Monday, October 29, 2012

My reactions to the movie, The Welcome.

Prepare to be moved.  If you have not seen The Welcome, please, do pick up a copy.  You have nothing to lose, but so many Veterans have much to gain...

If you have PTSD, if you are a combat Veteran, I of course urge you to watch this with a friend.  It is very emotional, there is footage in the beginning that would trigger a young Vet.  I like to agonize and feel and grow by myself, though my intense response to this documentary had the producer checking in on me one day.  I'm okay :)  Here is the link to The Welcome

And here, my soul:

My name is Kateri, I was recently in touch with you over an outdated job posting on your website, you kindly mailed to me The Welcome. I am the mother of 3 small boys, I am the wife of the most patient and kind soul~ torn apart by Iraq. Torn apart by PTSD, TBI, and other crazy "we don't know what to classify *that* as..." wounds of this war. I am an advocate. Endless nights, like tonight, I educate myself, I reach out to other families who are being annihilated by life after combat. I am a nurse, 40 hours a week I go to the VA and work on an Acute Psych Unit. I see the heroine, the booze, the sex, the fight, the pride, the pain, the shame, the despair, the confusion, the tenderness.... every day. In young men. Young women. Old men. Old women. And everyone in between. My soul is drawn to the combat veteran. I work it, I live it, I love it, I hate it. It kills me, yet just before I feel I'm taking my last dying breath, it renews me. It brings me back. I fight for the combat veteran who has lost the will to carry on, I fight for the veteran who is so caught up in fighting he doesn't even know what he's fighting against/for anymore, I fight for the ones who didn't have a leg to stand on, I fight for the ones who fell on their faces. I fight for the veterans who put guns in their mouths, I fight for the wives who gently coax pistols out of shaking tired weary hands, I fight for the veterans for hang from rafters, and I fight for trail of anguish left behind. I fight for me. I fight like hell for my family. Everyday I wake up in the morning, slumbering man next to me, restrained and tangled by sheets and war, I chose. I will get up and continue on, as so many have done for me and my children, or I will bury my head in the pillow and wish for the end. Most often I chose to get up, hungry mouths and clammering babies eager to start the day, oblivious, yet not really, to the monster who has snuck under his bed, under ALL our beds, I resolve to raise my 3 young boys to be just half the man their Father is.

I know you will gently accept that I am only now watching The Welcome. It sat on my island in my kitchen, it made it through meals and messes and mail and that damn cat who will not stay off the counters.... It sat. Every day in my kitchen I noticed it presence. I had *no* idea what The Welcome was, and I noticed my eagerness had given way to fear, to anger, to saddness, to now.

It is 0239 central time. I was up early yesterday morning to ready my little boys for the day. Take the Husband to his umpteenth doctors appointment this week, and then, a brief play date with our new friends (Another Veteran who was in Iraq and his wife), and then, quickly ready for work all by 1500. I had groceries to get after work, and a brief trip in for milk turned into Strawberries for our Solomon, Radishes for my Husband, String Cheese for Simon, and baby food for Severin. I have to work again tomorrow (er- today I guess) at 1500... I wanted to leave the boys with something to brighten their day as they feel their way through this wicked hell with Daddy.

But my groceries Bill, they still sit on the kitchen floor, as I was moved to put that damned movie in and watch it. I have watched 26 minutes and 13 seconds, but I felt compelled to stop to email you.

I need that. I need The Welcome. I need the coming together. I have no idea how this will all pan out, but so far I am amazed by the beauty of the landscape, the calm and gentle redirection, and the fight I see in these people.

I know that fight.

Thank you for sending The Welcome. It has already impacted me in ways that are unseen.

As my husband snores and tosses in the next room, I wish you good night, or good morning..... I'm pressing play.
Chapter II
Just made it through the first 3 poems read... you, as the producer, likely have these people in your address book. I am broken hearted listening to the mother, on my knees crying with the woman who terminated a pregnancy, and in still and silent shock at the Dutch man.... Thank them for me.
Chapter III
And Miserere....loud and clear. Jesus, this is incredibly painful to watch, yet only because I know. I know. Thank you so much for sending this. I'm not sure my husband will be able to watch this. Not now, not yet.... I pray and beg and bargain with the devil that he will one day be at a point that he can watch this....
Chapter IV
The woman who speaks with sadness and pain wrapped tightly around each word. Suicide. The question in our minds bouncing around like a red rubber ball... while we try to keep calm on the outside, Why Baby? Why can't I be enough to live for? Why are our children not enough for you....

I don't know.

Hug that woman for me.
Chapter V
"The better he got, the worse I got"
That right there. Why?! Why do we do that! So many of us, caregivers, wives... Crazy.
After watching The Welcome I cannot be silent.
K, Minnesota
June 23, 2012 | Registered CommenterBill Mc Millan
Thank you for being there K.
I hug that woman all day everyday every chance I get and she knows she is enough.
Bob E.
June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Eaton
Bob, you are an old soul, thank you for sharing your story. Finally rendered speechless.... Thank you for your service, and g*ddamn Bob, Welcome Home.
June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKat P.
Leave The Welcome out on that counter. Don't push it on him but be encouraging when it does come up. Your husband will watch it when he is ready. Although it is recommended that combat vets watch this with someone I have had vets tell me they watched this film alone or with other vets because of the personal nature of our stories. Only he knows. It is hard hitting and it does hit home regardless of which war we fought in or as loved ones, have endured.
The contents of this film is comparable to what happens in intense therapy groups with the VA, the difference being that it is not offered to the public as Kim, Bill and crew have so artfully done.
An eye opener is an understatement.
Keep speaking out and never be rendered speechless when it comes to showing how much you care for us.
We may not show it but we do appreciate it. Thank you for enduring our pain, second hand PTSD is a hard road.
Thank your husband for me for his service and tell him welcome home from an ol' Nam combat disabled vet.
Bob E.
June 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Eaton
Dear K. Minnesota,
Thank you for your extended hug-thoughts and I send them back to you many, many fold. Participating in The Welcome retreat was a life-changing, soul cleansing experience for both me and my vet husband. He finally felt safe enough among his "bros" (in spite of the cameras rolling) to heave out a lot of the war poison that had infected him, me and our marriage for 30 years. Much of that time I spent working in the darkness of that unknown shadow, trying to figure out the reasons for my man's anguished behavior and how the hell I could fix him. He kept it stuffed all those years and I was mostly clueless back then about PTSD (as were many of us after Viet Nam).....until TW retreat.
Needless to say, I was blown away by his big "flashback" episode during the retreat and it was the catalyst to my finally understanding (and forgiving) all those years of endless trauma/drama. Not since have I asked him why he can't get over something that happened many decades ago. We were on the verge of divorce when we went to the retreat, but the healing that Bob & I, and many of the other participants, experienced was the great turn around in our marriage and lives. We found a new goal and way to heal ourselves, and that was by way of speaking out to civilians in our communities about the need to get involved in the welcoming home of the young veterans of these most recent wars. We also do work mentoring these young vets and their family members to get the help they need to adjust to the new reality of this insidious war that has come home with and to them.
I'm so glad to hear that you have resolved not to be silent. After all, we are the community the soldiers come back to. It is to us that the burden primarily falls to pick them up, be their caretakers in addition to all the other jobs we have as wives, mothers, & often the breadwinners while ( & after) our men have been to war. And what our government, the media, etc. don't seem to take much notice of is.....we are the MAJORITY! Just multiply the number of returning vets by all their spouses, mothers, fathers, siblings, other relatives & friends that are living with or are influenced by the behavior of the after-war soldiers/veterans. The vet is the pebble in the center of the ever widening circle in the pond. So don't ever again apologize for having second-hand PTSD. It's no more your fault than it is the fault of our soldiers for screaming out at night with horrific dreams of war.
My prayers are with you, your vet and family. Be thankful that more is known and "out
there" about the hidden wounds these days. Hopefully you and yours won't have to go 30 years before the healing begins.
Anyway, I'm still looking for a retreat in my community strictly for spouses & family members of our soldiers & veterans. How's that for a ground-breaking retreat and movie? I'm game. How about you?
Warm regards,
Moe Eaton
June 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMoe Eaton
.Dear K from Minnesota: I am an Army mom . I thank you for this post. You have a rare gift of being able to make this issue real - and at the same time you inspire and support the many family members and friends who are right there with you in similar situations. There are so many who love and want to help our returning war veterans. Yet, the tools and the way forward is often unclear and confusing. " The Welcome" opens hearts and doors - and shows hope and possibility. I have included my e-mail address and hope that you (and/or others on this thread) might be open to connecting for conversation and support. E-mail: Namaste!
June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie Ingraham
Moe I am still processing your comment. I have so much respect for you and your husband. Know that I am sitting in quiet reverence. I just don't know what to say...but the words are building.... thank you for your sacrifice and leading the way and sharing with me. You have touched me ~Kateri of Minnesota
June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKateri

Angry Chair

I like to revert back to the angry stage in grieving.  It is familiar to me, it is welcoming, I operate from there often.  I was blessed to be featured by Charlie Palumbo, and let me tell you ,if you have not read her book, please go out and get it, download it, or however you take your media these days.... I loved her book.

Here was my Angry Chair post:

Its true. I’m angry. I am so completely pissed off at the world that I can
hardly contain it. My husband has to go to treatment for his ptsd and tbi.
Thats not the problem. The problem is, we are a month out from him going, and he
is in this self fulfilling prophecy mode where he has completely checked out.
And that pisses me off. Hes angry, I’m angry. I’ve gone from the supportive,
understanding wife, to the angry verbally assaultive bitch whom all men fear
(and divorce). I am completely incapable of holding it in…its coming, I can
feel it.

The sad thing is, he is leaving and dealing with his own
demons, and all I can think is, Who the FUCK is going to help me shovel all this
snow!? I have 3 kids, I have a full time job…a dog, cat etc….that was his
job. And I am getting angrier at myself because my husband came home from
Iraq. My husband is still alive. My husband doesn’t hit me, or my kids. My
husband really loves us….we could have it way worse, so why am I so goddamn
I didn’t marry my husband until after he came home, I don’t know
how to handle deployments. I don’t know how to handle the children alone. But
then again, he’s been checked out for awhile, so I maybe I do know.
takes his pills to calm down and i resent him for it. I want a pill to fucking
calm down. He goes to the clinic and gets support from his care team, I want a
fucking care team. I hate this place, I hate this angry bitter place.
Today I looked at our sad sorry tree (fake) that only had the lights on
it (that are half burned out) and 2 candy canes and one bulb and I almost
freaked out. That is what ptsd has done to us. Look at that sad motherfucking
tree. Look at what ptsd has stolen from my family. I hate you I hate you
Had he lost a leg, an arm, been burned, it would be NOBLE for him to go to rehab. Had he lost something on
the outside, my family would be considered courageous. He would be a hero, even
here at home. But there is a pressure from society to shut up. We are hurt on
the inside where no one can see, therefore, it doesn’t exist. The stigma for
these wounds (which I will tell you hurt just as much) are hindering his
recovery. And I hate it. NO one wants to talk to me about it, except the
girls who are in this same fucking mess I”m in. They get it. My other friends
don’t want to upset me, or bring it up, so they tiptoe around me, like I might
break if they say the wrong thing. I don’t want to be tiptoed around, I don’t
want to be ignored.
Today is an exceptionally angry day, and I will not
apologize or censor myself, because I can’t. I am completely incapable of
censoring myself today. And it may get worse as the time to go draws near….it
may get better. The only way for you to see, is to keep reading.

She stands alone...

Ooooooo, posted about Secondary PTSD, coworkers, drinks, and hippies:

For the record, it was The Head and The Heart, Bryan John Appleby, and Blitzen Trapper I saw that night.... It was good.

One of my first "blog" posts....Check it!

Its posted over at Family of a Vet, but I thought I'd share here as well :)

His consolation prize from Iraq....

I was just looking for some old posts, and I found this one, oh ew is all I can think....Poor guy, but, the shot did clear it up! But, it came back :(

And then there was one

Here is a post I did for Family of a Vet, Enjoy,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I think God just called....

I just received a very important (to my psyche) call, and I think it was God himself.  He has the tough accent, as tough as the burrough he came from.  Punctuated consonants, dropped R's.  Jesus is a New Yorker! And I almost laughed to myself!

The message was for me to know that he got my email, my cry for help, and though he may not be able to help, he wanted me "to go to bed knowing that" he heard me.  "I feel ya" he said.  I could feel that bump in my throat, threatening to sabotage my composure.

Who does that?  Who responds so damn fast and with compassion?  A simple phone call saying, "I get you" "I understand" "You've been heard".... thats all it took to be driven to my knees.  I don't even care if he can't help.  He did more than enough just by acknowledging my email.  I counted.  I was validated.  I was cared about even by a stranger. 

I was so floored by this phonecall, and his story, (which was his version in his punctuated talk) that I just spat out, "Where are you FROM?" 


I smiled. Silly man.  Thats not what I meant.  I meant, of what freaking planet are you from? Of what flesh are you derived?  I meant, normal humans, even helpers like us, do not call as soon as message received to just say I've got you.  Well, some of us do, I've been known to do so.... But no one has ever done that to me... 

It felt good.  It felt calming.  It was refreshing.  So my little phone call from this incredible example of humanity made my entire day.  It did.  Its hard to describe.  But shit, Jesus from the Bronx should just go around calling people and giving a 5 minute "Hey i get you" speech.  That was the most memorable phone call I will ever have, its the small things.  It is definately the small things that count.  Awesome.  That was crazy awesome.... Meanwhile husband is circling around me wanting to know random things and obsessing about stuff, so I must go... but I go with a smile on my face :)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Here's a post that was hiding in my drafts....

I can't begin to accurately express my rage, my frustration, my sadness, my exhaustion when it comes to this, I don't even know what to call it....shit storm????

I swear if it isn't trying to fix what is broken, it is trying to keep what is about to break, from breaking.  How much can a girl take!?

I am a mother, a wife, a caregiver, a nurse, an adovocate.... many roles, but just one person.

I received the disheartening letter that the claim for TBI and *all* of the residuals have been denied.  Would you like to guess why???

Go ahead.  Take a guess.

It isn't because of the lack of illness, it isn't because of lack of evidence....

go, guess again.

Because the examiner didn't put in her progress note that she "reviewed the service record".  She reviewed the C-File, the notes in CPRS, the labs, the statements in support of claim....

Also, our representive tasked with filing our claims, erroneously filed things "Sleep apnea as a result of ptsd..."  and "Irritable Bowel Syndrome as a result of PTSD"  and things like that. 

Without diming out this dimwit, I will say to all of you, do NOT chance your benefits and claims to someone you don't know.  I should have realized this years ago, when I called the rep to ask a question and he said he could not talk to me. So I asked if my husband could sign a release, he told me even if he had a release, he couldn't talk to me, yet he then proceeded to talk to me in depth.  I was also told that there were "widows who weren't even getting any benefits". 

Widows?  Really?  What a low ball dirty thing to say to shut someone up.  And it worked, because, who the hell wants to whine and bitch and moan when there are women who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the highest price, their husbands.  I felt like an ungreatful bitch.

But as time goes on, I realize that there is something fishy going on.  I think our rep filed these claims worded stupidly to delay compensation.  After all, he told someone else, that these young vets are sucking up all the resources. 

So now, not only do I have to play wifemothercaregivernurse, I have to play this stupid game with the claims system.  I have to undo what he has done.  And frankly, I'm pissed. 

On top of being in the claims system since 2006, I have watched the gross mismanagement of my husbands health.  I am not blaming one person for this, I am NOT bashing our providers care (we like him a lot, mainly because he has been with us for so long, unlike other areas where providers come and go).  I am saying there was a *huge* system failure here, that caused a delayed screening, diagnosis, and then treatment regimen.

On top of multiple delayed treatments, for whatever reason, we've dealt with abuse. 

An audiologist screening my husband when he first came home for hearing loss warned my husband, "We can tell if you are lying about this (the ringing in the ears), and if you get caught lying, you can go to jail".  That was our very first experience.  And we should have heeded our little voices in our heads then....

Then came the time when my husband went in to seek counseling for severe symptoms of ptsd. In 2006.  But because there "was a claim pending for PTSD" (which by the way, he hadn't even been diagnosed, our stupid rep just decided to go ahead and put in the claim) he was turned away.  We were told you can't be seen while waiting for the adjudication of the claim. 

That was a lie, and shortly after I rattled some chains, he was scheduled with a counselor.

Then we have the ongoing, never healing, always hurting, rotten feet.  Every provider that saw these nasty feet had their opinions on it. Diagnosis ranging from athelets foot, to yeast, to dermatitis, to shoe allergy, we have YET TO FIND AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT.  Creams creams creams. 

After years of begging for more aggressive investigation, our provider put in a consult to dermatology.  They were certain it was shoe allergy.  Commence the patch testing.  Two rounds.  Both of which confirmed he was not allergic to his shoes. 

So I begged for a consult to a specialty.  I didn't really care which specialty, just someone else....Rheumatology? Allergy? I don't care.   Those consults were denied on the basis of "This patient has a dermatology issues.  We will not see him".

So then we get kicked out of the Occ therapy clinic because my husband forgot to go to an appointment.  We can't make appts there because there are other veterans who are waiting to get in.  We can't come back because my "husband doesn't want to make this his priority."

I was told, when my husband confessed he was suicidal, that I had made him codependent.  That this was the most "fragmented and disjointed care" she had ever seen because he didn't follow through.  That I need to let him make his own decisions, that she knows what its like to be in our situation because her husband has an "anxiety disorder."  She sat blocking the door, waving her hand, her chubby fingers accusing me of letting him get to this point. 

So all this time, poor husband in incredible pain (treated only with gabapentin, or tramadol) hangs his head. 

Claims examiners are the worst offenders.  I think they are taught to be as offensive as humanly possibly.  One examiner, who was rating my husband for physical issues, commented that his brother had PTSD too, but he was old, so he could handle it better.

One examiner commented, "Well, I've never seen any one with a TBI graduate college and raise a family......"  Eh, well, you've never seen a wife keep this family just barely above water, and help manage his homework and papers. 

Reading through his chart, I was appalled by the innaccurate exams.  Unchecked boxes, inconclusive recommondations, failure to adjudicate in favor of the veteran.

This has been the 6 hardest years of my life, and I can't imagine how many of these professionals go home and sleep at night.

The system failed my husband.  In big ways.  Over and over again.  Only recently has there been a few redeemers come through.  We have a nice telehealth guy.  We have a nice Federal Recovery Coordinator who kindly reads and responds to my middle of the night SOS's with compassion and never judges, only encourages.  We have a nice Caregiver coordinator, who was kind enough not to kick us down a tier.  And who returns my calls and emails timely.

On top of all of THAT, he had to leave his job, because it was triggering him and causing more harm than good.  I continue to have to take time from my job to be with him, all the while receiving comments and insinuations that I might not last long....

What kind of life is this?? 

Certainly not the one either of us  had dreamed for. 

Memories For Sale!!!!

Memories for sale! Memories for sale!!!

This business of trying to work and deal with PTSD and TBI was not working for my dear husband.  He left the VA ( a really good job) as it was triggering his ptsd and he would come home and be such a ball of stress and anger it was directed at our sweet babies.

He took time off for PTSD treatment.  Upon return, he found a job in a quiet office at the county as a Veteran Service Officer (assistant).  A much better fit right? Windows, only 3 people, less traffic, remote area.... God is good!  

Until one day I decided to (and this is NOT recommended for the average ptsd'er) set up surveilance and see for my own eyes (or rather ears) what on earth is going on at home while I'm at work.  Which let me tell you, I used to worked days, but had to switch to overnights to be home with them all to prevent mass chaos.  But had to leave overnights because my husband on all those drugs was unable to wake up to our crying, screaming, hungry infant. 

Enter the PM shift at the VA for me.  This could work. This was working.  But I had that gut feeling, something wasn't right.

So I set up an audio recorder and when I got home reviewed the tape.  I was crushed.  I was shocked.  He was struggling.  It was clear as day.  My kids were not being nurtured and loved, apparently, thats left up to me.

So I woke him up, confronting him, "What is really going on James Peterson"  "You tell me now, and you tell me the truth". 

And the truth shall set you free.

And bankrupt you.

James was having flashbacks at his new job because of the stories his clients would tell him.  He was being triggered severely, but the desire to be the "man" of the house kept him from saying so.

I made him see the doctor the next day.  He was on a ton of meds and this behavior is NOT accceptable.... He should be better.  This should NOT be happening.

And again, he was suicidal.  After hours in the office with a psychiatrist and triage nurse, it was decided to send him home.  We had a plan, we had hope.  We were going to be okay.

James the very next day quit his job.  Reviewing the MN website for unemployment, we thought he'd be approved, and this would help until we came up with plan b.

Well, little did we know that because he cannot work per recommendations of his doctor, he is NOT able to receive unemployment. 

Now I find myself deep in the piles of Disability paperwork through the state.  He can't fill it out, it would drive him to the edge, so I am doing it, and I want to cry, and light things on fire.  We will likey be refused disability because of the doctor's recommendations that he will be able to work, just not right now.

So I call my bank, "Help me please, just this once. I am very low in balance and don't want to go negative."  This is where the lovely credit union officer told me just how low my score was, and that she cannot help me.  So I reviewed with her that I have never been late, she can see what I have coming in montly, she can see where my money goes.  She recants the dings on my report, and adds, "If you can show us that you have  the character to clean this up....."

STOP RIGHT THERE. You want to talk about character?! Character is standing by my husband, wounded by war, picking up the pieces, and not needing help until now.  Character is helping the hundreds of other veterans I help volunteering, despite my own battles, character is making my mortgage payments monthly, my car payment on time every month.   I explained to her that she can try to ask the branch manager, and if it is in deed a no, then I shall take my money elsewhere. If it is a no, then I will gladly go be abused for my bad bad credit with another bank.

It's consumer rape.  It's abusive.  I pay 6.5 percent in interest for house payment, I pay 13 percent on two cars, for a total of 26 percent.... I pay terrible interest fees, have I not been punished enough????

SO, I'm selling my stuff until I can figure out plan b.  Memories for sale!  This sunday I am selling our cornstove for some cash, I still have a baby in diapers for christ sake. I have a hutch, a table, DVD's he got in germany and iraq for entertainment.... I already sold my guitar, I have jewelry.  I don't need a wedding ring to prove my love and commitment for my husband.  I have scars.  Scars from fighting for him.  Those are more permanent than any ring. 

So please, buy my memories, make them your own... pass them off as your own, I'll never tell.