So, he starts school next week….

Happy New Year bloggies!! I hope it is treating you well! It’s crazy cold here in Tennessee today! So, not much new to report. We have tried and tried to get his mental health appointment pushed up so he can begin therapy services, but of course, the VA says no. It would be especially helpful right now because he is about to start college next week. This is really stressful for both of us. He wants to go, wants to earn a degree, but knows that realistically, being on a college campus is not a good place for him. Unfortunately, because his rating sucks, we financially cannot survive if he doesn’t attend school.

So, what am I worried about? I am afraid that when I wake him up and leave for work, he will go right back to sleep. I am afraid that he will run someone off the road who cut him off on the way there (he usually doesn’t drive except to run to the store down the road for diapers or whatever). I am worried that I’m going to get a phone call saying he has been arrested for either threatening someone or punching someone. I am afraid he’s going to have a panic attack in the middle of class, being confined in a room for hours. I am afraid that he’s not going to be able to control himself and pop off at the mouth if a professor says something he thinks is stupid or disagrees with.

What if he goes for a few weeks, and then decides its too much and he can’t do it? Then we have to cough up thousands of dollars (that we def. do not have) to pay back the VA.

Most of all, I am afraid of what it is going to do to our marriage. We are already under enough stress and pressure as it is, and this is only going to add more. Is he going to have the motivation to sit down and do his homework? Or am I going to have to be the mean wife and keep getting after him to do it? If that’s the case, I can guarantee we’re going to have problems. He hates when I have to remind him to do things or when I have to keep on top of him to have the motivation to do stuff or get a specific task done. At this point, he’s used to it for the most part, albeit still not liking it. But homework? That’s a whole new ballgame. (yes, we Bostonian’s often use baseball references lol.)

I feel like I am walking on pins and needles, waiting for the next ball to drop, the next thing to go wrong. Nothing ever goes our way, ever, and PTSD makes normal everyday let downs so much worse. No, scratch that, it makes everything worse. Hm…next post maybe I will get a little more into his systems and how it effects our everyday life? That will have to wait for the weekend though, I could probably write a book on how our lives are effected by living in the shadows of PTSD.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back…

Oh blog, I’m so sorry for neglecting you 😉  It has been a very busy, long couple of weeks. Let’s see…where did I last leave off? Ah yes, mystery person.  Well, this mystery person (still not sure what exactly his position was) called, and guess what?!? They put in a referral for us to be seen the next day at the local clinic….great, but also had to send the dreaded short notice e-mail to my boss about having to miss a few hours of work with less than 24 hrs notice 😦 We went to the appointment, which was basically an assessment.  We saw an older woman, we’ll call her “E.”  She was very nice, and somehow understood my husbands twisted sense of humor.  She was also an older woman (50ish maybe?)  I have found that Tommy has a much easier time talking to older people about his problems.  I think a lot of it is that he feels younger people can’t possibly understand where he is coming from and don’t have the wisdom to really respect what he has been through/is going through.  She immediately recommend that I apply for the caregiver stipend to be able to spend more time with him/helping him at home during the day, and also put in a referral for as soon as possible (note this for later discussion) therapy services to begin. We left the appointment feeling more hopeful and a little less desperate, and E scheduled us a follow up appointment in two weeks to make sure the referral went through.

The next day, we get a call saying that the therapy referral for the local clinic has been denied, as has the need for an ASAP appointment, and we will have to make the 2 hour trek to the Nashville VA hospital for an appointment, and the soonest available is in two months. So much for “local”, and “asap.” This whole situation with fighting for therapy really breaks my heart. It is no wonder why so many veterans commit suicide.  When they seek help, they are repeatedly denied it. We have contacted practically every person that the VA has listed on their site.  The caseworker, the PTSD clinic, the Veterans Crisis Hotline, the VA Emergency Room, the Vet Center, and others. Not one place/person has been able to or willing to give him an appointment within the next 60 days.  I have reached out to all of the people/places, only to be shut down repeatedly.  I am grateful that my husband has me by his side supporting him and advocating him, but what about all the others? How many places/people will they call before they finally give up? The system is failing our veterans and it truly sickens me.  I may not have the time or resources to act on this now, but mark my words, when the day comes that I do, I will make sure that people up the chain hear what we went through and how much it took to get services (or lack thereof).  I can’t help but wonder how many lives could have been saved if more immediate services were available to our Veterans, or HEROES. Ugh.

Oh and one more thing, I call the caseworker (who still never called me back after I left her a voice mail crying almost two weeks ago from the VA Emergency room) and fill her in on the progress, and she’s just like “oh, okay.”  Guess I won’t be calling her anymore.

Okay, that rant is over for now. So, in the meantime, we had been calling the VA every day to to see if they had any cancellations for his initial exam, and the receptionist (super nice lady) finally took down our name and said she would call with her first cancellation (not sure if she took pity or was tired of us calling 2x a day), but sure enough, a few hours later she called us with an available appointment for the next business day.

So, we make the trek down to the VA hospital for our first appointment.  Tommy started off driving (had to come get me from work, yup, had to miss yet more time at work…), he made is less than a few miles.  Combining his PTSD/anxiety/way too high strung, he was stepping on the break every minute and was freaking out. I think that was one of the worst times I have seen his driving effected by the PTSD. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always effected, but this was the worse. (Okay, side story. When he drives, he is not an aggressive driver to start off, per say.  But when people cut him off or drive stupid, or especially street bikers driving like idiots, it basically opens up a deep dark fire in him, like these people are intentionally doing it to him or something.  His tolerance for people at this point is extremely low, hence no friends or social life for either of us..that’s okay though, who has the time for any of that nowadays anyways, right?)

We got to the appointment, it wasn’t too bad.  The doctor added 5 more medications to the list (yup, we are up to twelve medications a day now.) Sent out about 7 referrals for various things (TBI clinic, hearing, vision, wrist, knee, ankles, and I can’t remember the other one.) And scheduled our first caregiver assessment for what is now tomorrow.  The doctor was unfortunately not surprised that he was rated incorrectly and recommended that we file for higher compensation, but to wait until more documentation is in the system (apparently 3 years worth since the blast isn’t considered enough.) He also did some labs, and ordered an x-ray that we will have to come back for because it takes time to process. His words were “you will never be 100%, but if we can get you feeling like 80%, 80% of the time, that’s pretty good.) I’ll leave that one for you to ponder over my bloggies. (If you are reading this, it has now become your new nickname).

So, that is where we are at currently while going learning how to navigate the VA. Such a mess.  We have met a few people who really seem to care and mean well, but the system blocks them from getting the veterans the help they need in a timely manner.

Our kids have really started to become more aware of the changes the PTSD is causing in Tommy.  I see their relationships with him diminishing.  He isolates himself from them, has unrealsitic and does not have age appropriate expectations. His patience for them is pretty much gone, and he is raising his voice more and more often (which I immediately stop because I will NOT let my children grow up being constantly yelled at or criticized like I did.) The girls come to me more, and even our middle one, who is 3, has noticed the change in the way he talks to me…she has begun to tell him “stop screaming at my mommy”, and will step in between us.  When this happens, he’s not actually screaming, but talking in a firm/louder tone of voice, and she picks up on the difference, and well, to a 3 yr old who’s never heard an adult scream (thankfully), this is what she considers screaming.

As for Tommy, every day is an uphill battle for him.  My heart hurts for him.  I see him slipping more and more into isolation from our family, and into a deeper depression.  He has really stopped taking care of himself..at this point I am literally reminding him to eat and take showers.  When I am at work I am having such a hard time focusing, always wondering about whether or not he is okay at home, did he take his meds, has he eaten, has he even gotten out of bed? *sigh* It’s a bitter edged sword.  If the VA somehow miraculously compensates me enough to stay home with him, where does that leave me? How will that effect us? Will I end up resenting him for having to put an end to my career? I am only 27, and I have literally spent a quarter of my life at my job, working my up the chain, and if I leave the position I am in now, there is a very likely chance I would never get it back. My heart wants to be home with him supporting him and taking care of him, and of course, if it comes down to it, I will, that is what marriage is about.  But does that mean I say goodbye to me, to my own individual identity?  Will I have to spend the rest of my life living in the shadows of PTSD?