PTSD treatments

Moving Forward

Us all fancied up.

Todd and I at our vow renewal. He still makes my heart a flutter after 24 years.

Todd was critically injured on our anniversary.  It was our 15th year one, to be exact. Not only was he badly injured, but he lost two of his friends at the same time. Most of you who have been through combat understand that these sort of losses are never forgotten. The survivor’s guilt that comes along with it never leaves.

At first, I vowed that somehow, we would still honor our anniversary. Seriously, the Taliban almost got my husband, I refused to let them get our day, too. However, the invisible wounds of war are some of the worst and as September would roll around, the dark cloud of grief would roll in right at the end of the month, smother the joy out of the whole month of October and linger until November.

I am proud of my husband. He puts in the painful work with his counselor to be compassionate to the grief of this and other horrible experiences from war. We see a neurologist for the chronic migraine sort of headaches my husband endures as a result of his moderate brain injury. He is one of the best doctors I have ever seen. His empathy, kindness and emphasis on neuroplasticity has been very helpful for us moving forward. He was the one that first thought up the idea of getting a vow renewal as a way to move forward. We had never considered it.

Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain is focused on survival. The brain is designed to remember pain first in order to keep you from hurting or killing yourself. When a brain injury occurs, the millions of pathways in the neurons and blood vessels are damaged, blocked, and eventually the brain starts re-wiring itself. Neuroplasticity explains that when you provide your mind with positive things, that it helps the brain create new pathways that connect its memory to enjoyment. I have to say this really does help. For the past 3 years, horse therapy has been one of those purposeful joys that really has improved my husband’s quality of life.  His recreational therapist has also been extremely helpful. Providing him with something new to learn, in his case photo development with black and white film. This is an amazing new hobby and he is really getting good at it. He is really engrossed in learning all he can and we bought him an SLR, too.

Check out http://reset.me/story/neuroplasticity-the-10-fundamentals-of-rewiring-your-brain/  There is also a great book our doctor recommended on Amazon called Neuroplastic Transformation Workbook by Michael H. Moskowitz M.D.  http://a.co/78gQp26 

I recommend it for you caregivers as well. Your lives are just as important, and your mental health equally so. No one deserves to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Do this bit of work and you will be rewarded. Seriously, what do you have to lose?  That is also one of the helpful things for me on the darker days that still happen but fortunately not as often in a week. I work on something that brings me purposeful joy like dancing or being outside.

I haven’t written much in this blog in two years.  Life has been super busy in the past two years and my mind hasn’t wanted to dig into the deep cathartic emotional topics. In the past two years we have been on a really good path. I became a caregiver to my elderly aunt, and having her close by and getting to spend time with her has been a joy for me. She has the most can-do attitude better than most people my age. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and she is sharp as a tack. She honestly is one of my role models.

I really have been focusing on mindfulness, which is a huge complement to neuroplasticity. http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

Basically you reframe your thoughts on what you’re dealing with. Instead of saying,”Sigh..I have to drive us to the VA today and deal with a lot of painful bureaucracy,” I try to think of it as,”I am lucky my husband is here in my life. I get to hold his hand and walk through the VA today with him. Let’s see what we can accomplish.” The focus on a more positive aspect really helps. I will even put on a cute outfit, just to make him smile.

Those that know me personally know I am a dark, sarcastic and very skeptical thinker. Kind of like an artist/scientist hybrid. A mathematically challenged scientist. Some of my favorite memes deal with Skinner’s cat.  Alright, back to the original concept of mindfulness.  You can go on YouTube and find a lot of free stuff. This is really fantastic. There even are mindfulness concept coloring books. Feel free to share your Skinner memes with me though, they truly crack me up.

You have to have humor in your life as that makes it all bearable.

 

 

 

 

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When do you stop?

Back in January, I started a support group for fellow wives of wounded soldiers in the Austin, Texas area. When I first started it, I was unsure how it was going to work out and worried that I might not be ready for something like this. It is hard to take on projects when your soldier does not allow you to get your 7 or 8 hours of sleep in one straight block. At my old age, I am not so able to thrive without rest. Funny how I took that for granted. I used to go one whole day without sleep when I had my own business. Talk about drive. I am still driven, just in other ways now.

Back to the group- I have found it to be one of the best things I have ever done. It has helped me a lot and I have seen where it has been useful for some of the other ladies, too. There is room for growth and I have big plans for it. I am so happy that others in similar situations don’t feel as alone anymore. It is something I am very glad I did. I get to hear about successes first hand from others trying different methods on fixing their husbands.

So, here is a big question about drive, research, and pushing. For all of you with wounded soldiers at home suffering with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and other debilitating health issues, when is enough enough? I can’t seem to stop researching the latest and newest methods to help restore cognitive function. I am always googleing TBI, PTSD to see if there are new strategies in helping to remedy the side effects. Through one of my friend’s blogs, I see there are injections that are being given to soldiers suffering with PTSD and that they do help a lot on reducing anxiety. However they have to be repeated every 3-4 months. To get the shot, you have to go to the clinic, which is far from here. So my hubby would have to endure the painful journey of getting there as well as receiving the injection, which would be another kind of pain. When I started talking to him about it as I got excited when I saw Kristle’s blog, he said he was not interested.

What? You are not interested? You like having PTSD? You like having the nightmares that make you literally sweat out a gallon of sweat each night and have the flashbacks? You like waking up sick to your stomach when you experience one of your many horrible wartime experiences? How can you not want to get rid of this? How can you not want to try something new to get it eliminated?

I got upset. I thought WTF- why am I doing all of this research to help him regain his short term memory issues and other cognitive deficits that really frustrate him if he does not even want to try something that has a documented success rate?

He won’t even try acupuncture and I have many wives tell me how much it has helped their soldiers with pain and also some of their anxiety. Anxiety is the huge feeding pool which fuels PTSD. This is not fair. I hear about all sorts of new treatments and things to try and he won’t even consider it.

What do you ladies do? I am frustrated. I don’t want things to be like this for the rest of our life. I want him to have fulfillment from what he does and to feel good about himself again. I want him to one day wake up without the chronic pain that knocks him down and makes him sick to his stomach.

Is that too much to ask for? Do I just stop and give up?

When I look at my husband, who is still young at age 41 and has a life left in front of him- I can’t imagine him not trying something to help him feel more like he used to. Would he want to spend the next 25-30 years suffering with chronic pain? Would he want to keep going and keep the blinders on to alternative treatments around him?

Can I just stop and let him control what he tries next? Can I let go of this?