Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oh hi PTSD, why don't you come on in

Here we go.  When last I left you I felt I had nothing more to give.  Blogging was something that stressed me out and I was living a very low stress life.  Things at home were great, we were almost like a normal family and our issues were the same small issues everyone has.  Work was looking up, I was seriously considering taking a job that would require more of a commitment from me, maybe even start using my brain at work.  We were floating along as happy as could be when suddenly, at the end of August, it happened.

I don’t even know what “it” was really.  Something happened and we went from actually going out and enjoying a concert together to the next week with him in the back of an ambulance and me following behind driving like a crazy woman.  Panic attacks were the diagnosis.  Lots of them, so bad that he convulsed and had to be taken to the hospital because the convulsing and shallow breathing could bring about seizures.  We’ve been dealing with his TBI symptoms that we had ignored the fact that he has PTSD too.

What we’ve learned since this all started is that PTSD and anxiety are major assholes and will likely pick a time when you are happy to remind you that they are there and want to run the show.

Looking back we both know it wasn’t quite as “suddenly” as it appeared.  Will had been getting sick for months, throwing up every morning and every night.  Unable to eat most foods he was living on vegetable soup and green tea.  As any man would he ignored it, thought he must have had a bug or something.  Going to the VA to testing seemed worse than his symptoms.  He quickly lost over 30lbs, he looked malnourished and had very little energy.  But he tried, we still went on date nights and he played with the girls as much as he could but something was off.  Mid July his sleep was no longer restful and dreams of horrible images of what he saw and dealt with in Iraq started.  Then the dreams started to include me and the girls…it was too much for him to talk about so he kept it to himself.

Anxiety and all things PTSD related don’t just go away.  You can’t just wish it not to be so and *poof* it’s gone.  We should have listened to the early signs. 

Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

From the ambulance to the hospital and back home all in one day and now our lives are forever changed.  It was after this that we learned just how useless VA healthcare is.  When they would return his call or deem him sick enough to get an appointment hey didn’t know how to treat him.  I wont get into all the details now but he was sent away numerous times with no treatment at all.  He was expected to drive all over Massachusetts to doctors who are impossible to contact and are so overworked that finding out what is causing your physical symptoms is just too time consuming.  He was on Prednisone for over 2 months for an unknown (maybe) allergy.  I think we all know the VA loves to throw pills at problems.

One of the best moves we made was contacting The Home Base Program which is run by The Red Sox Foundation to help post 9/11 vets deal with PTSD & TBI.  They have been wonderful; doctors who listen can genuinely care about how he’s doing, how I am doing.  Although they are strictly mental health they paid for him to have labs done at Mass General Hospital to try to do what the VA wouldn’t.  Unfortunately, we still don’t know what is physically wrong with him we have wonderful people working to help with the PTSD.  I will talk more about this program in later updates, I'm sure!

Since all this has happened I have kind of been a mess.  I am surprised with how quickly I was able to detach myself from all of this and process very little emotion with everything.  I had a big cry when I made that first 911 call and 2 full on sob fests since (one at work and one in my car) but that’s it.  It’s not that I don’t want to feel sad about what’s going on, I just don’t have time to be sad.  Life didn’t stop because Will got sick.  TC still started kindergarten last fall, Addie is still waking up to poop at six AM daily and needs help with that.  I still have a full time job that I need to get to so that we don’t deplete all of our hard earned savings.  Mouths need to be fed, snuggles need to be given, laundry needs to be washed.  For the last several months it’s all been on my shoulders.  If he did have to leave the house I had to drive him.  I’ve swallowed my pride and become a paid caregiver through the VA, I should start seeing that money next month.

Work has been great about all of this.  My time off beyond my 80 hours vacation isn’t paid but my job is safe thanks to FMLA which gives 1000 hours to care for a vet.  But working less than 20 hours a week some weeks has really hit me in the savings account.  It sucks, but thank God we had that savings account.  Now there is even more pressure on me to be at work because I am carrying the health insurance.  One of the benefits to serving is that you are supposed to have healthcare for life, HA!  On New Year’s Eve we counted down the seconds not to 2016 but to Jan 1st because when that clock struck midnight he was covered under real health insurance.   

This is where we are now.  I may or may not elaborate on some of this stuff.  If you have an questions please ask – I am very open to talking about as much as I can without violating too much of his privacy.  I feel like stories like ours need to be out there, people need to know what is going on with our combat vets.