I received a question right before Memorial Day. Because of the very serious nature of the questions, I wanted to take the time to think deeply about it, consult some friends, and answer the questions as fully as possible. Here's what she said:
I have a question I am a spouse of a OEF/OIF veteran, he is still active duty we are currently separated and we have endured a living hell my family and I the last four years. i am baffled does mild tbi have anything to do with adultery my husband did not have affairs or act violent towards me up until two years ago he gradually got worse?
TBI and Changes in Personality:
There is so much that isn't known about the long-term effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries. We are only now starting to feel the repercussions for NFL players, let alone for our service members. What does seems to hold true is that the more severe the brain injury, the more likely it becomes for moderate to severe personality traits to manifest over the years following. Additionally, there seems to be some compounding factor. If a person has multiple m-TBIs, the effects appear to be cumulative over time. I am not an expert on TBI and am not a doctor, so aside from relating to you the little I know, I will refer you to the experts on these types of injuries.
PTSD, Adultery, and Abuse:
This is a very complex issue as well and one that you don't directly mention. Regardless, I feel compelled to address the possibility of PTSD being a major contributing factor. Having TBI makes a person more susceptible to behavioral disorders such as PTSD. When someone is suffering from PTSD, a person can feel an inability to connect with loved ones. As a result, some turn to adultery as a way to deal with this. From the guys I have talked to about this, they all say the same thing: They don't want to be intimate with their spouses because they don't feel like they can connect with them. Also, many have stated that it is safer to be intimate with a stranger who they don't care about because they CAN open up and if it scares the other person, they could care less. At least they are not hurting their loved ones.
I know that rationale is convoluted. I know it doesn't make any sense, but based on my experience and my conversations, it's classic avoidance of confronting their trauma and their PTSD. I can't speak for your spouse. There are so many individual factors that make this equation more true or less true for each person. Only your spouse knows the truth of this.
As for the abuse, I can't speak for the TBI side of the equation. That may play a factor. As it stands with me, abuse demonstrates an conscious choice to hurt others, a conscious choice to let anger get the better of you and to visit your trauma on someone else. If there is a medical reason for the personality change and loss of impulse control, that's one thing. Regardless, I find the act of abuse, repulsive and reprehensible. First and foremost, look out for your welfare and your family. You can't effectively confront abuse if you are still subjected to it.
I hope that this has given you some insight. I need to repeat, I am not a doctor or health professional. I can only share with you the knowledge I have gained from personal experiences dealing with my own PTSD. I wish you the best of luck in confronting these issues in your own life. If there are any follow-up questions you may have for me, please let me know.
Yours in Health,
So yesterday, we were about to head out to get Italian ice from Rita's when my wife asked me why I was dragging my feet. Until she said something, I didn't even realize I was. We sat down and talked about it after the little one was put down to sleep and we made a realization that should have been obvious:
I'm Agoraphobic (Irrational Fear of Going Outside). Ever since I had the issue with my lungs where I ended up in the hospital I have been afraid to put my lungs to work exercising. now that I have the allergist diagnosis that I am allergic to everything outside, I am deathly afraid of going outside. I am scared shitless that my lungs are going to seize up and that I am going to be back in the hospital. I narrowly avoided intubation and the ICU last time.
The problem is so severe that I haven't left the house in weeks unless it is something I felt was necessary to leave the house for (doctor's appointments, my sister's graduation in NY, the panel in DC) Even then, it has caused me an ever increasing amount of anxiety to leave. I looked up agoraphobia this morning and realized that I suffered from it and told my wife. She told me that I have been agoraphobic for as long as she has known me. Wonderful. Splendid.
I know it all stems back to the PTSD. I don't like crowds, I don't like unfamiliar places, I don't like loud environments, I don't like not knowing what is going to happen next. Most of all, I don't like not being in control of the situation and my environment. Add in a wee bit of social awkwardness because I don't feel like I have much in common with other people...
Until the hospitalization in March, the agoraphobia was proportionate to the degree in which my PTSD was affecting me. Now, I can barely leave the house and it's getting worse. It feels like I can see the bridge is out but I can't stop the train. My anxiety is ratcheting up just typing this.
When am I going to catch a damn break? I'm starting to get really pissed about a lot of this stuff. Right now I have a burning rage - a frustration with my situation so profound that I can't put it into words. I need to figure out a way to channel this rage and use it to motivate me to get out, to exercise.
All you're required to do is breathe. Calm down, think it through, and do something about it. Get up off your ass and do something about it.
After reading this post on Rod Deaton's Blog, I am deeply disturbed. I am going to tackle each one of the articles in his post one at a time:
Steroid Injection May Prevent PTSD:
Wow. All I can say is medically irresponsible. I can just imagine that the military is using active duty folks to see if this holds any water. Can you just imagine? Forget about the devastating potential physical side effects of steroids for a minute. One of the most pervasive side effects from using steroids is heightened anger response. And that's not the part of the article that really disturbs me. The studies are being performed by supposed experts that are asserting that this works. They never stop to think that giving someone a shot of steroids is more likely analogous to putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. Thousands of people with PTSD didn't have symptoms until years (and in some cases, decades) later. So unless this study plans on tracking their human guinea pigs for the next 20 years to be sure, their claims hold no merit and their research premise is extremely faulty.
Troops Today Have Better Prospects For PTSD Recovery An Expert Says:
This expert doesn't get it. He goes on to comment part way through the article that the rate of occurrence of PTSD much higher in veterans and so is the rate of suicide. Um....DUH!?!?! I'm not an expert and I can put two and two together on this one. Active Duty and deployed for the fourth time - trauma is compartmentalized. Veteran is home and safe - trauma has no reason to stay compartmentalized. Gee, I wonder what comes next. I would really love to know where they find these 'experts'. The one factor they don't take into account: Current conflict veterans don't want to come forward for treatment because of the stigma attached to it!
[Video] Military Matters: A Search For A PTSD Cure
This is just disturbing. Our government gave 35 million tax dollars to this joker? He is a psychiatrist, right? I am dumbstruck by this. Anyone who has even the slightest inkling of what a 'disorder' is knows a psychological disorder can not be 'cured'. The symptoms can be managed to the point where, over time and a lot of hard work, a person is able to control the effects of the disorder and live life mostly symptom free from day to day. Oh, and General Odierno, I just lost all respect for you as a person and as a leader. You are a prime example of what is wrong with the military leadership. I wonder how many of these guys you sent back over after they were 'cured' will end up being a statistic due to your utter failure to protect them. How DARE you.
So Now, I Am Drawing A Line In The Sand:
I will not stand by and allow this to happen. I will not stand idly by while our comrades in arms are subjected to this dangerous trend in 'treatment'. For those of you out there with PTSD, it's time to take a stand. 35 million of our tax dollars are going to this hack. This doc in the video is confident he can cure PTSD. We all know this is a disorder that can be managed, but never cured. You can't take away the scars that have been left on our souls. Ask any doctor who has been around the disorder for a few decades and they will tell you the same. We need to demand better oversight to protect ourselves from this type of dangerous thinking. It is exactly this kind of propaganda that leads to people like General Barry McCaffrey saying, "PTSD can be cured within a year".
No more. The government needs to know we can advocate for ourselves. I, for one, am willing to stand up and say, "No More!". Are you?
All of the developments with my health in the past few days have had a seriously bad unintended side effect. Rage. The docs say the sleep apnea is major contributing factor for why my PTSD was as bad as it was this past year. Wonderful. Great. Peachy. Splendid.
A suppressed immune system from lack of quality sleep causes allergic reactions to be worse. In some cases, severe allergies become life threatening. Wonderful. Great. Peachy. Splendid.
Every relationship, personal and professional has suffered because of all of this crap. Thus, the rage. It's the angriest I have felt in years, and that scares me. I know I won't act on it, but it feels like someone lit a fire in my gut and walked away leaving me with the unenviable duty of putting out the fire by myself. I am snippy and have been since the docs told me about sending me to a sleep study yesterday. No one has been spared, including my wife. Is it fear of the unknown or anger at the injustice of it all. I will keep at it and see what I can figure out, but it doesn't make the feeling any less toxic.
I feel like every time I regain a modicum of control over my life and my emotions, something comes along to sabotage all of the hard work I have put in. It gets really tiresome. When the hell do I get a break? I need a vacation from me...
I woke up tired and angry today. Yeah. Tired. AND angry. Even though I think I should avoid correspondence with people and just hide in a hole, I've tried that. It doesn't work. You end up just stewing in your own juices and getting even MORE angry. I don't want to go there again. I deserve better than that. My family deserves better than that. My readers deserve better than that. So today, I am trying something different:
I am going to live vicariously and see if it improves my mood. I hope it will help to improve your day. Yes readers, I am talking directly to you. I am going to tell you three things I am grateful for today:
I am grateful for having met Rod Deaton.
I am grateful for my family.
I am grateful to be alive.
OK, your turn! Write a comment and tell me what you are grateful for. This is only going to work if you participate. Spread the word. I don't care if a person is a regular reader or not, get people to come on here and say what they are grateful for. Mondays suck all around. I don't know anyone who wakes up on a Monday and says, "Gee, I love Mondays!!". Let's work together to make this day the ray of sunshine so many of us want and need.
I had someone ask me through the website whether what I had been through had made me lose my faith or become angry at God. They asked me this because ever since they returned from Iraq, they have felt like a stranger in church on Sundays. The short answer: Yes. I had a serious loss of faith.
I think it's human nature to question your faith when you experience something horrific. I thought, "God can't exist. If God was up there, he wouldn't let this shit happen." That's the crisis of faith. Questioning. If God's up there how could he let such horrific things happen? I didn't realize it at the time, but when I was asking that question, I was asking God for an answer. When I didn't get one, I got angry. Angry at God. I thought, "God, if you are listening, Fuck You, you bastard. How could you let this shit happen. Benevolent, my ass. You are spiteful. I hate you." Yeah. Some pretty angry sentiment there. And I don't know a single vet with PTSD who hasn't gone down this road at some point. It doesn't matter if the soldier is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. The crisis of faith followed by anger always seems to happen.
Let me lay out a series of events for you:
1996 - First Year in College. I meet a guy named Rami Hassouneh. We become fast friends. We go to a coffee shop and he orders in another language. I ask him what he is speaking and he says, "Arabic". I tell him I could never learn that language.
1999 - Joining the Army. I score a 99 on the ASVAB. They ask me if I am interested in languages. I take the Defense Language Aptitude Battery (DLAB) and score a 144 out of 150. They give me a choice of languages: Arabic or Arabic.
2000 - I graduate with honors from the Defense Language Institute.
2001 - After another year of training, I get to my first duty assignment in Wiesbaden, Germany.
2002 - I go on a Liaison Mission to Kuwaiti Ministry of Defense. One of my fellow linguists jokingly calls me 'Harris of Arabia'.
2003 - I get deployed as part of a Mobile Interrogation Team to Kuwait in preparation for the invasion into Iraq. We cross the berm on March 19th and I begin the deployment that changes me forever.
2004 - I am sent home with an active duty diagnosis of PTSD. I decide to return to college.
2006 - I meet my wife on March 24. We get married on September 27th.
2007 - I graduate Magna Cum Laude with a Degree in International Business. I struggle and struggle to find work. The economy has started to circle the drain.
2010 - My daughter is born on November 8th.
2011 - I decide to start blogging as an outlet for my PTSD. Within a month, Combat Veterans with PTSD is born.
In Short: If things wouldn't have turned out the way they did in Iraq, I wouldn't have my degree. I wouldn't have my wife. I wouldn't have my amazing and beautiful daughter. Combat Veterans with PTSD would never have been born.
I don't know whether I believe in God the way many do. I wouldn't even call it faith - I would call it spirituality. I can't attribute what I went through to some grand design. Or can I? I still don't know. That's over a decade of 'coincidence' that I can't explain. I know I am still angry. For me to realize my purpose, I had to go through all of THAT? Yup, still angry.
I woke up dangerously angry today. I don't know why. I don't know who I'm angry at or if I am angry with a situation. I can feel it boiling right beneath the surface and it won't go away. The is the angriest I have been in over two years. It's really disconcerting. I can't seem to focus on much. I am doing my best to avoid snapping at everyone and it is getting exhausting holding it back. I've examined what is going on at work and what is going on at home and there is nothing in either environment that I can tell is setting me off. One of my least favorite aspects of PTSD: Being angry for no reason at all.
So what do you do when you have to go to work and you have a family life and you are this angry? I remember one veteran in a support group saying that the anger was the biggest reason he 'self-medicated' with alcohol. I wouldn't ever consider that an option, even if I was single. I have a few more things I can try. I tried venting by playing Gears of War 3. That didn't work. I am going to sit down and watch Netflix with my wife and see if I can distract my mind long enough to let go of the anger. If that doesn't work, I'm going to lay down in bed and listen to music and try to fall asleep. Maybe tomorrow will introduce me to the 'right side' of the bed.
I woke up today and was snippy with everyone. It's dumb. I hate it. There was no reason for me to be snippy, but I still looked for every reason to take pot shots at people. The only person who wasn't the recipient of my wonderful attitude was my daughter. I can't figure this out and it's driving me nuts. It's not like we didn't accomplish a hell of a lot today. We officially signed the lease and all we have left to do is pack up for moving.
Well, that seals it. I'm an idiot. Tearing apart what remains of my home might just stress me out a little bit. I somehow managed to put off packing for another day and I wonder why I am getting snippy? I hate waiting until the last minute but I can't bring myself to pack because I find it stressful and unsettling...What's most unsettling is that I seem to be conveniently forgetting things that I already know - about myself and my PTSD. As much as I am looking forward to moving into this new place, I have a sense of foreboding that I know is completely unwarranted. I feel like moving means starting over...with everything. I am scared as all hell that I am going to do a backward slide after a good long year of relative stability. There's no way I can know what's going to happen and I think that's stressing me out more than anything.
My next day off is Friday. That means working my ass off to make sure that we actually get something accomplished in getting ready for this move. I know I am not going to like it, but I think the best approach is talking to Dani and having her make a list of small tasks that seem manageable - on little task at a time and I think I can handle this. I guess we will just have to see how it goes.
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.
I was at work two days ago and one of the younger employees in my department asked me, "Have you ever shot at anyone?". I didn't respond right away. My instinct was to yell at him and say, "Are you a F**KING Idiot? Why the F**K would you ask a veteran that?!?!?" I took a few deep breaths and pulled him aside and talked to him. I told him that we have been at war for 10 years. The one thing you never, EVER ask a veteran is that question. I told him that he is very lucky that it was me that he asked that question because a lot of veterans with PTSD would have answered with their fists. He apologized and said that he doesn't know what possessed him to ask that question. He knows that I play shooter video games and, in his head, it was probably a logical progression to ask what he did. I never answered his question directly. I don't like to talk about it and I won't talk about it. The nightmares are reminder enough of all that I have been through.
When I got home, the news came out that "Been Cowering Like a Bitch" had been killed by troops on the ground and I was fiercely happy and proud at first. I was glad that I had off yesterday. It was not an easy thing to deal with - getting some measure of closure for all of the troops that have died for this cause...The survivor's guilt kicked in big time. I mind went back to the question my young co-worker had asked me and have never been so grateful that I started up my website, blog, and Facebook Page. I don't even want to think about how much I would have disappeared into my head if I didn't have this outlet and other veterans to commiserate with. Thank you, everyone, for being part of this community.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.