Tag Archives: veteran

Present – Part2

In April, I wrote about being present. While I still struggle with the need to fix and make him happy, I am also seeing just how much being there has been a great help to him. It’s a constant struggle. But always, I must remember that single, solitary word when it comes to him…
PRESENT

Last week, I had a very big eye opener. It was quite coincidental when an 18-year-old Australian Model’s story went viral. I was very moved by this article. She had an epiphany and spoke the truth about how she lost herself in social media, how it consumed her identity, and made her so unhappy. It also woke me up to my own problems with social media. But this was only the beginning. My friend, Cheyenne, also posted her response to the model’s article. Like I said, it was coincidental because that same week, TheHubs came to me about how much time I spend on social media and how he feels neglected because of it.

I had to re-evaluate the time I spend on social media.

Because I am a caregiver, I don’t have the luxury of in-real-life friends. My friends live in my computer/phone. It is my connection to others outside of work and my home. I really don’t have friends that I hang out with. Sure I have a few friends at work. But our external interaction is null. So I rely on social media to keep up-to-date and in contact with my friends online. Over the years, we’ve lost all our friends due to his chronic pain, migraines, PTSD, and anxiety. He used to be our friend-maker. I’ve had to learn how. But, since no one understands our situation, his pain, his anxiety and PTSD, well, people only accept so many nos until they stop trying. So, I rely heavily on social media to have friendships.

Being present isn’t just about being physically there for him. It also means being there mentally. Ever since I got a new position at work that requires more responsibility, I’ve not had any down time where I could actually take a break, let alone eat lunch on time, so my social presence has been null while I worked. On one hand, this is good because I am not bored and I am doing my job, despite the drama that stems from those I work with now. On the other, though, I catch up on social media when I get home, I’ve neglected my writing, and now, I find out that he feels neglected, too.

So when we had our discussion about how much time I have my nose in my phone and not paying him attention and after I read that article about the model’s change of heart, and then my friend’s response to it, I knew I needed to take a time out.

It’s been hard to keep that phone off while I sit back and watch something TheHubs loves but I just don’t. It’s hard not to pick up the phone every few minutes to see what has been posted recently on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not 100% there yet, but I think I am doing better. I NEED to do better, for him. I need to be present, in every way possible. Because, when we stop being present, their hope fades, their demons rise, and they start listening to them again.

I’m not gone. I’m just a little less here. 😛
I hope you can remember all this, too.
Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others.

Related Articles you may like:
Present
Unworthy
Overwhelmed
Anxiety, Depression, And Secondary PTSD
You Are Not Alone
My poem about depression and hope, entitled Pieces

LadyJai

Been A While – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 23 Oct 2015

I love finding all the beauty and positives despite the tempest that is our lives. ‪#‎bepositive‬

It’s been a while…too long, since I’ve been here to update my blog.
I miss it. Terribly.

You see, sometimes, life gets in the way of the things you want to do. For caregivers, though, that seems to happen a lot more often than not.

These last three months for me have been extremely stressful. My position at work was taken away because it was no longer needed. So they found me a new position. I had to learn the job and then, because I am a fixer, I am now finding processes that will make everything work smoother. However, the push-back I am getting, or rather, the lack of any movement has been causing me undue stress. I’ve brought all my concerns up to my team lead, but I feel as though I am receiving lip service. Nothing has changed.

Not only that, but I have been introduced to “man drama.” I did not know men could be worse than the women I’ve seen in my lifetime. Oh boy. So add that to the stress.

And then, there’s TheHubs’ pain levels. He went back in for his Botox treatment for his neck muscles that are in constant lock up. However, we’ve been noticing that there are different muscle groups that lock up each time he has the procedure done. He asked for more this last time. His neurologist told him that he’s at the maximum allowable dosage for the Botox injections. If he were to receive more, or more frequently, then he could build up anti-bodies which will then make him more tolerant to its effects. But, they did work out that rather than giving him the injections in the same locations every time, the doctor will only put the injections in the muscles that are locked up from now on. So we shall see how that will go.

TheBoy started school mid-August. A week later he began complaining that his feet hurt. A week later, he couldn’t walk without pain. We took him in, had x-rays and found that he had extremely flat feet and very loose ligaments. He had been in braces on both feet since. Last Friday, he had surgery on one foot. It is an amazing procedure, I never knew existed!

flatfoot_optionBasically, there is a small piece of metal, much in the shape of a bullet with grooves along the side, that is inserted in between the hollow space in the ankle where it nestles in and prevents the overpronation problem, giving him a sturdy ankle and an actual arch.

This is basically what the before and after will look like for TheBoy

MBAsurg5 podchildren

So, what little things am I celebrating?

  • I’m happy the surgery went well, that he’s in very little pain, and that this first surgery is over.
  • Well, let’s see. There’s the fact that I had a hard time letting go of something. It had me in tears nearly every day because I just couldn’t understand the reason why it happened. I am celebrating the fact that I am no longer in the grieving stage of this loss. I have moved on to the acceptance stage. Am I still sad, yes. But it no longer holds a grip on me.
  • I am also celebrating that I stepped out of my comfort zone. I am horrible at confrontation. I avoid it at all cost. Well, work was costing me my health. I had to do something. So, I actually took it to my lead, and let him know how I felt in this new position and how the “team” was not a team. Now that I got it out in the open, I’ve been watching. And, honestly, I didn’t think anything would change. But I spoke my mind. It’s been a month now, and my next step is going to my manager. I have been documenting everything. I really hate doing this, but it’s affecting not just me, but the entire team, plus a one more team that we interact with very much.
  • I’m celebrating my work from home week. A week I get to spend at home to help take care of TheBoy after his surgery, as well as work. Another reason my stress seems to have lessened.
  • And, last but not least, I am celebrating that I have managed to lower my resting heartbeat from an average of 90 bpm to 69 bpm, just by lowering my stress levels.

What are you celebrating this week? 

Thank you to our lovely host, Lexa Cain for taking over and continuing the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. I would also like to thank her co-hosts, L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom – without them, I’m sure this would be a daunting task!

To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is put your name on the linky list on Lexa’s Blog, and then post every Friday about something you’re grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life.  This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:

Sharing Memories – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 19 June 2015
The Secret to Marriage
You Are Not Alone!

The Lasting Effects On One Veteran & His Family from 9/11

Allendale This memorial was designed by two Allendale residents, a college student and a sixth-grader. The 5-foot-tall granite marker is draped with a bronze American flag and adorned with a bronze eagle on top. Its inscription includes the words, “We remember.” The monument sits on pavers shaped like the Pentagon.

Allendale – This memorial was designed by two Allendale residents, a college student and a sixth-grader. The 5-foot-tall granite marker is draped with a bronze American flag and adorned with a bronze eagle on top. Its inscription includes the words, “We remember.” The monument sits on pavers shaped like the Pentagon. – New Jersey Monthly

While today marks a day we will ALWAYS remember, while we recount the stories of where we were that day, while we share in the patriotism that brought us all together, I wanted to shed a little light on how that day STILL affects some of us. We weren’t at Ground Zero. But it doesn’t mean we weren’t affected — all those who witnessed the terror, all those serving in the military, or joined up to serve because of that day. How it still affects us all.

He was full-time active duty Army at the time. When the 2nd plane hit, he told his troops, “Pack up, guys. We’re going to war.” They spent the next 3 months readying themselves for war.

I worked in the 3rd Corps war room (contractor for their secured network) and I watched as his unit’s orders came, got canceled, came again, and then canceled again. Over and over my heart wrenched and relief surged only to be yanked away again. It was a very stressful time for all of us.

For him, though, he *wanted* to go. To do his duty. He was denied the First Gulf War and Somalia as he was needed on the home front to train lieutenants before they were shipped off. He felt like a failure because he didn’t do what he signed up to do. Then, Kosovo happened and he deployed. No one remembers *that*war“. He didn’t feel as though he fulfilled his destiny there either.

Because 4th ID was chosen to go to Afghanistan before 1st CAV, he was again denied his duty (in his eyes). And again, he still feels like a failure, that he’s not a true soldier. He feels guilty for being a veteran, for having all the things he suffers because of some dumb “wag the dog” stunt that no one remembers, for missing out.

9/11 is a very conflicting memory in our household. While we love that it brought ALL Americans together as one, regardless of race, creed, color…it also means that my husband missed his chance to be the hero he always dreamed.

I hate seeing him in pain, both physically and emotionally. I hate that he cannot see himself like I see him. And I wish others could see him the way I see him too.

To this day, that war overshadows everything about him.

LadyJai

If you’re willing, I would love to hear your stories as well. Share with everyone so we never forget that day and its lasting affects on us.

Related Articles you may like:
Where Were You When The Towers Fell?

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

 

Pain – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 31 July 2015

 

Pain.

It affects everyone differently.

For me, it always wears me down, makes me just want to curl up in my bed under the covers, cuddle with my pillows and kitties, and sleep until I don’t hurt anymore. I’ve only had a few bouts of pain that would wake me up in the middle of the night or keep me from sleeping altogether. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.

Add to the normal stress of being a woman, working full-time, being a Mom and wife, being a caregiver has its own issues. One of my fellow veteran caregivers called it caregiver-itis. That’s when all the stress of doing everything manifests into physical symptoms. I’ve got it. Sure enough. But my doctor has labeled it – Fibromyalgia. And it is rearing its ugly head right about now. Every part of my being is hypersensitive at the moment. I’ve got stress and tension headaches and my neck is killing me. And I’m struggling to even have the energy to type all this. But that’s only the major things. There’s too many other things I could list.

Right now, I believe it has everything to do with my new position at work. I have a deep seeded fear of failing. But with therapy and learning more about myself, I’ve learned how to (hopefully) cope with this. I’ve been working this new position now for a week. I’ve actually started feeling a bit more comfortable in my new position and understanding what it is I am supposed to be doing, that isn’t getting done, and getting people to accept me and the process (which is like trying to get out of quicksand while you’re running) but it will get there. It IS getting there. It’s the first time I’ve felt good about a new job, where I am NOT afraid of failing (as much as I used to anyway). I did have a small slip back into my old ways on Monday, but I’m better now. Much better because I feel like I really am understanding. But because of all the stress, it’s caused all the pain to flare up and I am struggling to even have energy to type all this. I’ve handled this a whole lot better than I ever have. Even WITH the fibro flaring up, it’s something to celebrate.

As for TheHubs, though, he suffers insomnia on top of the pain. I’m sure not sleeping exacerbates the pain. It sure doesn’t help his depression and PTSD. Dealing with all this has left him in a rut. His insomnia has full on raged and I miss my husband. For the last two months he’s been unable to sleep, and when he does it’s more like he passes out from sheer exhaustion.

Most couples don’t think twice about sharing a bed. Heck, they probably take it for granted and maybe even complain about who hogs the covers. In our life, sharing a bed at the same time is something to be treasured. It always goes in cycles and we never know how long it’s going to last. There’s never any way to fix it, either. We just have to ride it out. But, oh, how I miss him.

This round, I think it’s been a couple of months already. He started out with the pain again. And then he had surgery on his nose. He’s a stomach sleeper so staying in the recliner would prevent him from hurting his nose. It’s been about 3 weeks since his surgery and now he’s back to the chronic pain and migraines, again. But last night, when he started falling asleep in his recliner, I got him upstairs and in the bed with me. I love it. When he’s not cycling insomnia, we cuddle for a bit and then roll over to go to sleep. I’m always too hot anymore to snuggle for long. When he is cycling the insomnia, though, he’s asleep in a matter of seconds. But before he takes that plunge, his feet touch mine in our own special snuggling way.

Even if he only slept for 4 hours, he still shared the bed with me. And that’s something to celebrate.

What are you celebrating this week? 

Thank you to our lovely host, Lexa Cain for taking over and continuing the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. I would also like to thank her co-hosts, L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom – without them, I’m sure this would be a daunting task!

To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is put your name on the linky list on Lexa’s Blog, and then post every Friday about something you’re grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life.  This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:

Sharing Memories – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 19 June 2015
The Secret to Marriage
You Are Not Alone!

Financials & A New Car – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 10 July 2015

I don’t know if you are familiar with my Many Hats Series of posts. There is one in particular that I would like to reference, today, because it is the back story of what I am celebrating. If you have the opportunity, please read the Accountant story, so you can get a better understanding of just how elated I am today. How proud I am of both TheHubs and I. Especially TheHubs.

We spent a good 5 years paying down our debt. When we bought our house 4 years ago, our credit score was horrendous. Not sure how we managed a 5% interest rate, but I was thankful for it. Two years ago, we bought a brand new car and our credit score had increased dramatically. Our credit card debt was nearly paid off by then. Of course I was proud of everything we’ve accomplished, the fact that I was able to say no to my husband when it was an absolute must, the fact he didn’t buy stuff anyway. There have been a few slips along the way, but we managed and I made sure I reiterate every time it happens. Sometimes I still have to put it all down on paper to show him exactly how much he’s spent because of his memory issues. But he has made the most progress over these last 5 years and I am so very proud of him. I make sure I tell him.

We’ve been considering getting a new car for a while now. TheHubs didn’t get everything he wanted in the car we got, plus there have been some pretty major issues already with the 2013 model. When we took our car in to the dealer to get some warranty work done two days ago, we wanted to see what was available to us and see how much of a difference it would be to upgrade. When they ran our credit and came back with the report, my knees literally buckled and I had to sit down. I never thought I’d see those numbers associated with our names. Beyond ecstatic. That’s all I could come up with what I was feeling.

The salesman ran the finance numbers and payment options and we decided. Four hours after we dropped off our car at the service department we had a new 2016 model. Near identical to our existing car.

Say goodbye to Double-Oh TARDIS (right) and say hello to Double-Oh TARDIS 2.0 (left)!!!!

Double-Oh TARDIS

What are you celebrating this week? 

Thank you to our lovely host, Lexa Cain for taking over and continuing the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. I would also like to thank her co-hosts, L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom – without them, I’m sure this would be a daunting task!

To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is put your name on the linky list on Lexa’s Blog, and then post every Friday about something you’re grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life.  This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
Accountant — The Many Hats Series
Sharing Memories – #CelebrateTheSmallThings – 12 June 2015
The Secret to Marriage

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

 

The Secret to Marriage

In today’s world, it is extremely rare to have a relationship last as long as ours has. Even in my parents generation, the divorce rate seems to be getting higher. I honestly look up to my parents and hope to reach the same milestones. They’ve been married 47 years so far! I commend any and every couple for their longevity. But I know far too many people who’ve divorced, young and old. And honestly, I think the military/veteran divorce rates are higher than their civilian counterparts.

Over the years of our marriage, we’ve been asked many times, “How did you know?

This is a question that ALWAYS comes up after we tell the story about how we met and how quickly we got married. There’s also another question that comes up after we tell people how long we’ve been married. “How do you do it?

If you’re not familiar with our beginning, have a seat and stay a while. I’m going to talk about my experiences and my opinions. It may not be fact, but it’s based on my observances over the years and what I’ve come to understand in my own relationship.

I was 20. I just got off work from my job at a plant nursery so I wasn’t dressed up or anything. I was kind of dating some other guy. We were on the outs because he had just told me he was still in love with a girl back home. I went to visit a mutual friend who wanted company while her husband went to play pool at the enlisted club on base. I said sure because I knew how the meat factories worked.

He was 20. He just got off a hard day at work. It was unusually bad and he decided to drink some beer. Of course, he was underage. But that doesn’t seem to stop a lot of people, especially on military bases. He’s also not tolerant of beer. He’s Irish blood. The hard stuff is like water to him. Beer, not so much.

I walked into the enlisted club, got my underage armband and went to sit with my friend while her husband played pool. Some guy yelled something out as I walked by. My friend and I talked. Many guys came up and asked me to dance. I’m very shy and dancing is not my thing. So, obviously I said no.

When I walked by, he yelled, “WOW!” He said I turned around and shot him daggers from my eyes, enough to make him sink in his seat and sober right up. Honestly, I don’t remember this at all. I try to block out meat factories and all their goings on. It’s one of the things he remembers quite well.

After watching me for I don’t know how long, he told the waitress to serve me whatever I wanted the rest of the night, on him and that he was sorry. I remember after the waitress brought me my soda, the guy he was with turned around and started talking to me across the tables first. The ice was broken and he joined in the conversation. Eventually, he came over to the table and sat down so we could talk together. Yes, we got out on the dance floor, after 45 minutes of me saying no. A slow song came on and it seemed safe enough. Still, we felt quite uncomfortable. But talking, that came easy. We talked the rest of the night. They had to kick us out of the building when the club closed. So we moved to the curb outside the door. After a while, the MPs had to come and kick us off the premises so the employees could go home. He drove me to my friend’s apartment so I could get my car. I knew I needed to get home. I was under my parents roof. I had a curfew, but I had passed that hours ago. I didn’t want to stop talking with him. I think I finally showed up at home at 4am.

Five days later, he asked me to marry him. A month later, we were married. And it’s been 25 years since.

11

So, how did we know? Well, the best way we could come up with explaining this is that it was like meeting an old friend you hadn’t seen in forever and we just had to catch up with everything we missed. That’s how we fell in love. This isn’t something that happens every day. This only happens in movies, right?! Well, even if you don’t have this kind of luck, be aware of how you pick them. Are they your friend? Do you like them? Do you like being around them, talking with them, being silent with them? I think, with our situation, we had a guardian angel looking over us, guiding us, maybe even asking/answering for us. Someone up there knew we were meant to be together.

But that’s only the beginning. More often than not, if someone were to get married so young and so quickly, many probably wouldn’t have seen their first anniversary, or fifth. We count ourselves blessed. We’ve beaten so many odds against us, things that would have torn so many others apart. But our souls are connected, like God made one soul and torn it in two pieces for two different bodies.

What could have possibly torn us apart?

Well, the military for one. I’ve seen so many wives marry, and marry young. Because I was an Air Force BRAT, I knew what I was getting myself into. In fact, I wanted to be a part of that life even as an adult. It was what I knew and understood. The civilian world, that scared me. So I knew the military came first. I knew that he could deploy at any moment. I knew he could come down on orders to move anywhere in the world, with or without me. I knew this. I may not have liked it, but I understood it. A lot of the wives I knew who came from a civilian background, struggled with the fact that they were not the first priority in their husbands’ lives.  He got up at o-dark-thirty and came home at o-dark-thirty. He worked weekends. And they sent him everywhere else but home. I hated it. But I got through it. I knew when he came home, I was number one until the Army called him away again.

Second, the “other woman.” Yes, there was a time we had a second “woman” in our lives. He became obsessed with computers and computer games. He would come home from work and be on the computer, sometimes not going to sleep before he had to get up and go to PT again. I despised that “other woman” coming between us. I put up with it, secretly seething inside, for about two years. I guess I hoped he’d get bored? I don’t know. In either case, I came to realize that he wouldn’t get bored. So one day, when he had bought pieces to put a new computer together, I decided “It couldn’t be too hard to build a computer. A few screws, some connectors, and power.” I was in the middle of building that computer for him when he came home a little early. I was greeted with a huge smile, and we sat down and built it together. From that moment on, I taught myself how to use a computer and we began our long history of gaming together.

Of course, along the way we’ve had our fair share of arguments. Well, you can’t classify them as arguments, really, because arguments require two sides. For me, I avoid confrontation/arguments at all cost. I clam up in order to keep the peace. Him, well, he’d simmer in his head and not talk to me for days. Being a very emotional critter, I fell into my sad state, my negative voices screaming at me because everything was always my fault. In the end, he would come around and we’d make up. However, the last fight we ever had I can remember I finally stood up for myself. We both don’t know what we were fighting about; but what we remember is that he was holding a flashlight and it slipped out of his hand and crashed into our glass end table. Perception is always the key to everything. And I perceived that he threw it down in anger. So I commenced to say, “You want to be an asshole? Well, I can be an asshole, too.” At the time, we were in Tae Kwon Do and I broke the other end table with a grand ax kick. Staring at what I had just done, flabbergasted, he finally said, “Our shoes were under there.” We broke out in laughter and that was that. Never again did we have fights.

Well, I cannot say never. Throughout the years, though, with chronic pain, PTSD on his side and my own self-confidence and internal issues on top of Secondary PTSD, we have had many, MANY struggles. We didn’t have struggles again until after his accidents, when chronic pain and his demons set in, plus all the medication and doctor trials.

This was the most trying times for us, I think. The ones that would have torn us apart had it not been for our…my persistence. I honestly think he would have given up a long time ago had I not been constantly looking for remedies, answers, help. Even to this day, I feel that I NEED to keep hope alive for him in some manner, even if it’s just reminding him that he needs to keep fighting the VA for what he is owed.

Sometimes, alcohol/drug, verbal and/or physical abuse are involved. If this is part of your life, it is imperative to seek help, for both of you. This is where therapy REALLY comes into play. However, I’ve noticed that many vets don’t want to admit they have a problem. It’s been drilled into their heads from birth, reinforced in the military, to suck it up and charge on. Most of them are men. Emotions mean weakness, something to be ashamed of. And with society’s hush-hush attitude about mental illness, well, that definitely doesn’t help our veterans seek out help. There’s only so much one person can take, no matter how strong you are. Everyone has their breaking point. I think it’s our duty, as caregivers and spouses, to keep at it, to keep offering help to them.

It wasn’t until he went to the VA for help that he finally opened up to me. Little by little his communication channels grew and I felt included again. I began to understand him more and learn the man he changed into and learn to love him better. Because, he was different. He wasn’t the man I married anymore. Or even the one I knew before the accidents. And this…THIS is the hardest thing any spouse caregiver will ever have to overcome. Because this isn’t who they married. They didn’t sign up for this. This isn’t how they envisioned their lives, their marriage, their family to be ten, twenty years down the road. But it is a covenant. One in which we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Through better, for worse. In sickness and in health.

As for us and our lives, there have been medications on top of everything else that affected his mood and his psyche. Most of those earlier times, before we found the right medication cocktail to lessen the pain, before we understood his migraines, before we had a diagnosis of PTSD, I walked on eggshells around him, waiting for the explosion that was inevitably bound to happen. I’m one of the lucky ones where physical violence has never been apart of our lives. But this constant awareness, heightened sense of impending doom, fear of the explosiveness of the situation, it all added up to me sharing in his battles while I battled my own.

By very definition, communication requires a minimum, two people. If one holds back while the other opens up, then there’s no sense in continuing. I held so many secrets, so many thoughts and emotions inside for so very long. I thought that if I expressed myself, spoke my fears and tears aloud to someone else, then they would be real, tangible and I honestly would be a horrible person for feeling and thinking these things. I started my own journey to own my feelings, here on this blog. It started off with the negative feelings. Admitting that I had them did not make me a bad person. I’m human. We are all human and deal with the same emotions when going through these crises. It’s all in how we handle those situations and emotions.

I worked through these negative emotions for a year. Then I needed to look at myself on a deeper level, especially when TheHubs asks some very hard questions of me. After my own counselling sessions, and the fact that I wholeheartedly believe in communication as the key to every relationship, I took a deep breath and opened up a very deep seeded problem that addressed his question, one that I had been holding on to for 25 years.

You would not believe how liberating it was to get that out in the open. I’m learning to love me. I’m accepting the fact that he loves me without fail, beyond comprehension, and unconditionally. I never understood how he could when I was such a horrible person. But that’s my negative voice, the one who breeds insecurities and lies inside my head. I’ve been learning how to squash that voice. And I think I may have conquered a HUGE barrier. Once I spoke the words out loud, to him, the wave of relief and love that washed over me has set me free.

Us On A Good Day

Life changes after they return home. What used to be normal is now missed. We grieve for the life, the love, we once had. There is a new normal we must adjust to. If we cannot admit this, we cannot accept it and move on and learn to live the new normal.

Everyone’s relationships are different but the one fact that remains constant is that communication is the foundation for EVERY relationship. If you don’t have that, you can no longer keep that relationship going.

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
Anxiety, Depression, & Secondary PTSD
Grief – Or Mourning Your Loss
Changing Perspective

PTSD Or Moral Injury

I’ve been in Veteran Caregiver support groups for a little over a year now. I see a lot of the same thought processes with our veterans, same issues, same emotions. While their experiences might not be identical, they are similar and carry on the same depressive patterns, the same thought patterns.

I’ve heard many veterans say something along the lines of, “It should have been me,” or “I deserve it all,” or “it’s my fault,” or even “God hates me.” A world of untruths swim through their brains and rarely escape their self-talk. When they do, their spouses/caregivers are left not knowing what to do or how to respond. No amount of “no” or “that’s not true”, or any variation, will sink in to their heart and let them believe that they don’t deserve this punishment, thus compounding their physical pain with emotional.

The things they’ve seen, the things they’ve done, all while in the danger zone could cause them to go against their core values of good and evil. Even though they may have seen some horrible things, or even possibly done some horrible things, it was all done to save lives. But in their heart, they know it’s wrong and it’s damaged their soul so deep that they can’t see any way to atone for that sin. They feel shame so great it consumes them. It’s like they are punishing themselves for everything they saw, everything they did or didn’t do. Punishment, or atoning for their sins. However you look at it, it’s a constant battle raging between logic and emotion. Logically, they know what they saw or did they had to do. Emotionally, they know it was wrong. And as I always say, the logical and the emotional brain never play nice with one another.

People call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But PTSD stems from life-threatening fear. And while there is plenty of fear associated with war, the military, with combat and hazardous zones, that fear can be addressed and become manageable and livable. What I’ve been seeing lately, though, is not necessarily fear, but more guilt and shame. It’s those things that the veteran has bore witness to, failed to prevent, or even committed that can tear their psyche apart.

David Wood says that “moral injury is a violation of what each of us considers right or wrong.”  PTSD has been recognized since the 1980s. Unfortunately, DoD has yet to recognize moral injury as a separate diagnosis. Doctors seem to always treat the wound, but never address the underlying cause, so it continually festers. The wound will sometimes scab over and things will look like they’ve gone back to a normal balance. Without addressing and finding ways to cope with that black spot, finding a way to accept it for what it is, thoughts will always chafe it and the wound begins to ooze, bringing the depression back to the forefront of everything once again.

It’s like putting a band-aide on a severed limb. If you’ve been in the military any length of time you’ll know what I’m talking about. Motrin, the wonder drug. That’s the go-to medication for any pain you go in to sick call or the hospital for. Military or civilian, it doesn’t matter. Motrin will fix it. If it doesn’t then you go back and go back and go back. We’ve been out now for almost 13 years and have been treated at both the VA and civilian doctors. We’ve only experienced one doctor who was baffled at the cause of his migraines. It wasn’t until about a year ago when he ordered a full head and neck MRI that he realized what was causing them. This doctor was the only one who wanted to get to the bottom of the why. Unfortunately, we are still at the same place with that. There’s no real way to fix it. We just try to manage the pain.

Not so easy for what they suffer alone in the darkness, though. It’s not something they want to talk about. It’s not pretty. It’s not politically correct. It makes the veteran uncomfortable. It makes the listener uncomfortable. If we never see or hear about it, it never happened, right? Wrong. Sweeping the undesirable under the rug doesn’t make it go away. It’s always there. For those living it, for those living with it. That truth is a lump under the carpet we try to avoid, but sometimes trip over. The truth is the truth, whether spoken or unspoken. The truth hurts. The truth is ugly. War is ugly. But it’s something that must be done at times and rather than ignore the problems that come from it, we should educated, understand, empathize, and help. Who are we to judge? Who are we to say what warrants this punishment or if it’s distorted? It is what it is and we must treat it. But the world always judges and that’s what keeps them in the dark.

This is going to take a long time to learn how to deal with. All we can do is be present. So, I’m here, always by his side. I am doing my best to help keep his hope alive, to help him see that what he did, or didn’t do, is not his fault, it’s not God punishing him, and that he doesn’t deserve it. I will offer my forgiveness, even though that’s not the forgiveness he needs. I will offer up that God forgives everything, all he has to do is ask. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

It hurts my heart deeply to see the torment TheHubs goes through. I know I will probably never know it all. What I do know is that I will forever be by his side, no matter what. He has to come to terms with it all and believe that he did what he had to do and did it well and honorably. He has to believe that what he couldn’t control is through no fault of his own, and his actions were always honorable even though someone else acted too late. He has to believe that he doesn’t deserve the punishment he’s putting himself through because of the situations he lived through. I cannot make him believe these things. I can only reinforce them and keep telling him, and hope that one day he will believe. Once this happens, he can be at peace, I think. Until then, I will continue my fight for him.

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
Present
You Are Not Alone
My poem about depression and hope, entitled Pieces
Moral Injury: The Grunts
Moral Injury: Healing