Tag Archives: VA

Advocating For My Wounded Warrior (Part 3)

I’m sorry to have been away from my blog for so long. It’s been a very, VERY, busy year. Work has been kicking my butt and by the time I get home I really don’t want to do much. We’ve had some other things kicking our butts too, but that’s another story (click to read more). I’ve also taken on a new hobby that incorporates some “me time” along with my love to share smiles and helping veterans. I joined Pinups For Patriots! YAY! Go me! If you want to check out what I’m doing in the Pinup world, please like my Facebook Page.

</selfless plug>

Anyway, what I would like to talk about today is the fact that I haven’t stopped advocating for my husband when it comes to his pain and the VA. In fact that is also another part of my busy life. So, last year in October was his last civilian Botox treatment.  He was due for another one in late December, but you know how the Holidays always throw off everyone’s schedule. So we went to schedule it in January. For the past 3 years he has been having this done, every three months, all we’ve ever had to pay for was the doctor’s visit. The Botox was covered. Well, 2016 rolls around and not any more. We will have to pay $1000 every 3 months in order for him to get his Botox. We just couldn’t afford this.

So I asked him to ask his Primary Care at the VA to refer him to VA Neurology. He had that appointment on the 3rd of February. When we explained the conditions, he said, “No problem. I can refer you to the Pain Center for that.” We also brought up the fact he wanted to try Ketamine Infusions. And the doctor said he would include that in his referral and we could discuss it at the Pain Center.

A month goes by and we never heard anything. We logged into MyHealthEVet every so often to check for an appointment. Called the VA Pain Center and they said they never received a referral. He finally found out that on the 4th of February, a different doctor went through his records and saw that he was getting care outside the VA for Botox and revoked the referral.

Joy.

Ok, two months have gone by since the original Neurology appointment. He had his first visit with the VA Pain Center, his consult, on May 6th. May 6th! And even though he’s been there before he STILL had to go through his history. Oh and it’s all right there in his medical records! But they decided to start from scratch. He had to go through a “test” procedure with steroids and lidacaine, something that he’s gone through so many times before and it didn’t work. It was documented in his VA medical records that it didn’t work. Yet they wanted to do it again since “it’s a new procedure.” Um, no it’s not. TheHubs explained to the doctor the exact procedure he went through the last time he was there. It was the same procedure the doctor was explaining to him. But, let’s try it one more time. That happened on July 5th. And guess what?! It did nothing for him.

Ugh.

So we had to wait even longer to get that Botox injection. His next scheduled appointment was 3 October. This was when he was to have his Botox. Even though we brought his civilian doctor records of the last 3 years worth of injections, the VA only does half the dose at double the time. Oh this is so frustrating. During this appointment we also found out that the VA Pain Center is not trained to do most of the areas he has been getting Botox injected into, which happen to be his worst areas. So they are writing in his notes that he needs a referral to go to Neurology to do that. We also mentioned Ketamine Infusions. They said they have done a few of those in the past but he needs a referral for that as well. The nurse instructed us to contact his PCP to get that referral.

We sent a secured message to his PCP on the 4th. We get a reply on the 11th stating that Neurology is submitting a referral to the Choice Program (where he can see a civilian doctor). Of course we haven’t heard anything. I call up The Choice Progam and they don’t have an authorization letter for me to speak on his behalf, even though we’ve sent it in multiple times over the years. Apparently they are not the VA, but work with the VA. Ok. So I finally get to talk to them and they don’t have the referral yet and it usually takes at most 3 business days to get it.

We sent another secured message to his PCP and the nurse instructed us to contact the VA Neurology. VA Neurology knew nothing about a referral. They said his Primary needed to submit the referral to the Choice Program. Emailed his PCP back, and they said, no, Neurology needs to submit the referral.

Oye ve! Can we please stop this merry-go-round? I want off!

When we emailed the PCP back, the nurse said that she will “forward this to a specialist,” whatever that means.

So, I’m still fighting for my husband for him to get the care he deserves and hopefully some relief from all the pain. It breaks my heart to see him balled up in bed, ripping at his hair, squeezing the crap out of his neck, nearly in tears all because of the pain.

This was taken outside the VA Pain Center when he went in for his procedure…the first time. I just love it!

img_20160705_102314

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
Advocating for My Wounded Warrior (Part 2)
Advocating for My Wounded Warrior (Part 1) 
Our Story

PTSD, TBI, Sex and Relationships

After 26 years of marriage, we’ve only just now started opening up more, having conversations about these very topics. I have not been able to put them into words yet. I am still processing. But this….this post explains it all. I will return here and re-read and re-read until I can understand it better. I don’t think I can fully understand what goes on in his mind. I don’t think he ever wants me to, either. But this blog post helps me tremendously. I do hope it helps you too.

Life After War

You came back different. Changed. You can’t really describe  it, but you’re not yourself. Not who you used to be. You’re angry. Blow up at stupid shit. Lack other emotions. Feel numb. Tired. Disinterested in stuff that used to be interesting. Tense. Sleepless. Have nightmares that scare the hell out of you. Forget shit. Can’t focus. You miss your buddies. Miss the war. Miss the ones you lost. Miss feeling like you used to feel. Before.

He came home. Different. Instead of you being able to step back and let him take over sharing the household, childcare and financial responsibilities, you have to take care of him now, too. He’s angry. Silent, except when he’s mad. He can’t remember shit. Seems unmotivated. And distant. He’s up all night; keeps you up all night. Spends more time on the sofa than in bed. Keeps loaded guns around the house. Is edgy…

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When The Fog Burns Off

Several weeks ago, my husband called me while I was at work.
Nothing unusual about that.

However, this time his voice was broken and quiet and he said, “Something happened.”

My mind raced within a microsecond of what could possibly have happened. My throat closed. My stomach flipped.

Before the sobs took hold and the line went dead, he managed to tell me of the memory that the fog had shrouded from him since the incident happened in Kosovo back in 1999.

My own silent panic raged inside of me while I dropped everything at work and sped home. He was no longer answering the phone. The more I tried, the faster I drove. Even if we had someone who could go check on him, I knew he was in no state to answer the door. Had I called 911 and had a sheriff go out, it probably could have made things a thousand times worse. I just had to get home as fast as I could.

I already had a plan in my head if I were to get pulled over by the police for speeding. I would have handed them my driver’s license and told them to meet me at my house because my husband was in full PTSD meltdown and I needed to get there as fast as I could. (Honestly, in hindsight, I probably should have called 911 to let them know what I was doing. Not sure how that would have ended though. Would they have come to the house? Would it have made TheHubs worse?)

Once I got home, I found him huddled under the covers, won’t come out from under them. I called his VA doctor and between me talking with him and the nurse talking with him while I held the phone to his ear, we finally calmed him down.

But that memory of his time in Kosovo, that memory that his brain had protected him from, still lingers.

PTSD never gets better. No amount of therapy or drugs can make it so. I don’t care what the VA says. PTSD is something that will haunt the person for the rest of their lives. They, alone, are the only ones who can manage it. Living with someone who suffers PTSD is not so haunting, but it does affect everyone it touches in some way. Those of us who live with, and love, someone who suffers with these demons has to learn to adjust. And the only way to learn is through communication between everyone involved.

I am blessed that he is comfortable enough, trusts me enough, to share with me his demons. But I am also cursed with the knowledge of those demons and knowing that I will never be able to take them from him.

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story
PTSD or Moral Injury
Anxiety, Depression, and Secondary PTSD

VA Appeal Update #6

I contacted the VA Under Secretary, in hopes to either speed up the process or at the very least, let them know about the gobbledygook woman that did his C&P.

Again, they just “passed the buck” on the whole thing. We did get an “update,” if you want to call it that.

Here’s what we got:

STATUS OF APPEAL:  Your husband’s appeal began in July 2011 when VA received his Notice of Disagreement.

BVA VIDEOCONFERENCE HEARING:  On 07-24-14, a videoconference hearing with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) was requested. The next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of that hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

 A hearing is not required. The wait for a BVA videoconference hearing can be long as there are limited slots available. The St. Petersburg, FL Regional Office – which is where the hearing will be held – received many requests for BVA videoconference hearings prior to your husband’s July 2014 request. Those requests are filled based on date order.

 If your husband decides to withdraw his request for the hearing, the appeal would then go directly to BVA for their review. (provided no additional evidence has been submitted requiring Regional Office action) Please know that he is entitled to a hearing – it is his choice whether to have the hearing. If he decides to withdraw the hearing request, that written, dated, signed statement should be submitted via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

APPEALS BACKLOG:  The appeals backlog is large. Regional Offices and the BVA are working those appeals based on the date they were received. I apologize for the long wait which I know can be frustrating. The Under Secretary has repeatedly requested additional resources from Congress to help VA work appeals more quickly.

EXPEDITING AN APPEAL:  However, please know that an appeal may be expedited for a veteran who is terminally ill, homeless or otherwise experiencing very serious hardship. If your husband is in one of those categories, he may request that his appeal be expedited based on such circumstances. To do so, submit that request in writing with documentation of the hardship to the VA regional office in St. Petersburg, FL. Documentation of severe financial hardship could include such things as copies of bankruptcy proceedings, eviction notice, past due bills, utility shut-off notices, etc. Submit the request and the supporting documentation via:

·         fax to VA’s Evidence Intake Center at (844) 531-7818
·         or mail to Evidence Intake Center at –
Department Of Veterans Affairs
Evidence Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Newnan, GA 30271-0020

 If your husband does not fall into one of the above categories, then his appeal will continue to be worked in date order. That means it may be a few months to many months to even more than a year before the next step in the appeal, which is the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Again, I apologize for the long wait – but I want to give you a realistic timeframe.

 CHECK STATUS OF APPEAL:  To check on the status of the appeal, please call 1 (800) 827-1000. Your husband’s representative, Disabled American Veterans, can also provide updates and assistance.

I hope that this information is helpful to you and your husband. As noted above, the next step in the appeals process will be the scheduling of the BVA videoconference hearing. Your husband will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

This waiting is expected. I grew up in the military. Everything was hurry up and wait. But this is absolutely ridiculous.

Let the “more waiting” ensue.

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story
VA Appeal Update
VA Appeal Update #2
VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #4
VA Appeal Update #5

Advocating For My Wounded Warrior (Part 2)

We recently completed our annual eye exam. (You can read more about that here.)

We had to spend about $600 on TheHub’s glasses. His eyesight is increasingly bad. Every year he needs a new prescription. And glasses aren’t cheap. And since he’s become photosensitive, we decided to get him a pair of prescription sunglasses. So that tacked on to the price tag. Luckily, we used his old frames for that. I was hoping that would help him get out of the house more. But they aren’t as dark as we were hoping, nor are they as strong as he needs.

So, I’ve been trying to think of something he can do so he’s not stuck in the house all the time, something he can be passionate about again. And I posted the dilemma I have to one of my caregiver groups I’m in. I was blessed to have found it because the lady who runs it, her husband also suffers from migraines. She pointed me to the VA for their VIST program (Visual Impairment Support Team. Her husband goes through them and they have given him two pair of special glasses, one for inside and one for out.

During my research on this, I found that in our location it is called the VICTORS (Visual Impairment Center to Optimize Remaining Sight). I called them yesterday morning and they said they don’t normally see migraine patients, but they put in a referral for TheHubs to be evaluated by this program.

He now has an appointment for the end of September. I do hope this works for him, better than what we can get on the civilian market with our limited pocket-money. And allows him to get out of the house better, and more often.

Wish us luck.

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
VA Appeal Update #5
VA Appeal Update #4
VA Appeal Update #3
Our Story

 

VA Appeal Update #5

I’ve been trying, for two months now, to find the contact information for Secretary Bob McDonald. I’ve had one person offer help with our claim because she had his “cell phone number” and would “gladly help so no one had to go through what they had to deal with.” Yeah, after 3 attempts to contact her different ways with no response, I’ve given up on her.

I sent the second letter to Rep. Ted Yoho on 6 February 2015 and haven’t heard anything back.

On 3/4/2015 I tried sending a letter to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button it returns a 404 PAGE NOT FOUND error. I also sent that same letter to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and when I hit the submit button on their contact form, I receive “Access Denied.”

Yeah, I’m beginning to think there’s a conspiracy to cover up anything dealing with the VA. So much for their “TRANSPARENCY.” UGH.

Sent them both a tweet about it. No response.

Went to the Senate’s Facebook page but the option to post on their page has been disabled.

Went to the House’s Facebook page and asked about the 404 error there, and tagged the Senate’s account. Now we wait to see if they respond.

Yes, I’m getting very, VERY frustrated.

I went home that night and posted this in my caregiver support forum:

Today was a complete waste of time and effort. So many things I WANT to do but I spent most of it lost in google and government red tape. Someone in another offered to help with our claim issues and never followed through. I also haven’t heard back from my Representative I wrote to a month ago. So I decided to see if I could look up Secretary McDonald’s contact info. No luck there either. Then, I went to the House AND Senate Veterans’ Committees and their contact us form. One gave me a 404 Not Found error. The other, Access Denied. I thought maybe it was just the browser, so I tried another. Nope. Me thinks there is a conspiracy! I tweeted both of them. No response yet. I went to their Facebook pages. The Senate Committee page doesn’t allow posts from followers. But the House one does. I commented about their web page issue and tagged the Senate in that same post. No response yet. So frustrated. I guess we are supposed to be patient and wait, even though we’ve been doing that since 2003. I guess we aren’t meant to be lucky like everyone else. I guess pain and suffering in more ways than just what he’s going through is our lot in life. I should accept this. But I’m not going to stop. I will continue to try to get my heart hurt because that’s what I have to do. If I don’t do it. He will give up. It just reminds me of the story of Job in the bible. There’s always hope. Right?

I received an offer to help from one of the admins who was “connected.” Four emails later, and started feeling a bit better.

But that didn’t last.

I’ve sent the letters to Senator Ted Yoho, the House & Senate Committee several more times since February. I have heard nothing. What else can I do to get this going? I know I’m supposed to “Hurry Up And Wait.” That’s been the military motto my father drilled into my head since I was a baby. You’d think I would understand this by now. Logically knowing this is so very different from actually practicing this.

A few days ago, we did receive a letter from our Regional Office stating:

We have certified your appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and are transferring your VA records to the Board in Washington, D.C. The Board will notify you when it has received your records.

More Hurry Up And Wait. Let’s see, here’s a brief rundown of our latest claim with the VA:

  • 7/22/2009 – Claim Received
  • 7/29/2010 – Claim Considered
  • 8/2/2010 – Notice of Decision
  • 7/14/2011 – Notice of Disagreement
  • 10/2/2012 – Personal Hearing at the VA Regional Office
  • 1/29/2014 – VA C&P Exam
  • 7/14/2014 – De Novo Review election Received from Appellant
  • 6/22/2015 – Certified the appeal and sending records to the Board of Appeals in DC.

You can see how frustrating waiting can be!

In the mean time, I continue to advocate for him, anyway I can. But I’m running out. If anyone has any more ideas I can try, I am open and willing to listen. Please send them my way. I have finally found Secretary Bob McDonald’s phone number, which I will leave here for anyone else; but I think I might be too chicken to call him. I wouldn’t even know what to say. I write better than I speak.

http://static.c-span.org/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.1434395986.swf?clipid=4507948

LadyJai

 

 

Related Articles you may like:

Our Story
VA Appeal Update
VA Appeal Update #2
VA Appeal Update #3
VA Appeal Update #4

Advocating For My Wounded Warrior (Part 1)

So, yesterday was a day of HOPE. Today, not so much. But I’m still advocating!

I’ve been following a the use of magnetic stimulation for migraines since 2008. eNeura, Inc. has the first FDA approved personal magnetic device for use with migraine patients. In 2013, the FDA approved its marketing. I attempted to contact the company then to see about getting my husband into a study or find out any more information. However, no one ever returned my email. Their site was basic and they only had a contact for press relations. I tried anyway.

We know from first hand experience that magnetism WORKS to relieve his migraines. When he was still in the Army, and the migraines weren’t as often, nor as bad, he would keep a neodymium magnet inside his cap and it would help. When they went to the berets, though, there was no place to keep it secured and hidden. So he went without. Every time he’s ever had an MRI he’s had a very bad migraine. This is not unusual, even, since he gets them at least 4 times a week. Every time he’s gone into the MRI machine, he falls asleep almost instantly, and then wakes up with NO MIGRAINE. So we know magnetic therapy works. But there’s no way we could get our own personal MRI machine. Plus, it would be incredibly expensive to run the thing. *shudders*

Yesterday, I went looking at it once again. This time, there was more information about the device and more contacts I could pose more questions to. I again sent a letter explaining my husband’s 15 year migraine history and asking about the device, how much it costs, and how we could get it.  This time, they responded quickly, but with rather disappointing words.

Dear Jamie –
Thank you for your inquiry regarding eNeura’s SpringTMS migraine treatment device. We are pleased to announce ours is the first clinically proven, non-invasive device cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration to relieve pain caused by migraine headaches that are preceded by an aura. The company has also received European CE mark for its SpringTMS device for the treatment of acute migraine and is currently marketing the device in the United Kingdom.
The initial U.S. availability of SpringTMS will be through a post market open-label study with leading headache specialists at a number of headache centers around the U.S. The headache centers participating in the post market open-label study are located in Arizona, California, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Please email Customer Care to request contact information for the site nearest you, or click on this link for a complete list of the sites currently recruiting for the study: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02357381 . This link will also provide you with the list of inclusion and exclusion criteria for the study. If you husband does not meet the criteria, please still contact the study site nearest you. Some of the sites are also prescribing the device to private-pay patients who do not meet the study criteria but may benefit from sTMS (Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Jefferson Headache Center).
The SpringTMS is rented for $750 for a three-month prescription, and we do not have a discount program in place at this time. If your husband is prescribed the device, the prescribing clinician will provide a treatment plan that is appropriate for him.
Best regards,
eNeura Inc.
Sr. Director of Customer Care

Seven hundred fifty dollars EVERY. THREE. MONTHS! Oh man oh man oh man. And this isn’t even something that insurance will probably pay for right away, I’m sure! Let alone the VA.

Speaking of the VA.

This got me thinking and doing a little more research. I found out that the VA has a research and development team within their organization. So I thought I’d contact them. With the eNeura device still in studies, I thought maybe the VA would consider this. I know there are more veterans out their who suffer migraines than just my husband. And I wonder how many of them are in the same situation where nothing has worked for them to relieve the pain and severity and the number of them. TheHubs has exhausted the VA Pain Center’s capability to help him. Last year was his last appointment with them and they pretty much told him that they can no longer help him.

I am hoping beyond hope they will consider getting into the study and offer it up to my husband. But this is the VA we are talking about. I don’t know what else to do, where else to go for help. Their “Contact Us” form is generic and done by a 3rd party (UGH) rather than contacting R&D directly. And now I wait.

Please pray.

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
VA Appeal Update #4
VA Appeal Update #3
Our Story

 

VA Appeal Update #4

I guess it’s about time to update you on our VA Claim/Appeal process. Last time I wrote about the VA Scandal and where it got us. I was so excited to see that Washington actually took our story and made movement on it. My veteran was getting all kinds of calls for a week or so and each time they told him that they couldn’t do anything until such-and-such department made their decision.

Well, I guess that department made their decision because we got a letter from the Director of the C&P office. Here’s what they said:

We received your letter regarding your Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam
with <EXAM DOCTOR>. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR>, Chief of C&P, reviewed the letter
received, the C&P exam notes from <EXAM DOCTOR>, and met with the examiner to get their
input.
<EXAM DOCTOR>’s professional opinion is based on objective evidence and a
thorough review of available resources, to include: service treatment records,
electronic medical records, Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQs), and Veteran’s
statements. The diagnosis was reached through a forensic disability psychological
exam. This is standard practice across all Compensation & Pension services within
VHA.  reviewed the examination notes and supports ‘s
rationale behind her professional opinion. <CHIEF OF C&P DOCTOR> mentioned that during his call
with you on December 3, 2014, your concerns were discussed and you indicated you
were currently going through the appeals process with VBA.
We apologize for any misunderstanding that may have been caused.

If you have been following our Appeal Updates, you might remember that the C&P examiner only saw my veteran for no more than ten minutes and rushed him out, saying his memory is fine if he can remember all the meds he takes every day for the last 7 years and that his nightmares are nothing more than “gobbledygook”. How is gobbledygook “objective evidence?” 

Why do they continue to only focused on the PTSD portion of his claim? He’s been told he missed the PTSD qualifications by 2 points. Ok, fine. He doesn’t qualify for PTSD. BUT, the VA found, during that C&P exam that there is evidence of depression and mood disorder and his VSO clearly defined the precedence in his NOTICE OF DISAGREEMENT SUBMITTED ON 7/8/2011.

July 8th, 2011!

That was 2 and a half YEARS ago! And they STILL ignore it.

I also applied for the VA Caregiver Support Program in May of last year. Some caregivers told me it took them a month, while others told me it took them a year. I’ve given it a while now, somewhere in the middle, and decided to check up on my request. After many calls to many different people, we found that the national office had attached it to my file but never emailed the Caregiver Support Coordinator. When she found it, she apologized profusely and said she’d do what she can to get this pushed through as fast as she could. A few days later, we had our eligibility appointment. I just received a call from the VA Caregiver Support Coordinator telling me that we qualify based on his mental health. However, there is no record that it’s service connected. I proceeded to explain to her that it’s still in the claims/appeals process that we’ve been fighting for years over. She informed me that if/when we receive that service connection, to contact her and she will get this pushed through again.

This is just our luck. What a kick in the teeth.

So now the scramble again, to get this ball rolling. I’ve contacted Rep. Ted Yoho again with a second letter. We’ll see how that goes. And TheHubs is trying to contact his VSO about this. Since he’s always so busy, he had to leave a message.

And the waiting game continues.

LadyJai

Chewing The Cud

Chewing Cud

I’ve been a relatively positive person most of my life. I try to see the best in everyone, find positives when others lose hope, care for others when they are down. But there have been times in my life when I needed a little help of my own. I’m not one to ask for help. I always want others to notice that I need it and then offer it of their own free will. If they truly love me, if they are my true friends, I shouldn’t have to ask. Right?

Well, that’s not how it goes. Just because I am in tune with others’ emotions, because I am empathetic – affected by the emotions around me – doesn’t mean everyone else is. Most everyone else. So, I need to learn to ask for help when I need it. Not be afraid I’m dumping on them, not be afraid that they will see me as weak, not be afraid of being a burden. Because most people can’t see the need just by looking at someone, especially when that someone is quiet, doesn’t share their life’s trials and tribulations with the world, or hang laundry out for everyone to see.

I’ve always hated drama, even when drama was all the rage in high school. Hated it. So I didn’t participate. Drama is negative. Even before I learned psychology began to evaluate my friends and way of thinking, I knew I didn’t want to be around drama or negative. I wrote about having an epiphany about the company I kept back in 1999. But really, it’s been longer than that now that I go back further. I just never set a name to it. Now, I am vowing to change my thought process and change what voice is heard loudest. I can’t “evict” the negative voice. It will always be there. But I can sure try to drown it out! I started this journey last year. It will probably be a never-ending journey where there may be bumps and bruises along the way but I will do my best to keep the path straight on to positive so when I look back, I can smile and show off the deep smile lines I’ve earned.

Last year saw a year of healing for me. Like I said, I started that journey, taking care of myself physically, going to doctors I’ve neglected for years, and trying to just get out of the funk. I took all the knowledge I had gathered over the many courses and years and tried to apply them to my everyday life in order to combat the depression and anxiety. While sometimes it worked and got me through to the next day, it generally started all over again. I could no longer do this all on my own. I had to ask for help.

I’ve always found psychology fascinating. I almost majored in it when I was in college. Looking back, though, I am thankful I changed my major because in all honesty, I don’t know if I could deal with not being able to “fix” everyone. I’ve always been a perfectionist. If I couldn’t do something perfect the first time, I would avoid doing it ever again because of that failure. I’ve also had a need to control everything around me. It’s one reason why I dislike getting drunk (I’ve only been drunk once in my life, never again), or even having surgery. Both circumstances mean I lose control over myself, which causes me horrid anxiety. So, if I couldn’t control the outcome of being a therapist, I could only imagine my own mental state degrading.

In all actuality, though, that is exactly what I’ve become over the years. Not just for my friends, but my husband as well. Especially my husband. He has been my longest friend. He is my love and my life. It is my duty as a wife to keep him happy. And if I can’t do that, I’m a failure.

That was my thinking for the longest time.

Slowly, over the last year, I’ve become better at realizing it’s not my fault, there’s no fix, that just being here for him is enough. The problem I still face is squashing the negative self-talk. No matter what I do, or how I try to “trick” my brain, I always hear it. It screams sometimes. Not as much as it used to. But it’s still there. I thought I could evict it. I thought that by training my brain to see the positives in every situation, no matter how small, I could make the negative just go away.

They didn’t.

What was I doing wrong? None of the cognitive therapy techniques I’ve practiced over the years were working. The negative never went away. Sometimes, the anxiety would be so bad that I couldn’t even get my heartbeat to slow down with meditation and breath control exercises. I was starting to get scared.

Cue the vicious cycle.

I’m sure you’ve all heard the idiom – misery loves company. I’m here to tell you that this, indeed, is a fact. Not just because miserable people want to share, but because of the negative emotions feed on one another and keep their fires blazing. Anxiety feeds rumination. Rumination feeds depression. Depression feeds the negative. My thinking becomes so impaired that my problem-solving abilities are now replaced with irrational thinking. I didn’t really notice the irrational until I started communicating with my husband and understanding his PTSD brain.

Realizing your irrational thinking is one thing. But to recognize it and head it off at the pass is something completely different. Another idiom comes to mind – hindsight is 20/20. I started understanding that how I’ve acted towards his emotions has been irrational. I started trying to recognize those thoughts when they happened and stop them. This has been so very difficult to do. I’ve done everything I can that I know of, so I thought it was time to ask for help from someone who is trained.

This year, I started seeing a therapist. I’ve had one session already and the thing that most stuck out in my mind throughout our conversation is that I ruminate.

The word ruminate has its origins in Latin, and means, basically, chewing cud. We most often hear this phrase associated with cows, deer, goats, and sheep (among others). We do sometimes give it to a person; but only lightly. When a problem arises, one can say, “let me chew on that for a while.” This is not a ruminator. A true ruminator, like me, will take a situation or a problem rather than react immediately, we will mull on it, over and over, until we need it again. When we finally spit it out (bring it up again) we may have a little forward movement on the whole thing, but generally, it makes things worse. Our mulling, our problem-solving, has been squashed by our low confidence. We fall down that depressive rut of a rabbit hole and chew our cud some more.

I tend to look at the big picture, which overwhelms me. If I continue to do this, I will only see the negative. Because the mountain blocks the little flower the blooms. I can’t move that mountain if I try to pick up the whole thing. I must focus on that tiny speck of beauty, the positive, and learn to take that mountain on with one pebble at a time. (It’s why I chose the tiny Viola peaking through the dead grass near the concrete as the image for my mantra.)

 

Yes, it’s only been one session so far. Yes, I’m learning official names to what I am and already knew. Yes, I understand a lot of what the therapist tells me. I am going to learn a new way to distract myself from the rumination. If I can distract myself, I should be able to focus on more positive aspects of my life and become more self-confident.

Here’s the article my therapist gave me to read for homework. Probing the depression-rumination cycle. It is what inspired this post. If you are a woman and a caregiver, like I am, chances are you are a ruminator, too. If this sounds like you, stick with me and I will keep posting any tips I can that I’ve learned during my therapy sessions. Any questions, please let me know and I will try to address them. If I can’t I will find a way. Please don’t be scared to talk to me. It is on the pillars that the building gains its strength.

LadyJai

See also: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-rumination-rut

Merry Christmas 2014

Dearest family and friends,

I’ve been a caregiver to my husband for the last 15 years. It’s been hard. Extremely hard. I’ve felt so very alone for so very long. And I thought no one would ever understand what all is involved. So I closed myself off and faced the world in silence. As did my husband.

Twenty-two veterans take their lives every day; but the uncounted are those friends and family who care for them. Invisible wounds are brushed away, hidden in our society. Most people don’t understand. Personally, we’ve received comments such as a snotty, “Well, you don’t look disabled,” which cuts my husband deep to the soul but he puts on his mask and says, “Thank you” and carries on. It’s a two-way street, though. Those who don’t understand the problems that our veterans live with day-to-day, hour by hour, and sometimes breath by breath need to have more compassion and education and don’t just brush them off with trivial comments such as “Suck it up. Get over it. You’re stronger than that.” But our veterans must also admit, face, and open up—which is so very hard to do when they’ve been shunned and looked down upon for so long.

And this isn’t just our veterans’ problem. Invisible wounds are non-discriminant. They can attack anyone, of any race, creed, or color. It doesn’t matter. Just look at how shocked the world was when Robin Williams recently took his life. So please, don’t sit in a dark corner and think you are alone with no hope. There’s always hope.

This year has been an exceptional year, considering. While we still battle the chronic migraines and pain, PTSD, and depression, along with the issues that come along with being a caregiver, I’ve deemed this year as the year for my healing. I never once opened up, admitted, or faced my own personal issues. But when I fell into the deep dark hole of my own last year, I needed to work on me. Because I learned that if I am not healthy, I cannot be there for him.

This year had me becoming a pin cushion for the many doctors I had to see throughout the year. Bouncing from specialist to specialist with no real diagnosis. Things were ruled out, old issues resolved, and new issues popped into play. I’ve managed to get a diagnosis for some of the seemingly random symptoms I’ve experienced – Fibromyalgia. And I am currently being seen for a blood “anomaly” that will just have to be watched periodically. The last thing on the list is my emotional health. I need to get that under control and I can focus on learning the new normal. Again.

Throughout this year of healing, I’ve made a point to confront, admit, and own my feelings. I’ve written them out here on my blog. This has helped me tremendously, and I hope to help someone else in their time of need. Because we are NOT ALONE. I was contacted by the publisher of The Veterans Voice and she wanted to publish this article from me. I was overjoyed. It’s not my first published piece, but my first non-fiction. It would be seen by so many people.

I found a veteran spouses/caregiver support group online and have found so many understanding people. I can help when I can, and others can help or listen when I need it. It truly is amazing when you find others who understand what you’re going through.

I’m learning a lot through this. The negative feelings I hold inside are what makes me human. Not a bad person. It’s how I confront each and every situation that makes me good or bad. I’ve learned that I AM strong, regardless of my situation. I’ve always been one to try not to complain because there are so many more families out there that have it worse than me. I’m understanding now, that yes, while this is true, I am living my situation not theirs. And I am also learning that while everyone’s situation is different, the feelings that go along with it all, the veteran’s actions and feelings along with the caregivers, are so very similar. We can learn from one another, we can become the support structure so we don’t crumble.

Even before I started the doctor route, I’ve started trying to change my way of thinking. Because negativity can kill. I learned this a long time ago, when TheHubs went to Kosovo. I was friends with a spouse who was so negative all the time and she was bringing me down. I knew I had to cut her out of my life completely in order to survive that deployment. Once I did, I was so much better for it. 3 years ago, I’ve been on a campaign of positivity. The blog-o-sphere has an annual A to Z Challenge in April. And the last two Aprils have seen me making positive notes to help me think more positively and hopefully inspire others. This year, though, I’ve expanded it throughout the entire year and have been setting out little positive motivational post-it notes in random public places. Hopefully I could make people smile. We need to change the way we think and we will be so much better for it!

Being a disabled veteran family, outings are very hard to come by, let alone vacations. I still hold onto my dream vacations and hope one day to be able to afford them and travel without the fear of the pain debilitating TheHubs so much that he cannot enjoy it, or worse yet, cannot go at all. There have been times he has had to miss outings, family get-togethers, and holidays because of it. But we’re working on it. Still. What I have to do is try to do little things that only last a few hours and hope he can manage the pain long enough to get through it and enjoy some of it. So here are a few things we did this year.

The Clay County Fair in April 2014

 

The Color Vibe 5k in June 2014

Birthday Dinner with my parents.

First there was Painting With A Twist by myself, with the Hearts of Valor organization on September 11th

Then we brought TheBoy and his best friend because he was so sad he couldn’t go with me that night.
Painting with a Twist

We also took TheBoy to his first Midnight release party for a game.

I took TheHubs and TheBoy to their first Air Show on the Tarmac. It was the Blue Angels, but I just HAD to get the Thunderbird in there. 😀

And then the last color run for the year, The Color In Motion 5k with MOM! And TheBoy’s best friend and family.
Color In Motion 5K

It’s the little things that we treasure now. Happy moments to hold on to. And with the camera phone, I can document them all!

May you all find the positives in every situation, no matter how small.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Love The Dements