I knew on one level that Dahlia loved me and just wanted to help, but always in the back of my mind I was inwardly embarrassed about needing so much care. And I struggled mightily with the knowledge that I was back in the States and my Marines were still in Iraq.
Like every other wounded warrior in the hospital, I just wanted to hurry up and get back to my unit. It took a long time to move past that, as well as the extreme shame I felt following my injury. I left the hospital six weeks after arriving there, but not before a number of complicated surgeries to rebuild my mouth, extract bone from my legs to reconstruct my jaws and to lay the foundation for many more surgeries over the next five years. Dahlia dropped everything in her life to take care of me.
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She put her program on hold to be with me, which was one of many sacrifices she has had to make as my caregiver. I am positive that every other wounded warrior's caregiver has had to make personal sacrifices to take care of those who need them most. The situation of an Army Specialist E-4 , who lost a leg in Afghanistan, serves as a good example. His recovery at Walter Reed was expected to take 18 months, so his young wife moved from Idaho with their baby. That meant forfeiting her job, her health care, and any in-person contact with family.
The wife and baby lived in a small room with the bare necessities for six months until the Specialist was no longer an in-patient. The three of them moved to a somewhat bigger facility for 18 months while he was an out-patient. After feeling out of control and disrespected by the staff many times over, she could not take her family home soon enough. As another caregiver put it to me, she was her husband's chauffeur, cook, case manager, therapist, personal shopper, nurse, legal aide, job coach -- and on really good days, his wife.
I spent eight months on convalescent leave, following a general cycle of surgery, pain medication and recovery period, over and over. Because virtually all of my teeth had been knocked out of my mouth, I had to carry a towel with me to wipe away the constant flow of saliva out of my mouth I still drool when I turn my head to the side or bend over. And due to my difficulties with eating, we did not go out to eat for approximately one year; even to this day it is always an embarrassing experience to eat in public.
Although I now have lower dentures, I am still waiting on the upper set, and also am missing the end of my tongue, which makes tidy eating impossible.
As an adult, a military officer and a professional in the civilian world, the drooling which I simply cannot control is nothing short of humiliating, and I know it makes others feel awkward. These episodes can range from nightmares to mental reenactments of my injury to inexplicable waves of emotion. Although PTSD is perfectly normal after going to war, in this country and within the Department of Defense there still exists a certain stigma associated with it.
I truly believe that a sign of real strength is not to "tough it out" and pretend that the condition does not exist, but to be up front about it and get the help I need. That being said, attending PTSD counseling can be easier said than done, as the Vet Center's 8 to hours conflict with many veterans' work schedules. I recently contacted the Veterans Administration about this conflict, and was simply told that I should seek counseling from a nonprofit organization. That response was as insensitive and insulting as it was disheartening.
And what about all of the service members struggling with PTSD who work two jobs to make ends meet, or who are single parents without flexible schedules? This is, unfortunately, a tragic circumstance faced by far too many of our young veterans. Although I can play golf and exercise and have successfully adapted to my "new normal," the personal costs are significant and long-lasting. It has been five years since I was shot, and I cannot see out of my left eye, cannot always speak clearly, have difficulty running due to the missing bones in my legs, and periodically struggle with behavioral health issues, including not only PTSD but mild traumatic brain injury TBI.
But I am only one wounded warrior, and there are almost 44, just like me from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. That means 44, families uprooted with lives turned upside down and 44, warriors who will spend years reintegrating into society and adapting to their new normal.
These are the obviously wounded -- they are missing limbs, are blind, have newly deformed heads, or are now committed to a life in a wheelchair. Hundreds of thousands of other service members suffer from invisible wounds as they continue to fight the enemies that rage inside their minds. These are mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who will suffer every day due to their indescribable loss.
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Cantrell and Chuck Dean to be vital to a warrior's survival. The book prepares the returning warrior to meet the challenges of post-war adjustment in order to survive the aftermath. Bridget brings to this book her vast clinical experience, as well as the experience with her own father's struggle with his wartime memories from both WWII and Korea.
About Bridget. Photo Gallery. In the Press. A Philosophy of Healing. Counseling Services. About the Practice. Hearts toward Home. Expert Witness Testimony. Suddenly I bolt upright, and look around, dazed and confused and with a blurry grey view. Slowly reality starts to take hold and I remember where I am and wonder what happened to the person that I just swung at. For a brief moment I am confused and unsure about where I am or what is going on. I don't dare move and I freeze like a deer at night being shined by a spotlight. My vision starts to clear and I see my wife's face come into focus and I see the blood running out of her nose.
Still I sit there wondering what is real and what a nightmare is as I try to focus on what is happening in my mind.
I can't seem to calm down or even relax. I know that the chances of me even closing my eyes again are over for the night. The act of war seems like it would be hard to some. Especially to those who have never served in the armed forces. The truth is war is simple and easy for the most part; you just concentrate on the now.
Weapons, ammunition, men, mission, sleep chow, mission, buddies, staying alert, and now and then you throw in a shower. With all the training you get to the point where you are almost a robot reacting to what goes on around you.
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You follow your orders and missions and try to stay focused. The memories of the life you left behind seem so far away and can get more distance with time, and situations that go on. Your programming instills in you the reaction time for indirect fires, reaction to contact, and the dreaded IED going off. You do your job simple put. You do your job because that is who you are now.
To think of the home life leaves you less focused. Most people who have loved ones in harms way always worry when they hear nothing from them. The truth is that no news is good news. If something bad was to happen to you your family would be the first to know. For they lock all phones and computers down until the next of kin is notified.
Nothing can be worse than hearing on the news that your loved one whether it is a solider or a civilian contractor is hurt or worse dead. I would have to say the first step here is to figure out what is reality and what is a fantasy or what is the realty in someone's brain.
If you believe the reality in your brain over what others perceive to be reality, then is it not reality to you? What a question to ask the doctors out there. Is it better to make someone believe that reality is better than what one might believe to be reality? I guess the human in us says to ourselves that we need to make someone see the same as we see things. I bet many debates could be given over this. It is my belief that the effort should be made to make someone see the real reality and to get away from what someone perceives to be their reality.
If you act or react to a thought or a feeling, is this not real. Is it not real at least to you? I would have to say that what I thought or felt was true was a little tainted to say the least. It seemed the more I thought that things were a certain way the more they were that way. It is sort of like a catch How do we change that thought, and the better question how do we get to the point where we know that we need to do something to change things? I bet there is some out there who are copping but who are on the edge in ways. I guess it is a little like being an alcoholic.
When does it get to the point where the alcohol is controlling you? The better question is how we know that it is controlling us. Surely no one wants to admit that they have fallen prey to something that "normal" people do every day. How do we get someone to sit and really think about some of the choices that they have made?
Wounded in Iraq: A Marine's Story
How can we put their decisions in front of them so bluntly that they can finally see what they have become or have given up on or worse just plain forgot about? For I know that the sanctuary that I built up to protect myself can and did turn into a prison. The key was finally realizing that I did not want to be here anymore and to start searching for some answers to some question that I was afraid to ask and worse yet afraid to hear the answers to.
How does one find that thing that they can ground themselves to so they want to change? Then the issue comes when we know we have outgrown that thing that has grounded us, even though the thing has brought us back to reality. Guess it is kind of like the 12 steps. How many steps does it take to get someone to where they are content to not try anymore to fix things?
I can't answer this because I have not found out or made it there yet.
Leaving the battlefield: Soldier shares story of PTSD | Article | The United States Army
Don't think I ever will. Better to keep focused on how things are and remember how they were so that snake doesn't get me. Yes I need to remember as much as I can so I won't try and run away. Not only in the sense of really running but also in the sense of avoiding my mind, my past, my thoughts. After all if you run away from your thought, fears, or even dealing with situations in front of you, how can you ever tackle them? Things never go away without any help. A big gust of wind might stir up some leaves if the season is right, and cover that brown patch of your lawn.