Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time for a Change!

I've been thinking for awhile now that this blog title just wasn't fitting anymore and that I was wanting to change some of the direction of it. This is the name that I chose for the Cafepress store that I started 7 years ago (wow has it been that long?!) and was originally intended to be used as advertising for the store. The only reason that I didn't change it was once I had established my shop in the marketplace I didn't want to start over with an unknown name so it just kind of stuck.

My husband has never viewed himself as a hero and has always felt that the true heroes were the ones who never made it home. Since he doesn't feel worthy of the title, it's only fitting that I change it to something more family oriented. The shops will remain open and will retain the original name for the time being.

I can assure you this is something that I thought about long before reading this article, although it makes me feel that much more strongly about my choice to switch to a new blog.

I transferred my previous posts over to the new blog and have written a few new ones since then.  I still felt it was important to share our journey as the family of a wounded warrior, but not just the hardships. We have had many good things to come from his injuries and I intend to post more about the good stuff instead of just blowing off steam about the bad. I don't know if I picked another lame title but it's just something that I kept circling around for a long time so I decided to just go with it.

So please follow/update to Wounded Blessings if you want.  I promise will make a huge attempt to be more upbeat and positive even when the VA and the military keep threatening to sabotage my efforts!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reality Check

This past weekend, I came to the realization of the true impact that my husband's injuries have had on me. Not even just him being wounded, but how I've handled other things that have come my way, like dealing with death and moving across the country to a new place, far away from my family and friends. Somewhere along the way, I lost a part of myself and simply became an extension of my husband.

When asked to describe myself, I would immediately say something like I'm a mom of two great kids and the spouse of a wounded warrior, etc. Look at my blog description and you'll see just that. While I'm proud of my husband and kids, that's not what truly describes me. I don't even know how to describe myself anymore. It's so easy just to go on and on about my husband's recovery and what he's accomplished and I just kind of fade into the background. He said to me this weekend that despite what happened, he's pretty much done everything that he's wanted to in life except for a few things and he has goals set in mind for those. It feels like I have a bucket list of regrets and things that I wished I had done.

I was so focused on his recovery and being the caregiver that I ended up shortchanging myself and the kids. I was stuck in survival mode because I was certain that's what I had to do and there was no other option. People would constantly tell me that I was so strong and they didn't know how I did it. The thing is, I never felt strong. I felt like I didn't do anything differently than anyone else would have done if they were in my shoes. Before I realized it, I had become a victim of my situation. I got so used to the constant wave of stress that I didn't know how to function when things finally calmed down. The depression felt like it was eating me alive and the more depressed I became, the less support that I felt.

There were so many times that I stayed in bed all day just hiding behind my laptop or just trying to sleep the pain away because my mind wouldn't shut off at night. It was easy to chalk it up to my hypothyroidism and getting used to daily medication. While I have no doubt that does contribute to it, I was still hung up on the events of July 2, 2008.

When I talked to my doctor about getting on medication for my depression, he asked me if I had any desire to harm myself or others and I said no, which in turn disqualified me so to speak from obtaining a prescription. While suicide is not ever an option for me, because I refuse to leave my kids without a mother since I know first hand how painful that is, I often wondered if I could just simply fade away and give up. I didn't want any responsibility for our lives. I didn't feel safe or secure and constantly worried to the point of being afraid to leave the house at times. I was once this strong, independent military wife and now here I was codependent on my husband. My emotions were just below the surface and I would find myself crying at random times over the most stupid things. I guess I had suppressed those emotions and feelings for so long and never had an outlet to deal with them.

Eventually it began to affect my marriage and my parenting. I would see pictures that my friends posted online of happy times with their families and I would feel sad that our lives would never be "normal" like that. My husband couldn't handle crowds and didn't have the opportunity to take trips because of his schedule and not knowing when he would be retiring. Instead of taking the initiative on my own to do stuff without him, the kids and I missed out. I thought if we couldn't do things as a family then there was no point in doing them at all.

I was also envious of my friends whose husbands were able to work normal jobs and come home for dinner every night. Not have to be gone for a year at a time or be disabled. I was wishing that I was as successful as they were and didn't have to give up my opportunity to go back to work or finish school because I was suddenly thrust in the role of being a caregiver.

While there were so many things out of my control, I wasn't doing anything to change any of the things that I could control. It was simply easier to use him being wounded as an excuse to stop living my life. Before that, the excuse was him being deployed or my mom dying, or whatever was convenient at the time. I wasn't being strong this whole time, instead a part of me was dying inside because it was easier to be a victim than to do the hard work that it took to get what I wanted out of life. It was easier to put my education on hold, to stop being interested in doing the things that I once loved, to procrastinate, and to hide behind a wall of pain.

My husband nearly stopped talking to me. He said it was too hard to sit there and watch me destroy my life. In a way I had taken on some of his symptoms of PTSD and blamed him for the way I was reacting. I did let his mood swings affect me at times. He opened my eyes a lot this weekend and made me realize that life is short and our kids are growing up fast. I don't need medication, I need to get serious about what I want out of life and go out there and make it happen because no one is going to do it for me. I can't keep being sad that I miss out on opportunities unless I take the initiative to make them happen in the first place.

My husband's injuries don't define me. There is so much more to me than that. I got lost along the way and it's time to start living again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Red Tape Saga Continues

FYI: Don't go overseas and get blown up. You're government will find any way possible to screw you.

Seriously though, I thought we had it pretty easy with my husband spending the past nearly three years in a WTB. He had a whole network of people, case managers, social workers, etc to help him out with his recovery. Instead of battling for years to get SSDI, all he had to do was sign the application and it was processed and approved for him. Same thing with his VA claim. His wait was a lot shorter than someone who submits a claim on their own and again most of it was done for him with all of the necessary medical info attached. Once his rating came back he was given a retirement date, terminal leave and was able to outprocess within a few days. The whole process felt pretty streamlined and although was still stressful at times because it felt like we were always in limbo, he had plenty of resources at his fingertips.

Right now I'm thinking it must've been too good to be true. I'd heard horror stories from many of my friends who dealt with this stuff and from the sound of it, we had it pretty good compared to them. Pretty good that is, until retirement.

When you're found unfit for duty and forced to retire, you would think that you'd be properly taken care of. After all you fought and nearly died for your country, one would think that you wouldn't have to fight for the benefits that you've earned. That couldn't be more wrong. One day my husband was active duty with full benefits and the very next that he became officially retired, he also became chopped liver. Suddenly the Army didn't want to help him with any of his questions anymore and he immediately became ineligible for many programs. Things that he had qualified for just the day before. Not to sound like we should be entitled to some of this stuff, but it rubs me the wrong way that a brand new soldier with no combat experience whatsoever is able to have a membership in a program that my husband who nearly died now cannot.

All that pales in comparison with the "minor" oversight that just happened to our family though. My husband received his last paycheck in April. Although they could find no outstanding debts that he owed, the military still helped themselves to a large portion of his check. We can't figure out what it's for, nor is anyone willing to help. He gave them nearly twelve years of his life and gets treated like crap every time he's called to find out what's going on. We have an inquiry into DFAS but that could take months to find out an answer.

While we've received his last check, the VA usually takes about a month to catch up and for him to start getting his disability payment. Unfortunately his paperwork has been sitting in Houston, TX the entire time. Even though he's gotten his rating back and they retired him, someone never bothered to put any of it into the computer. Hense the problems that we've been having with his VA appointments. He has a rep in Texas and in Tennessee and has left several messages with both of them and can't get anyone to return his calls. He has a new case manager here as well and has yet to hear back from her. He called the main number for the VA today when he started getting billed for his medications. They were able to confirm that while his claim was processed, the paperwork never made it to it's final destination and therefore he's not getting any of his pay or benefits. All they could see in their computers was that yes he has a claim but they can't see anything about his status. The only thing that has saved him from more headaches at his clinic appointments is being able to prove that he has a purple heart and his DD 214.

Our next step is to try and get some assistance through the VFW or Disabled Vets. We had a Recovery Coordinator in Texas but we need to find someone local to help on our behalf. In the meantime, I think we'll be able to pay most of our bills yet this month, although I'm beginning to play the shuffle game and put off who I can. I'm hoping the military friendly bank who we have our car loan through will let us skip the payment for the month as they often do once in the summertime. We are literally draining our savings though and that makes me nervous. I've had a couple of job interviews but haven't heard back yet. I've even signed up with a few different temporary agencies but I know I'm in the same boat as thousands of people when it comes to a job. Hopefully things change soon.

I'm finding it hard to keep plastering a happy smile on my face and not be so negative all of the time. Of course the more that I get depressed, the less support that I feel that I have. I'm so used to being strong and dealing with whatever comes my way and yet my emotions are right below the surface so I find myself crying at the worst possible times. Sometimes I feel like people think that now that he's retired that life is just grand and all of our problems have gone away. It couldn't be farther from the truth. It's safe to say that things are more stressful now than they were when he was still in the military.

I keep trying so hard to keep my head above water but it just feels like I'm drowning.

Monday, May 30, 2011

American Flag

As a military family, we've made a few moves over the course of our marriage. My first order of business when setting up a new house for us is to put up a flag. Since we've opted to rent for each move, putting a flag pole into the ground hasn't really been an option so we usually attach a smaller pole and bracket to the side of our house. To me, a house isn't a home until you get the flag put up. I don't just fly it on Memorial Day, July 4th, or Veteran's Day either. I always had a flag long before 9/11 when suddenly there was a huge rush for everyone to show their patriotism. I was raised in a home where I understood the significance of sacrifice and what the flag stood for so even before marrying a guy in the military, I made sure each place I lived in had a flag outside.

All that being said and today being Memorial Day, all day long I felt like something was missing. That's mainly because something was missing. The house we've been renting for the past couple of months feels naked and that's because we don't have a flag hanging up. I assure you this is not by choice. When I signed the lease I told the landlord/homeowner how important it was to me to be able to put up a flag, especially being married to a wounded veteran. Unfortunately my landlord doesn't want us to do that. As soon as the lease was signed he informed me that he had decided to leave the house on the real estate market. He felt that mounting a flag pole and bracket would possibly damage the outside of the house and in turn hurt the chances of selling it. Not just that but a flagpole in the ground would damage the landscaping and have to be mowed around.

One of the first things that I noticed about our neighborhood is that almost every house has a flag on display. I live in a very patriotic part of the country and I loved seeing that. I'm just disappointed that we can't put ours up. We have several flags, one that was flown over my husband's base in Iraq, and one that was flown on his behalf over their base in Afghanistan. He also received a new flag upon retirement and has one that was given to him during Freedom Salute. I think he also got one when he received his Purple Heart. We also just bought a brand new one to replace the last one we flew in Texas. No matter what there is no shortage of flags around this house but unfortunately they remain folded instead of flown.

If I haven't made it obvious, this is something that definitely bothers me. All week long we were searching for a medium sized flag pole that we could possibly put in a heavy duty bucket and fill with cement and hide it in the front bushes. We get some strong winds here so it would have to be something that could withstand the weather. We haven't had much luck finding the right sized pole yet but at least we have an option.

Part of me wants to just say screw it and mount the flagpole and bracket to one of the poles on my front porch. For as picky as my landlord is being, it's ironic because we had a hail storm go through here the other day. They said on the news that some of the hail was baseball sized and that wouldn't surprise me because it did a bunch of damage to our siding. It basically dented it and tore off tiny pieces all over the entire side of our house. We notified the landlord and haven't heard a word back. I'm not terribly surprised since it took him 5 weeks just to fix the locks on our front and back doors and we've been without A/C for over a week now. I realize that things come up but if he's serious about selling this house, it's kind of important to keep it maintained. Granted, I'm not too eager for him to sell the house or even to have to keep showing it to potential buyers but that's a whole other blog.

Hopefully soon we can have our flag up one way or another and feel a little more complete. In the meantime, I'm doing the next best thing and have it decorated in my usual Americana. It's not nearly the same especially because I want this house to feel like a home.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Red Tape

It's extremely frustrating that my husband just drove nearly 2 hours away to the VA hospital only to be treated like a benefits seeker. I guess he's not in their system so they show no injury or rating. Had he not thought to bring some of his paperwork with him, including his Purple Heart, they probably would've sent him a bill. This happened before in TX and it was supposed to be fixed months ago. Now I can't help but wonder if his first disability check will hit our account on time. We've already gone almost a month and a half without any income so we're draining through our savings at a rapid pace.

Since his initial appointment at our local VA, he's been scheduled for stuff left and right to keep him busy all summer long. I went with him and the doctor asked me to "fill in the holes" and give my perspective of things. Because I've always felt that both the military and the VA in TX glazed over anything to do with TBI and his documented concussion, that was the first thing that I mentioned. He's done plenty of their stupid questionnaires where his answers should've raised enough red flags but still to this day no one has ever bothered to order an MRI. This doctor was surprised to hear that so he put in a referral for an MRI with the TBI clinic at the VA up north. He also was ready to diagnose him with sleep apnea on the spot, even though his sleep tests in TX came back inconclusive. He ordered a new sleep test that's scheduled for next month.

Today was the appointment at the TBI clinic. Around the VA, TBI seems to be the new scarlet letter. It's like they hear that and get suspicious that you're trying to get money from the VA that you don't deserve. At this point, I don't even care if my husband were to be compensated for it. I just want him to have his quality of life back and if there's stuff that can be treated then let's get it taken care of.

So whoever he saw at the TBI clinic decided that since he's not in the system and they don't show any injuries or ratings, they can't prove that he was wounded overseas. Yet somehow they found some of his records from TX and based on that they decided that he doesn't need an MRI and that he's fine. I guess I just figured that since he just saw his doctor here in TN that his doctor would have put his recommendations and referrals into the computer (since we watched him taking notes and then putting them into the computer), that those records would show up at the TBI clinic. Common sense is apparently not something the VA is familiar with.

We live almost an hour from both VA clinics where he has appointments, and almost two hours from the VA hospital, yet because he's not in their system, he can't even submit a claim for travel pay. It's not much but we've also recently discovered that either the VA rep or his PEBLO completely miscalculated his VA rating. It's such a mess that we can't even make heads or tails of it. In all honestly, it looks like someone added a zero to the end of an amount that he was owed and calculated everything off of that incorrect amount. He was promoted right at the end of his career so it's definitely based off of the wrong rank, but either way it's almost half of what it should be. It's enough to make me feel uneasy and wonder how we're going to get by. I'm praying that the interview that I went on last week went well enough that they offer me a job. In the meantime, he's in the process of getting his pay issues fixed but here we sit wondering what's going to happen.

Monday, May 16, 2011


My husband was at a store the other day and a guy in the same aisle started staring wide eyed at the jagged unforgiving red and purple lines that encompass his entire arm. The scars that leave a mystery to the unassuming yet tell a story of life changing in an instant.

It was obvious that he was trying to figure out what he had to have done to end up with an arm that disfigured and fingers slightly curved and paralyzed in place. It wasn't long before his curiousity finally got the best of him.

"What happened to your arm?" he blurted out, as though it were any of his business.

This is usually the part where I would've explained what happened, which is usually followed by apologetic looks of sympathy and a mumbled thank you for your service.

My husband simply said, "I got hurt." He left it at that and walked away because he's not about to be into all of that hero stuff.

At one time, his body had over a thousand stitches. In the first few months after he was released from the hospital, people would stare when we went out somewhere. Eating was awkward for him because he couldn't hold any utensils and it took some practice learning to use his non-dominate hand. Sometimes I had to cut up his food for him because he couldn't do it. Even now he'll randomly drop things or spill something because there's no strength in his arm or his hand just won't work.

We take so much stuff for granted. Sometimes the smallest things are the biggest challenges for someone else. He works hard at just being normal and making the most out of the hand that he's been dealt, that sometimes I forget he's wounded. I don't really notice the scars and to our kids they are just a part of who he is. We spent so much time at the hospital and in lodging around other wounded warriors that the kids learned to just be accepting of everyone else. I never had to tell them not to point and stare or not to ask questions. If you ask my oldest what she remembers most about her daddy being in the hospital, she'll probably tell you that her little Lightning McQueen car fell down into the elevator shaft. Or maybe she'll recall blowing out four birthday candles while sitting on the hospital bed.

Sometimes I miss being at that hospital and being around other wounded warriors and their families. As stressful as it was at times, there's comfort in being surrounded people people who just simply get it and understand the same sudden detour that our lives took. We never had to worry about people staring or asking questions. Everyone had some sort of battle scars, telling their own stories without words, yet connecting them all from where they'd been.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


We've been here for a couple of weeks now and we're still adjusting to this whole transition. Some days I feel like my husband is going from active duty status to ignoring the whole world and pretending like no one else around him exists. While not officially retired yet, he seems to be enjoying his new found freedom from the military. One afternoon he took off up into the mountains and then came back and said he wants to spend two weeks this summer hiking by himself. Most of his days are spent in the bonus room/guest room which he has set up as sort of a man cave. The first thing he did after getting it set up was to put a lock on the door. He said it was to keep our son from playing the PS3 or getting into the computer stuff but in reality it's primarily used to keep everyone out. While I understand the need for healing, it's starting to border into irritating. He's still leaving a lot on my shoulders and snaps at me when I even walk into the room to ask him something. I've told him a few times that while he may be retiring from the military, he's not retiring from being a parent. I know I certainly wouldn't mind a chance to have some time to myself or just be able to "escape" whenever I want to.

In my opinion, our kids are not adjusting to this move very well. I've seen regressive behaviors in both of them. K1 cries at school almost every day still and usually gets clingy before getting on the bus because she's terrified that I'm going to leave again. She misses her teacher and friends from Texas terribly and doesn't understand why she's never going to see them again. While all of her teachers have said she is highly intelligent, we are seeing more of her autistic side than we usually do.

K2 is still showing many signs of ADHD and I have trouble getting him to listen to me and behave. He is mimicking his dad's behavior and repeating much of what he says in the same tone of voice, etc. I don't think my husband realizes what affect his PTSD and injuries have had on both of these kids, but K2 especially. I've asked him if he realizes what kind of memories he's creating for them because they often tell me they think their dad is mean and loud. He gets defensive and pushes away the blame or tries to turn it around on me.

While I feel more independent here, I still struggle with worry and depression. I've been a SAHM for the better part of our marriage, and although I do have a couple of online businesses, I just feel ready to get out and go back to work full time. So far I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong but my attempts at getting a job have been unsuccessful. I've been rejected for jobs that I know I have years of experience for and I'm qualified for and it's hard not to take that personal. Then of course that just has me feeling more worried and stressed again because I wonder what I'm doing wrong or if I'm getting a bad reference or something. I tend to over analyze and second guess myself. At first I thought it was simply because I was applying for jobs from out of town, but now that I've been here and have an address and not having a lot of luck, it concerns me. I've been thinking about using part of my husband's GI bill and finishing school. With so much going on, I fell behind on the program that I got the scholarship for and now all of my books are outdated and it would cost an arm and a leg just to catch up and even then I don't know if I could do it.

Despite being injured, one difference between my husband and I is that he says at this point in his life he's accomplished pretty much all that he set out to do, whereas I definitely have not. I try not to have regrets because I feel that each path we take leads us to each event in our lives. Sometimes I just wish I had taken a few different paths or at least knew then what I know now.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Strength in Numbers

It’s been a long and stressful day and I’m glad they were able to avoid a shutdown at least for the time being. Maybe I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help but feel jaded by everything. It was pretty clear to me that the government won’t hesitate to throw our military/veterans under the bus and when it’s time to make some cuts, they’re the first in line. That just bothers me and I'm having trouble getting past it. It just seems like it's always something that sends a message loud and clear to our troops that says "hey, we don't appreciate you or the sacrifices you make on behalf of our nation."

First it was considering making wounded veterans pay for healthcare. Then it was the lowest pay increase in almost 40 years followed by no increase in COLA and a drop in BAH unless you were already locked in. That wasn't enough so then it was necessary to force them to pay for Medicare so they wouldn't lose their Tricare coverage. Of course since Tricare is less expensive than civilian health insurance and people use it, let's go ahead and raise the premiums on that as well.

Now I agree the national debt and frivolous spending is way out of control. It's pretty much a train wreck and it saddens me the amount of debt that our country is passing along to future generations. Since two wars were draining the defense budget, it only made sense to add a third one to the mix, right? To make matters worse, our troops are already stretched thin and the VA is so backlogged that it's going to be a long time before things are taken care of the way they should be.

Yet when the ax comes down on the defense budget the troops and their families are the first ones to pay the price. It wasn't that long ago that Michelle Obama and Oprah were on TV going on about how many great things were in store for our military families and how they should never go without. Yet this week before a shutdown was even in place, the pay statements reflected half of the pay that was due or less even for some families. How that could even be an option is beyond me. How do you ask someone to go overseas and fight for our country and possibly give their lives for our country and then tell them you're not going to pay them? There's a price for freedom and when Congress and our government said they wouldn't pay our troops or pay the death benefit to the families of the fallen until an agreement was made, suddenly that price became too high. How do you justify sending our military service members repeatedly overseas as you see fit and expect them to be apart from their families for a year or more at a time and then let them sit in a war zone worrying if they are going to be able to feed their families or keep a roof over their heads?

Our government expects our military to have to miss out on babies being born and missing out on family events or watching their kids growing up on a webcam and they expect it because the sacrifice isn't personal to many of them. Our service members make these sacrifices because they feel it's their duty and honor for our country and yet our so called leaders turned them into pawns for their own political gains. This budget should've been passed in October, before the fall elections. Instead they dragged their feet and waited until the last minute, leaving military members and their families in fear of not seeing a paycheck and wondering how they would survive.

Military life is stressful enough without adding that into the mix and shame on Congress for distracting those serving overseas when they are simply trying to stay alive and make it back home to their families.

Despite the stress and fears that were brought upon our military today, it was nothing short of amazing to see our military families come together as a united front. We supported each other and opened our hearts and homes and did what we could to make it through as a family. There's a bond there that no one can break, a connection between neighbors and strangers all over the world, connected through this roller coaster lifestyle. No doubt there's strength in numbers and we weren't about to give up that pay without a fight and we fought back against the shutdown until our voices were heard.

As my husband finishes out his last few weeks before retirement, I'm proud to be a part of this military family, now and for life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Adventure Continues...

The day that I actually drove out of town went smooth right up until it was time for me to leave. Then I cried for a good hour. I asked my husband to please remind me of how unhappy I was during our stay in TX and to tell me that he's jealous that I'm on my way to TN. He did both and then also reminded me that this was not Iraq or Afghanistan, it was just TN and to suck it up. I told him that it was easier to leave his grumpy butt behind but as a mom I wondered if it would be completely irrational for me to drive over to our daughter's school and throw her in the car with me.

I'm happy to say that it's gone pretty well so far thanks largely in part to Skype. I was worried about her being around my husband with his PTSD and temper but that hasn't been an issue at all. I honestly think the break has been good in some ways, although I miss them both, it's given me back some of my independence that I had lost. It's also given our kids one on one time and they are more excited to see each other online and talk about their days.

While in TN, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to stay with another wounded warrior wife and friend who was gracious enough to open up her home to my son and me. It's a lot to ask anyone to share a home with my rambunctious 4 year old. On a whim, I found a house to rent that felt like it was meant to be and came available at just the right time. My www friend went with me to look at it and two days later I was signing the lease. After that I decided to give her a break and have her whole house back and I took my son up to IL to spend some time with my in laws. The great thing about that is being the youngest grandchild, my son has never gotten the chance to have his grandparents all to himself and he has been enjoying all of the attention. He's still testing his limits with his behavior but we're working on that. I've heard stuff about how red dye #40 can affect a child's behavior and started noticing a pattern with his, particularly after eating something that has it. He gets so crazy and out of control until he calms down that I'm just going to eliminate it from his diet altogether. We'll start with that and keep working to overhaul the rest of his diet gradually. He's definitely not on track with some of his development, and even though I've repeatedly mentioned this to our PCM, she doesn't seem overly concerned. We'll have a new doctor/pediatrician and that will be one of the first things I bring up.

The sad part is that my kids have only ever known my husband with PTSD. My 6 year old was born during the deployment when the PTSD started. My husband left when my son was about 15 months old and he was blown up on the day he hit 18 months, so his only real memories are of his daddy being broken. I'm starting to realize just how much impact his being wounded has had on the kids. You don't hear too much about it but it's been traumatic for all of us, especially them. I think we have our work cut out for us to mend this family and get ourselves back on track.

I'm getting ready to hit the road once again. This time we're off to MI to see more friends and family. The movers are coming this week and hopefully my husband and daughter can start heading this way soon. Since I've been gone, I had to miss my husband's retirement ceremony. Fortunately someone took video of it so I did get to see it and see my daughter pin his latest commendation medal on him. I can't help but feel like the absentee wife because they acknowledged me and gave me an award for support and sacrifice, but didn't explain why I wasn't there even though I knew. I feel like people saw that and thought great, what did his wife have to do that was more important than being there for her husband's retirement ceremony? Obviously my husband understands completely and could care less what anyone thinks, he was annoyed that he had to be there.

I also have to miss my daughter's awards ceremony at school. (I don't know how my husband dealt with being gone for a year and missing out, I suck at it). She's got all A's again this quarter and I'm so proud of her. I hope when she has to switch schools that she keeps up and doesn't feel too overwhelmed. She's painfully shy and even though I'm sure the kids at her new school will like her, it's always tough to start over and not know anyone. Plus we love her teacher now, she's just amazing. I cried when I told her we were leaving. I don't know where all of these emotions keep coming out from but it goes against my need to be strong and survive. :)

Now if I could just find someone to hire me so I can go back to work full time, I will be all set. I feel renewed and I'm grateful for the fresh start but at the same time this whole transition keeps me feeling stressed. I'm not sure I really know how to just be calm anymore or what to do if things work out without too much trouble. A smooth transition still feels like unknown territory to me. I keep looking for a paper bag to hyperventilate into. I think I will relax once I have a job so I pray that someone will take a chance on me...soon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Today I am packing and loading up the Jeep so I can hit the road early tomorrow. Looking back it feels like the past four years just flew by, although there were many times when I was sure there was never going to be an end in sight. I'll never hear the end of it for saying this, but part of me is a little sad to be leaving. Not that I've ever loved it here or even liked it some of the time, but so much has happened in our lives in the few years we've been here. Much of that was emotionally charged and it's hard to believe at times that we survived some of the stuff that was thrown our way.

It's hard for me to leave half of my family behind for the time being but I know they will be along soon enough. I was hoping that upon getting out of the military that this would finally be the one move that my husband and I could pick out a house together but yet again it's not going to happen. It's kind of a joke between us, but we've never picked out a home together in our entire marriage. I even have a new POA to take with me when I sign a new lease.

What I wasn't expecting were the mixed emotions that I've been having. In some ways it's hard to leave that safety net behind. Not just the military in general but the WTB. I find it oddly comforting to be around other warriors and their families who have been through some of the experiences our family has. We're fortunate enough to be moving to a location where I already know a few wounded warrior wives, plus my best friend is moving close by this summer. I don't want to make the mistake of shying away from people like I did here and in central TX. I want to get out and meet more people and feel as "normal" as possible. I don't want to feel like my husband's injuries are the focus of our lives all the time. There's no question that what happened changed the entire course of our lives. It took us in a completely different direction than what we had originally planned. I have some regrets and wish I would've done some stuff differently but it was all part of the recovery process - for all of us.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Things I am Grateful for this Week

1. Turning 34 and receiving a bouquet of roses and a card from my husband, a card that he picked up for the kids to give me and a hand drawn card from my daughter.

2. Despite another round of germs invading the house this week, my husband's unit was nice enough to tell him that he didn't have to come in for formation this morning so that he could take our daughter to school and I could stay home with our son who seemed to favor a temperature of 102 degrees for the past three days.

3. Our daughter's teacher for not assigning any homework all week until today. It was a nice little break. Also for being such an awesome teacher and being sensitive to what's going on with our move and finding out that truancy isn't going to be an issue if we decide to pull our daughter out of school for a week or two.

4. The military, for what originally seemed like they were throwing a wrench into our plans but what really amounted to closing a door and opening a window for a new plan.

5. An amazing supportive group of friends from all over the world who sent me tons of birthday wishes and who keep me going when things start getting a little overwhelming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Joys of PTSD

I hate PTSD.

He tells me something and then contradicts himself 10 minutes later and then yells at me for not listening to him when I question it.

Then he follows that up by telling me not to talk to him anymore because he's frustrated with me.

Maybe if I didn't have to pry information out of him practically with a crowbar and learned how to just simply read his mind we could avoid the usual sequence of events.

I used to go to some of his appointments with him so that I could ask the list of questions that he would forget to ask himself. Or when he'd go see his psychologist and claim that none of the PTSD meds did any good, I'd go to the appointment and call him out on his BS.

Finally I just took a step back and let him deal with it. Now he yells at me that he told me to attend these information briefings and to come to his appointments so I would know what was going on so why should he tell me anything at all.

It doesn't take long to learn that when you're married to a wounded warrior with PTSD that you can't do anything right sometimes.

When he's done stomping around and having his fit like a 3 year old we'll go have breakfast and he'll just move on like the whole argument never even happened. Scream at me one minute and then be perfectly calm and back to "normal" the next.

He's also pissed that now that he has his retirement orders in his hands and can finally start out processing but the orders say that he's in the National Guard when he's actually active duty. So since he's pissed about the mistake and it has to be corrected in the system, that gets taken out on me too.

Life is tons of fun sometimes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I keep thinking things should be smooth sailing from here on out. I waited for this time to come for almost three years and I should be excited about moving forward. Finally our lives aren't so much in limbo anymore waiting on the military and the VA. Finally I can pack up and move on to the next chapter in our lives and start getting settled. Life should be good, right?

Instead I find myself spending most days hiding away from the world, barely able to get myself out of bed. I feel completely buried under this huge cloud of darkness leaving me with little to no energy. Having to schedule appointments and make commitments suddenly makes me feel anxious and I never want to leave the house. I drag myself to the store as little as possible and only during times when I know there won't be as many people out. I know what I need to do, what needs to get done before I leave and yet I waste each day that comes along and hide under my blankets afraid to go out and face the world.

By all accounts this could very well be due to my hypothyroidism, an automatic gift courtesy of my thyroidectomy 10 months ago. It could also be causing my daily headaches and constant digestive problems. Whatever it is, it's taking away my quality of life in a big hurry and I'm not liking it. I push myself to try to get stuff done but I seem to have this short supply of energy that never goes away. There's so much I want to do and it all just feels like it's out of reach. I struggle to make goals and plans and consistently fall short. It's like I'm trying to keep my head above water and someone or something just pushes me back down.

I keep trying to understand why my plate just feels so full and why life just feels so overwhelming to me when there's plenty of people I know with 10 times as much going on who seem to manage to get stuff done and don't get so burned out. This should be the home stretch of our journey and I should be excited and looking forward to what's ahead, not panicky and feeling sorry for myself. We've been talking about this the entire time he's been here recovering so it's not like it's anything new to me, but I can't seem to get myself out from under this depression. I worry about money and the transition and second guess everything I do. I told someone earlier that I'm not as strong as I seem, I'm just pretty good at hiding things and wearing that fake smile.

I hate that this is happening now, right when I need to be literally moving forward. Although honestly, it's been like this for the past few months. My husband has taken to telling me that I'm lazy and I'll say that I'm going to leave but I never will. Part of me feels guilty for having to leave one of my kids behind with him but I need her to be able to stay in school until we know for sure where we're going to live. I know a big move like this is extremely disruptive to a child on the autism spectrum and she's already starting to have behavior problems at school and at home. By the same token, I desperately need to get my son out of this house and into a new routine. His pediatrician said that we need a referral for a child psychologist where we move because he's feeling some stress because of the chaotic situation we're in. As a parent, I think I'll feel guilty no matter what but if this were just a regular military move, I might feel less pressure and maybe less guilt because it was out of my control.

I think the most frustrating part of this whole mess is that I recognized that there's a problem that needs to be taken care of yet I've gotten no where. I don't understand how anyone else can walk into their doctor's office and ask for some kind of antidepressant and get a prescription, yet I've asked my counselor for a referral and practically begged my doctor (at separate visits) for something to help me and I can't get it. Somehow I fall into the mild to moderate category because I guess I seem pretty sane and don't fall apart. They'd rather just check my thyroid and then simply tell me that it's a side effect and we'll just watch and wait to see how things go. Although if I ever felt the need to harm myself or others they'd gladly lock me up in the psych ward. So does it matter that I'd like to hurt them for not listening to me when I say over and over that I need a little help to balance out my life? Where's the fine line where I can get something so I can at least function a little better? Do they need an itemized crap list of things that come through here and add to the stress?

All I'm asking for is just a little help trying to put our lives back together piece by piece. And just because my husband has come to the end of his military career, does not mean that his recovery is over by any means. Our lives will never be normal again. Most days I can accept that but sometimes I need a little help keeping my sanity. I don't think that's asking too much.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's Always Something...

Lots of changes have been going on around here. So much craziness added into the mix of our upside down lives that when it all calms down I'm not sure what I'll do. The biggest news is that the Army & VA finally came back with a rating for my husband. We had discussed a certain percentage that we would appeal if they rated him lower and surprisingly it was a whole lot higher than we expected. As I type this we just passed month 31 since he was wounded and began his long recovery here. We went over the paperwork with a lawyer as well as someone who was able to answer all of our questions (and then some) and clear up some of the confusion that comes with the territory. I am happy (and scared to death) to say the time has finally begun to say good bye to the military and to our home here in TX. We've been here just over 4 years and I'm ready for a change of scenery. We've decided to move to east Tennessee. It's not our home state but it's somewhere that we've both spent a lot of time and my husband has some family not too far away. We went back and forth on where to move and just kept coming back because it just felt right to us.

We started out the new year with my husband recovering from one of his deadliest infections to date. Having seen first hand how damaging and fatal sepsis can be with my mom, seeing how quickly my husband's condition deteriorated was pretty intense. Being a military wife has taught me to be used to him not being around but all of that went out the window when he was in ICU. The stress was a constant that whole time, a lot like when he was first wounded. For me, it was mostly just knowing his organs were shutting down and that it was literally killing him. I went through the motions of everything but was barely functioning myself. At one point I turned my cell phone off and avoided my computer and just simply hid in my room with my kids close by. I usually think of myself as being strong and able to hold it together but that really tested me. I am happy to say that despite his respiratory problems from overseas, my husband has pretty much made a full recovery. I will stalk him and drag him to the ER if he ever insists that he's just fine if he ever seems that sick again.

A couple weeks later, in the span of 5 days, our refrigerator finally went out for good, our dishwasher stopped working and leaked water all over the floor and our furnace went out. Yeah, that was a fantastic week. The icing on the cake was that our landlord refused to fix the fridge and offered out of the goodness of his heart to split the cost of the repairs and new parts with us. The rental company said if we didn't like that idea we could pay to rent one and have the old one hauled away. We knew we wouldn't be here that much longer and didn't even hesitate to tell them thanks but no thanks. Sorry I'm not into throwing money away because you suck. Since we had participated in the amazing Heroes at Home program through Sears and I had only used part of one of the gift certificates to buy my kids some new shoes, and I had some commission sitting in paypal, we were able to get this for a mere $35 out of pocket. That's even after $100 for shipping and sales tax. I can't tell you how nice it's been to have cold food again!

The landlords begrudgingly fixed our furnace and dishwasher but the rest of the 8 year old house seems to be falling apart. I was informed that houses around here are built to only last about 10 years. Really? That just blows my mind. Where I come from houses last just about forever. We had thought this would be the last of our troubles for awhile but got a nice little surprise a few weeks later when we had problems getting our credit cards to work. I use the term nice very loosely and with the full sarcasm intended.

We've been saving whatever we can to prepare for this move and that's not easy when we're essentially a one income family. So imagine our shock when we logged onto our bank account and discovered that we had $4 to our names. Someone had gotten ahold of our credit cards and drained thousands of dollars from our account. We immediately called the bank and they were able to freeze the cards and tell us that the transactions came from 3 states away. Not only that but the thief/thieves had my husband's actual credit card and pretended to be him. We are extremely careful with our money and the entire time our cards were with us, however, the ones we had were approaching the expiration date. I had called the bank a few days earlier and asked them why they hadn't sent out new cards yet and was informed that they sent them out back around the first of the month. The lady I spoke with tried to tell me that it can take a couple of weeks but something about that didn't have me convinced. Sure enough, we were hit a few days later, right about the same time my husband's SSI check hit the account. It's not enough to steal someone's money but in my opinion there's a special place in hell waiting for you when you steal from a wounded veteran.

We think that someone, possibly our sucky neighbors who seem to be responsible for alot of suspicious activity in the neighborhood, could have taken the replacement cards out of the mailbox. It's not that hard to figure out our schedule and they know what time the mail arrives every day. It's creepy to think that someone has been watching us. I assure you this does wonders for an already paranoid wounded warrior with PTSD. The part that bothers me is that the thieves were able to activate the new cards and use them.

We received replacement cards a couple of days later and although I was not amused at the time, the bank issued them with the same exact numbers of the ones that were stolen and subsequently frozen. Rocket science anyone? My husband called then and explained what was going on and they said they would send out new cards but that it would take 3-5 days for the money to be put back into our account. He asked them if there was some way they could send out the cards via certified mail so we didn't risk having them stolen again and they said they couldn't do that but would overnight them via FedEx. Of course our FedEx guy left the envelop on our front porch in plain sight. So much for security. The best part was when we opened the envelop and while the card number was different, there was only one card. Turns out our bank forgot to send mine. I'm not sure how you just forget something like that but I was so exasperated by this point that I pretty much unleashed my fury on this guy. I think he had me on hold so he didn't have to listen to my tirade but I was so fed up.

To add insult to injury, we had another transaction go through leaving us a whole $1 to live on. Looking back, I guess I'm glad that we didn't overdraft the account but of course both vehicles were low on gas and since we were planning on moving days later we didn't have a whole lot of food in the house. Thankfully my husband's WTB was able to get together some gas and commissary cards for us to get through the weekend.

Nonetheless everything seems to have been pretty much resolved and back to normal now. Well whatever normal around here is. Now that things have kind of quieted down, I'm not sure what to do. I can handle constant ongoing stress because that's what I'm used to, but the quiet feels so strange. I feel like I'm just waiting for the next tidal wave to hit. I hope that someday I can stop feeling that way and just enjoy each day without assuming something is going to go wrong.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Bucket Full.

I keep thinking that I should change my blog and make it more positive and upbeat. I've been meaning to add pictures and make it more of a family blog as a way for people to keep up with what's going on in our lives since we live so far away. Unfortunately there's not much around here that falls under the normal category. As much as I would love to, I will never be able to get the war out of this house. It's like this black cloud that lingers over our heads. Sometimes it's closer than others but it's always a constant presence. I have a hard time not letting it affect my daily life.

Sometimes I wish that people could spend a day with us and really see what it's like. I don't mean a day where they get to see the nicer side of my husband that always seems to come out around extended family. I mean on days like today where no one in this house could talk to him because he had this look of hatred in his eyes if you interrupted his tv program and he actually had to have a conversation with you.

I cringe every time he yells at our kids and hurts their feelings and leaves them in tears. I suggest to him that he apologize to them later on and it breaks my heart when he says he doesn't care. In his eyes they do things on purpose to anger him. Never mind that they are 6 and almost 4 and living in a house with someone who is the cracked shell of the person he used to be. Or that they never asked for any of this.

To say it's lonely being married to a scarred and wounded combat veteran is an understatement. I struggle just to function every day and not be consumed by constant depression. It's hard to live with someone who is so cold and unfeeling most of the time. Some days I'm criticized for everything I do or don't do. I'm often left feeling that I can't do anything right.

Earlier this week the Army declared him unfit for duty. We were expecting that and it's exactly what he wanted because he hates the Army and anything to do with it now. To him it's just one step closer to severing ties with them and being left alone. He says that he doesn't want to have to answer to anybody and has even been talking about not wanting to work when he gets out. That raises a big red flag with me. He's also not ready to go back to school (it's basically free for him plus living expenses with the GI Bill) because he can't concentrate or remember things. He figures as long as his VA disability and SSI are enough to cover our vehicle payments and rent then everything will be fine and I can just work to make up the difference. Personally, I'm ready to have both of my kids in school and go back to work since he's made it abundantly clear for the past few years that he hasn't appreciated me being a SAHM. It's hard to constantly be around someone who is so negative and withdrawn.

Recently we went back to our hometown for the holidays. I can't call it a vacation because that's where we always go anytime he has leave. During these visits, I'm often bitter and resentful towards him because he offers very little help with the kids. He prefers to park his behind on the couch with his laptop or phone and I'm left with no option but to text him to get him to help me. That of course is met with loud sighing at being inconvenienced and interrupted. My kids are smart enough to know that I'm not going to get after them the way he does so it's often a struggle for me to get them to listen to me and behave, yet they straighten up the minute my husband walks into the room. My son repeats every colorful word and phrase that my husband uses and has become somewhat of a bully. I tried to put him in time out for hitting his cousin and taking a toy from him and he wouldn't cooperate so I removed him from the situation. For the next hour, and while my husband slept until 11am, I was kicked, punched, slapped, bitten and scratched by my child, simply because I tried to discipline without raising my voice or spanking. I finally sat down and cried in frustration. I'm just so tired of not getting any help or a moment's peace to myself.

I feel guilty sometimes for being disappointed that this is the way he is now. I question whether or not he's the right husband for me. I don't understand why we can't do things as a family, or spend time with other people or go to church. I feel angry that I have to do that stuff on my own or that I have to be strong enough to shoulder the burden. Most of the time I'm not strong. His moods have an affect on me and I find myself wanting to escape and hide behind my computer or curl up under my blankets and not have to face the world.

At my follow up appointment with my doctor to discuss my vitamin d deficiency and thyroid disease, I asked three or four times if I could please be put on some antidepressants to help me feel more balanced out. My voice shook and I practically begged. My doctor told me that I'm not depressed enough to warrant being prescribed medication and that I was in a watch and wait status. He assessed my whole life in a 15 minute appointment. Meanwhile, my husband gets prescribed everything under the sun and finally told his doctor to stop prescribing stuff because he didn't want to take anything. He took himself off all of his medication with the exception of his allergy and asthma meds, which he doubled the doses of to get through the holidays. He's convinced that he doesn't need anything and swears he does much better without this stuff. I beg to differ.

Right before our trip up north, he got really sick. Despite everything he's been through, he still has a fairly strong immune system and doesn't get sick very often so when he finally does, it can hit him pretty hard. This time he just kept getting fevers and getting worse each day. He refused to call the appointment line, claiming that he's not allowed to schedule his own appointments and everything has to be done through his case manager. He also refused to go to sick call because he's never done that once in his career and didn't want to start now. When he finally got the point where he could barely stand up I said I was taking him to the ER. Our son had a 105 degree fever this past Spring and was diagnosed with pneumonia and my husband symptoms matched those to a T. By some miracle the ER was completely empty that night. We live 10 minutes from the hospital and I had to stop along the way because he had been throwing up nonstop and nearly passed out beforehand. When I stopped to get him some water, he got sick again and fell out of the car when it happened and hit his head on the ground, briefly knocking himself out.

They immediately admitted him and he continued to get sick and pass out and his blood pressure dropped. He had pneumonia and was so severely dehydrated that he had started damaging his kidneys. The cause of the pneumonia was from yet another MRSA infection and it had gotten so bad that it had turned into sepsis. As I've mentioned numerous times on this blog, sepsis was fatal for my mom so this hit close to home. His doctor told him point blank that if he had waited another day or two he probably wouldn't have survived. He spent some time in ICU and responded well to the antibiotics and was able to go home a few days later. He's still recovering and still has some breathing issues but is doing a lot better than he was.

Because we don't have family in the area and I had to take him to the ER in the middle of the night, I had to wake up the kids and take them along. As soon as I had gotten confirmation that he was being admitted (after the week we had had, I was actually relieved), I took the kids home so we could all get some much needed sleep. Thankfully my daughter's school and her teacher were extremely understanding about the whole situation. She ended up missing a couple of days because I couldn't justify sending her when she hadn't gotten any sleep and because I was just incredibly overwhelmed. While that was all going on, my refrigerator stopped working and I had to throw everything away. Seems like when it rains, it pours around here. I spent much of that week hiding away from the world and dealing with one thing at a time because that was all I could handle.

Sometimes I just want to scream until I have no voice left. It's been 30 months since he was wounded and we're still here. I'm ready to stop counting and get on with the next step in this journey. I just want to be able to look back and say that was hard but we survived and we're stronger for it. I want things to simply be normal again but that can never be.


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