How to Love Your Military Spouse – Part One

As I stated in my post ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Intro’ I don’t want to focus only on the spouse without PTSD in the relationship because it quite frankly isn’t all on them. Like all relationships, effort is a two way street. To help me with this series I’ve recruited my husband, a Marine veteran with PTSD. I asked him to especially help me with the spouse with PTSD side of the table because, well, he’s the one sitting on it. So here are the unsparing words of wisdom from a combat veteran himself boys…

 

SAY YES TO COUNSELING…

First and foremost, get counseling. There is no shame in seeking out help from a professional. You yourself are a professional ass-kicker. A head shrink can’t do your job, so don’t try and do theirs. You know your head better than anyone else so be honest and wholly explain to them what’s going on in your hatrack and they will teach you how to get things under control. No one can promise it will be an easy process, but I promise it will be a worthwhile one.

 

EMBRACE THE FUNK…

You have to remember that civilians are ignorant. That’s not saying they are stupid, just simply that they did not go through the hell we did so they just flat out don’t stinking get it! They don’t understand why we have to sit facing the main entrance at a resturant, or why we’re constantly “looking around” instead of “listening” (which by the way..WE ARE LISTENING!). They don’t understand that we just need to make sure everyone and the situation are safe. We’re not checkin out other chicks or tuning our significant other out. We feel sorry for making them feel that way but if they had gone through what we did, they’d be doing the same thing. With that being said you cannot EXPECT civilians to understand, and getting frustrated about it will get you nowhere. The sooner you accept that fact the sooner you can move on with it. So Ass Kickers carry on. Do your thing. If it brings you even a little peace-of-mind while enjoying a dinner date with the wifey, then face the door.

 

COMMUNICATE!

Communicate, communicate, COMMUNICATE! Tell your spouse what’s going on in your brain housing group. Again, they wont fully understand, but it’s a start. They can’t be supportive and good for you if they don’t know what’s going on. They do understand that things are not right with you now, that you are somehow different, but YOU have to make the first step forward. Don’t wait for your civilian counterpart. It is truly on you to be the leader first. Take charge of your mind, body, and family. Don’t be an asshole, but be an understanding leader that realizes they (your family) cannot understand anything unless we tell them what’s going on with us.

 

You can find an ever growing list of communication tips HERE!

You can also find tips for spouses of PTSD on the sister post ‘How to Love Your Veteran – Part One’!

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’ !

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.

“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/

 

 

 

Out of Place, Out of Culture – My Holiday Season

For those who follow you may have noticed I haven’t posted much in the last several weeks and I apologize for that! I have been pretty busy with the holidays and traveling but admittedly I have actually started several posts but ended up deleting them. I don’t feel I’m really suffering from “writer’s block” per say as I have many ideas and things I want to write about and discuss, but I’ve been having a hard time putting them into words. I have also been struggling a little bit personally with something I’m not sure how to describe; confidence maybe?

This pretty much started when I left Oklahoma to spend this month in Oregon with my family, the first two weeks of which my husband wasn’t with me. I didn’t realize it at first but this has been the first time in a little over two years that I have ever been completely without any military culture surrounding me. Now my husband is a veteran, and I am in the Guard so we don’t live actively on a base. One may not think at first glance that I am really surrounded by the military culture. However, I am with my husband on a daily basis, and all but one of our close friends are either current military or veterans, the only one who isn’t grew up an army BRAT. We have many coworkers, friends, and family that aren’t military of course but the friends we see on a daily basis and would consider our closest pretty much are. Our church consists of a lot of veterans as well, and Oklahoma is also a very military friendly state.

When I came to Oregon I was suddenly surrounded by my family which consists of no military or veterans (save for my Grandpa in Washington and my cousin’s husband who lives 4 hours away from my family in the Portland area), I had no friends that could relate, and was in a state that literally has no military presence save for a couple small Oregon National Gaurd posts.

This doesn’t seem like a huge deal but I started feeling very out of place and basically lonely. No one could relate to me in any way here. No one understands my culture. The jokes I make, the sides I take on issues, the reasons for my opinions and views, or even just the way I talk and think. I felt like I was in another country almost. (Well, the Southern/Midwest culture and the West Coast practically are two different countries…but I grew up in Oregon so that shouldn’t have mattered ha).

One of the first times I felt this was during a very heated argument I got into with my father in the first few days of my trip. Because of his experiences (or lack there of) his outlook on PTSD and issues of military were a far cry from my viewpoint. He wouldn’t believe that the military would or could ever mess up on the level that they do. Screwing up pay for months, CO’s abusing their authority against personnel they don’t like, or the endless cases of paperwork screw ups that can result in anything from promotion rejections to combat award rejection are some of the things he can not even believe to be possible.

He, like many, doesn’t think bureaucracies like the military or VA could ever do any wrong, or even see the harm the government can and has done to veterans. Because he was surrounded by a different culture, he simply could not understand or relate.

Another time was while shopping with my cousin. She asked me how much someone gets for the GI Bill because she saw an old high school classmate post on Facebook after getting out of the army that he was choosing from a couple Ivy League schools to get his degree. While she believes military deserves something she was worried the government was “paying all this money for them to go to ANY school they want…if you think about how many military people there are and how much top schools like that costs then that’s TONS of money being handed out if they just pay for anything and everything.” I kindly told her that there were a few different types of GI Bills, but that none of them simply allowed you to go to just ANY school in the country at no cost. She thought that was quite a relief.

The feeling of how out of touch and frankly uninterested my own family is to the military and it’s people was overwhelmingly strong.

I actually ended up leaving a dinner early one night and visiting my ex boyfriend (still a close friend) a few times simply because he was the ONLY person, being fresh out of the military, I could find that I could feel comfortable around. We didn’t have to talk about anything related to military, in fact I mostly played card games with his young niece and mom when I was at their house. But simply being around someone who understood where I was coming from in all directions, felt like finding another American in the midst of a foreign country.

Thank God my husband is here now. The past two weeks experiences have made me second guess myself a lot. I’ve thought that I may not be able to be the “bridge” between military culture and civilian culture that I thought I could try to be for some people. I’ve started second guessing my ability to help and my ability to open any minds to the people I am passionate about. I guess I never realized how ingrained and comfortable I have become in my own environment surrounded by so much military culture. I raised the doubt in my mind that I could ever convey the struggles and this culture to others who have no relation to it.

Anyway, I apologize for being so self deprecating on here. I know that this experience is meant to teach me something, and it already has taught me a lot, but I just wanted to share why I haven’t posted much and what’s been going on. Don’t think I forgot about the blog! I am so thankful for all of my followers and I truly appreciate you! Any words of encouragement would not go unappreciated either! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! God bless!

Excuse or Reason? PTSD and physical abuse – Daily Prompt – Perspective

A couple days ago while my ridiculously overactive brain was wondering mercilessly at work an issue came to mind about military men/women and  physical abuse at home. The question in my head formed and I decided I really wanted my husband’s, a combat veteran and Marine, point of view so I asked..

“Obviously someone just being a straight up physically abusive spouse is NEVER ok. But what do you think of people who are just straight up abusers outside (or inside without combat experience) the military vs. someone with PTSD that blacks out or has a flashback and hits their spouse vs. someone with PTSD who does NOT black out but is dealing with PTSD and gets pushed too far, angry, and loses their cool and suddenly hits their spouse?”

Now I realize that’s a LOADED question and  mouthful. Through our discussion I also wondered and asked, “How does one (say a therapist) deacifer the difference between a man with PTSD/TBI having anger issues resulting in any form of abuse as someone who is not that kind of person and never would have been otherwise vs. someone who would have been an abuser with or without PTSD but PTSD May have just triggered it to start?”

I know the second question is a little confusing and I apologize. Im not going to write about how I feel on this issue or what my husband’s opinions were in this post because I’m still doing some more research and thinking of how I want to address that issue; however, I know you must be wondering how this pertains to the daily post prompt.

Firstly just being on the subject of perspective ones perspective on this issue will of course greatly vary based on whether or not the person has direct experience with abuse, no experience with military or ptsd, or does in fact have experience with the military and/or ptsd and veterans.

Secondly my perspective on physical abuse is in line with most of our opinions. While I think the abuser could certainly use help and counseling, I in no way shape or form excuse physical abuse and I hate it. However, when it comes to men and women suffering from PTSD/TBI and certain cases of reintegration back into society after war my perspective is a whole lot different because of someone I love and cherish. My husband.

Feel free to stay tuned for my future post discussing this issue..Also feel free to leave any insights pertaining to these questions or perspectives, I realize this is dipping into a very sensitive subject and I hope no one who has been or is linked to a victim of abuse feels I do not support you in any way shape or form or that I am trying to belittle your experiences. That is in no way my goal with this post nor my opinion. 

Just a little FYI…

…I just created a couple more pages containing and organizing previous posts so that they are easier to find and don’t fall through the cracks. Maybe one of these days I’ll upgrade my WordPress and make my blog more customized but for now I think this makes it a little better….So feel free to check them out if you haven’t been following my blog for long or seen some of my previous posts I think you might like them and always love feedback! Have a blessed day all!