What to consider if your husband stresses out while you are away from home

Have you ever left the house by yourself, even for a short time, only to come home to find your PTSD/TBI husband having a tizzy, or in a bad mood, and neither of you really know why?

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

I didn’t know it at the time, but in 2008 the clues were staring right at me, smack-dab in the face, and I still couldn’t see it to understand it. Even with four years of practice with this ongoing issue, it took a few more years to fully understand the depth of this problem, let alone learn how to handle it.

Because I wasn’t able to see it, it only made things worse before it would get better.

I wish someone had told me what to look for and how to deal with it. We could have saved tons of stress, resentment, fights and misunderstandings.

I am going to share the insight we’ve had through that discovery process of understanding WHY this happens so hopefully you can learn from it too.

Our history of this problem:

The first year that my husband was home from being a patient in a hospital environment was incredibly hard. The transition out of the military presented many obstacles. He wasn’t the independent person he used to be. He needed help with a lot of things, but sometimes I wasn’t there to assist.

Back then, I ran a business that kept me outside of the home on a full time basis. I found it harder and harder to run my business because my husband needed me more and more, and part of me resented the fact that he couldn’t do simple things.

End result: I closed down my business and became his fulltime caregiver. Once I did that, things became so much smoother for him and for everyone around him. However, I noticed that any time I left the house I would come home to a fully-agitated husband who couldn’t articulate exactly what it was that got him riled up in the first place. In one particular incident, I was gone for less than an hour and came home to the worst PTSD episode I had seen to date.

How I reacted:

At first I resented the fact that I couldn’t leave for a coffee date with a friend for an hour. At times I took his agitation personally. Then I started to wonder if he was showing a side that I had never seen before, a possessive side.

Did he not trust me? Did I somehow give him reason not to trust me? I started to question whether a lack of trust was the reason for it all. (more on that later…)

Deep down inside I knew him better than that, but I was the only one who wasn’t willing to point fingers with blame or accusations. Even friends and family thought he was just a controlling and selfish asshole. All I knew was he was forever changed, and I still didn’t know who this man was that I was married to. I had to learn about him all over again.

I decided to listen to my gut in this situation. I started getting curious and watching his patterns closely. I decided not to take his outbursts personally. I had to set aside my indignation at the mere thought that he was trying to control me, and step outside myself to see the bigger picture.

It seemed logical to me that while I was gone, he was forced to manage things that were too overwhelming. If something required more than three steps to complete, or required fast thinking on his part…he would fall apart even if I was there. The pressure to be responsible for himself with no assistance on my part was just too much on any given day. Imagine the pressure I was placing on him if I was not there in the first place?

It didn’t help matters that in one case, while I went to town to get milk, our son had to use the fire extinguisher to put out a fire in our stove. Why? Because A) My husband forgot about the food he tried to make after the kids asked for a snack, and B) he has no sense of smell to notice the smoke billowing from the next room.

The irony is, that situation DID help us in the end. That day was the turning point of discovery for us to really understand the years of episodes that occurred if I ever left the house.

He was terrified that his inability to prevent or respond to the danger he created would have killed his family in a matter of minutes, and was able to SAY it and UNDERSTAND it for the first time in five years!

Fast forward to today: As a rule of thumb, I am with him 24/7. However, there are times I have to leave the house without him and there is no other way around it. I engineer my grocery shopping to be done just once a month, and our 16-year-old son is in charge while I am away. Even giving my husband reassurance that he wasn’t going to get a chance to accidentally burn down the house, he was still having episodes of stress and agitation, which came in the form of bad moods and lashing out at me later.

After a lot of observation and {gently!} coaxing him to talk about what triggers him while I am gone {which I must emphasize should be done when he is calm again}, we figured out one of the reasons why he got so upset in the first place.

It wasn’t because he was a controlling man, nor was it because he resented me if I took time out for myself. It also wasn’t because he still thought he would burn down the house by accident.

It was because he felt he couldn’t protect me and keep me safe.

Let me be very clear here: Dan is the bravest man I know. He’s also the most tenacious and independent man I know.  The only control he expects of anyone is the control of himself. He is not, nor ever was, a controlling person when it comes to me or the things I do or say. As a highly-trained sniper in the Army, it was his job to protect the innocent and make hard choices about life and death.

That background and military experience will leave an imprint that will last for the rest of his life.

We discovered that while I was gone, he was afraid that something terrible would happen to me and he wouldn’t be there to protect me. The thing he loved the most, his family, was something he felt he couldn’t keep safe if we were out of his sight. It’s one thing to have another adult in charge while I am away, or to have a fire extinguisher in every room, but being completely out of his sight and protection zone was too much for him to contemplate, process and handle.

The key to our discovery is that I had to remember a brain injury will tend to do that to a person.

It was the visions of me being stuck in a ditch, or — God forbid — me ending up in a fiery car crash that set him off. He couldn’t shake those fears of the possibility, even if the logical side of the brain knew better. He intellectually knew I was a safe driver and had a good head on my shoulders if there ever was an emergency, but logic is not part of the equation when you add PTSD or a brain injury to the mix.

Once we were able to narrow down the underlying and subconscious issue, we figured out a way to manage it.

Now when I am on a rare opportunity to be alone on my own, I call him with predetermined times or checkpoints so he knows I am safe. For instance, when I go ‘down the mountain’ to get our shopping done in the Springs (90 miles with only one stoplight in between) I call when I reach the gas station on the way. I call when I arrive at the store. I tell him where my next stop is and call when that errand is over. Then I call again when I am ready to head back home again. Then, right before I pass the last stoplight before getting to my house (which is 45 miles away) I call to say “I’ll be home in an hour.” Each time I call, I can hear the relief in his voice. I can also take that moment to mitigate his fears and say “I love you” before I hang up.

He doesn’t breathe easy until I walk back in the door, but this does help him manage his anxiety while I am away. He knows and I know that he can’t prevent an accident from happening, but knowing I am making progress along my journey means the world to him.

Now, some people will reel at the thought of having to ‘check in’ for simple things like going to a grocery store, getting your hair done, or taking a one-hour coffee break with a friend. I’d venture to say that some would resent it, or feel that it is too controlling on their husband’s part. But I am here to tell you that I do not mind it at all. It’s actually nice to feel loved enough that my absence is noted, or that my presence is appreciated all the more while I am by his side.

He worries because he is afraid. And, that’s pretty normal. We ALL do it every day!

Worry vs. fear

People worry for many reasons. We believe that if we chew on a problem long enough, eventually we will figure out a solution. Worry gives us illusions of control over the future. We dream up worst-case scenarios, thinking we can prevent bad things from happening. Sometimes worrying helps us get things done. For example, we worry about exams, thinking it will help us study. We worry about our appearance, hoping it will encourage us to work out or stick to a diet.

But most of all, and this is a hard concept to grasp…we worry because it makes us less afraid.

Worry is basically a body’s way of trying to suppress fear. However, there is a difference between the two: Fear is an emotional response, much like PTSD. It manifests physically in the form of tension, muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc. Worry suppresses that arousal. It’s the mind’s defense mechanism! It temporarily makes us feel better so we keep doing it.

Unfortunately, it sometimes backfires, because too much worry can take a toll on a person. It adds stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion.

And what does stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion do to someone with a brain injury or PTSD?

It puts them in a bad mood and exacerbates the issue like a big, vicious cycle.

His doctors know about these issues. Luckily they don’t find it to be a cause for concern right now to insist on treating him with more medicine {in a world of the VA over-medicating our veterans, this is huge!}. Yes, too much worry can be addictive, but there is good to be appreciated in this case. It’s considered growth on his part to not only identify and articulate his fears and anxiety, but they congratulate us because we found a mutual ground to manage the situation in my absence that we can both live with. They also understand that my calls inject a level of mindfulness into the equation.

Mindful… what?

Mindfulness. It teaches us to distance ourselves from our worries and stop engaging with them.

In short, mindfulness is the ability to take thoughts that enter our consciousness and ultimately let them go. You acknowledge those thoughts but you do not react or attach emotions to it.

Mindfulness. A topic worthy of another post entirely. (I really hope you click that link) The point I need to make is it’s another key to unlocking this mystery of how to handle my husband’s stress while I am away, both for him and for me.

So in summary, the more regularly I call him to check in, the more I break the cycle of worry and the more he can focus on letting it go. The more mindful I am, the more mindful he will be, and the better the both of us are overall.

We reduced his worry based on natural fears. That’s the best anyone can do!

But what if it really is a trust issue?

Well, let’s go back to my own initial reaction. I figured he didn’t trust me. I had to step outside myself and look at the bigger picture and not take it personally.

Could you blame him if he felt he would lose you to another man? Even if he doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s there.

He’s not the same man he used to be. There are others out there that are not broken. He probably feels like a burden in some way, and how easy would it be for you to just find someone else when he is not looking?

It’s not because you’ve given him a reason not to trust you. It’s not even because he doesn’t trust you.

It’s because he knows you deserve the very best, and he’s not feeling like he’s meeting that criteria to begin with.

If you are dealing with this issue, I encourage you to do as I did and really think about what may be going on that you might not see. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that your husband is just being an asshole, or controlling, or that he is just being a big old baby. Go easy on him.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it is annoying. It’s even frustrating to the point of wanting to scream sometimes. How can one simple thing like leaving the house be. so. HARD?

Ironically enough, he needs time away from you as much as you need time away for your own needs. Think about that. You have to find a way to make that time apart workable for the both of you.

Here is my advice:

Don’t take it personally. Breathe deep and put it into perspective. It’s likely not a matter of anything negative at all. It could be that he loves you so much that the very thought of living a life without you is too much to think about in the first place.

And that, my fellow caregivers, makes you the luckiest woman in the world.

If you are having trust issues or feeling resentful, if my advice doesn’t help resolve the issue soon, I encourage you to seek couple’s counseling so that you can find a better way to get to a happier place. We had to learn this through trial and error and it was damn hard, but fortunately for us this obstacle was fueled by a kind heart and an open mind to get us to the other side.

I am hoping I helped you find yours… but I know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have both of those things in the first place. <3

Sound off! Do you have this issue with your spouse? Did you find ways to cope with it, or are you still trying to understand is in a bad mood for no reason at all? Share your experiences and questions here. If it is something we have worked through, I’d love to share ways on how we dealt with the same issues too.


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Take a peek into our private life: Photos from our GQ article are now available online

Copyright Alex Masi – All Rights Reserved

Today I am going to share some photos from Dan’s interview (and subsequent article) with GQ Magazine. My thanks to Alex Masi for his incredible photography skills, and for capturing our daily life in a respectful way. He, along with Dirk Peitz, followed our family for a few days here in our home. We were one of a few veterans that they followed here in the USA for the story “War in the Mind”.

Here they are below, in slideshow format, from Alex Masi’s website. Be sure to scroll down further to see the video interview as well. I am providing the GQ Italy version and the regular footage for your review.

You can hover your mouse over each image to get the caption explaining the story behind each photo. Enjoy looking inside my fridge and seeing me fuss at the boys. Dan looks pretty darned handsome if you ask me, doesn’t he?

Honestly [in all seriousness] everyone’s story is worthy of your time. Please review them all. Because the slideshow starts the moment you open this page, you’ll have to scroll to the first photo to see the full slideshow. We are in photos 1-28.

War in the Mind – Life after the ‘Iraq War’ – USA

John Daniel Shannon, 48, is a former US Army Senior Sniper, living in Westcliffe, CO, USA, where he retired with his family after a serious brain injury inflicted by an insurgent sniper in Ramadi, Al Anbar Province, Iraq, on November 13th 2004.

Daniel fought during the Second Battle of Fallujah and was then moved to nearby Ramadi. He lost his left eye and has multiple health issues because of his injury: memory problems, balance problems, he can’t smell and taste well anymore, he suffers from PTSD, has troubles with large crowds and city surroundings. This is the reason why he and his family moved to a quiet location on the Rocky Mountains.

In 2007 Dan helped the Washington Post to uncover patients’ neglect at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center; he also testified before Congress. Torrey, 42, his wife, is a freelance writer and a contributor for the Huffington Post; she’s also campaigning to improve the situation of veterans’ families.


War in the Mind – Life after the ‘Iraq War’ – USA – Images by Alex Masi

In case you missed it, here is the US version of the raw video interview that was posted on the GQ Italy and GQ Germany sites:

War in the Mind from Alex Masi on Vimeo.


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MilitaryFamily.com article: Appreciate the Military Spouse

Yesterday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day.  Here is an excerpt from my article about this important day on MilitaryFamily.com.  You can read the entire article here.

Our service members are as strong as the support they receive. Military spouses are often referred to as the ‘backbone of the military.’

Across America and around the world, military spouses serve our country in their own special way. They balance family life, military life, and their careers, all while supporting other military families and giving back to their communities. They help families and friends through the stress of a deployment, care for our wounded warriors, and support each other when a loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Military spouses are a group of unrelated strangers bound together by the shared experience of adventure and their bonds are forged by the flames of adversity. Their contributions help protect our freedom by strengthening our communities, thus keeping our service members ‘mission ready.’

Read on to learn more about ways you can thank military spouses and how it positively impacts our national security by clicking here:

Appreciate the Military Spouse


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Do you really have what it takes to be happy?

Happiness is an emotion that helps us enjoy life and reach our full potential.  Do you have what it takes to be happy?

Many people don’t, so I am about about to share the secret of why

You’ll be surprised to know the solution is based on having (and doing) one simple thing!

How do we even know what it takes to make people happy?

It is interesting to me that so many people find happiness to be elusive, much like a fugitive of the law.  We chase it, but we end up having a great deal of difficulty finding it.

It says in the Declaration of Independence that we should be free to pursue happiness, but what it doesn’t tell us is how to do that.

Researchers have identified five broad paths to happiness:

  1. Using our strengths – When we engage virtues in our daily lives such as our sense of wisdom, our sense of justice, our curiosity, our compassion for others, we become happier.
  2. Gratitude – When we appreciate what we have and we express that appreciation not only to ourselves but to others who may have been generous to us, kind to us, or loving to us in our lives, we tend to be happier.
  3. Savoring – When we really taste the moment, slow down to take the time to smell the roses, and really notice what is happening in our lives without rushing forward to get to the next best thing, we automatically become happier.
  4. Engagement – (aka “being in the zone”)  If we are involved in our activities, and not by doing it self-consciously and not by trying to achieve some external goal, but actually for the process of it and the experience of it, we end up happier.
  5. Living a meaningful life – This almost always means we live a life of doing things for others rather than for ourselves.  Whether that involves helping improve things like the environment or helping people on a one-to-one or more personal basis, having a servant’s heart toward something bigger than ourselves is very important in sustaining our levels of happiness.

So why is happiness so hard to achieve for some people?

They forgot to do this one simple thing:  Having something called mindfulness.

Mindfulness allows us to enhance our levels of happiness by allowing the five factors listed above to come to fruition.  With mindfulness, we can learn to change our relationships into moment-to-moment experiences which then make it easier to express our virtues, to have gratitude, to savor the moment, to live a meaningful life, and be engaged. 

Simply put, mindfulness is about attending to our experiences and accepting whatever arises.  It means we have an awareness of our present experiences with an acceptance of those experiences.

It doesn’t mean we are thinking about our past or living in fantasies about our lives, nor does it mean we are thinking about the future and what comes next.  It means we are only in the here-and-now and we are fully present in the moment we are in.

With techniques like meditation we can train our thought processes to be in a state of mindfulness.  It is a skill that can be learned — and should be learned.  Once we learn to open that up for ourselves we open many of the possibilities for happiness.

Here are some quick tips to cultivate mindfulness:

  • Open your awareness to all your senses one by one:  Sight, sound, taste, feeling, smell. See what is around you, listen to the sounds, taste the air or whatever is in your mouth, feel the warmth, coolness, or breeze on your cheeks, smell the air.  Then stop for a moment and see if you can take in all of the senses.  For instance:
      • When you get up in the morning and brush your teeth, actually pay attention to what it feels like to brush your teeth.
      • When taking a shower, actually pay attention to all the droplets of water caressing your body.
      • When you are resting, actually pay attention to how that feels in all areas of your body.
      • Pick one object of awareness, such as the sensation of your breath rising and falling in your body or the sensation of walking slowly, so that every time your mind falls to thoughts of the future or experiences of the past, you are gently bringing your mind to the attention of the present.
  • If negative thoughts begin to infiltrate your mind, remember that thoughts are not facts, nor are they permanent.  For instance, if the thought arises that you are inadequate, just notice the thought, let it be, and continue on.
  • At the end of your day, reflect on what you actually did that day. What was positive?  Were there things you would like to do better? You can also choose to plan how you would like to be when you get home.

How mindfulness helps me be happy

I have worked incredibly hard in my journey through the five paths toward happiness, but mindfulness has been the hardest for me to find.  With the chaotic life I currently live, working into the wee hours of the morning and trying to fit the 25th hour into each of my days (let alone living the pain, hardships, and suffering of the past) being present in the moment was is still extremely hard to do.  The good news is, I am getting better at it because it took practice and I didn’t quit.  In my case, I started with breathing and worked my way up from there.

In doing so, I accidentally realized that simply being still and present in the moment will usually result in some of the greatest inspirations for my writing.

When I first started writing I let my brain become my worst critic.  Sometimes that is called ‘analysis paralysis’.  I was over-relying on my mind and overlooking my heart in the writing process.

Now I write from the heart, and my heart thanks me for it.  My writing makes me so much happier now.

I also found I am now putting my energy into doing what I planned to do, rather than putting my energy into planning what I planned to do, only to put it off until tomorrow, then another day, then another day.  I admit that I still get stuck in that trap, but it’s happening less and less as I practice mindfulness more and more.

I’d like to share a great video of Jon Kabat-Zinn below.  Here, he explains why the cultivation of ‘moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness’ can be a powerful antidote to worry, fear or depression.

In this video he also shares a quote from one of my favorite people to quote, Abraham Maslow:

“When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.”

If there is one thing I want you to take away from this blog post today, it’s this:  Do not let yourself become happy or satisfied with your unhappiness.  Being unhappy is a choice, just as much as being happy is.  You have the power to change it into something better.

The truth is:  If I can do it, anyone can.  I spent way too long being unhappy and angry.  I just wish I had done this one thing sooner!

So, do you agree that you have the power to be happy?  Why or why not?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Please watch Jon Kabat-Zinn’s video:  “You are only alive in THIS moment!”


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PenFed “Hero at Home” finalists have been announced!

Since I last wrote about the PenFed Hero at Home Contest where I wrote a letter to PenFed explaining how their contest was a catch-22 based on the award listed on their website, this is what has happened…and now I need your help! 

PenFed contacted me and thanked me for pointing out the error on their site.  It has been changed to show that both the caregiver AND veteran will receive an all-expense paid trip to DC for the gala and will also receive a $1500 gift card from American Express.  Now that their website has been updated, I took the time to nominate Sara Shaw via this video:

Today they announced the six finalists via their Facebook page and YouTube account.  They said:

The judging committee has selected six finalists for the PenFed Foundation’s Hero at Home Video Contest and featured them here on this playlist. Now you, the public, will decide on the winner. Show your support for your favorite contestant by clicking on the video and then the thumbs up icon below the video by noon EST on April 23, 2012. The winner will be officially announced by 6 p.m. on that same day.

Here is where I need your help!  I am thrilled to announce that my video nomination for Sara Shaw worked and she is now one of the finalists!  PLEASE click on the video LINKED BELOW and click the “THUMBS UP” button (seen under the video via YouTube) to vote for her! And, PLEASE SHARE and encourage others to do the same. There are wonderful candidates for this event, so go check all six videos out and cast your vote!

After I posted a link via my Facebook Page announcing Sara’s nomination, some really great comments came in that support why Sara is so deserving.  Here are just a couple I’d like to share:

Karen wrote:

She was the first person who ever reached out to me when Dean got hurt! I joined a couple of groups on facebook and she was interested in my story…then got me involved in a weekly, live, online support group…she never stopped caring about what we were going through and one day I can’t wait to meet her!

And Barbara wrote:

Sara did the same for me when I finally found out that wives groups existed for us!

And on YouTube, this comment was added too:

Sara was so good to me when I first discovered the world of Wounded Warrior Wives and Caregivers. (Of which I am both.) She befriended me, offered support, information, a shoulder to cry on, someone to share our triumphs with. Sara did all of this while being a Wounded Warrior Wife and Caregiver herself, as well as a mom to two young children. Sara is so deserving of this honor and I hope that you will vote for her!

Like I said in my video nomination, I could nominate hundreds of caregivers and they are all so very deserving, but Sara really stands out and I wanted to make sure she was recognized. We are just so thankful that Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation is recognizing caregivers…can’t wait to see who wins!

 


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PenFed Foundation “Hero at Home” Contest Recognizes Caregivers

I am sharing this contest with my fellow caregivers and encourage you to apply. I am also sharing the letter I wrote to the PenFed Foundation that explains how this award is a catch-22 for many caregivers.  I encourage everyone who may not be able to apply for the same reasons…to let them know why.  ;)

From their website:

About the Hero at Home Video Contest

The PenFed Foundation is holding a video contest to find a caregiver of a wounded veteran who will be honored as the “hero at home” at its Eighth Annual Night of Heroes Gala this May. And you, the public, will help choose the winner on YouTube.

We are honored to recognize the caregivers who sacrifice to care for our nation’s wounded.  We want to hear your story —told by you – through a video.  The winner will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and receive the “Hero at Home” award at the PenFed Foundation’s Eighth Annual Night of Heroes Gala on May 24, 2012. This year’s gala will honor family and friends who have cared for or are currently caring for a wounded service member or veteran while they are recuperating from the hospital or after they have returned home.

You can APPLY HERE:

http://penfed.convio.net/site/PageNavigator/2012_Hero_at_Home_Contest_Page.html

Here is my letter:

Hello,

I wanted to applaud and thank you for your Hero at Home contest. I am recognized as a tier-3 caregiver by the VA and care for my husband on a fulltime basis due to injuries he sustained in combat. Caregivers have historically been dismissed and ignored for their roles. For that, I thank you for recognizing caregivers through your foundation.

I wanted to just say that there is a catch-22 that you may not have realized with your program that hopefully in future years you may put into consideration. The fact is, I learned about your program when someone wanted to nominate me. Unfortunately, I cannot consider applying for your award because I cannot leave my husband for any period of time (much like the majority of caregivers), and it appears the prize only allows for the caregiver to attend the award ceremony. That puts a significant limitation on the caregivers you are trying to recognize. I am sure you’ll find a very deserving caregiver, but that caregiver will likely have less burden than those of us who care for our veteran 24/7.

Had the program allowed my husband to attend at no additional cost and had my husband not been housebound like he is, it would have been a consideration.

This is not meant as criticism; rather, as feedback and sincere thanks for recognizing us for our role.

Hopefully this could be considered as one of our obstacles to overcome in future years.

Thank you again,

Torrey Shannon
www.TorreyShannon.com

UPDATE:  PenFed contacted me and thanked me for pointing out the error on their site.  It has been changed to show that both the caregiver AND veteran will receive an all-expense paid trip to DC for the gala and will also receive a $1500 gift card from American Express.  Now that their website has been updated, I took the time to nominate Sara Shaw via this video, which was chosen as a finalist! 


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Do you know the one question you probably shouldn’t ask a combat veteran?

I am going to share a fairly controversial topic, not so much to create arguments but to help others see how a simple question can be inappropriate. My comments will follow below.

@Paul Rieckhoff, founder of @IAVA writes via Facebook:  “People always ask us how many people we killed over there. They never ask us how many people we saved.”

My response to this is:  think about what Paul said.

My husband spent 9.5 years in sniper operations, which is a VERY long time for that MOS. As a result, he saw a lot of action in a lot of countries, in some cases he was “never there” (if you catch my drift.) Because of this, many people unknowingly ask the most inappropriate question:

“So, how many people have you killed?”

He will never tell you, I promise you that. (And at that point I want to smack you for bringing up this horrible trigger for him.) It’s not cool to remind him of how many people he has killed in his career. Why not be appreciative of how many lives he saved instead?

There are books on the market that are centered around how many “kills” a service member performed. They quote numbers and take titles of “the deadliest sniper in history”. Carlos Hathcock comes to mind, as he was famous in Vietnam and provided cutting-edge tactics that are still used today.

He should be idolized, but does it have to be for how many kills he had?

There are many veterans out there who use these numbers for publicity purposes, for bragging rights, for fame. Really, in the heat of battle, you aren’t plucking anyone out and keeping tabs. You are just trying to stay alive and protect your men. I’d dare say many of those numbers are inflated. “Confirmed kills” aren’t something to brag about, either.

My husband hit a target at 3600 meters. That’s 2 1/4 miles away! This number is much longer than any documented “shot” made in Iraq that I have ever been able to research. The point I need to make is he didn’t go back to file paperwork to get bragging rights for that shot. He had a mission to complete, not paperwork to submit!

It’s one thing to brag about an awesome shot someone made, but it’s another thing to brag about (or ask about) kills.

My final thoughts:

Those who overtly brag about the number of kills they have were likely getting in the fray for all the wrong reasons. Their answer just fuels people to ask the question elsewhere, like it’s supposed to be part of a polite discussion.

It’s not.

Please don’t ask that question of any veteran. Instead, thank them for how many lives they likely saved.

Thank you. ♥

Question for my military community readers:  Have you dealt with this problem too?

Question for my civilian readers:  Did this question ever cross your mind or come out in conversation?  How did it go?


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Scholarships for Wounded Veterans and Their Families

It’s that time of year to apply for scholarships!

Here are a few scholarship options for disabled veterans or dependents of OEF/OIF veterans injured or killed in the line of duty:

 

1: FOLDS OF HONOR FOUNDATION:

http://www.foldsofhonor.org/scholarships

Eligibility

Eligible applicants must be the spouse or dependent of:

An active duty or reserve soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman killed or disabled in the line of duty.

An active duty or reserve soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman currently classified as a POW or MIA.

A veteran who died of any cause after being classified as having a service-connected disability.

A service member missing in action or captured by hostile forces in the line of duty.

A service member forcibly detained or interned by a foreign power in the line of duty.

A service member who received a Purple Heart Medal.

2. SPREADSHEET OF MANY PROGRAMS ACROSS THE NATION: http://bluestarfam.s3.amazonaws.com/42/38/0/830/bsfscholarshipsaugust2011_sheet1.pdf

Eligibility

Varies by program

3. FREE TUITION at Lipscomb University:

http://www.lipscomb.edu/campuslife/veterans

Eligibility

If you qualify for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill (click here for percentages), Lipscomb University will match dollar-for-dollar the federal government aid provided through the Yellow Ribbon Program. This will allow you to earn any of the degrees in Lipscomb’s Yellow Ribbon Program tuition-free.

UPDATE!  (This next one was added thanks to Kristle Helmuth, the author of the blog “Forget the Dog, Not the Baby“:) )

4.  Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund:  http://www.fascholarship.com/qualifications/

Eligibility

Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund applicants must be one of the following:

  • The dependant son or daughter of a U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Guardsman or Marine who has become permanently disabled as a result of an operational mission or training accident.
  • The dependant son or daughter of a U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Guardsman or Marine who has been killed in action.
  • The dependant son or daughter of a U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Guardsman or Marine who has been classified as a Prisoner of War (POW) or Missing in Action (MIA).

All applicants must also meet the following eligibility requirements in order to qualify for a Freedom Alliance scholarship.

  • Currently in their senior year of high school, a high school graduate or a currently enrolled full time undergraduate student.
  • Under the age of 26 at the time of application.

 UPDATE AGAIN!

Found another option for scholarships that I need to share, as I found in the fine print it is NOT just for active-duty spouses and dependents but for anyone who has served 180+ days after 9-11. Please check it out and pass it along!

From @ThanksUSA via Twitter: Scholarships apps accepted from MilSpouses & Deps through 5/15 apply today at http://www.ThanksUSA.org/

From Barbara Armstrong, who shared even more resources (thanks!):

If you know of other programs available, I’d love to hear from you by sharing your own resource links in the comments section below!


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Torrey’s Top 10 Recommended Veteran Nonprofits

 

Over the years, I have come in contact with nonprofits who go above and beyond the call of duty to assist OEF/OIF (Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom) wounded veterans and their families in their road to recovery.  I have composed a list of my top 10 recommendations in no particular order. 

If you are an Iraq/Afghanistan veteran in need of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact them and tell them that I sent you.  If you have received assistance through these programs, please comment below and share your experiences with others.  Your feedback is appreciated!

If you would like to provide support for these organizations, be assured that your tax-deductible donations will be put to good use.  You will see why I recommend each one in my notes below.  Donors need to use due diligence when choosing reputable nonprofits, as many programs are scamming you for your hard-earned dollars and/or not helping veterans as much as you may think.  If ever in doubt, visit www.guidestar.org to research any nonprofit you choose to support.

You do not need to donate money to support these programs!  You can visit their website to learn about volunteer opportunities.  It won’t take much on your part to make a world of difference for a wounded hero and his/her family.

NOTE TO PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE SUPPORTERS:  I also encourage you to do business with the sponsors of each of these organizations, as listed on each of their websites.  Your everyday purchases will further their support and not cost you anything extra.  In many cases, you may even find a discount or benefit, such as one example found via  the partnership of Spark Energy and Helping a Hero.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Your recognition of each of these programs is greatly appreciated in more ways than one.  God bless you all…

Name of Organization: Type of Assistance provided: Website:
Challenge America Resource Directory/Resource Coordination http://challengeamerica.com/
Challenge Aspen Adaptive Sports http://www.challengeaspen.org/
Helping a Hero Adaptive Housing http://www.helpingahero.org/
Operation First Response Emergency Financial http://operationfirstresponse.org/
Operation Second Chance Emergency Financial http://operationsecondchance.org/
Impact a Hero Emotional and Financial http://impactahero.org/
Operation Recover Retreats and Resources http://oprecov.org/
Operation Homefront Emergency Financial http://www.operationhomefront.net/
Disabled Sports, USA Adaptive Sports http://dsusa.org/
Team River Runner Adaptive Sports http://teamriverrunner.org/

Torrey’s Notes and Disclosures:

Challenge America:  I have been serving on the Challenge America Leadership team since their inception in 2009 because I believe in this program, their mission and the people within it.  My family and I have also served as panelists for this program during Operation Yellow Ribbon at Lipscomb University.  I am not a paid spokesperson so I receive no direct benefit from your donations.  Their dedication to American veterans and their families are evident through programs such as Operation Yellow Ribbon, along with partnerships with DailyStrength.org and ShareCare.com.  Their resource directory will list resources only after they have been vetted, which is the first I’ve seen done on any resource directory.  They’ve got their priorities, and their hearts, in all the right places.  You can watch a video about their program, hosted by Charlie Daniels, Gretchen Wilson, Kix Brooks and Amy Grant by following this link:  http://www.hulu.com/watch/210237/challenge-america

Challenge Aspen:  I first came into contact with Challenge Aspen while my husband was a patient at Walter Reed in 2005.  Their Colorado-based program specializes in adaptive sports therapy and focuses on one’s abilities, not the disability.  They have programs for both male and female veterans and their families all year long.  They taught my husband that life was not over, it was just beginning!  They are the reason why we chose to move to Colorado:  to further my husband’s recovery.  We have participated in multiple programs, both winter and summer, and actively work with them to refer veterans in need so they, too, can benefit as much as we have from this program.  I am not paid by Challenge Aspen for the collaborative work I provide to help their program reach out to more veterans.  Organizations like Sopris Therapy Services in Carbondale, CO contribute their services during the Horses for Heroes program, our favorite session of the year!  You can read more about what Challenge Aspen has done for our family and others by reading this article:  A Healing Adventure, Aspen Style

Helping a Hero:  I first met Meredith Iler, the founder and Chairman of the Board of Helping a Hero, during Operation Yellow Ribbon in 2009.  When you Google Meredith, you’ll find a picture of Wonder Woman.  (I am not kidding!)  She and her dedicated board of directors receive no pay for their work, a testament of their dedication to their heroes and donors.  Since we’ve met, I’ve referred a veteran/family of six to her program to receive a home they desperately needed and help them integrate into a supportive community.  In doing so, Meredith identified our own family having unmet needs and immediately went to work in addressing them.  We attended the Helping a Hero Gala as honored guests and recipients of their program and spoke at Six Flags Great America during the Spark Energy Helping a Hero day on September 17, 2011.  We are honored that this program would give back to so many families in meaningful and tangible ways.

Operation First Response:  This was the very first program to reach out to Dan and our family when we were living at the Mologne House (hotel) at Walter Reed.  Five to a tiny hotel room with two double beds and no kitchenette, we were washing our clothes in the bathtub and eating two meals a day because we could not afford the basics.  Peggy Baker, an ANGEL in my mind, found me sobbing in the corner because I just couldn’t deal with the stress of our situation that particular day.  They are responsible for providing the money we needed to get our marriage license and remarry at the courthouse.  Later, in 2009, they helped us transition in our move to Colorado.  I have since referred many veterans to their program and they are always willing to help.  I owe them so many thanks!  They literally changed our future with one small gesture of support. 

Operation Second Chance:  This is another of the “first” programs that were formed early in the war and have been consistently delivering support for about seven years.  I met Cindy McGrew, the OSC founder, while she was toting bags and bags of canned goods, supplies and items to provide comfort through the Malogne House.  The contents of the bags weighed more than she did!  In 2005 her program chose our family to sponsor as “Secret Santa” to provide Christmas for our family.  We had no means of our own at that time, and they created memories for us that we will never forgot.  They have also helped us transition in our move to Colorado and have gladly helped dozens of veterans that I have referred to their program.  They are truly making a difference every day!

Impact a Hero:  My husband met Dick Lynch while we were at Walter Reed and spoke fondly of him as a mentor and source of emotional support.  Dick never forgot about Dan, even after he left Walter Reed and kept in touch with him.  It wasn’t until 2009 at Operation Yellow Ribbon that I finally got to meet Dick and give him a hug to say, “Thank you” in return.  His program helped our family transition in our move to Colorado and continues to help high-risk veterans that we’ve identified and referred to their program. 

Operation Recover:  This is a newer organization that is doing great things by providing resources and retreats to veterans and their families.  Wendy Walker, a hero in my book and the founder of Operation Recover, has a dedication unmatched by anyone I know.  Her understanding of TBI and PTSD is very in-depth, and her program works tirelessly to reach out to high-risk cases with extremely positive outcomes.  I highly recommend anyone to this program!

Operation Homefront:  Operation Homefront is a large organization that serves the entire nation.  They are responsible for placing a homeless family that I referred into transitional housing and have helped us in our transition to Colorado.  With chapters in every state, their assistance is only a phone call or email away.

Disabled Sports, USA:  This is the parent organization for many adaptive sports programs, founded long before the war began.  They provide opportunities through their program and for smaller programs to offer adaptive sports therapy on many levels.  Thanks to this program, either directly or indirectly, they have given Dan and our family the chance to “live” again through activities such as water skiing, whitewater paddling, snow skiing and many other forms of therapy.  I highly recommend sports therapy to anyone with a disability.  This program makes it possible.

Team River Runner:  Joe Mornini is, in our opinion, a saint.  A school teacher by trade, he formed Team River Runner at the first influx of combat wounded coming in to Walter Reed.  Dan was one of the first Team River Runner paddlers to join the program and now 7 years later we are all one large family!  Dan has since started his Class 3 water rescue certification and their program now spans the nation in VA centers everywhere.

Please note that there are WAY more than ten nonprofits that I recommend, so not seeing a nonprofit on this list does not constitute a lack of endorsement from me.  You can look at my sidebar for additional mentions of nonprofits that are doing great things for veterans.  Examples include www.veteranaid.org, www.avbi.org, and resource sites such as www.vawatchdogtoday.comIf ever in doubt, feel free to comment below to ask about my experiences (both good and bad) with other organizations!


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Torrey’s Tip of the Day: Don’t be alarmed if your husband yells at a flushing toilet

(This might be based on a true story, which may or may not have happened yesterday morning.)

Once upon a time there was a man.  He is not a ‘normal’ man, per se, but he’s still a man.  Minding his own business, the man took care of business in the quiet solitude of his sanctuary.  There was a flush heard through the door, just like any other flush.  A normal flush, let’s just say.

This is where the semi-normal man made everyone question the ‘semi’ part of his normal.  This was not just any normal flush, either.

Moments later, the man started screaming “NO-O-o-o-o-o-o-!  You have to COME BA-A-A-CK!” while looking into the maelstrom.

Most wives would have called the psychiatrist to announce in defeat, “Yeah, doc.  He’s totally lost it.  He wants his shit back.  What?  Oh, no, I didn’t take anything of his belongings.  You are not hearing me!  He literally wants his SHIT back.  Now what do I do?”

Upon further inquiry, my husband the semi-normal man had apparently donned his “Superman” cape (AKA robe) with great flair.  Zorro would have been proud.

The problem is, he did it just. after. he. flushed.

Mid-flush, the robe hit something on the counter, something belonging to his son, something very important to his son, and arced in a perfect trajectory through the air…right into the swirling vortex of the toilet bowl.

The end.

Lesson of the day:  Don’t be alarmed if your husband yells at a flushing toilet, asking for things to come back.  It’s normal, at least in our house.

(P.S.  For all those out there who are married to semi-normal men, it may be a good idea to keep your wedding rings away from the sink.)

(P.S.S.  Dan, forgive me for telling this story to the world, but it had to be told.  I love you.)  {winks}

If that wasn’t funny enough for you, be sure to check out:


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Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Piss Off a Wounded Warrior’s Wife

Wounded Warrior’s Wives are not to be trifled with.  Here are the top 5 reasons why:

5:  We are ready to fight, just like our husband’s once were.

We know how to fight because we practice it every day.  We spent years following our husbands across the globe, always ‘ready’ for his next mission.  Now it’s our turn and we are taking the helm.  We fight with doctors to get the proper treatment he deserves.  We fight with Tricare, the VA and Medicare to get that treatment paid for.  We fight with the VA to get the benefits he deserves.  We fight with the DoD to keep his military records straight.

We fight for his rights as a disabled person with airlines, restaurants and any other business that is lacking in basic knowledge of ADA laws. We fight with creditors who harass us in illegal ways when we give up our jobs (and our incomes) to care for our spouses.  We fight with big banks to stay in our homes, despite how many military consumer laws were ignored.  We fight with people in our communities, our state representatives, and on a national level to bring awareness about the needs and fundamental rights of our spouses.

We fight to educate our friends and family when they get mad at us for cancelling at the last minute, or in the middle of, social functions.  We even fight amongst ourselves when the going gets too rough.  We fight to keep our kids on an even keel when his PTSD kicks in.  Some of us even fight to keep custody of our kids after ‘concerned’ family members hear the words “PTSD” and assume our husband will end up in a clock tower someday.

Do you think for a second that we would hesitate to fight with a complete stranger who was totally asking for it?

4.  We have popular blogs, use social media liberally – and all major media outlets are on our speed dial.

We are a verbal and opinionated lot, us gals.  We share our lives through our blogs, through social media, and with each other.  And, when someone pisses us off, we blog about it for the masses to read for all eternity, talk about it in social media until it goes viral…or we just call The Washington Post, Huffington Post or the New York Times.  Some of us even write for these outlets. News travels fast.

Do you think for a New York Times minute that any wrongdoing on your part will go unnoticed?

3:  We are social deviants.

We were real people once, and may find ourselves again someday, but until then we’ve followed our husbands to live in the middle of nowhere, far from the environmental triggers of a city (AKA urban jungle, kill zone, etc.), living in semi-isolation.  We have cut off ties and disposed of the majority of our friends or family who refused to understand our situation or circumstances.  We all suffer from the residue of PTSD, a term now called ‘secondary PTSD’.  We deal with flashbacks, nightmares, disassociative episodes and bouts of depression (on both sides).  We take care of husbands who are housebound, usually wearing a caretaker uniform of PJ’s and a ponytail, praying the VA will recognize the level of care that we give each day.  We don’t go to the salon to get our hair or nails done unless someone else pays for it, which they don’t.  There is no room (or time off) for such frills.  We stay home with our husbands, caring for them 24/7, and carve out as much sanity as we can find.

Our lives are not like other people’s lives. Do you really want to make us angry? Or do you want to give us a really really wide berth and back away slowly because you’re scared of what we might do if we snap?  Yes, you say?  Heh…that’s a VERY good choice.

2.  We are already angry.

We accept responsibility for marrying a military man, but we do not easily accept having a different man than we married coming back from war.  Some of our husband’s do not remember our own children’s names.  They don’t remember how to dress themselves, the route to take to pick the kids up from school, or how to cook a simple meal.  Our husbands have no recollection of our wedding day, our favorite flowers, or even our birthday or anniversary date.  We are not angry with THEM about these things:  We are furious at the cards we were dealt and indignant that such a horrible thing had to happen to our husbands in the first place.  We are angry about the loss of the marriage we were supposed to have, and we never truly stop mourning.  We’re angry at the doctors who blow us off when we give our input, or the VA who puts him into a backlog while we wait for benefits that would keep a roof over our head or food in our stomachs.  We hold a grudge against anybody who ever failed us as we tried to make sense of this chaos.  We are also furious at ourselves, because we constantly feel like we’re not doing enough to help.

We are already the poster children of resentment…do you want to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?

1.  We are sleep (and, likely sex) deprived.

Some of us haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years.  Between the stress, depression, anxiety, and the husband who wakes up screaming multiple times a night from nightmares and flashbacks, we’re all beyond exhausted.  A nap after sex would help, but that’s not happening either.  Between the two of us, whether it is our medications, depression, sleep deprivation and/or exhaustion, our libido is now GONE.  Replacing sex with intimacy only goes so far…

We’re muddled and short-tempered and irrational and crazy.  Like ax-murderer crazy.

There are all sorts of studies linking sleep deprivation to psychosis and that would probably hold up in court if I decided to assault you.  In my best Dirty Harry voice, I ask:  “Do you feel lucky?”

Keep this all in mind the next time you fail to keep your opinions to yourself, spout out absurdities about how easy our lives are, or just plain don’t give a damn about our injured service members in the first place.

…and beware the Wounded Warrior’s Wife.

In an effort to keep our vitriol in a nicely contained space so everyone can be safe, I invite WWW’s to use the comment section to vent about the people (or things, or circumstances) that piss you off.  Tell us what you said (or what you wished you had said) or rant away…I am pleased to be able to offer this public service to keep the rest of society protected.

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