October 29, 2010

Dreams


I took a couple of elective courses during my Masters’ work and came away feeling like the courses were established for “normal” people and not Combat PTSD veterans… I know you are going; DUHHH!!!  I was hoping to find some answers other than in the numerous psychopathology courses I had taken on why my dream world is so much better than my real world.  I don’t mean the night mares, flashbacks and hallucinations; I mean real pre-combat like dreams.  The think I wanted an answer for “why aren’t I an active part of the dreams?”

A phenomena related to the dreams is that I don’t even recognize the places or people, and I am not a part of the dream.  I am aware subconsciously that I am observing things; but I am not an active part of the interactions of the characters that make up my dream world.  Is this a preview of my next life?  Is my subconscious picking up on wishes and/or subconscious parts of my pre-combat self that was good and innocent to the cruelty that man can inflict on man in the name of war?  I am even able to feel emotion in these dreams; unlike my post-combat self that many times have to manufacture emotions to satisfy the needs of others.  I am not saying this is all of my dream world, because it is not.  But it is the part that I do not want to wake up from.  This dream world is so much better than the real world that I exist in on a daily bases.  Reaching out to satisfy others needs in not part of my dream world.  The emotions I observe are not pretentious, but overtly genuine.

How many of us have wanted to reach out and give our wife, husband, or child and give them a hug; but this terrible disorder keeps us at arm’s length?  My wife tells me she understands; but this is only empathy and not true understanding.  Myself, along with many of you, I am sure feel different levels of sorrow for our loves ones.  Why could they have not loved someone else?  Why did they get stuck with us?  Someone who is capable of returning true unadulterated love and emotions from a person that has not seen the horrors of war?  Why did our children have to have someone like us as a parent?  Why could they have not been blessed with a parent who still viewed the good in things and not the negativity that accompanies Combat PTSD?  I will talk more about this at a later date; but I hope this some small manner answers a few questions for the family members of Combat PTSD veterans.

Rob

October 24, 2010

MEDS


Psychotropic medications for Combat PTSD that are prescribed for you by your doctor; DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU START TAKING THE MEDS… 
After my crash I came in under the old VA model of fill your butt full of psychotropic meds and adjust downward.  The young warriors are under the new VA model of cognitive intervention along with medication as needed.  BUT NOT IN ALL CASES!

Do your homework on your meds. If you yourself are having too many problems to do the research, and when I mean research I am speaking of the side effects of the medications, have your wife, partner, or someone you trust Goggle or better yet if you have a psychopharmacology book look it up.  I will get into this in much greater detail in the future; but for now please don’t just stick meds down your throat because the VA says you need them.

You may wish to live with the disorder on a different level than the side effects of the meds dictate you to live your live on.  I will list all my meds that I have been on over the last ten years in a later post…  I decided pleasing my wife sexually, and dealing with the hallucinations and night terrors was preferable to the medications.  I am on a regiment of meds.  But it is a regiment that my psychiatrist at the VA and I have agreed upon and he had done his best to minimize the side effects that undesirable for me.  THINK… 
Rob

October 6, 2010

Some Horse Sense, A PTSD Caregiver on Caregiver Care


What This Blogger Learned From An Ass, Some Horses, Hula Hoops And Buckets Of Manure

So the burning questions that you all have and I have been eluding up until this point is...What did I learn and does it really work? Surprisingly, it does work. So what is it that I learned at this retreat that I can pass on to you?

Here are some of my top things:
  • Maintain a good sense of humor. Laughter is truly the key to maintaining a healthy attitude, plus crying gives me headaches!
  • Learn to acknowledge our Veterans will never be the same and adjust to the way they are and who they are now. We like our Veterans, often buck against sudden changes...we are still focusing on what are husbands used to be, and fighting what they have become now.
  • Don't put expectations on your Veteran based on who they were before combat, and what you as a spouse/caregiver expect. You are only setting them up for failure and setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • Learn to let loose some of the control that we have and let the Veteran try to do things for themselves; even if they fail. "Try try and try again" is now one of my new mantras!
  • Set small tasks for our Veterans to accomplish and praise them wholeheartedly for a job well done, even if its not to your standards.
  • Sometimes we as caregivers don't give our Veterans room to breathe let alone do things for themselves. This can prevent them from helping themselves in coping, recovery and healing. This also leaves them feeling less masculine. Allow them opportunities to try, accomplish their own set goals, and beat on their chests for a while.
  • Help your Veteran if help is needed and asked for....otherwise, let them help themselves first. Don't rush to their sides for every little thing. If they ask, be willing to help; but they must learn that some things they can and need to do on their own.
  • Communicate your feelings and thoughts. Often times, arguments can be stemmed from either side not knowing what is going on with the other.
  • Don't engage in arguments with your Veteran. Often times they are in one of those "moods" and just want to start fights/nitpick. Walk away, ignore and let them know that you won't engage in battle with them.
  • Realize that it's ok to grieve for what we lost, its OK to be angry and feel resentment but, at the same time, learn that you have to let things go and let the past be the past.
  • Know that if you are feeling frustrated, angry and resentful towards your PTSD/TBI Veteran, then they might just be feeling the same way themselves.
  • Educate, educate, educate. For four years, I have been researching, reading and looking for information on PTSD/TBI. There were still things new that I learned about TBI and PTSD. Education is a key tool in learning coping skills, to function in a household with such issues, and allows for the rest of the family to understand what the Veteran is going through.
  • Allow for some failures; we all fail sometimes as caregivers and spouses...the same should be applied to our Veterans. There will be good days and bad days, but that's for anyone of us! We won't always get it the first time out of the gate, and neither will they. How else will we learn if not by our mistakes?
  • Understand that our Veterans can't help who they are, or often, control their behaviors and emotions.
  • As caregivers/Spouses, we are the most important aspect of the Veteran's well-being and care. If we are emotional train wrecks, we can impede any improvements for our Veterans and our abilities to provide effective care.
  • Our Veterans need to know there are consequences for their behavior. Being their personal verbal and physical punching bag IS NOT OK!
  • Don't allow your Veteran to hold power and control over you!
  • Realize that your Veteran and another Veteran's symptoms and issues may not be the same. Every one is different so don't compare! (I am really bad about this)
  • Understand that a few steps forward is awesome, but that sometimes there will be steps taken backwards too. That's ok! We as the human race aren't perfect!
  • Like the resident donkey, Eugene, our PTSD/TBI "asses" will be around. Use a visualization like Eugene to relieve stress. There is nothing wrong with having a fun mental image to fall back on when you need it!
  • Learned from the horses, that like our Veterans, they do not like to be told what to do. Sometimes they are stubborn, sometimes scared, and want to buck the help and support you give them. You just have to find ways to help them go around these obstacles and help, by finding ways that are most comfortable to them.
  • Lead by example, not by force. If you are stressed right when they walk in the door, then this will most likely set your Veterans off.
  • Learn there triggers and recognize what sets them off. If you find something new, write it down. Often times, avoiding things that trigger episodes can be very helpful.
  • Try to focus on more positives about your Veteran rather than recognize every little negative thing about them. This can ease up some of the frustrations and resentment both parties feel.

October 5, 2010

First Person: Combat PTSD

My name is Rob Honzell, Sr. and I am a Marine Combat Veteran who served in the Vietnam War. I served two tours with 1st Recon eventually assigned to the Phoenix Program. I am the author of First Person: Combat PTSD. The offering was self-published, not by necessity, but by choice. The two publishers that bid on the book wished to turn my life’s journey into a novel. I did not reveal very intimate details of my live to have it turned into something that the average combat vet and his/her family could not relate to. The most gratifying emails and comments concerning the book are, "I read your book and realize that this is my husband", "I now know why my dad acts the way he does", and "My wife is a different person since she came back from Iraq, now I know why." This is why I chronicled my life and laid it out for public scrutiny and examination, and why I gave up so much in doing so. In a later contribution if I will explain the previous statement in greater detail.

I still have family members and ex-wives not talking to me over the book. It is what it is; a detailed account of my combat experiences in a special operations unit. An account of the trauma that precipitated the onset of the anxiety disorder labeled as Combat PTSD.

October 2, 2010

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

Between you and me, dear Readers.....You have read that I was pretty scared of horses, had a bitterness so deep within me for counselors and therapists, and that the Wounded Warrior Wives Retreat to Quantum Leap Farm, was somewhat of a trip full of skepticism in my case. The fear of meeting other wives who I felt would more than likely leave me out, the horses trampling me to death and the fact that this was "therapeutic", really left me with a ton of doubts the first day I arrived there.

So how could a bucket of horse poop, an ass, some hula hoops, horses and a turkey along with twelve other women cause a change of mind within this doubting Thomas? Well let me explain what we encountered upon this trip.............



As I mentioned in my first blog about this retreat, we were counseled over the weekend by Dr. Bridget Cantrell (author of Down Range: To Iraq and Back), Dr. Edie Dopking PHD (owner and founder of QLF/), Carla Staats (MA,LCDC,CAP/At E.A.S.E. Equine Self Exploration Program developer) and Jenna Miller (MA) all of whom are just wonderful and friendly. I can't leave out Lisa Reedy who is the financial guru and magician for Quantum Leap because she was there throughout the weekend making sure everything was taken care of. Most doctors and counselors I have encountered in the past four years of our turbulent ride of PTSD/TBI always seemed to focus solely on the medical book and really lack in beside manner not to mention, forgetting the impact of damage that is there within our veterans and our families. Along with their atrocious attitude, they often disregard the most important person in the veteran's care giving and healing processes, us.