If anyone was unaware, I am an introvert. I was an introvert before the PTSD and it has only made those introverted tendencies more pronounced. What I didn't realize is how much the PTSD had changed my overall demeanor and personality. At the behest of Rod Deaton, I have been reading this book:
"...Emily nurtures her marriage in just the way that you'd expect an agreeable introvert to do, making Greg the center of her social universe.
Any of this sounding familiar yet? I know it sure did for me and my wife. I read her this passage and she just started laughing. She said that this was us to a 'T'. What makes this even more important to absorb and understand is that introverts and extroverts are very commonly drawn to each other because their demeanors complement each other well. Hence the relationship issues you hear about so often in our community of veterans with PTSD. I encourage everyone that identifies with this passage to discuss it with their significant other. Understanding this about each other can lead to compromises that will keep you both happier. My wife and I have discussed this and we are working on setting up a system where sometimes we go out (even though it exhausts me) and sometimes we stay home and watch a movie or read in companionable silence (being still makes my wife antsy). The simple fact that you are making the effort for each other is what makes all the difference.
The second excerpt addresses arguments and differences in approach:
'...When she and Greg disagree, her voice gets quiet and flat, her manner slightly distant. What she's trying to do is minimize aggression - Emily is uncomfortable with anger - but she appears to be receding emotionally. Meanwhile, Greg does just the opposite, raising his voice and sounding belligerent as he gets ever more engaged in working out their problem. The more Emily seems to withdraw, the more alone, then hurt, then enraged Greg becomes; the angrier he gets, the more hurt and distaste Emily feels, and the deeper she retreats. Pretty soon they're locked in a destructive cycle from which they can't escape, partly because both spouses believe they're arguing in an appropriate manner..."
Yeah, that one hit me like a ton of bricks...I kept on thinking how much my wife and I have spun through this cycle over the past six years. I felt truly frustrated and disgusted with myself. I highly doubt I am alone in this.
I have never been one to give relationship advice. It's not my area of expertise and I sure as hell don't have any room to talk from a position of superior moral authority on the subject. That being said, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It delves into workplace relationship dynamics as well. I believe it will help veterans better communicate with their loved ones and their co-workers, enabling them to lead happier and more productive lives.
I experienced a new level of nightmare on the night before Thanksgiving. The smells and sounds were always there, but these new recollections/flashbacks now include the fear, anger, horror, and disbelief that I experienced in the moment. The end result: I fell asleep on the couch at the in-laws and had nightmares. My daughter was the one who startled me awake. I became aware of what I had done when I looked over and saw her kneeling on the floor in the middle of the room and the looks or horror on everyone's faces. My startle reflexes had caused me to scare the bejesus out of my daughter.
Needless to say, for my sanity and safety and that of my daughter's, my wife and daughter have been sleeping at her parents' house so that, God Forbid, I don't actually hurt her. She was scared by my startle response, but unhurt. She's over it but I can't forgive myself. It is my worst fear - hurting my daughter.
I was at work yesterday and had a breakdown. I effectively hadn't slept since Friday night. My father took me to the VA and they are putting me back on Trazadone. The doc said that it would keep me from being physically able to act on any startle response.
I needed someone to talk to about what had happened that wasn't emotionally invested in a positive outcome. So, naturally, I talked to Rod Deaton. Rod may be a doctor at the VA and I may be a veteran with PTSD, but we are friends and do not share a doctor patient relationship. What is great about having someone so knowledgeable to turn to in situations like these is that he can stay calm and talk me down from my figurative ledge.
Talking to him last night definitely did that. He made me remember that I am a good and honorable man. That, in and of itself, would ensure that there wasn't a repeat of what happened on Thanksgiving. Additionally, he made me realize that my I was allowing me fears to blow what had happened out of proportion. I am, and always have been, my own worst critic. When I get into situations like this past week, I verbalize my irrational fears to those I love, causing them to worry excessively. I force them to think the worst.
It's form of self-flagellation. On some level I have been punishing myself continually since my daughter was born. I think about all of the worst-case outcomes to my behavior and believe myself capable of making those outcomes a reality. It's self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been hamstringing myself like this ever since my daughter was born. It all stems from irrational fears of losing my family, my daughter.
I won't go into all of the details but my conversation with Rod last night led me to make some incredibly substantial realizations about myself:
So what's the end-result of the mess of a week? Blessings dressed in wolf's clothing...
So it has been a traumatizing and productive week all at the same time. I am still exhausted and have to work at not being too hard on myself, but my wife and daughter deserve to enjoy the man I am - not the man I was afraid I could become.
I met with my prospective clinician today at a local diner. I wanted to meet on neutral ground first to see if we had compatible personalities. As it turns out, we do. I will be moving forward with individual therapy with this clinician that was provided, free of charge, by The Soldiers Project.
What an organization. I was skeptical when I first heard about this organization. They ask for no compensation. They have a heartfelt desire to help veterans. You can tell that the desire is genuine. I have done more research on them and I found out that they require that all of their volunteers be trained on how to communicate and treat veterans.
I have spoken with my wife and I will be working with the clinician on a week-to-week basis. I will do my best to schedule a time to meet with her once a week. Her schedule is flexible and I look forward to finally receiving the intensive one-on-one treatment I think I have been in need of for a long time.
I need this. I really do. The PTSD symptoms I have been experiencing recently have been morphing into a new variation of intensity that I haven't had to contend with before. There is one thing that she has brought up already that I am looking into and doing research on (yeah, you know me...gotta learn all I can): The idea that the emotional/psychological/spiritual trauma I experienced may have diverted that natural development of the adult brain and arrested any further development. At least that's the gist of what she was saying. So needless to say, I am quickly drilling down into this subject matter.
I wanted to send out a special thank you to Rod Deaton (Blogger, Paving the Road Back) for informing me of this wonderful organization. I appreciate all that you do, Rod. I consider you a true friend, a man of limitless compassion. Would that there were more like you.
I have been corresponding via email with Rod Deaton for a while now and occasionally by phone when our schedules permit. He has been an amazing sounding board and gives me no bullshit guidance on PTSD. While he is a doc and I am a veteran with PTSD, our relationship is not that of a clinician and a patient. We have a deep abiding respect for one another and the work we do to advocate for veterans with PTSD.
In recent posts, I have talked about my struggles to cope with my low self-esteem and the absence of motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle. Rod expressed concern about these issues. While he doesn't think that I am in danger of hurting myself, he does believe that I would benefit from one-on-one therapy. His opinion is that, being an introvert, I would find individualized treatment less draining. He still recommends that I continue group therapy, but feels strongly that I should explore individualized treatment.
I agree with his assessment 100%. The issue had always been finding a clinician at the VA with the time to meet 2-4 times per month for intensive therapy. As we all know, searching for this at the VA is an exercise in futility. Through no fault of their own, the VA doesn't have the resources available for that to be possible.
In one of his recent email correspondences, Rod passed along information about a group of private clinicians who provide individualized treatment for free. That organization, The Soldiers Project, intrigued me. I looked into it, contacted the PA branch of the organization and was contacted back the same day. They had found me a clinician within a week of first reaching out to them. While I was lucky that they could find someone so close, they are continually expanding their network of volunteers. I contacted the clinician today and hope to meet with her informally today to see if we are a good fit.
So far, I have been very impressed with how passionate the administration of this organization has been. I am hopeful that this will end up being a great experience. I will keep you all updated as I move forward with this. It would be nice to be able to recommend a viable supplement to the insufficient treatment most veterans with PTSD receive from the VA. Please keep in mind, I am not blaming the VA. This is not their fault. The fault lies with the government for not adequately providing for the needs of the warriors who have selflessly volunteered to protect the ideals this country stands for. The reality is that the VA doesn't receive the funding and doesn't have the staffing necessary to adequately handle the sheer volume of veterans that have entered the system in the past decade.
Let's hope we can add another additional resource for combat veterans with PTSD.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.