Depression

Depression.  It’s a funny thing.  Not funny as in haha, but funny as in irony.  It isn’t something that is always felt.  It isn’t always a state of “feeling down” or “feeling blue,” if it is even felt that way at all. Sometimes, it can be a sneaky bastard that sneaks up on you with no warning.  Before you know it, it’s hold on you is so great, so strong, that it can make getting out of bed feel painful and at times, impossible.  Others cant see the depression, and often times look like nothing is wrong.  Many times, we don’t even recognize it  ourselves, that we are depressed.  We only know that we have no drive, no energy, with everything being difficult. Our focus is limited, and our desire to sleep so we can dream as a way to escape is strong.  The yearning to dream becomes what drives us, so we can escape the heaviness and complexity that has become our life.  Life, simply put, has become too difficult.  It isn’t as if we meant it to become that way, or that we can simply control it.  In fact, it is harder to control our feelings when depression has turned into despair.  The weight of life can become too much to bare.  One feels like they are in quicksand, or treading in water, struggling to keep their head above the surface.  When we are that deep in, it can be difficult to get yourself out, especially without the help of a professional.  

So, how do we help someone we love, when they aren’t ourselves, but know they are depressed? We know how they feel.  We know where they are at.  But how do we help them?  In some respect, you empathize and try to nudge and gently push. But not too much, in fear of sending them either further in the rabbit hole, with the dark thoughts finally taking over, and ending with tragedy.  Or in fear of possibly sending them in the opposite direction, in an unintended push back into the sleepless nights, the adrenaline rush, and after the 3rd day of no sleep, the alter ego, Mr. Hyde showing his ugly face. The balance can be so delicate, it’s hard to know what the right answer is. It’s hard to know how to help your loved one, knowing the only way you were pulled out was through the help of a professional.  But how do you get help for someone who is refusing it?  

And then, the other part of you is mad.  Angry even, that they refuse to get help.  You got help, so why can’t they?  Why can’t they see what this is doing to you?  To their children?  Why cant they WANT to get help, even if it is only for their family?   The feeling of helplessness and the frustration that goes along with it.  You want to scream at them, shake them out of it since the encouragement, the gentle nudges, and pushes have gone on to be ineffective.  A momentary wish of bitch slapping them out of it comes to mind, but you quickly realize that too isn’t the answer.  Your marriage counselor would likely frown on that.  

And there is so much you want to say to them, but don’t, for fear of making things worse. You tell them their family needs them, their children need them, only to have it appear as though it isn’t enough.  And the fear sets in that you and your children are become just that.  Not enough.  The answer seems so damn elusive, that you yourself are beyond frustrated, and feeling helpless.  Hopeless even.  The fear is a harsh reality.  A reality you hope never comes to be.  

Damn this depression.  You curse it, call out its name, you try to shove it out of the way, and yet it remains.  Takes further hold even.  You see your loved one slipping away, and nothing seems to snap them back into reality.  And you wonder, where do we go from here?  Can we go up?  Or do we go even further down?  What is the answer?  I wish I knew.

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Anxiety

Anxiety isn’t something that a person can control.  It is something that is completely irrational, and something that creates an irrational thought process.  The funny part is, or perhaps the sad part, is that you know the feeling and thoughts are completely irrational, but again, it simply is difficult to control.  If you have ever had anxiety, then you know what I’m talking of.  People who have never felt true anxiety will tell you that it is something you have to get over, or that it can be easily controlled, and it isnt that simple.

As a young child, I suffered from anxiety.  Not just anxiety, but severe anxiety which led to panic attacks, that led to agoraphobia.  I was so afraid to leave the house for fear of having a panic attack.  After several years, my family moved to a new town and slowly my panic attacks lessened.  Anxiety was still there but not as severe.  As I grew older, I learned what seemed to increase my anxiety, and what I could do to curb it.

Today, I rarely have anxiety.  To this day, we don’t know what started my anxiety, or why I simply grew out of it.  At times, I still get anxious, and can feel it creeping up.  There are times that I go back inside myself, and experience avoidance.  The one thing I have learned is that avoidance adds to the issues, and makes things worse.  As much as I hated it, and at times still hate it, talking and hitting the issue head on helps my anxiety.  Giving in to the anxiety and avoidance only makes things worse.  Taking that first step is absolutely the hardest.  But after that, I take another, and another, with each step becoming easier.

I go in to this past to say that my husband is now where he once saw me.  Since we have known one another, I have had two major panic attacks, both at work, where has had to come and get me.  The one thing I cant do for my husband is to make him see that what he does is only making it worse.  Avoidance is a slippery slop, that if not hit head on, a person gets further and further within themselves, making it harder to crawl back out.  As the person on the other side, it is frustrating at times because I see where he is at.  Since I know what he is experiencing as far as symptoms, I know that there is nothing that I can do to help him.  It is something that he will have to crawl out of himself.  For me, having someone say something to me about it, or tell me to get over it, only makes it worse.  Sometimes, it will actually increase my anxiety.

Finding that thing that helps, the thing that will get you through the anxiety, through the avoidance, through the isolation, is something that sometimes has to be found by themselves.  Whether it is changing their diet, breathing exercises, medication, yoga, service dog, etc., it has to be something that works for THEM.  Being by their side, knowing that someone is there when they are ready, DOES make a difference, but don’t push, don’t chastise, be kind, be by their side when needed, give space when needed, and be ready to talk and help when they are ready, not when you are ready.

 

 

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

drjekyllmrhyde

Do you ever sometimes feel like you’re dealing with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde scenario?   The frustrating part of dealing with sweet and nice Dr. Jekyll, when all of a sudden a completely different person, one who can be a complete and utter asshole comes out leaving the wind knocked from your sails?

Lately, my husband has been doing well, and for that I am extremely proud.  For the past year and a half, I have had to take a hiatus of sorts with regards to the support group to help my husband.  He needed me and demanded more of my time.  For the past months, he is been doing somewhat well: taking his medication as he is supposed to, contacting the VA to be seen for therapy (which is a complete 1st, and I am very proud of him), has been sweet, and even supportive of me getting back in to helping other spouses.

Then this morning, a different person pops out.  He let me sleep in, taking the baby when he woke up at 5am.  Sweet right?  I would come to regret it later.  After I woke up, and got ready for work, we were discussing family business.  Then the snide comment comes.  Completely out of left field.  I asked if he was serious.  He said yes he was serious.  I realize my husband memory is short, but is it that damn short that he forgets just yesterday that he was thanking me for everything I’ve done, and how I have held this family together?

I don’t say anything after that.  I gather my things for work, get our son, dropping him of at pre-school and go to work.  Honestly, I start to stew at that point.  Pissed doesn’t even begin to describe how his comment made me feel.  I felt he was being completely ungrateful, unreasonable, and shortsighted. Damnit, I have been the one keeping this family afloat and going. I’ve been the one sacrificing, and going through the motions, and doing everything in my power to get him help, to get us to a point we are today. And damnit, I think I have don’t a pretty good f-ing job of it too.

Needless to say, I did something I shouldn’t have, doing something I continually advise against. I sent a text filled with anger, cussing, and all around don’ts when it comes to relationships, especially a relationship with PTSD involved. Yup, I did it. After complaining at his comment, and telling him what I thought of his comment, I gave him the old F*** you. I know I know. Bad idea right? Right.

So after work, I come home, and I see him watching American Sniper. Of course, I know what the movie is, but I ask him anyway what he was watching. Nothing. Yup, nothing. Not a word. So, I ask if he is going to talk to me. No words, just shaking his head. He gets up, and speaks sweetly to the kids. Very nice to them. Not a word to me. Nope, not one word. He gets ready for work, and leaves shortly after my arrival home….going in to work 3 hours early.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Was I childish? Yes. Was the text necessary? No. Should I have done it? No. I just snapped in a moment of being tired of not snapping, and angry the way I felt, and the way he made me feel by his comment. Should I have conveyed that to him in a more productive and different way? Absolutely. When it comes to PTSD, for myself, the feeling of being unable to control the situation is maddening….

And then I begin to think…and think. Imagine the way he feels. Imagine the frustrating feeling at times of feeling out of control. Unable to stop the way he feels. Doing everything that he can to do it a different way, yet cant stop the way he feels. Of course, I think of this and what do I do? The thing we women do best at times we shouldn’t….feel guilt. Feel horrible at the way I reacted to him. With PTSD, I cant control his feelings, actions or sometimes the day to day, BUT I can control MY reaction, and the way I react to it. And today, I reacted horribly, and if I get down to it, I overreacted. Am I justified in my feeling? Maybe. Am I justified in the way I reacted? No.

And so it goes….I am going to do the only thing I know how…which is apologize….even if I don’t feel 100% at fault. While the child in me wants to stay mad, and give him the silent treatment, the adult in me knows that isn’t the right answer. I should apologize, realizing that I could in fact, be making things worse for him, worse for me, and worse for us. When it is all said and done, he is my best friend, he is my confident, he is my husband, and I don’t want it any other way. I accepted him just the way he is, PTSD and all. Sometimes, I have to do all I can to make things a little bit easier. That doesn’t mean I should accept bad behavior, but it doesn’t mean I have to be a bitch either.

When the Police Arrested My Veteran….Our Story

Four years ago back in March, my husband, a 6’5 black man, who is a United States Veteran living with PTSD, was arrested. At the time, Michael had only been out of the military for 4 months, after 15 and a half years of service and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He was home, but struggling in a nightmarish hell of his own mind. The military quickly pushed him out with a 90 day supply of meds and told him good luck. He was registered with the VA, but waiting to be seen; it took almost year for a psych doc to see him. We did everything we could to get him help. Two weeks before the morning of his arrest, he had gotten out of a 4 day inpatient stay.

On the morning of his arrest, Michael seemed to be in a good mood. He went out with a friend, and I took our daughter to the store to pick up a few things. On the way back home, I saw Michael’s car at a fast food restaurant with four police cars surrounding it, lights on.  My heart sunk, and I had a knot in the pit of my stomach. I made a u-turn, but by the time I came on the scene my husband was in handcuffs in the police car. I asked one of the officers what was going on. I explained that I was his wife, and showed him my ID. I also explained that my husband had just gotten out of the military. We believed he had PTSD, and we were trying to get him help.

The officer explained my husband had become irate, and refused to leave after he felt the service was too slow. They let me know what my husband was being charged with and let me know where I could post bail.  The officers assured me that a few of them were familiar with PTSD. A couple of officers were vets themselves, or had vets in their family. The officer was polite, professional, and talked to me, which he did not have to do.

Looking back on that day, those officers made a major difference in the direction we were heading in my husband’s treatment. The arresting officer even came to court to speak up for my husband. Something in Michael snapped that day.  For months, he had faced crippling anxiety, anger outbursts (anger, yelling, cussing), nightmares, very little to no sleep, as he struggled to cope with being out of the military. While on active duty, the military health system placed him on several medications with little oversight from a doctor. When he was out, he was taking the same medications with no oversight from a doctor.  Despite his outburst that day, those police officers respected Michael and his life. Had he been in another jurisdiction, I can’t say the outcome would have been the same. In talking with my husband later, he said that the police never drew their weapon on him, and that all the officers worked together to take him down.

To say my husband was out of control would probably be an accurate statement.  Seeing my husband in his fits of rage, I can only imagine what the officers were thinking, especially since  he is 6’5 and 220 lbs.  By the grace of God, they looked beyond his rage and saw a human being, albeit a broken one. He is alive today because of those police officers, and was given the chance to get the help he so desperately needed. When I see the news of police shootings of unarmed men, I wish I could thank those officers for their professionalism in a volatile situation.  The outcome could have been deadly, but thankfully, these police officers worked together to take my husband down and kept everyone safe.

Four years later, after a very hard, very long road, and proper medical care, my husband is not where he was the morning he got arrested. I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to the officers who responded to my husband’s mental health crisis. The officers saw beyond my husband’s actions, and aided a person in crisis. To me, these men are angels, having turned the tide in my husband’s recovery.  I will be forever grateful to them, and I hope they know how much they mean to us.

Positive stories of police, as well as positive stories of minorities need to be acknowledged and shared, so that negatives are not all we see of certain group. Seeing only the negative adds to fear and feeds stereotypes. These are stories of individual people. They aren’t responsible for anyone’s actions but their own, and must be judged by this fact, both officer, and minorities.

My heart hurts for where we are in America.  My heart hurts for the families of those lives lost in recent weeks. As a white woman, married to a black man, with biracial children, I feel an ever-growing pain and angst. I can’t fully comprehend what is occurring in America right now. We should not be this far gone in 2016, this divided, and hurting.

We absolutely must have a conversation to discuss police brutality in America. We must acknowledge that bad and corrupt cops exist, but we also need to emphasize that most police officers are good, and truly care about their job. These officers value life, and the people they serve. They take their job seriously and do it to the best of their ability. The good officers do try to make a difference, and go unnoticed most days. They put their lives on the line daily for the people in their community. They too, are hurting. Many know the system has to change, but know some leaders are unwilling to change it. Just like we can’t condemn a group of people based on the color of their skin, or for the actions of a few, we can’t condemn a whole profession for the actions of a few.

Military Spouses

There is something to a military spouse.  The resilience, strength, and ability to adapt to change at a moments notice is something we as military spouses have, and continue to have, if not more so, after our loved one comes home.  We have a bond and connection to one another even though we dont know one another.  We have that knowing of “I’ve been there” empathy towards each other, or “I can only imagine what you’re going through”.  We are a small community, and can even say family.  We are one of a kind.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop the Stigma!

As I look at another news stories that brings spotlight on soldier suicide, I’m saddened at the comments by civilians and some military members or their families on these stories posted by the tv news channels.  One of the news organizations called the soldier a “suspect,” like the soldier was a criminal.  Calling him a suspect is not only insensitive it is adding to an already wide spread stigma. He needs help, not being viewed as a criminal.

There is a stigma not only in the military but in our news media as well on soldier/veteran suicide and PTSD.  For many people, they associate our veterans and service members with PTSD as being homicidal who are capable at any moment of killing massive amounts of people.   Very few time does the tv news media actually show what most veterans with PTSD go through day by day, and the simple fact that they aren’t violent.  The news media doesn’t bring up the massive amounts of medications our veterans and service members are given.  Medications that can bring on more issues.  They don’t bring up the fact that most of these active duty service members go to get help only to receive very little, or veterans who seek help stand in a l o no line, waiting many months, only to give up in the interim.

The stigma is still there, and if we want to stop that stigma, we have to start with the leaders in our military and our tv news organizations.  Our leaders in the military cannot ignore a service member when they start showing signs of PTSD.  Leaders should be trained on the signs of PTSD,  and go through classes on what to do if a service member starts to show signs of PTSD.  They also cannot punish that person or ignore loved ones coming from them.  Getting help to our service members quickly is paramount.  The sooner they get help, the better.

With the news media, stop sensationalized these stories when a service member or veteran is violent.  Help educate about PTSD/veteran suicide and be a part of the solution not the problem.  These are not only people we are talking about, these are people who have sacrificed for their country.  Just because you can’t see their wounds doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  Please, stop the stigma.Supportthosewhosuffer-