This one is directed to all of those families out there dealing with Combat Related PTSD that have children. Have you thought about what you would or should do if your spouse has a severe or prolonged episode? Dani and I have talked about this extensively and we have come up with a plan that works for us. Here's what we decided on.
I know it sounds extreme, but I would go to any lengths to ensure the safety and peace of mind of my daughter and wife. I am not recommending that every family set up a plan just like this one. I am asking that you talk about it with your spouse and come up with a plan that you feel comfortable with, if you feel it's even necessary. I don't think that it will ever be necessary, but I would rather have a contingency plan in place in the event that something drastic causes my world to come crashing down around me.
So many people are talking about the moral ambiguity of outright killing Bin Laden. I have a few questions in response to this:
1) When we send in a drone for a precision air strike to kill a terrorist, to we ask, "Hmmm. Is he resisting? Is he armed?"
2) Where were the questions of whether it was morally ambiguous to get us into these conflicts and send a decade of our youth into combat?
3) Has anyone thought about the ramifications of taking him alive? It would galvanize the will of every terrorist around the world and Americans all over the world would be taken hostage until Bin Laden was released.
I find all of the political posturing reprehensible. We have a Democrat in the White House and what do the Republicans do? They look for a way to divide the country even on THIS issue. And guess what? The Democrats pulled the same crap when a Republican president was in the White House. Has anyone else realized that our politicians can't even agree to disagree if they happen to be on the other side of the aisle? This divisiveness is driving our country into the ground and it is making it harder and harder for me NOT to lose my temper. When is an honest politician going to come along and pull a Lee Iacocca? (Worked for a dollar per year until Chrystler was profitable). What do this bunch of entitled millionaires know of the day to day struggle of the average American?
One last point. NEWS FLASH: I will have to deal with the moral consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. So will every other service member. The fallout of having to contend with our consciences is PTSD for many. Don't try to take away my feeling of closure. I needed to know that the sacrifices of so many served a purpose. I do not feel guilty for my joy over Bin Laden's death. I feel guilty having survived to witness the day when so many haven't. All I know is this: I choose to make him bleed for his cause so that less service members and innocents have to bleed for ours. Too many people have forgotten our pledge of allegiance - especially the end of it - With Liberty and JUSTICE For All. Wake up America, the only thing that happened here was Justice being served. End of Story. I Apologize now if this offends anyone, but I had to get this off my chest. It's been eating at me for two days.
First off, I wanted to thank Kenna for asking the question that motivated me to write this: Kenna asked me to clarify what I meant by 'get away' in my last blog post and I visited her blog to learn more about what she was actually struggling with so that I could address her question appropriately. From what her blog says, loving someone with PTSD is very new to her and she is struggling to learn how to deal with it. Kenna, you are not alone in this and thank you for having the courage to learn how to support someone with PTSD. Here's what I can tell you about my experience with this feeling and what I know causes me to need to 'get away'.
When I am feeling the effects of my PTSD the emotions I feel are anger, guilt, depressed, afraid, confused. I am angry that people died. I am guilty that I survived and they didn't . I am depressed because I can't deal with the intensity of either emotion. I am afraid that I won't come out of the funk I am in. I am confused because I have NO IDEA what caused the episode this time.
A caregiver's innate response to a loved one being in distress is to want to comfort by hugging, touching, talking and, in general, 'being there' (being in close proximity) for the one in distress. In most cases, this is actually the worst reaction a loved one can have.
When I am episodal, the I am feeling all of these intense negative emotions. If my wife was to try to 'comfort' me, I wouldn't be able to handle it. Here's why: The emotions I am feeling are DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSED to the ones she feels for me. I can't handle both sets of intense emotional input at the same time. Because I don't have any choice but to feel the emotions I am feeling, my response is to get rid of the source of the other emotions that I am not ready to deal with - i.e. I feel an overwhelming need to 'get away' from my wife and all other external input that might make it harder for me to deal with my PTSD.
What My Wife and I Have Learned:
Lesson One: Communication is Everything.
We keep the lines of communication open at all times. I let her know what kind of mood I am in and how my PTSD is currently affecting me. Depending on the answer that she gets will dictate how much she interacts with me at that given time. If I am episodal, she doesn't even need to talk to me. She has learned to recognize the signs and leaves me alone to work through it. She knows that when I am ready, I will come to her and talk to her about what I have been dealing with.
Lesson Two: Create a space in your house/apartment that is their 'PTSD Fallout Shelter'.
It is important that the person who has PTSD has a safe place IN THE HOME that they can retreat to when the need arises. I cannot stress how important this is. If the person suffering from PTSD feels the need to 'get away' and only has to go downstairs and play video games in his man-cave to get away, he never has to leave the house. This is critical. So many horrible things happen when the person with PTSD is forced to leave the safety of their home to find this space.
Lesson Three: Be Patient.
As a caregiver, it can be incredibly hard to resist the need to 'smother' their significant other with love and support. You have to have the patience to wait until they are ready to receive what you have to offer them. Do not take it personally if it takes a while and DO NOT EVER THINK IT'S YOUR FAULT!!!
OK, I think that's all of the important topics. Thank you, Kenna, for asking this question. If you need any further clarification or if this has brought up new questions that you would like answered, please let me know!
In short, no. When I first got home in early 2004, the system hadn't seen many or any invisible wounds of war yet - it was too early into the conflict. Because the VA wasn't overwhelmed, my claims process was only two months long. I was assessed with a rating in short order. As more and more veterans have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA quickly became overwhelmed. Seven years later, I get to see a doctor every four months, if I am lucky. Here's the catch: So many people blame the VA for not caring. I don't think that this could be further from the truth. I know that all of the doctors and social workers that I have talked with are incredibly frustrated by the lack of staffing and funding the VA is getting to contend with this ever-growing issue. Granted, no system is perfect. The biggest issue I have is with the bureaucratic oversight. Just like every other government agency, there are a ton of superfluous jobs. It's incredibly difficult to fire someone from a Federal job, so people in unnecessary 'fluff' positions keep their jobs while the VA continues to be run into the ground. I think that government agencies should be run like businesses. Cost savings and improved efficiency in operations would equate to more jobs where they are needed and less waste. It's time to separate the wheat from the chaff or all of the veterans returning home are going to lose their trust for the government and country they swore to uphold and protect. What message is being sent to the youth in our country when they witness the general apathy that veterans get treated with upon returning home?
OK, I've said my piece. Down off the soap box and back to talking about other issues...
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.