Our Lives With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury

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What I learned from being shot, my PTSD

This past week in treatment here at the hospital has been exceptionally difficult for me, I have really been letting the environment cloud my mind and hamper my recovery. It has severely constrained my thinking and ability to address my issues at hand. Instead of the facing the issues and problems,  such as; taking someone’s life, that I have severely damaged my marriage through bad decisions, and that I live in constant pain from being shot.  Rather, I have been focusing on the small things, the enviromental distractions, hell I was blaming Elizabeth for stuff and shes 1000 miles away. But I have realized that I choose to focus on little things: like the bathroom door being locked, not being able to throw a dip in, no hot water in the showers, crappy food, and even yelling at Elizabeth because she went to a concert.

So why did I do these things?…that is the sixty four thousand dollar question.

I will tell you why,  I did those things because I didnt want to face my deamons, which ties directly to PTSD.
I started my inpatient treatment here with my doctors relatively light, but then ramped it up significantly in the very next session. I sat down with them and explained to them (seperately, i have a social worker and pychartrist) almost all of my problems, from having volatile outbursts, a shitty father, to a having killed other human beings, I told it all. I have never done that with anyone, never, and honestly, it was brutal, it felt like I was being stabbed in the heart with a rusty screwdriver. To sit there and listen to myself say all those things I had done was horrible, but whats worse, was knowing that my wife and kids were on the receiving end of that.  But it was worth listening too, because I discoverd something, something  I think is at the core of my PTSD. It is that I am using other things around me, kids fighting, bad dreams or whatever I can think of to not have to actually deal with my issues. Does that make sense? 

Basically, it boils down to this, I’ll use my being shot and being in pain for an example.  My pain level directly correlates to my behavior and attitude, so if my pain level is high so is my irratability, if the pain is low than so is the anger and so on an so forth.  But  when my anger is high I blame my behavior on something else, my kids being loud, fighting, they are running in the house, anything. When really thats not the issue, I’ve just made it that way because I can not control my pain and anger, which comes from being shot.  But the crazy part is, is that it’s not actually about the physically pain, which I am able to control now through meds, it’s about that anger and hopelessness when I was actually shot.  

I have learned that everytime I feel that pain in my leg, I go back to that horrible place, laying there in the street of a third world country,sweating, filthy, bleeding, in excruciating pain, wondering if I going to die, if I’m ever going to see my wife or my son again (Tristan was the only one at that point). It’s a horrific feeling, but one that I have never been able to let go of, hopefully, until now. 

So every time my pain level goes up in my leg I associate that with the fear, anger and hopelessness of that moment and then I externalize it towards my environment around me. And instead of facing the pain and anguish of being shot, I pick out other things, such as the bathroom door being locked, not being able to throw a dip in.  So for all this time I was trying to address being angry at those things and trying to fix my environment, when all I really had to do was address my actual issue, of being shot and the anger and hopelessness that i felt at that time, and the things around me will become less of a burden and will most likely not cause all those problems. 

So for me this is a huge step in realizing how severly PTSD  can affect you when it goes unchecked or untreated.  This is not to say that I am fully recovered and am healed, no, but know that i now what i need to address, i can curtail my symptoms and hopefully they will not affect my daily life as much anymore.


1 Recovery another screwed by the system

Just going to post real quick and say Melissa is doing awesome out in Florida, she had a terrible day today but its to be expected, everything is brand new, new location, new people, new pup. Everything. And those of us with PTSD don’t usually do to well with a bunch of change. But as she and I as well as every one knows, when its all said and done she is going to come out on top rocking and rolling. I am completely jealous of  her ;) but in a good way. I am very thankful she has finally gotten to that point where she begin to get on with her life and i know Chauncey is going to be one bad*** dog for her.

On the other hand if you have followed any of my nonsense going on i have probably been on one of the worst paths i have been on in awhile. I won’t go into to much detail. just check out the my blog later on if ya want.

At least M is on point to succeed right now and thats awesome! Don’t worry i will try and get as much rambling nonsense up while your gone so you can’t yell at me. Keep up the awesome work with Chauncey and know it will continue to get so much better everyday!

(Stupid factoid for my post…Kris Kross, Jump is playing on my iPhone. Yup it is.)


What if

What if…Every bad decision in life, every opportunity not jumped on, all those days that you said i don’t fell like doing it, what if you had done them. what if you jumped, what if you felt like it, what if you had made a different decision.

 That’s what I’m going to talk about right now. I read somewhere over this holiday weekend a little blurb from someone i can’t remember so i apologize for not giving him or her credit. But it said something along the lines of….what if you came home, what if you didn’t die in that god awful  country. What if you alive and at home.

I have been trying to put that into perspective, have tried to grasp it, to realize what it means. I can that I have and i haven’t. The passage goes on to say, that what if you weren’t killed in war, but made it home alive. It wouldn’t matter if you were your regular old self, or had changed just a little. IT wouldn’t matter if everything other weekend some one had to bail you out jail because you were being stupid. What if you tried to cut yourself off from everyone, didn’t want shit to do with your friends. What if you got hooked on drugs or just got rid of everything you had and started bumming of everyone, lived on the street. Any number of things.

 

What if……even if everyone of those things happened all at once. every damn thing….at least you would freaking be here. You be here in this world with us. I am trying to grasp that concept, because sure as shit true. At least you here, albeit maybe its a burden or a pain in the ass sometimes  but god admit you here, Your alive, your not buried somewhere like Arlington, or you home town plot in the back country.

 Maybe you’re in a rehab center, maybe you have your own box under a highway overpass. Who cares, I would walk through every minute, every second of that with you just to say you made it home. That you got that opportunity to be a screw up, the opportunity to lose everything, and then turn your life around and then hell do it again.

 The constant in all of that is you are here, the opportunity is there for you to what if ….I have know how hard it is to deal with almost all of those things.

So please all of  you that are dealing with those things, family, friends, loved ones, shit complete strangers. Realize you got that what if…you safe still here and able to fuck it all up and start over. Those that gave their lives for ours can’t. I know first hand its hard as hell to grasp that, some days i do, most days i don’t.

 

Just remember what if….


Scary S**t

Traumatic Brain Injury is a hell of a scary thing.  But it really wasn’t even thought of in the beginning of the war, the invasion and the year or two after. And unfortunately, for a lot of troops this term didn’t even come into play until it was to late. The commanders, the doctors, everyone, just weren’t prepared to deal with the type of head injuries that were coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  What it boiled down to was if you weren’t bleeding then you weren’t hurt.

Im sure when it happened, it just kinda started, 2010 when I went to AFghanistan, because I didn’t hear about it in Iraq in 07, 08 and damn sure not in 03, but they started giving head trauma a number, Grade I, II, and III. Grade I being the mildest and grade III being the worst. If you had a level I you couldn’t go outside the wire for 24/48 hours. If it was grade III it was 7 days. Now in theory this sounds like it might be an ok plan. But…..based off my experience and the “doctor” who was assigned to my battalion in Afghanistan, she had no business grading any type of Traumatic Brain Injury let alone trying to diagnose one. I Found out later she was a damn dermatologist for christ sake. Now I understand you can’t have a neurologist at every Forward Operating Base (FOB) but we had a level III Army trauma Center there which could have easily done more test on EVERYONE hit by IED’s. Even small IED’s, a measly 5 lbs of explosives  will completely destroy a humvee. What do you think that will do to your brain?

Yes we wear helmets, yes they have gotten better since the beginning of the war, but they can’t really protect you from an explosion. The blast goes everywhere, your head goes up, down, to side, your brain slams inside your skull. In my battalion, on my last go round, we had the three strike rule, if you were in or around an IED blast 3 times,  you were out. You weren’t allowed to go out again. In theory this sounds like a good plan, and trust me I understand the man power issue more than most (having to help build and structure a battalion to go to war). But research has already shown that after suffering a bad concussion, a TBI, you are more susceptible to more, basically means even less trauma could give you a worse TBI. So you could get a grade I or your first IED strike but getting hit again at the same level or even less could push you to a grade II or III. Again, the adage of if your not bleeding (on the outside) your ok. We destroyed Marines and Soldiers and didn’t even know it.

Take me for example, I lost consciousness on numerous occasions from different blasts in different years and spread out. But now, like I’ve said in previous posts, I can’t remember shit. I lose my train of thought during the most mundane conversations, I forget what I walked into a room for, hell Ive forgotten where I’m at for gods sake.

I will say its gotten better, the treatment and the help, but its still a huge ass pain to try and get help. I can’t imagine what  its like for our junior troops.  I can’t say what they are doing in country now, i haven’t been back since 2010.  But I hope its better than before….


TBI and why it sucks….

As you can see from my profile, I suffer from PTSD, TBI and a GSW. I am only going to talk about the TBI right now. M graciously asked me to be apart of this awesome blog and I jumped at the chance, to try and get people to understand what we go through. This is a challenge that I’m more than happy to accept…even if i can’t remember what the hell I’m doing half the time.

Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI, sounds bad because it is. Here is the basic definition thrown out by doctors:

“Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a non degenerative, non congenital insult to the brain from an external mechanical force, possibly leading to permanent or temporary impairment of cognitive, physical, and psychosocial functions, with an associated diminished or altered state of consciousness.

The definition of TBI has not been consistent and tends to vary according to specialties and circumstances. Often, the term brain injury is used synonymously with head injury, which may not be associated with neurologic deficits. The definition also has been problematic with variations in inclusion criteria” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/326510-overview

This is the basic nonsense that I have heard every time I have gone to see a doctor. Basically what it means is its not a disease, you don’t get it like a cold and supposedly it doesn’t worse (horses shit) and they can’t do really tell you have it until you die. If you have followed the NFL at all you will see the same basic functions, in the fact that you can not truly test for a Traumatic Brain Injury or the most common theme the “concussion” until you are dead. The most recent example of this in the NFL is Travis Henry and quite possibly Junior Seau, which they aren’t sure about yet.

But most Vets with multiple blast exposures exhibit the same symptoms NFL players with multiple concussions do. Horrible headaches, memory loss, motor function loss, sleep loss and several other symptoms. I can attest to all of those. The headaches I have are debilitating, memory loss is ridiculous; I walk into a room and forget why I’m there. I won’t tell you how many times that i have left my keys in the ignition and the truck running at work, only to come out at lunch and realize what I did.

The worst part of TBI at least for me is the headaches and the memory loss. The headaches hurt like hell, and when i get them, if i do not catch them in time i have to waste half a day in the ER waiting on a shot to make it go away.  The memory loss does not physically hurt, but its extremely unnerving (which doesn’t help with PTSD) and very frustrating.  I have forgotten numerous “special” things I have done for my wife over the years, i.e. when i have given her a piece of jewelry or something like that and obviously that sucks. Most people would say I do that all the time…but most have some sort of memory of the event, a snippet here or there, for me, its gone. All of it, nothing there. I will pose this scenario to you, and let you dwell on it. This is my life and what i have had to deal with for the last 8 years, and its only gotten worse, after each successive blast exposure. Walk into a bathroom in gas station, or any where for that matter, or go somewhere where you can not see the outside, walk out and have no idea where you are or how you got there….tell me how you would feel. That’s half the reason I stay in basement, or carried a gun for so long. Being scared out of your mind or thinking about being scared out of your mind, because you don’t know the next time its going to happen is….debilitating. Think about that…till next time.


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