Life · Military Spouse Life

PTSD and the Blackout Effect

I swear the next time the VA decides to mess with his medications, I’m sending him home with them for a week……they can live my nightmare and see what they are doing to all the military families out there.

As much as I love my husband, his PTSD/TBI (Post Traumatic Stress / Traumatic Brain Injury) causes lots of issues. It regularly makes me think we won’t make it (though deep down, I know we will).

The VA decided to switch his medications, yet again. The result? It’s the same every time. He gets angry, spiteful, depressed, and basically, in short, turns into a jerk. It gets to the point where I’m in tears and heartbroken.

He says things I don’t think he really means…and half the time, he says hurtful things and then doesn’t remember later. I’ll call him out on the things he’s said, and he is genuinely surprised and doesn’t remember.

It’s painful.

I feel like I live on the edge with this. He could snap at any time and have a “PTSD episode” where his anger just takes over. He basically turns into a monster…. then after a few days, things calm down, and he returns to himself. It’s the time when he’s angry and mean that puts me on edge. I worry about what will happen. I’ve even worried about him hurting me.

I don’t tell you this to bash him.

It’s actually not his fault. It’s the fault of the combat-related PTSD/TBI. It’s the VA not helping us.

I know there are lots of military spouses out there going through the same thing. I see it daily in all the support groups in which I belong.

It’s like living with two different people, and the VA isn’t aggressive about taking care of our veterans. Sometimes they don’t take care of them at all.

All those things you see and hear about the VA are true….sometimes it’s worse. It’s worse when you actually live with it every day.

Sometimes it takes months to get an appointment. Literally months……then you get there and it was cancelled and no one told us. They tell you to call the appointment line and start again.

Last week they then called me to tell me they would call to make an appointment….yes, that actually happened. JUST MAKE THE APPOINTMENT.

Then he has to drive 90 minutes each way for a consult. It’s hard on his back. It’s aggravating to his knees. No one should have to drive 90 minutes for a doctor consult.

I watch him suffer. Then I suffer.

The circle continues.

It’s lonely.

It’s painful.

I cry…. a lot.

I spend a lot of time on the phone with my mom, upset and asking why he is doing this. I fear I have to take my kids and leave. I fear he will never get the help he needs. I fear our lives are over as we know it.

Then he comes around like nothing happened. He doesn’t remember half of what happened. He’s seemingly okay for awhile….then the cycle starts again.

This past week it was a phone call to me at work freaking out about the dogs, threatening to get rid of all my dogs. He was so angry and threatening…I grabbed my computer at work, told my (very understanding boss) I had to go, and flew home.

It’s a long 30 minute drive.

My dogs were okay.

He’s fine with them now. He was upset one got into something she shouldn’t have….

He actually has the biggest heart of anyone I know. When it comes to animals and rescue, he would take every abandoned or hurting animal and save them. When he has these “episodes” he’s just a different person.

The medication switch makes everything so horrible. The best part? The VA MAILS his medications …yes, through the MAIL. So we have to wait for them to fill it, mail it, and for it to be delivered. Meanwhile, they have him decreasing the one he was on and he’s off balance. We’ve done this at least two dozen times already. Medication only masks the problem. It’s not a solution…..changing it constantly makes it WORSE!

Is there really no way to have a regular pharmacy fill a prescription and bill the effing VA so we aren’t all suffering?

By the end of the weekend, things had returned to normal, but when will it happen again? When will I feel alone? scared? hurt? When will I feel like I can’t take it anymore? It’s a lonely place to be!

Today some new medicine came. I also got a letter they sent us the wrong disability pay, so they will be taking it back. Do you know how frustrating it is to have pay constantly messed up? Then our normal pay is reduced to fix their mistake, and I can’t plan for bills…..

If someone were to say they are thinking about joining our military, I would tell them to thing twice. It’s a noble and amazing, selfless thing to do, but it’s not appreciated by the government who continues to leave the veterans and their families out to dry.

I will be updating the Resources page over the next few days for those finding themselves in the same situation….hopefully we can find things that actually work!

Life

The Therapy Backfire Conundrum

We went to therapy.

Couples therapy.

It was supposed to help.

We were supposed to engage in couples therapy for an indefinite amount of time.

It was supposed to make it all better.

WE HATED IT.

Crazy, right? Therapy is supposed to help!

Let’s back up a bit, shall we?

My husband gets out of the Marine Corps and we are still living in Charleston, SC (USA). We decide to move to Illinois (his home state) a few years later. His PTSD has worsened, my depression isn’t always great, and we want to be near family.

We wait 10 months for the VA to get my husband into any type of therapy.

Read that again…..

We wait 10 months for the VA to get my husband into any type of therapy.

I would call and call and call….eventually we find out the therapy is better if we go to the Vet Clinic. The VA is a complete waste of time. They did nothing to help us keep him in therapy when we moved between states. The suggestion to go to the Vet Center is a God-send.

We do as we are told.

First we get Bill into therapy, but then couples therapy is offered to us.

We went.

It was a shouting match.

We went again.

This is stupid.

We literally went into the appointment fine, and came out ready to punch each other in the face.

So what did we resolve to do?

We WILL go back next week, because we have the appointment, and it must be helping on some level, but we talked about resolving to work on our marriage ourselves. Waiting for a 1 hour therapy session once a week, which actually made us more mad than we went in, isn’t what we are looking for.

I will say this: Our therapist is wonderful.

I just don’t know if this is the right approach for us.

There are a bunch of things we both have said we would work on ourselves. So hopefully we can do more at home, than a 60 minute shouting match (which, think about this…he’s a Marine, and I’m Italian-American…….it gets SO LOUD). Our poor therapist.

Working through relationship problems are hard, especially when you’re working with mental health road-blocks, like having PTSD, TBI, or depression. It means we need to work on those things AND the relationship.

We haven’t given up.

We resolved to stop saying things like “well then move out” or asking “do you just want a divorce?”

We feel like taking those things out of the vocabulary may help the healing.

Be well,

Tina

 

Life

It Makes Sense…

When you’re a military spouse, and/or when you have toddlers running around, nothing makes sense.

This morning was a perfect example. I gave our three-year-old a new sippy cup. It did not have Minnie Mouse on it…. We had an appointment at the Vet Center for both Bill and I, so I did not have time to dig out requested Minnie Mouse sippy cup.

Our daughter proceeded to act as though I had ruined her entire life, by throwing herself on the kitchen floor and wailing for a solid three minutes (which felt like a lifetime) and then only stopped when I pointed out to her she had forgotten why she was upset.

In the end, she took the sippy cup because her brother was about to grab it from her.

Ugh…

The sippy cup war is not the point of this post.

Since writing the other day about how I felt as far as life of a military spouse whose husband has combat-related PTSD, I have felt better about things. This blog now has a purpose. I feel as though I have direction. I need to share my story of pain, and share how we are healing, because the more mil-spouses I meet, the more I realize, I am not alone.

There are times when being in a relationship with someone who has PTSD is lonely. It’s worse when you factor in my own Major Depressive Disorder. It’s like a whole house of craziness (just kidding….sort of).

So where do we go from here?

Well, there’s a lot of hurt and healing in a military marriage, so I will be open and share that with you. As a yoga instructor who focuses on helping people with mental health, I will try and help there too (just remember, I am not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I can only tell you what I have experienced and what has helped me.)

I am working on a page of resources for other mil-spouses going through the same thing. Check back next week to see how I am coming along there.

Most importantly, be sure to share this website with other mil-spouses who are in the same boat. It’s lonely. It can be scary. It’s nice to have a friend.

I feel as though there are some really great blogs out there about being a military spouse. I’ll be sure to share those as we go. I just am yet to really find one about the mental aspect of military life and mental health, so here we go……

Life

A Thousand Painful Words….

I’ve tried writing this post a thousand times, and each time I write over a thousand words…then I delete it all.

So let me try again.

The premise of this blog is the crazy adventure I’m on with my husband, kids, and our zoo of rescue pets…but it’s hard to update a blog and keep it funny and REAL when there’s so much background pain.

I have never hidden the fact I struggle with mental illness.

I do not hide the fact my husband had combat-related PTSD and TBI (traumatic brain injury).

What I have hidden from everyone is the pain and hurt it has caused.

I came to the realization last night, the relationship with my husband is in trouble and I feel emotionally abused.

It’s painful.

While he is absolutely the BEST father in the world to our children, I am currently living in a hell on earth.

My struggle has been, do I let this out? Do I put it out there for all the world to see? Or do I just suffer in silence and wish we had a better relationship?

If I DO put it out there, it could negatively affect my writing and yoga career. If I continue to hide it, no one else struggling with the same issues will see they are not alone.

It IS lonely in this place. There are others in this space. I know they are there….in the distance, suffering, and in pain. So I decided to let it out.

Though I know I should blame the combat and his eight years in the Marines, it’s hard to find solace in this, knowing we don’t connect, knowing I feel alone, worrying about the drinking, cheating, lying, money spending.

It sounds like a mess.

It is a mess.

It’s painful.

I could sit here and tell you all the horrible things he has done, but that does nothing to help anyone. Some of it is unbelievable….like when I thought he was going to kill me in the garage when he was on a drunken rampage talking about things from his deployments, specifically Iraq.

Can I hang on?

What about my kids?

I guess the focus of this blog must change.

I guess I need to refocus my life in general.

I’m 36 and in a lonely place, when I wanted to be settled, accomplished, and happy.

I am none of those things right now.

So if you’re a military spouse, if you know someone with mental illness, if you have mental illness…you…are…not…alone in this lonely, lost place.

 

Life · Writing & Publishing

Happy Birthday, Fix Your Liver

It’s been a busy few weeks since I last posted, but I wanted to stop and check in with you!

A few weeks ago I started teaching yoga again! I rented a space on Monday nights at a pop-up shop in the next town, and it’s going GREAT! Sadly, this cuts into my writing time, but I really love my time on the mat. Three straight hours of yoga is great for the body….especially as it ages!

Right? Wait! What?

If you count back 40 weeks from this week, you land on New Year’s Eve/Night. With the most popular birthday being October 5th, you can pretty much assume all of us first week of October babies are the result of some hard core partying on the part of our parents as they rang in the New Year. I apparently am no exception, with my birthday being October 6th.

Last week I went to the doctor for a routine checkup and to refill my depression medication. No big deal, right? WRONG. She thought it would be cool to stick me with a needle and draw some blood. (I had Talia with me and she scored not one, but TWO toys even though I had to give up the blood!!) Anyway, I didn’t think much of it, and moved on with my day. The next day though, the doctor called….and told me she needed more blood. Apparently, Dracula didn’t care for my elevated liver enzymes and wanted to do further testing.

Seriously? I’m turning 36, not 86!!!! (Though we all outlived Hugh Hefner, which I did NOT think would happen!)

So after I told Bill what was going on, and called my mother in a panic, and then my dad (demanding an extensive family history…none of which included liver disease) I turned to the World Wide Web for answers….

Here’s a pro-tip for you….if your doctor tells you something might be up, don’t get on the web. If you do this, you will convince yourself you are dying of some foreign disease not in existence for the last 300 years.

Me? I thought I was dying of liver cancer…..

I’m not dying of liver cancer.

My doc called back today and told me I had high cholesterol and had to stop my medication for ADHD because it could EFF you up! (I’m looking at you Lily Pharmaceuticals).

Thankfully, I just need to take a new medication and stop they other medication. I did however jump on Amazon and order liver cleanser…..I know, I know, but what can it hurt? It made me feel a bit better for about an hour.

So tomorrow is a new start. I’ll be 36 (still in my MID-30’s…..not late 30’s yet) and I hope with the new trip around the sun, I can be more diligent about posting on this blog! Be assured, if you don’t hear from me, I’m okay. I’m working on writing my next novel and doing a lot of freelance work! OH! How could I forget??? Hockey is also back as of tonight (I write as I sit in front of my TV). Hopefully I’m a better fan this year. Last year I was working so much, I didn’t log in much fan time.

#GoBruins

#BruinsForLife

Here is a picture of Talia when she turned 1!!!!! #HockeyBabyHockey Baby.jpg

 

Life

Tanski Talks: My Mental Illness

I have Major Depressive Disorder. It’s not a secret. I’m not ashamed. Sure, I know some people judge because of the stigma around mental illness and being “crazy” but remember, I am currently writing the book on crazy…literally! Visit my Author website to see an excerpt from my book Literary Crazy.

Anyway….. Scott Tankski. Scott Tanski plays for the South Carolina Stingrays (hockey). Last night we had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He organzied the Meet N’ Greet as a “Thank you” to fans who purchased his “Tankski Talks” t-shirts. Money raised from the shirts is being donated to the mental health clinic here in the LowCountry, which I might add, actually saved my life once.

Here is a picture of one of my BFF’s Mersadies, me, Liam, Scott Tanski, Bill, Talia, Big Garrett (Mersadies hubby) and their son, Little Garrett.

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Tanski was personally touched by the story of Daron Richardson, the daughter of a 20 year NHL player (Luke Richardson) who lost her battle to mental illness at age 14. He designed the t-shirts to raise awareness, get people talking, and support local organizations.

Click HERE to listen to the interview of Scott Tanski.

Bill and I purchased a shirt for each of us, one for Talia, and one for my therapist who I will see for the last time before our big move, at the end of the month.

Here is a picture I stole from the SC Stingrays website of all the guys sporting the t-shirt.

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Scott could not have been any nicer. He signed Talia’s shirt for her and I told him (almost without crying) how the organization he is donating the money to saved my life once. (That is a whole other blog post!) He seemed to be appreciative of hearing the story and gave me his full attention, even with a line of people out the door to meet him.

Also this week, I got another tattoo…this one is the semi-colon. It’s not because I’m a writer, but because it serves as a reminder I could have ended my story, but decided not to.

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Project Semicolon was founded  by Amy Bleuel who started the semicolon tattoo trend. Sadly, she lost her mental illness battle last week, so it was time for me to get my tattoo for myself, and for Amy.

Some people get cancer, some people have diabetes, others live with IBS or an array of other medical issues. Some of us have mental illness. We need to start talking about it. We need to accept mental illness like we do other forms of illness. Let me know if you want to chat!

Writing & Publishing

Why I Write

There is a Facebook group for everything now. Of course I belong to several writing groups, which I usually end up un-following because people complain so much or I don’t feel I am getting anything from the group. Today I stumbled across a post on a group I just joined and I was shocked by what I saw. The topic of discussion was basically how to get rich quick off writing¬†novels…

I’m sorry, what?

Unless your last name is King or Rowling, you, my currently unpublished friend, have a long road ahead of you. Also, you’re most likely never going to be on easy street.

True, writers CAN make a lot of money, but it’s unusual. I thought about why I write….no it’s not for the money. Anyway, here are a few reasons:

  • I HAVE to write. I had an interest in writing at a young age, and I think about it daily. When I was running the bakery, I hated not having time to write. It ate at me daily and I felt incomplete. I had stories in my head needing out, and no time to write them down.
  • I have a story to tell. My own story is not yet book-worthy (hence this blog) but I imagine characters and the stories they would tell if they could. I like the approach of “not everything has a happy ending.” I think too many books out there end with “happily ever after” so I like writing about reality. Prince Charming doesn’t always win the girl.
  • My characters drive me nuts! Sometimes I forget the characters I develop in my head are not real. No, I don’t need to discuss this with my therapist (though I’m sure she would get a kick out of it!) but these people I invent are important to me. They have a story to be told, and I want to do them justice and see it through. Because my fiction usually deals with injustice (such as sex slavery/trafficking) I feel I need to tell their story to raise awareness of the issues I find bothersome.
  • It’s a form of therapy. For many people, writing is therapeutic. I deal with depression and anxiety on a daily basis. Most days I do well, but there are some days I need to do something to get through the rough patches. Burying myself in writing helps get my mind off the depression. While some people may need to write letters to people they may never send (which is actually a GREAT therapy) I just need to work on one of my writing projects.
  • I want my kids to know they can do anything they set their minds to do. Writing a novel is something a lot of people talk about. It’s a “one day” type of activity…. “One day, I’ll write a novel.” For me, I’ve written a novel and am working on publishing it. I want my children to see they can do whatever they want and to be proactive about completing the project. Publishing is something I’ve wanted to do since I can remember.
  • If I didn’t write, I would face even more depression. I think a lot of the stress felt while I ran my own business was because I had no time for me and the things I like to do. It started to eat at me after awhile and affected other parts of my life. Sure, I’m sad to have closed the bakery because when I wasn’t stressed, I enjoyed being creative in the kitchen….but I’m much happier being creative on paper!
  • It’s who I am! Unlike many people who identify with their job (i.e. an accountant who became an accountant because it pays the bills) a writer is who I am. I can’t separate it from the rest of me. Just like Bill (hubby) is a Marine, and will be for life, even though he is no longer active duty, he is always a Marine!

No where on this list do I list fame and fortune as part of why I write. Yes, I have made good money copywriting, yes I would like to see some return on my time for writing my novel, but it’s not WHY I have to do it.

What is your passion? Is it writing? Soap making? Hunting? Why do you do it? I really feel as though doing something for the money, fame, and fortune puts you on the wrong track! Tell us what you think in the comments.