Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A moment to ponder "before" and "after"

This post is in response to a quote from this blog post, on Family of a Vet. You may read the entire post of hers at http://blog.familyofavet.com/2012/09/im-not-sure-why.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+familyofavet+%28Family+Of+a+Vet+-+PTSD%2C+TBI%2C+%26+Life+After+Combat%29

****"Some days I wonder if it would have been better, if I had never known, the man he was before PTSD and TBI."***** This is a quote from Melanie, a fellow wife of a Wounded Warrior.  She is amazing, she is strong, she is wildly productive, and most of all, she is a beautiful spirit, and that is deeply punctuated by her smile, and her piercing eyes. 

Melanie, a woman I recently met online, and then had the great fortune to meet in person, makes the comment above.  She, unlike me, has known her husband for years.  She has seen the "before" and "after" of war.  I do not know the "before" and "after" of my husband.  I see his Mother, and his Sister, recognizing changes, and for a long time, that caused many conflicts for us.  He came home from war.  He was profoundly different, yet, they did not know the extent of damage done to him.  He looks fine on the outside (aside from his rotting feet~ yet to be successfully treated~ or even healed completely), yet there was just enough "difference" in him to cause mass confusion and tension. 

I suspect much of my in-law turmoil was a result of lack of knowledge and understanding.  I did not know what we were dealing with, so how could they?  I was so new to this life, "LIFE AFTER COMBAT" that it was difficult, no, IMPOSSIBLE, for me to explain to them what was going on, why we did what we did.  I myself didn't even know.  I was poorly managing my husband's state of affairs, and for awhile, before FOV, I was very much contributing to the chaos.  I know better now.  I believe there are unhealed spots in my mother in law and sister in laws hearts over their son/brother.  There will always be those tender spots, after sending your most beloved boy to war I would imagine.  I am deeply afraid that because everyone (and by everyone, I mean my husband, and myself as well) was so unfamiliar with PTSD and TBI, it was all too easy to look for a causitive relationship between the changed soldier, and his girlfriend he hooked up with after the war.... I was the VISIBLE thing that changed in his life, it was easy to see.  I was the only thing "different" then.  He was who he was, went away for four years, came home and didn't even move back near his fam, but picked a random spot in central MN, and immediately hooked up with me.  You can see the picture I'm painting here, right? 

Add into that picture a little of my own dysfunction, and you have a family still hurting from a brother/son being in a war zone for a year.  For being overseas a total of four years.  They never got to reconnect with him, they never got to have him home.  And then PTSD decides to really do a number on everyone, and because of this, he is easily startled, doesn't like crowds, prefers to be with other military families, is quickly angered.... He didn't like going "home" to visit very often.  He liked to be alone.  He liked to isolate. 

It was a very complicated ordeal, completely charred from my inability to see the bigger picture, and completely wild from my own secondary ptsd I developed, I made it worse. And no one could fix it because NO ONE really understood what the problem was. 

It was a HUGE lesson for me, and continues to be a huge lesson to me daily.  I am not perfect though, but now, when I don't make that connection with others like I wish (and often so very much need), when I feel tired and don't want to try to connect (even though I really want that), I simply don't beat myself up anymore over it.  Nor do I beat anyone else up for not understand that. 

So with all of that said, Melanie poses an interesting question in my mind.  Is it better to have not known the pre war James Peterson?  Is that easier on the heart???

Many times I find myself regretful and sorry that we were not together sooner.  Many times I feel a little uncomfortable when surrounded by the *real* army wives.  I often have to ask questions about what is even being talked about (when talked about things in the service, living abroad, living on base, military terminology...).  Thank goodness they never mind.  Just ask Brannan about my story when I asked her what a "Coin" was....

Sometimes I feel like I was ill prepared to handle this life.  I wonder, had I been his wife during war time, I would have been expecting this somehow.  That I would have been taught how to handle this.  That I could have braced myself.

In many respects I am lucky to have only come along right after.  There is no "he is completely different" here.  My husband (to me) is who he has always been to me.  The piece picker upper. 

I have voiced my concern to a few extrememly close wives (all of whom were there before, during, and after).  I have never been responded too with so much will to include ever in my life.  We are all here, dealing with the after effects of this war, and we are all in this together, one told me. 

The question of whats better, knowing them all along, or just knowing them post injury, is a difficult one to answer, and my best response is "pick your poison." 

Thank you Melanie for your friendship, your honesty, and for allowing me in your life. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

James and Dr. Lipov
Stellage Ganglion block
Time for a little update on the Stellate Ganglion Block my husband had to help his PTSD symptoms.  He had an injection in January, and then again in February.  Those original blog posts can be read at blog.familyofavet.com and look under the SGB heading...

So here is the (not so) skinny on life post injection....

James did end up going into a residential treatment program for his ptsd.  He was incredibly depressed.  Despondent.  Flat.  He was gone.  The combination of the injections, and then his subsequent treatment in a very GOOD program at the Topeka KS VA (they do GROUP trauma processing, rather than INDIVIDUAL trauma) saved his life.  My sweet, sufferinsilence husband had reached bottom a long time ago, however, he didn't have the energy, or want, or psychic ability to tell me, things were bad.  Things were BAD.   There was about a 2 week time span that I actually started to prepare myself for my husbands demise.  I started to mentally prep myself that suicide may very well be fucking me up, and I better get things together now, for the kids' sake.  Statistically he fit the category.  He had a plan. He had no will anymore....

Do you know what it feels like to be that hopeless?

For years, my husband refused to accept treatment for PTSD.  And actually, so did I.  He didn't need it.  He wasn't that bad.  I can help him learn to cope.  I can make it so he won't experience *insert trigger here*.  He said he couldn't leave me with the kids.  How would we pay the mortgage? He really had a fear of leaving us.  Because I did not marry him until after his discharge from the Army, he had to go through his deployments essentially alone.  But, as his PTSD symptoms increased, and then gradually were suffocated by the great weighted messy depression, and no one was listening to me at his providers office, and he was too flat lined to even know how to say help, eventually we turned to Lipov.  and the injection was success both times!  But, they were just very not long acting...but instead of isolating and returning into the corners of his mind... he accepted the fact that his wife and kids were in crisis, and if he didn't try something....ANYTHING.... then we would no longer be a unit (thank you Honey, for fighting for us).

The combination of the injections, then doing inpatient PTSD treatment if you ask me, is a marvelous idea....  Its going to take Medical Professionals who are progressive and innovative to team up with the VA to improve patient quality of life.  However, it all takes time and money...and lots of it.... but in the mean time, Husband of mine STILL does not regret the almost painless procedure.  That right there is a plus, as he usually is not a fan of such things.

*******September 2012**********

Husband is doing great things, finished his degree, more involved with home life.... He did change jobs.  The office he was in was the worst trigger for him.  Cubicles everywhere, radios on different stations, chatter, people coming in off the main hallway, no windows....  He left that job for one more suited to his degree (helping) and his passion (veterans).  His new job office has windows! And lots of them!!! Can't tell you how great windows are for PTSD!!!  He works along side Veterans, FOR Veterans.  Win/Win!  Only a few people in the new office.  Kind people.  Laid back people who still work with a sense of purpose and urgency, but not letting it stress them out.  He still suffers memory and cognition problems, but I have been on him about it.  He takes notes, he reviews them, he is able to make his needs known.  He is such a hard worker, and is the poster child for overcoming adversity.  I continue to be amazed and proud.

I still continue with my duties as household 6.  There is still much supervision that must be given, reminders, driving long distances, managing appointments, coaching him with the kids, vision therapy (which we now must do on our own because Mr. TBI forgot to go to an appointment, and we were kindly "excused" from their services.)  Not much burden has been lifted from me, aside from the fact that I am confident he will exhibit signs of distress, and that I will recognize them. 

Its still a matter of juggling, of weighing things, of being the perpetual optimist, cheerleader, and wife/caregiver/household6.  I don't mind it.  It is what it is.

For a while, we contemplated bring him back to Dr. Lipov.  When he returned from Topeka it was balls to the wall PTSD.  Anxiety was of epic proportions.  All my usual tips and tricks failed.  I could not redirect, I could not divert, I could not fix.  I could do only one thing, DUCK AND COVER.  And of course, call Dr. Lipov.... 

Alas, we put that off.  I wish we wouldn't have, but we are okay.  We just couldn't wrap our already tired and worn out minds around another quick trip to Chicagoland.  Arranging child care, taking yet another few days off work...  We just were forced to dig in, and take it slow, and go from there.

I still am so pleased, as is  the husband, that the stars aligned and we were able to go for the Stellate Ganglion Block anyway.  It was useful.  It primed him.  The most unwilling soul for any type of treatment, decided (on his own volition) that it was time for intense therapy. 

I don't want to think about where we would be (or where I would be without my husband), if it was not for us taking a chance.  Hopefully, our story will provoke new thought.  Combine forces, take the shot, go inpatient.  How could that not work???  Either way, it will be up to researchers and the medical community to look at that, assess, pick apart and put back together again.... 



Whenever I seem to be losing direction, spinning wheels, screaming into the wind, the universe has a way of gently guiding me back into my path.  Begging.  Encouraging. 


When I start to pull back on my true self, when I start to ignore what I know in my heart is true and right, when I start to give up, become complacent, the world gives me a sign.

It's those signs I live for.  It's a compass.  A head-nod from G*d Himself. 

Keep going.

After a very touching, lengthy time with a man, frail, yet so incredibly strong, I found myself wanting to be my usual, off-the-cuff, tell it like it is girl that I am. 

Settled in for the night, I stood back, and smiled.  I was happy and I was blessed.  I was right where I wanted to be.  I was right where I needed to be.

So to this man who has seen more than I will *ever* see, who has hurt and loved and struggled and triumphed, but still had such ferver, so much zest, I figured now was a good time.  A good thought to leave him with before sleep fell upon him. 

"Welcome home, Sir.  And thank you for your service."  There was a moment of silence, and for a moment I questioned if I had been innapropriate.  The child in me was almost ashamed.  Perhaps this was wrong.  Perhaps it was offensive.

Tears swelled in his eyes and he gripped my forearm like only a man dedicated to his country no matter how long ago could, his lips moved and mouthed "Thank you. THANK YOU. THANK YOU." And he shook my arm accentuating the last. No sound came between us, but I solemnly nodded my head.  The world stopped for just a brief moment, but emotions, and things unseen kept moving.  He went to sleep, I went back to what I do.