Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Burnt out

I have not been in the holiday spirit this year. I haven't finished Christmas shopping either and probably won't until after it's over. The kids both have enough presents. All our nieces and nephews have a present. Good enough, right?

I shared with a few fellow wives dealing with PTSD spouses that I'm most certain I'm experiencing caregiver burnout. Yes, I am working but I have found peace and joy within my work. I look forward to it and have even picked up additional clients. I even feel relieved when I'm leaving the house to go to work and have felt a little down knowing that it is time to go home. Homeschooling the kids has been tough, but my spirit hasn't been broken by it. The kids are familiar with my expectations and I am actually satisfied with the quality of their work. 

"How could you be burnt out then?" you may ask. Easy. Dealing with my husband's PTSD and TBI related problems are ongoing. They. Never. Stop. Between trying to keep up with his appointments, treatments, medications, events, and trying to enlist his help in everyday life is exhausting. He's had a lot of time off lately but tries to withdraw himself from reality. Nope! Not gonna happen, dude. 

I also have Super Mom Syndrome. I want to take care of everyone and everything while working my butt off. I've had to step back and enlist help from others. Confession: I had a housekeeper for about a month. Thankfully, she got a lot of organization going and we have been doing our best to maintain. Forcing dear husband and sweet children to comply and assist in the maintenance? That takes an act of God. Truth be told, the kids have actually done well with chores and since Michael started his new meds, he has been more active. Unfortunately, I think his active spirit came too late. I've been short and frustrated. With time, it got worse. I've been doing 'this' on my own for the past year and more so while all his issues manifested. Now you want to help?! Ugh!

Don't get me wrong, I am beyond grateful at the amount of healing my husband has received. I am grateful that he is becoming a man of God more and more every day! Where is my healing, though? 

My healing is in God. Remaining obedient and steadfast has been so hard and sometimes questionable. Trusting in His plan sometimes seems unreasonable.. But that's part of being obedient. You may not always understand why things are they way they are or why they're even happening. I don't always understand. My comfort comes in knowing that God has something beautiful in store for me after my "storm." Even tithing this month was hard. How on earth are we going to tithe 10% when we could use that money for Christmas?! I could put that money to some relaxing spa treatments for myself! Nope. Off to church it goes. Another act of obedience. 

Having faith is what gets me through the ugly parts of life. I'm burnt out. I'm exhausted.. But I'm alive because of Him. I am still blessed with a husband and beautiful children. We are not homeless. We are not starving. He is with us and always will be. 

My thoughts: if you're experiencing caregiver burnout or even a general burnout, take the time to pray about it. I find it easiest to pray out loud in my car while I am driving to work and back home. I ask for comfort and understanding. I ask for peace within my home and life. I thank Him for blessing me beyond comprehension. 

Prayer: Thank you, God, for all our many blessings even if we don't notice them sometimes. Help us to find some calm within our storms of life. Give us comfort and peace knowing that you have such a grand and amazing plan for our lives. Help us to be more obedient to you and lean on you more. In your name, I pray, amen!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Counseling and therapy

Staying with and through the chaos is hard. Giving up is easy. Stand up, grab your belongings, and off you go. Yeah, a divorce and child custody case may be involved but when it's over, that is it.

Staying may require therapy or marital counseling. I personally recommend counseling. Counseling gives you a third party perspective that maybe you and your spouse have overlooked. We had experienced counseling twice. Initially, it was through an on-post resource. She helped us some in helping us realize the error of our ways in certain situations. The second experience was through a previous pastor. He helped us to realize we needed to form our own "ways" of doing things together rather than basing our actions of off things we had witnessed through other marriages. It also helped us to recognize what Godly and worldly advice looked like and who gave what kind of advice. An example of worldly advice would be "Don't let him/her get away with it!" whereas Godly advice would be "Think about how you are going to approach the situation, pray about it, and let your actions reflect His will." We now know who can give us the Godly advice.

Now don't get me wrong! There's nothing wrong with worldly advice. Sometimes the worldly advice may seem practical or realistic. Ultimately, people will do what they want. I personally have found the Godly advice to be more practical though. I mean, He does know what the outcome will be! 

When my parents got divorced, I went through therapy as a child. I later went to therapy as an adult for problems I was having with my life at that current moment in time. My husband went to therapy a few times, some of which were mandatory. Sometimes working on yourself as an individual will help. You have to build yourself up before you can successfully build up others. 

My thoughts: if you don't have it already, you need to download the bible app, YouVersion, onto your smart devices! It's not just the bible. They have reading plans and devotionals you can follow. I assign myself multiple devotionals at a time so that I can find the inspiration and word when I have time. If you have time to tweet, YouTube and Facebook, you can certainly spend 5 minutes in YouVersion!

Prayer: God, help us to seek your will for our lives. Help us to be able to help ourselves. Build us up in a way that would be pleasing to you. In your name, we pray, Amen!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My husband, my hero.

First and foremost, Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans past and present.
Let me tell you about a special someone in my life.

Michael knew he was going to grow up and become a soldier since childhood. Both his grandfather and father served and he was going to uphold that tradition. His oldest sister, Casey, also went on to become a soldier and served for 6 years.

Michael participated in JROTC in high school and as soon as he graduated high school, he enlisted. His first day was July 1, 2004. He went to Fort Benning, GA for basic training and AIT as an 11B, an infantryman. He also went on to airborne school. He has 17 logged jumps but has done more than that.  His first duty station was Fort Bragg, NC with the 82nd Airborne Infantry.

 Michael's first deployment was around the end of 2005. He did 2 tours and served for 4 years as an infantryman before he changed his MOS to a Comsec Communication Repairer. In his time in the infantry, he experienced the loss of his fellow battle buddies and witnessed situations that I wouldn't wish upon my worse enemy. He had been shot numerous times and has a scar on his chest from where a round had grazed his skin. The first 3 shots broke through his chest plate and the 4th one almost succeeded in penetrating his chest. God was definitely with him. He also endured various explosions that have lead to his hearing loss and TBI, traumatic brain injury.  A series of terrifying events contributed to the development of PTSD and he reclassed because he could no longer hold a combat MOS.

Michael had his second AIT at Fort Gordon, GA. After he completed his training, he went on to Fort Campbell, KY, where we currently are stationed. He then completed 6 more deployments totaling 31 months of time overseas in OIF and OEF.

We got married in February of 2011 and I have experienced 4 deployments as his wife and one as a fiancée. He's missed his share of holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. The kids and I have learned to accept this life and do our best to support him while taking care of each other.

I give so much credit to our kids for being so resilient and strong. They have leaned on their faith and have prayed their way through these deployments. I would struggle to keep from crying my eyes out each time we dropped him off at the hangar. Jr. would tell me that "God will keep step-daddy safe." and give me the comfort I needed in those moments.

Today and everyday, I appreciate and honor my husband, my hero. He has been through so much and is struggling through a lot right now, yet he does not fail to provide and be the head of our home. Words can't begin to express how grateful the kids and I are for him. He has grown into a man of God and a true warrior in the battle against PTSD and veteran suicide. He is so supportive and a true friend.

Michael, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done and continue to do for our country and family. You are truly my hero and my knight in shining armor. I am humbled to be your wife and appreciate how supportive you are of my desires and dreams. God has blessed me with an amazing husband and I look forward to being by your side for the rest of our lives.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2 weeks

2 weeks is the average time it takes my husband to revert back to his "old ways" after saying he will make a change. This is usually how this pans out:

1.) We get into a very severe argument that ends in tears and pleas.
2.) He says he will make a change and do *Fill in the blank*
3.) The day after our huge fight, said change happens at an Olympic performance level.. This change is so amazing, he really does deserve a medal.
4.) One week post change, he starts losing the steam from his Olympic status change... Understandable because this man has been hardcore!
5.) Two weeks post change, he has started reverting, if not completely reverted back to his old ways

Sounds about right, right?

Our problem is that when we argue, a series of events have lead to this very moment.
For example: (completely exaggerated story)

He comes home from work, throws his junk on the floor, and plops on the recliner.
The kids run up to him to share their good news for the day but he ignores them and tells them to run off.
I get mad because I've been home all day and they've been driving me nuts.
I want him to be more active and give me a break since I have been with them all day long.
I yell at him and call him a lazy, good-for-nothing slob who doesn't care about his family.
He proceeds to tell me that I couldn't possibly do all the work that he has just done in one day.
I yell about how I'm burnt out and overwhelmed.
He tells me that he could easily do everything I have to do in one day and better than me.
I lose it and start screaming and crying.
He yells because he can't hear the TV.
I pull the power cable out of the wall.
He jumps up and charges at me like a furious bull.
I challenge him to do something.
He stomps out the door, slamming it on his way out.
I chase after him, screaming "Don't you dare walk out on me!"
He gets in his truck, still ignoring me, and drives off.
I storm back into the house, grab my phone, and call him 30x.
He finally answers, we exchange hurtful words and I hang up.
He calls back because I'm not allowed to hang up on him.
More words are exchanged and now he hangs up.
I call back because he's not allowed to hang up on me either!
In between calling back and forth, I develop enough strength to calm down and tell him to come home so we can talk like adults.
After debating it with himself, he comes home.
We both apologize for our behavior and hurtful words.
He vows to not throw his crap on the floor, not sit down right away, and be more attentive to the children.
I agree to let him have a brief moment to himself when he gets home (to gather his bearings and calm down from work stress) and not bombard him with a extensive honey-do list the minute he walks through the door.
I also agree to talk to the kids about letting daddy settle before bombarding him with their barrage of news and comments.

Sounds about right, right?

Sadly, we have actually had this very fight numerous times. Let's dissect it. For the sake of this post, we are going to dissect it the way I did in my head.

- I need to let him relax when he gets home. Not too long, but enough time to change out of his uniform, sit down, and take a few breaths.
- I need to give him the chance to initiate time with the kids. I can't force it otherwise it will be unauthentic.
- Maybe I need to prioritize my day so I'm not so stressed out.
- I really shouldn't have freaked out the way I did. It so made things worse.
- I really need to give him his space.
- I can't be his Holy Spirit. He needs to find it in himself to do what he knows he needs to do.
-Rather than praying to God that He help Michael be more involved and more active in our lives, I should pray that He works on his heart and helps him find his purpose, whatever God feels that may be.
- I need to pray for myself.
-Maybe I should expect him to change 100%. Rather, I should decide what affects me the most and discuss it wit him. One change at a time.

Believe it or not, focusing on changing one thing at a time has been better than expecting a new man and being disappointed after 2 weeks. This news is probably not new to all but it was new to me at one point in time.

My thoughts:
Set realistic short term goals as a couple/family that have a high possibility of yielding long term results.

My prayer:
Father God, Thank you for giving me the one You so chose for my life. Help me to focus on my flaws while you work on my spouse's heart with him. You know your plan for his life and I respect that not everything is in my control, but in Your control. Help me to become slower to anger and easier to love. Pour your blessings over our marriage and family. In Your name, I pray, amen!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Welcome.... Home?

I haven't always done my best in making sure Michael was welcomed home. Of course I was happy to have him back and on the edge of my seat every second that lead to his return. But did my actions and attitude really welcome him? 

The first week is always the exciting phase. I'm relieved that he has returned to us safely. They kids are happy that daddy is home. He is happy to be around us and family again because he has missed us all. By the second week, I think I become less accommodating. I go back into my freakish work schedule. For anyone who doesn't know me personally, I work multiple jobs. Not all of them are full time. I have multiple part-time and PRN positions to accommodate the crazy life we live. I may only work 1-2 shifts per job, per week, if even that. I need flexibility. I also homeschool our kids. Previously, the kids were in private school and I was 85% responsible for shuttling them to and from school. The other 14% went to my best friends who would drop off or pick up the kids for me from time to time and 1% went to the fat chance that Michael had at being able to do it. I would also give up on making sure the house was sparkly clean and inviting. He's home now. This messy house is what I've been dealing with the entirety of his deployment!

At this point, I'm also less accommodating with the way I feel toward him. I don't feel as if I have to be extra super specially nice anymore. This is reality! I'm exhausted! But without fail, he comes home with a mopey look on his face and plops right into his worn out recliner. The kids run to him and want to share exciting news or show off art projects or good grades. He gets mad because he's just gotten home. Please!!! Where was my minute to just plop down on the couch and close out the world! I don't have that! I rarely get to have a "screw it!" moment because I'm so busy making sure everything and everyone is okay.

What I have come to realize is that mentally and emotionally, I've become stronger than him. My heart is more resilient. His mental and emotional well-being have been broken down and are under attack. Physically, he is just as strong as before, if not stronger. He is the baddest jar opener around! But after he has returned to work, he loses that will to survive and goes into a will of automation. He doesn't try extra hard to make sure he makes it out of there alive where as that was his daily goal while down range. His goal now is to not be noticed, don't flip out on his superiors, and ride the clock until they get released.then he comes home to find solace in his chair and a warm meal on the stove. Oh yeah, and the wife and kids. Heaven forbid we actually have plans or I spark a random outing on him! He gets mad when I decide things last minute. He needs time to mentally prepare for it. If you ask him how his day went, be ready for whatever answer that comes out of his mouth. Don't counter it with, "well, do you know what I had to deal with today?!" That isn't going to help and will make matters worse. Simply say "I'm sorry it was so rough for you. Is there anything I/we can do to make the rest of it any better?" 

You may be feeling as if the above advice is a little on the subservient side. My feelings on that are, you're a little right. But my goal is to make my husband feel welcomed home. You've already welcomed him home when he set foot on  Anerican soil (besides layovers in other states). Now it is time to make sure he is welcomed home again and again. Wouldn't the same feelings and emotions of excitement and joy from his initial homecoming be awesome every day? I'm not saying every day will be this big, joyful event. I'm only saying, find and bring joy into your daily lives that may not have been present before. 

My thoughts: Now, I'm not saying "let the man get away with being a blob!" Give him a moment to gather himself and turn off "work mode" in his brain. Try to let him know if you have plans as a family ahead of time so he can ready himself, however that may be. Slowly integrate him back into the hustle and bustle you call daily life. Yes, it's work, but it helps in lowering the chances of arguments and misunderstandings. 
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, my patience is being tested and I need he strength to remain firm yet accommodating. I know he can't help the way he feels. Help me to understand his thoughts and know his needs so that I may help meet those needs or find a way to get them met. Help our family to be mindful of each other as You have been to us. In your name, I pray, amen. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How did I not know?

When you met your significant other, did he already have PTSD? Mine did.

I never truly knew how severe it was until our 2nd week of attending Reboot Combat Recovery course. He divulged to me that he thought about suicide almost daily. How on earth did I not know?! How did I not even have the slightest clue? We have a house, jobs, children, material possessions. Does he think this life is that bad? Is it me? Am I not good enough? Did I let myself go?

That right there is a little bit of false guilt going on. He was happy with me and the children. He could care less about whether we were homeless or not as long as we were together. Yet, why does he have these suicidal thoughts if I've done nothing wrong?

Because PTSD sucks. His trauma haunted him and discussing it with people who aren't willing to listen without judgment makes it worse. Then to make matters even more worse, I, his wife, appeared unwilling to listen. When he comes down with a cold, the phrases "Suck it up!" or "Get the heck over it!" flow freely until he stops sniffling. If my remarks are so callous over a cold, imagine what they would be like if he tells me his trauma is negatively affecting him.

 It wasn't just the trauma either. He lost his sense of purpose and worth. His ETS date is soon approaching and the thought of figuring out how to be the provider of our family scared him half to death. I, on the other hand, have been raised to fend for myself and be independent. I have been working steadily and figured I would just pick up his slack. But that isn't what it's all about. The Army has been guiding his every move since he was 18 and here he is, 30, and about to be "thrown to the wolves."

Going to Reboot really helped Michael find a purpose. Reboot equipped him with the knowledge on how to pray his was through his issues or seek the necessary help. Reboot gave him enough hope to rid him of his suicidal thoughts. I'm not saying Reboot is the fix-all, end-all. But it's a start....

My thoughts:
-Be available to talk to... and no, not just physically present. Are you mentally and emotionally there, too? This doesn't mean be 100% available for his every beck and call. If he wants to vent or complain about his day, are your responses thoughtful or harsh? I know, I know, it seems like he's whining and groaning. Take one for the team (or rather, the sake of both your sanity) and let the man have a moment. You never know... that one "vent session" could be the tip of an ice burg.

-Pray about it. You may not be aware that your significant other feels this way. Ask God to shine His light on his life and His love into his heart.

All together now:

Dear God, Thank you for blessing me with my {insert title here}. I know he has been through a lot in combat and I ask that you safeguard his heart, mind, and soul. Help me to listen and show him that I am here for him and that he can depend on me. I ask that you give us both the strength to make it through these trying times. In your blessed name, I pray, Amen.

**Signs of suicidal behavior, click here. **

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

And so, you've found me...

What brought you here to my blog? 

Ah, I know.

You know someone who has PTSD.

And chances are you love them.

A lot.

Maybe you're married to this fella!

Or you are in a really committed relationship!

Quite possibly, you just really care about someone struggling with PTSD.

If you agreed with any of the above statements, you're in the right place. 

My name is Crystal. I am married to a man with PTSD. It hasn't been easy and there are times where our marriage has come close to ending.. But by the grace of God, we are still married and very much in love with each other. My hope is that you will find comfort and strength in the things I will be sharing or can relate and tell yourself "wow, I'm not alone."