How to Love Your Veteran – Intro

So recently I have started getting pretty active in searching the internet for more support and resources for myself as well as my husband. I came across some pretty decent stuff..a few more blogs, some various support groups (though none were close enough to join), and a facebook page for wives of PTSD. My search has proved more promising than the past, however I started to notice one pretty common and a bit frustrating trend. So many wives have fallen into this idea and mindset that they are suffering and becoming victims to their HUSBANDS, rather than seeing themselves AND their husbands for what they really are which is victims of PTSD …not eachother (I personally don’t even like to use the term victim simply because it seems to often breed that victim mentality rather than a warrior mentality which is what we should all strive for when facing hard struggles…but the term still holds a lot of truth). I see a lot of women and support groups leaning towards this idea that they are somehow the only ones struggling in the situation, that they are victims of some kind of abuse, and they often begin to resent and blame their husbands. I like to call the sort of mentality I’ve been reading about “Self Victimization”. It’s something that people from all walks of life often fall into but for the sake of staying on subject I wanna focus on couples struggling with PTSD.

Before you read further don’t think I’m about to just bash the women in the relationships. Husbands are not all innocent in these situations either. (Also, please keep in mind that I am only using the husband/wife labels to make this article easier to follow…Of course the same goes for husbands with wives suffering from PTSD, as well as unmarried couples, and same sex couples, ext…this applies to everyone). I’ve always felt pretty blessed that my husband and I have had very open and strong communication in our relationship. I think it has made living with PTSD that much easier for us and I want to share some tips and advice for couples who may be facing some unessesary struggles in their battle. Marriage and relationships are hard enough work without adding things like PTSD into the mix, but I believe in the strength of true love (I know cliche cliche) and I hope these tips may help some spouses overcome and move forward so that they can learn to better love, support and enjoy eachother again…

If you are a spouse of someone with PTSD click here to read ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Part One’ !

If you are a veteran with PTSD click here to read ‘How to Love Your Military Spouse – Part One’ !

Brace yourself for another broken heart…

As I sit back in my chair and let my phone drop to my lap my mind scrambles for more ideas, another way around this, something we can do to win. After a couple months of paperwork my husband just called from work to tell me his recruiter called to tell him he was disqualified for service. They wont let anyone with PTSD or higher than a 30% disability reenlist anymore. They can stay in, but once they’re out they can’t come back. Not even an interview or a chance to prove they are still capable dispite their “disability” just thrown into the pile of “unfits” and “head cases” with everyone else. All he wanted to do, all he’s ever wanted to do is serve his country. Now this label hasn’t just hung over his head like an ugly cloud, it’s cursed him. It’s held him back.  

It started about three months ago while I was away, we’d been talking about him going back in for a while, but it really started when he finally called the recruiters and asked about joining the National Guard. They told him he could be cyber security. Not exactly on par with a bullet-catching Marine but he thought it would be great. Something differen’t, and something he could certainely do. This was the first time I have ever seen him so excited about something. He’s usually so lost and indecisive. No dream has ever been able to replace that of serving. I feel like we haven’t been waiting months for him to return to service but years. Ever since he got out in the first place. He’s never belonged in the civilian world.

Now I sit crying, waiting for him to get home. Thinking what on earth could I possibly say to him to make him feel better this time. How can I comfort and tell him things are going to be ok when they’re simply not. Nothing he does has worked out and every dream he’s had has practically been shot down by the big man upstairs himself. He just wanted to fight for his country but now they’ve used him, thrown him out, and labeled him only to tell him he can’t be of anymore use because they’ve “overused” him. 

Meanwhile I sit at home. With no one to call because no one would understand. I can’t talk to the one person who would about how I feel because this isn’t about me it’s about him. So instead I wait. I cry by myself, try to pick up the house and muster up some cookies. As if that would help. I think and pray and beg for something, anything. God, what on earth will I ever say to mend this broken heart of his? Such a deep contagious wound that’s poured out and broken my own heart and spirit. My heart aches for him and everyone else in his place. But when he gets home I wont tell him this. I wont cry. I won’t let myself need him. Because he needs me…and I’m afraid it’s going to take all I have left to watch him live through this defeat. 

Second Chances

Growing up I was always told that God works in mysterious ways. I realize not everyone believes this or believes in a higher power but I wanted to share a story about “coincidence” and second chances…

About every three months our church holds a giveaway to the community. We have a friend who runs a warehouse in Texas whose mission is to give back to the needs of the community and minister to them through love and compassion. He usually brings up a semi truck full of food, diapers, school supplies, toiletries, ext. We pass out flyers before hand and usually get about two hundred or better people from our small community to come out. They are always in such need and an act of kindness and compassion like this is just amazing to watch quite literally change their lives….

So the last giveaway we had a few months ago my husband and I really wanted to participate in (because of various schedule issues wed never been able to before). We signed up but come the morning of the giveaway my husband woke up after a night of relentless nightmares depressed, anxious, and in no state to be around a large crowd. He insisted I go so I reluctantly left him at home and headed that way. Of course I was running late, nearly ran out of gas, a “car won’t start I was fallin apart” kinda morning. I almost turned around and went home several times. Thank God I didn’t though because I would’ve missed out on an amazing experience.

I finally made it there in time and was assigned to the group helping carry stuff to the cars and praying with those who wanted us to. About halfway through the morning myself and a friend helped a middle-aged woman carry her bags to her truck. As we approached the truck I noticed a native american looking man approx in his mid 40’s (her husband) sitting in the driver’s seat. No big deal. I also noticed as we were loading the truck (he got out to help) a faded army sticker on the tailgate. Maybe it was just my crazy obsession and passion for anything military or maybe it was God but I just had an unexplainable urge to talk to this man.

He never said a word to us but he seemed kind. He was sort’ve distant and I easily noticed his slightly paranoid demeaner…he kept non challantly looking around watching his surroundings. His wife, a tiny woman with already greying straw like hair and skin that symbolized a lifetime if smoking, seemed nice but very private as well. One might not have noticed at first glance but her body language was not just closed off but almost protective..of him. I recognized this behavior not because I’d seen it before, but because I’d felt it. This woman was me in thirty years..

So I asked the standard “here’s your sign” question just to break the ice.. “Are you army?”

The man looked and acknowledged me for the first time and spoke with dignity and confidence, “Yes. My daughter too.”

We got to talking a little small talk. He told me he served in Desert Storm and now his daughter had served in operation Iraqi Freedom..

“Wow..my husband was over there too..he was an infantryman in he corp..Iraq 04-05. He fought in Fallujah.”

This got him talking a little more…he said he was infantry as well..a toe gunner if I’m not mistaking..

He mentioned that he needed to get down to the VFW but hadn’t gotten himself to do it yet….I was so close to getting him to trust me I thought..to open up just a little more about himself…his wife stood calmly beside him..no doubt dutifully and meticulously watching him…waiting for the moment he either opened that door or slammed it shut again and shed have to hopelessly watch him work through the haunting pain she had become so familiar with.

So I took a chance and chose to trust him first… “My husband was actually supposed to be here with me today…but he couldn’t. He had nightmares last night and just can’t be around people..he has PTSD.”

It seems like a small thing to share but if you have or are close to someone with PTSD you know it’s not so easy to tell people. The understanding in the mans eyes told me I had made the right choice though…Its hard to describe but his body and soul almost visibly relaxed and opened up to me…like walls falling down. A stranger finally finding a familiar friend..We continued to talk and both him and his wife shared with me how restricted their lives had been. He has nightmares too and his own kids knew not to come into his bedroom when he slept because he sometimes fought in his sleep and had accidently hit and choked people before. He can’t even go to Walmart with his wife and he’s been reluctant to get any help from the VA and even visit the VFW.

On top of his daily torment he was also tormented by the experiences of his daughter. She had suffered a TBI in Iraq and was now going through treatment for brain tumor caused by the incident. Imagine going through hell and then watching your baby girl walk right into the same hell just to come home still fighting for her life..

After talking for a while we decided to pray so I could get back to work. I got them to agree to stick around for the raffle. Later I actually saw him come out of the truck and join the crowd. Although he still looked stressed and anxious and left his back to no one it was a huge step few would recognize….

As we gathered to pray I felt overwhelmed with happiness that this man had shared with me and was planning on going to the VFW as soon as possible now. What happened next I never expected. His wife, who’d been mostly silent letting him speak, grabbed my hand and handed me a piece of paper with her number on it. “If you ever need someone to talk to about your husband..” She said.

I had never though before then about how lonely it was having no one to talk to about my husband and what we go through together. No one else who understood my position. She was the first person to encourage me to start talking and to start this blog. Before that event I was closed off and never thought I deserved help too. I had already written off the rest of he world as separate from me, that they could never understand our lives.

I’m sharing this story because I don’t believe God is a complacent God that doesn’t care. I believe he is an active loving God and he can use anyone for good if we let him. I believe everything happens for a reason and healing can be found through his love and compassion carried out through us. This Saterday we are having another giveaway. My husband will be there this time…and I can’t wait.

“Oh yeah, he hits me all the time!”

Recently I was working with a couple fellow airman tasked with the wonderful duty of moving a bunch of medical equipment across town to another base where our unit has a storage compartment. I’m fairly new to the squadron and the other girl and I were making small talk on the way over…somehow or another the subject came up and I told her my husband is a Marine vet..the rest of the conversation went like this..

 

Her – “Oh wow..so does he treat you right?”

Me – “Oh yeah of course..better than I deserve even.”

Her – “That’s great!..that’s pretty rare I know majority of Marines are wife beaters and such ya know.”

(yes, she said she KNOWS this…it was almost comical)

…she then went on to talk about how they’re brainwashed and trained to kill so of course they would seem and be dangerous..I mean how on earth could you possibly tell the difference between a terrorist in a combat zone and your 120lb wife right? And gosh that PTSD stuff must affect the Marines worse or something since the Army Infantryman aren’t inherently wife beaters… Sorry, I have to make a joke of these kinda things in order to keep from telling people they’re ignorant asses to their face..But in light of this I figured I could use it for the better on my blog. A comment like this is simply not as unheard of as one might hope. So I decided to make a little list of myths and truths about all those big bad wife-beating Marines out there…please hold all giggles for the end..

 

Myth – all Marines are wife beaters

truth – players? sometimes. rough in bed? sure. But majority of Marines don’t need to                    beat women to get what they want….just walk into a San Diego bar on a night the                boys are wearing their blues if you don’t believe me..

Myth – all Marines have bodies that resemble body building icons like Hulk Hogan and The   Rock

truth – with the exception of your occasional moto-pog who actually has the time to drink               creatine 24/7 and go to the gym every night most Marines drink way too much                     booze, eat way too much pizza, and run way too far with way too much equipment             to ever have the ability to resemble anything close to that. And besides…bigger                   bodies make bigger targets.

Myth – all Marines marry fat Mexican chicks or fat white trash (I don’t mean to offend anyone that’s just how the myth goes..)

truth – while many a marine do love good food, and these women make GOOD food…not             ALL marine’s need more “cushin for the pushin”

Myth – all Marines are brainwashed in boot camp

truth – the Marine Corp is too poor to do such things. If any branch was going to have the               funding and ability to experiment with mass brainwashing it would be the                             Airforce…just sayin…oorah

Myth – all Marines are stupid

truth – Walter Cunningham, John Glenn (astronauts…not the first either), Drew Carrey,                 Jerry Coleman, Keith Jackson, Jamey Johnson, Howard Johnson, George Jones,               Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad and expert in financial freedom),                 Hugh McColl (former CEO of Bank of America)…I could go on…

Myth – all Marines have moto tattoos and a tattoo of their dog tags on their side

truth – I think I know at least one that doesn’t….

 

 

 

 

 

“Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war.”

article http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

He rarely spoke of it. Not to his family or best buddies, fellow Marines or medical staff watching over him.

But Cpl. Farrell Gilliam had endured far more by the time he died this year at age 25 than most people could comprehend.

The Camp Pendleton infantryman survived three months of combat in 2010 with the “Darkhorse” 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin, Afghanistan — one of the deadliest battlegrounds of the war.

Amid firefights and insurgents’ bombs, Gilliam saw limbs strewn across the ground. He loaded broken, bleeding bodies for medical evacuation, and grieved for the friends they could not save.

Gilliam’s tour ended early when his legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device, or IED. “Farrell’s Fight,” his struggle on the homefront that his big brother helped him chronicle online, included more than 30 surgeries and three years of rehabilitation.

It was a story of triumph over wounds that would have been fatal in earlier conflicts. A story that was coming to an end, but not how anyone who knew him expected.

Gilliam was months away from a medical discharge from the Marine Corps and a new life as civilian college student. Physically, he had one surgery left to remove hardware in an arm. Psychologically, he was suffering from invisible wounds he hid behind smiles and upbeat banter.

Or so his family discovered on Jan. 9, when Gilliam committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in his barracks room in San Antonio.

Gilliam finally succumbed to his battle wounds, said Sgt. James Finney, his former squad leader in Afghanistan. It doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger — to him Gilliam was killed in action just like the other 25 from their battalion.

“It was an 8,000-mile sniper shot,” said Finney, 27, now an infantry instructor. “His passing was directly due to a situation because of his wounds received in Afghanistan. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

The suicide rate for active-duty troops spiked in 2012 to nearly one a day, a record during this era of warfare and twice as high as a decade before. At least 350 took their lives that year, more than the number of service members killed in combat. (Final numbers for 2012 and a year-end tally for 2013 are pending, a Pentagon official said.)

Last year, 45 Marines committed suicide and 234 tried to. It was by far the highest number of suicide attempts for the service since at least 2003.

Among veterans of all the armed forces, at least 22 commit suicide daily, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gilliam’s death blindsided his family and friends. Amid their raw first waves of grief, anger and irrational guilt, they pray that sharing his story might inspire others to stop suffering silently. Or spur a family to intervene. Or close a gap in support or education.

“I want no family to have to go through the pain that we are going through. If there’s just one person who gets that help that saves them … then it’s worth it,” said Gilliam’s brother, Daniel Lorente, 30, of Palo Alto, who cared for him full time as his non-medical assistant early in his rehabilitation.

“My little brother would be next to me right now if it wasn’t for what happened to him in Afghanistan,” Lorente said. “It’s all a tragedy of this war. Call it (post-traumatic stress disorder), call it whatever you want. But it’s still a war. It’s still going on. It’s on our own soil, with our own soldiers.”

 

 

Read the rest of the article here… http://m.utsandiego.com/news/2014/mar/28/farrell-gilliam-marine-suicide-amputee/

 

 

 

“People always …

Quote

“People always call me a hero, I’m no hero. To me a hero is someone who will take a stand for what is right. Whether it helps or hurts.” – Edward E. Vezey Jr, 93 year old WWII veteran, anti aircraft gunner on the USS Oklahoma and Pearl Harbor survivor

Daily Prompt – First Date with PTSD

I woke up just like I would any other Saturday. Well rested and happy to have the whole day free of work. To my right was a wall and to my left lay my handsome strong man, still sleeping in. I smiled thanking God for my luck and climbed over him and outta bed. I fumbled my way into the bathroom and then down the hall to the living room/kitchen of our two bedroom apartment. I wasn’t one to put breakfast off for very long after waking up.

I started some bacon, let my dog Ranger out to go to the bathroom, and went back into our bedroom. My boyfriend was awake, but still in bed, trying to soak up as many extra minutes of sleep as possible I’d guessed. He seemed groggy and still exhausted. Like he’d only gotten a couple hours of sleep instead of nine. I kissed his forehead and told him I was making breakfast. The response that came next was completely unexpected..

“Im not hungry baby don’t worry about it.”

To anyone else that might not have been a big deal, but for him it was. He was never one to turn down a meal, especially not breakfast in bed made by his favorite cook. Something wasn’t right. But maybe he was just tired, maybe feeling kinda sick. So I let the first wave of concern cruise through my mind without a second thought. I went back to working on breakfast and checked on him again.

“Are you sure you don’t want breakfast baby?” I asked coming back into the bedroom.

“Maybe later. Im just not hungry right now.” Came his voice from deep beneath the covers. He had turned toward  the wall and wrapped himself into a tight caccoon, his face barely uncovered.

I knew something wasn’t right then. I grew up in a completely dysfunctional family. My mom a mental case, with severe depression among the list to go along with her frequent emotional crisis. My father with anger issues. It was the perfect brew for daily blowups and conflicts. There were a few things I learned to do very well from my childhood. One was how to make myself blend into any situation, the other was how to let others depend on me, rather than leaning on them. The third was probably the most healthy and invaluable lesson of the the three. I learned how to pick up on changes in people sooner than normal. I knew this was more than just him being tired or not feeling good, at least in the sense of being sick. I crossed the room and sat next to him on the side of the bed placing my hand on his shoulder..

“Baby whats wrong?” I asked.

“I just don’t feel like getting out of bed today, I don’t wanna deal with the world.” He almost cried out, not angrily, but his tone somehow urging me desperately to understand. Something was definitely not right. “…Im sorry..sometimes this just happens.”

I sat his breakfast on the dresser next to him ten minutes later. He never touched it. I had no idea what to do. I knew this had something to do with his PTSD but I still didn’t understand what was going on. Why was he feeling like this? What triggered this? What I didn’t realize then was that there wasn’t always a “trigger” for days like these. Or rather there isn’t always a trigger for the nightmares that caused these days.

He finally emerged from the bedroom late in the afternoon, only to replace the bed with the couch. He walked up to me slowly, shoulders uncharacteristically slumped, and hugged me close to him for a long moment before falling into the couch and turning on the tv. He seemed a little better, but not much.

In reality this event wasn’t as bad of a day as I thought when compared to what future “bad days” would hold. He watched the tv with an expressionless stare, occasionally closing his eyes and tensing his face in a grimace. His thoughts having wondered away from the cartoons displayed on the screen. He didn’t speak to me unless I talked to him first. He wasn’t rude or angry, but his answers were short and forced.. Like the mental energy it took pained him to speak. The way someone whose sick or hit rock bottom might respond. He didn’t feel better until the next morning. It was as if he had simply slept it off.

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Like I said in reality this was an easy day. In retrospect it probably only seemed as difficult as it was because it was the first time it happened since I’d been with him and I didn’t know exactly what was going on. I felt worried, anxious, and confused. I felt more helpless and useless than I had ever felt before in my life, a feeling I would quickly become familiar with. Days like this come as frequently and infrequently as my husband’s brain dictates. It is almost always caused by nightmares the night before. Those nightmares can be triggered by something obvious or be seemingly random.

Sometimes I can sense these days coming on even before my husband realizes it, other times it doesn’t take long to pick up on. There are fortunate days where my husband has nightmares but doesn’t fall into such a deep depression that he can’t function. Other days he can’t even muster the will to get out of bed, many days he can’t be around people. I can’t do anything to change this. I can’t “fix” it because there is nothing to fix. The war is a part of my husband and will be forever. My duty is only to support and love him while he carries this heavy burden for the rest of us.

I am working on a page that describes my husband’s PTSD and symptoms personally. I will also continue to post more about our experiences and struggles through this battle.