, as a family in the whole, gun shy and not used to holding on to hopes. It's more like "Oh yeah? I got to see it to believe it honey". I feel horrible because we have changed so dramatically and there is no such thing as miracles, hope or even magic anymore. I spent hours on the phone calling the First Marine Division, the Pentagon, and anyone else in between just like I have in the past three and a half years. It finally paid off by getting in touch with the right person who cared and took the time to look my husband's military records up. Low and behold, there was absolutely nothing.

After some stupid, head banging "are you freaking kidding me?" questions from the Pentagon like "Is he still Missing in Action?", and my favorite "Are you sure he isn't still missing?". I told her "Well I am looking at him and don't you think I might have called you sooner in regards to him not coming home three years ago?". Sheesh!  I am amazed that I walked away from all of the past two weeks with only a minor twitch in the eye! The Reserve Recovery Coordinator we had that I second guessed, turned out to hold true to her words and what a go getter she is! She did more for us in less than three weeks, than any of the Congressmen or state representatives we had on our case. That in itself, is just sad. Rather, it's infuriating and I know that my state's congressman will NOT get my vote this coming election. I chose carefully among our state's political gurus choosing what I thought was wisely, and picked those who pushed the support of veterans! Turns out, they didn't do much at all that I, as the spouse, couldn't do on my own. Now they have "stated" they worked very hard and tirelessly on our case. Hmmm....this makes the Mistress wonder just how hard they worked. Seems to me a young lady three states over did all this in less than three weeks so what went wrong? I can imagine the conversation going something like this:

Congressman: "Is that the crazy lady on line two?" Sigh "Tell her I am looking into it and when you get off the phone call over to St. Louis records department and see if this soldier's records are there".

Secretary: "Sir, St. Louis records only hold retired and discharged records"

Congressman: " Call them anyway so I can give this woman some type of answer!

Secretary" Sir? St. Louis doesn't have them and neither does National Defense".

Congressman: "Ok, well we have done all we can do so just send her a nice letter apologizing but be sure to add my computer signature so she knows that I am sincere. Make sure you remind her how hard we worked and to please return the favor in her vote in the upcoming election".

Harsh? Yes. Close to the truth? Most definitely. 

After more than 150 hours logged on the phone, 78 individuals later, one meeting, and some secondary sun burns...I managed to find validation for my husband and was able to close that chapter in our life. The Army has been on our case for the past two weeks with TONS of people calling from neurologists, Child Youth Services, to mental health counselors and therapists. We were also assigned a Military Family Life Consultant or MFLAC if you choose the short version, who is helping to get our finances straightened out.

So where, do you ask, does this lead the Mistress now? Well, I am not really sure. I don't believe in my heart that it has truly sunk in just yet that the fighting is over. Seems that I have become quite comfortable in harassing people for the past few years, staying in that fight mode with no way to get to the flight part that goes with it. I am walking around in a daze now. No more, will I be calling Ft. Benning on a weekly basis, or sending tons of letters and emails...and although we have definitive proof now, I feel sort of out of whack.

From these Line of Duty injury forms, means my husband's awards and benefits will be put in finally which be somewhat closure for him. From what I understand, and there are many involved, they are backing up to 2007 and assigning him to a Wounded Transition Unit. This will also help us when we go before the MED Board, which is one thing we are scared of and going into blindly. This will also help overturn the "not combat related" bullshit the VA keeps giving us on all of our claims for disability. Well, at least a small part of us hopes that it will help that latter part. I find that when dealing with the VA, "hope for the best expect the worst" has been our motto.

Having these LOD's will be nice and most definitely help, but do I think the fight is completely over? Nope. I somewhat think that this will mean a new fight and one that I am completely out of my comfort zone with. It is truly like being a captain and sailing in uncharted territory. After they emailed with all of this, I wanted to shout it from the roof tops because I have been told by so many people just to walk away, not to write or document any of this especially on the internet, and even told to stop calling period. Some days I was placed on hold while I am sure, five or more military personnel were playing "rock- paper-scissors" to see who was going to have to deal with the lady on line three. So this was not only a victory for my family, but for all of us spouses and Veterans who keep hearing "you are the strongest advocate anyone will give you". It's true. I am proof that effort, time, patience, research, education and the willingness to not give up...pays off. Some have asked me in the military world, how in the hell I pulled this off or how I found them. They would be most definitely surprised to see that in research and time put in, information is to be gained easily....on the internet.

I wanted to place the damn confirmation on billboards leading up the highways, I wanted to march in front of the VA and yell at the top of my lungs "how do you like me NOW" or possibly a strong sentiment of "go suck an egg"! Instead, my husband and I just sat on the back porch, heads held in our hands and we cried. My husband looked at me and said "what does this mean?" and for the first time in three and a half years, I was able to look at him straight in the eye and say "baby, this means you can hold your damn head high and know that you are validated". Sigh....alas, the Mistress refrained from placing such items on billboards, no anti-VA-egg sucking-go screw yourselves march in front of the VA, but gotta tell you all dear readers, it was a moment of triumph. And I myself, can hold my head up high because I did it and on my own.

Since then, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and while grateful for all those who have suddenly found a deep interest in my family, I can't help but wonder......"where were you three years ago?". Why in some of these resources, are we just now hearing from some of these? Why did it take me so many years to get someone in the right department and then discover that "oh well, we have been here". I think the victory was was most definitely rewarding, but hard to swallow at the same time. I have made sure that they remembered this one simple phrase, "You deployed a soldier and disposed a hero". I want those involved and responsible to sleep on that phrase every night they lay their head down. I want those who didn't do their job to know that there are some who will not give up and will continue to fight. So if you have gained anything from this blog at all, take with you the knowledge that you MUST fight or they have won and that's exactly what they want you to do, give up the fight. For those of us bloggers, who constantly remind you that "You are your Veteran's biggest advocate" we aren't spinning some BS for you that we expect you to walk away and accept.

Between all of this, my family and my husband was awarded a PTSD and TBI service dog, which we are very excited to have in our family. Although not a cure, we are hopeful this will give my husband some type of normalcy and confidence. We leave to go work with our new family member in July, but will talk more about that later. I am way behind in blogs as I wanted to talk more about the HAVE (Helping a Veteran Experience) Alaska program that my husband attended, and my trip with the Wounded Warrior Project's Writers Guild Program in New York City this past weekend. I am very behind in emails, but please know that I have read each and every one you all have sent in. I am super honored that many of you have shared your stories with me and I will definitely get back to you. Be patient with me as I am trying to juggle so many things right now at the moment and with not only physical exhaustion, but mental one as well. Many thanks to all of you who kept me going, this was a small victory for all of us.

Still Holding My Head High, 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crazy Being Home

I have always maintained that music surrounds our existence in these times and for every moment in life, there is a special song creating your very own soundtrack to your life. Normally, I don't advertise or promote anything unless a. I believe in it. b. it actually works and c. it's something I think my readers will find interesting. This particular post is going to be all three of these. I also have a personal take on this very subject, which makes it proof that such things are out there to help our Veterans and families. Anything that creates and pushes an awareness of PTSD and TBI gets the Mistress excited!

Mark Wills

In partnership with the non-profit organization USA Cares, Country music singer Mark Wills has stepped up and together, they are creating an awareness campaign for Post Traumatic Stress disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Together, they would like to push an awareness of the hardships and struggles our men and women in uniform deal with when coming home. Issues that we know, as Veterans and families, is becoming epidemic in proportions in our generation. When the news was released that on average, there are 18 suicides a day among our veterans, it saddened me to think that was their only way out and the military and VA systems are failing ALL of our Veterans. It made that bottomless pit and hollow feeling in my stomach because as you know, my husband wanted to commit suicide and tried.

I was intrigued about the email I received in regards to this PTSD and TBI campaign, but was more impressed over the phone call discussing the whole thing. I have to say that Jessica, at Lotus Nile (Music/Entertainment firm) treated me with kindness, respect and a genuine concern and belief in what they were trying to do. I find that most intriguing as I have seen some organizations or individuals who use the wounded to collect money, but you never really see what the money is going to. Several things piqued this girl's interest with this whole campaign. First, I love Mark Wills! Yes, the Mistress has to admit that I love his music, his looks and the fact he just seems down to earth. I adore the fact he has made more than seven trips to the Middle East to see our troops and perform, which there are only a hand full out of the entire music community who has done this. The "Crazy Being Home" campaign is dedicated to those who risked their lives for this country's freedom. I like the fact that Mark Wills genuinely cares and is concerned for our many military members coming home with such problems. I also, after speaking with Jessica, didn't get the feeling that this was for promotional wasn't about money, it was about the awareness and helping an organization he believed in.

Second, my family was a recipient of one of the programs under the USA Cares mission; the Warrior Treatment Today program. This program helps give the Veteran the financial help they need to cover the costs of bills, rent, mortgage etc while they are in an inpatient program for these types of wounds. The biggest obstacle many military personnel have is being able to get the time off and usually unless they just have tons of time they can take, this is done without pay. No pay, means financial distress and can increase the symptoms of PTSD. My husband lost his job as you remember when the bottom fell out from underneath him and we had to have him hospitalized. We were still struggling to get our heads above water, and to be honest with you....this was the main reason he didn't seek out help in an inpatient program two years ago. We just couldn't afford to take the time out with no pay. USA Cares was and is a great program that I would highly recommend to anyone and have, along with writing about it.

This program is essential I think with those that are National Guard and Reserve Components who suddenly get shoved out of the ACU's and back into the civilian work force. Some of those, made more money while serving and depends desperately on those paychecks. Heck, who doesn't depend on any paychecks these days! I do recommend to check out the USA Cares program and if you do decide that this is something you want to apply for, apply in advance. There has been an increase in traffic for all non-profits these days due to the amount of so many military hardships coming back. Don't wait til your bills are close to being due because it can take a while.

Thirdly, the song "Crazy Being Home" is really really good! I like it, it's got speaks to you. I let my husband listen to it and he agreed that it really seemed to capture the feelings of those that have returned and trying to fit back in to society. We have experienced the whole finger flipping young adults, who seem to have no care in the world who they are flipping off. So it's not just a song...its a story. 

If you would like to listen to Mark Wills' new single  "Crazy being Home", you can listen here. Also, if you go to the website, Crazy Being Home, you can find up in the top of the site, a player. This player you can listen to the song and download the new single for free. The promo code that you will enter is home 2011. Enter your email and promo, then it will take you to download here. Also, what I have learned most of all from living with PTSD and TBI is we all have stories. Stories that are sad, full of loss and some anger but at the same time, full of courage, strength and love. If you would like to share your story, here is how you do it!

1. Top hand right side of the screen, you will see About, Contact and Journal. You will click on Journal   which will take you to that link.

2.There you will find in the box, Post Your Story Here which you will click on.

3. Fill out your information and share your story. Click Submit.

4. Now that you have submitted your journal entry, it is time to share your story. The goal is to
raise awareness and you can do that with your own personal link. In order to receive your
personal URL, follow the steps below. Your unique URL can be posted anywhere. You can email
it to your friends and family, or simply update your status on Facebook and Twitter.

Steps to get your own unique URL
1) After you have submitted your journal entry you will be brought back to the “Crazy
Being Home” Awareness Campaign page.
2) Scroll down to the bottom and enter your email address in the blue box
3) Press “get your link”
4) Check your email
5) You will receive an email with your own personal link.
6) Copy the link and post it for all of your friends and family to see
7) Throughout the campaign Mark Wills and USA Cares will be offering incentives to
encourage you in sharing your link and stories. Make sure to check back often!

I appreciate Mark Wills doing this and so glad that I am able to assist in such a worthy campaign. Please show your support by copying this URL link and pass it on to friends and family. You can also use this link to post on Facebook and Twitter or anywhere! Wishing all the best and special thanks to all who are involved and to those who get involved with this endeavor! Your stepping up means a ton to families across the board and I know in my heart, that with that first step..others will follow. The more awareness we can create, the more resources will come out of it to help our Veterans and their families.

Still Singing to the Song,