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!

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Life

When the Game Plan Changes….

Yesterday started out challenging……

I have been “working from home” for two days so my husband can take care of all his appointments and such with the VA. (Also, shout out to the VA for continually canceling his appointments when he gets there….jerks!)

Here are some hard facts about working from home:

  • Kids don’t understand the concept and think it’s time to play with you and distract you,
  • Your husband thinks it means you’re available to help clean the house, watch kids, and take care of everything while he does other “projects,”
  • Nothing gets done,
  • You rather be at the office!
  • You feel like the following:

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I then had another bomb dropped on me. I thought I would be partnering with another yoga studio in the area…and now she’s not so sure. (I will say she has A LOT going on, so I actually understand).

I’m crushed. We had plans to teach and to launch a wellness magazine in the area.

So as I sit with screaming kids all around me, I feel lost.

I thought I was finally going to be able to teach yoga full time and spend more time with my kids and husband.

It was even harder to get work done knowing this. I felt like I needed a new plan.

When the morning was over, we found ourselves racing to couples therapy (and of course we were late). As you may have read last week, we are about over this shenanigan. Seriously, we are better when we are NOT in therapy. I don’t have such an urge to kill him all the time (not literally….) When we walk out of therapy, we are fighting and angry…but we press on.

Everyone agreed the relationship between us would be better if I worked from home all the time. Crazy, right? Considering how insane my house is during the day. The flip side is leaving each day to go to work when your husband has combat-related PTSD/TBI can make leaving the house for extended periods of time an absolute nightmare…

So I’m setting new goals.

It’s no secret writing is what makes me happy. It’s what I want to do for a career and it’s what I would do even if I didn’t have to work…along with teaching yoga. Teaching yoga makes me so happy and helps my own mental status (I have Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety), so I won’t ever give up teaching.

I’m determined to find my own way as a writer and instructor so I can work from home. As chaotic as working from home can be, it will make for better relationships at home and with my husband.

Have you ever worked from home? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

 

Life

When Your Husband Brings Home A Goat

I once woke up around 6 am and found a duck in my bathtub.

Yes, a live duck, swimming in the bathtub.

Why?

My husband had hit it with his truck on accident, and he wanted to be sure it was okay, so he brought it home.

I wasn’t happy. Eventually the duck went back to the pond and everything was fine…but today….today there was a goat.

Today my husband left to go to the VA. He got there and of course his appointment was cancelled and no one told us. He did still need to get labs done, so I expected him to get his blood taken and return….

Three hours later I had a goat in my driveway.

A live, living, breathing, $#!++ing goat.

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My husband proceeds to tell me the goat belongs to his cousin George who has a small farm next to my husband’s parents. The goat keeps getting out and my father-in-law wanted to just eat the stupid thing, because it’s always getting into the cow pasture.

So my husband decides the best thing is to bring it home.

He claims it’s temporary until George comes home and decides what to do with it, but after my husband put it in the back yard, our daughter proceeded to walk up to it and introduce herself. She said “Hi, I’m Talia!” and then continued talking to the goat and referring to it as “friend.”

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I would love to blame this one on the PTSD, or the Marine Corps…but this is all my husband and his “Redneckery” as I like to call it.

He said “welcome to country living” but I feel like we don’t need a goat in our yard to be “country….”

I digress.

Now he’s in the other room telling me we should name it “Gyro.” Um…..wrong animal!!!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever come home to? What would you do if there was a goat in your yard? Who wants to place bets it will still be in my yard in the morning?

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.

 

Military Spouse Life

I Refuse to “Think Pink” (So I Must Be An @$$ole)

Admittedly, this post should probably come at the beginning of October when store fronts start painting their windows pink and even bakeries start producing pink bagels (ewwww)…..but alas I could not wait another 10 months for this post….

Yesterday was the two year “anniversary” of the shooting in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some people remembered yesterday and talked on Facebook about “where they were when it I heard…..” and then today went back to life as we know it.

Not me.

I’m from Newtown. I was born in Danbury, and for a few short months lived in Southbury, but by the time I was a few months old, we moved (literally down the street) into Newtown. It’s where I learned to walk, talk, and bake. The logo for my bakery is of me under the willow tree in our back yard in Newtown, making MUDD pies and sharing them with the neighborhood dog, Pokey.

Even though I’ve lived in many other places since then, I still consider Newtown to be my hometown.

When Adam Lanza opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary, it could not have hit home anymore than it did, unless I had been there or was close with someone killed (I knew people and even went to high school with one of the teacher aids, but I was not close with any of them. I am not professing to be a victim. I’m heartbroken for my hometown).

Today as I checked Facebook for daily news (yes, that was a joke), I was outraged when someone I grew up with posted an article stating nine of the Newtown families (those who directly lost someone that day) have filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer for the gun Adam Lanza used, stating the gun should not be on the market, it has no value to civilians….

EXCUSE ME?????????

First off……this is a Second Amendment issue, and this post is not about that.

Second, Adam Lanza ILLEGALLY obtained the gun, so everyone can get off their “stricter gun laws” high horse.

Third, the issue is mental health, not gun laws. Criminals don’t follow gun laws. Those are a moot issue….but back to the mental health issue, and why I hate pink.

Americans are so proud to sport their pink bandannas, water bottles, shoes, dog collars, shirts, and cookies, saying “I support the cure for breast cancer…..” it’s almost sickening!

I can’t stand the pink.

I hate the “Save the Ta-tas” bumper sticker. I hate the pink water bottles. I hate how manufacturers try selling their goods based off making people feel like they are making a difference by buying a pink house-key for their key ring for $3.95, instead of a silver one for $.95. I hate how when we buy these things, we get on our high horses thinking we did something to end breast cancer.

Guess what folks? There is more to life than making yourself feel good for buying a pink cookie in October.

I’m not saying we should not find a cure for breast cancer. We should. However, what about finding a cure for AIDS? What about the 22 veterans who commit PTSD related suicide EVERY DAY? That number is based on the 23 states who report….not all 50, and it doesn’t account for the other veterans around the world!! What about the people with depression? I myself have major depressive disorder. I fight it EVERY DAY. There is no cure. Even with breast cancer, those people usually have a fighting chance to live a healthy life. I DO NOT HAVE THE CHANCE TO BE DEPRESSIVE DISORDER FREE and it makes me angry that in the United States, we continue to sweep mental illness under the rug.

Newtown, CT is a perfect example of this.

We want to blame the people who make the gun? How about looking at Adam Lanza and his DOCUMENTED mental illness? What about his DOCUMENTED NON-COMPLIANT MOTHER who did not actively participate in his healthcare? Oddly, she is believed to be his first victim. How about looking at how our government shut down every last mental institution in the 1970’s and started pumping people full of medicine until they felt nothing at all? That is no way to treat mental illness!!!!

As a country, as a planet, we need to stop sweeping the real issue under the rug. It’s like suing McDonald’s because you’re fat. Maybe look at the reason why you are over-eating, instead. No-one at McDonald’s held a gun to your head and made you eat their food.

As a side note, please do not order a Big Mac, large fry, apple pie, and a diet coke. That doesn’t work either.

I’m waiting for people to wake up and see they need to stop with all this PINK bullshit and start looking at other issues plaguing our communities. Maybe I’m an asshole for being tired of seeing all those stupid pink rubber bracelets, but when was the last time you saw a green one for mental illness? When? Never?

I don’t need a pink window visor to make me feel better about myself. I would feel a lot better if we would open up and talk about the problems we have with mental illness, which happens to be a driving force for many things, including school shootings.

Stop talking about the guns like they grew legs and started killing children. Address the real issue. The mental health issue. It needs to be as prominent as the breast cancer awareness.

I’ll enter my first full marathon for a cause, when we start running for depression, PTSD, schizophrenia, and the multitude of other mental illnesses we like to just sweep under the rug and pretend don’t exist.