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.

Safety Plan

One of the things I am finding important is coming up with a safety plan.  It it is a good thing to have, and discuss with your spouse.  I was recently given a blank safety plan to fill in/tweek with what will fit us.  Once complete, it will be printed out, and put up in certain areas of the house to remember what is to happen if we get to that point where we have to draw the line.  Below is the blank safety plan that I was given, and was told I could share.  Please feel free to save it, and create your own. For us at the end I will add at the end what will happen if none of the items listen help, which likely means inpatient is the result.

BLANK COPY SAFETY PLAN

They Sacrifice

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Don’t think our service men and women don’t sacrifice?  Think again.  Not only do they sacrifice themselves when they go off to war, but while gone, they sacrifice time with their family, missing out on birthdays, holidays, births, deaths, and special moments.  They miss that first step their child makes, or the first word, or even the first day of kindergarten.  From war, many lose a piece of themselves, some physically,  some mentally, some both and some lose their lives. 

While yes, we do have a volunteer military, and our loved ones volunteered for their country, they did so so yours wouldn’t have to.   If not for the men and women who volunteer for the war they go to (justified war or not), those who don’t want to go, would be forced to do so.

So while you may not agree with their mission, you can still support the ones that fight.  They are still owed our gratitude and our respect.  They have sacrificed so much, and are asked to continue to do so.  Isn’t it time we sacrificed too?  For many, the scars are deep, and for some, invisible.

The support shouldn’t stop once they are home.  Support our Vets should be just as big of a catch phrase and action as Support our Troops. 

We lose 22 veterans a day to suicide.  Shouldn’t it be time we tell them #youmatter?

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Ways to help

I often see questions from civilians who do not have a loved one that is a vet or a service member,  what can they do to show they support the troop by more than simply saying it.

As the spouse of a veteran with PTSD, here are some of my suggestions.

Get involved – Many communities are creating organizations to touch on military and veterans issues.

If you are in a church, find a way to create programs to help vets and their families. For example, create a children’s night. Have a safe place the parents can drop the kids off, knowing they are safe, to give the kids a chance to play with other kids, and a chance for mommy and daddy to reconnect.

If you are a pastor, educate yourself on PTSD, and get training so you can help those in your congregation that may be suffering.

If you own a business, hire a vet.

If you are a professional (Dr., psychologist, therapist, lawyer), offer pro bono work to veteran’s and their families. Many vets and their families are going without healthcare. Many need a lawyer because they have gotten themself in trouble, or they have family issues, or need help with appeals, ssi or initial filing.

Find ways to help them. Find out what their needs are. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to. Be there for them. Some are coming home to no help or loved ones. Try to become a friend to them. There are many ways people can help. When you say we support our troops, don’t just say it, but mean it.

The last suggestion I have is, educate yourself on invisible wounds.  Help us raise awareness, and join us in fighting for them.  Write your congressman and senators, demanding action.  Demanding more help, and for them to start showing their appreciation for our vets.  Find out which politicians are against veteran’s benefits, and NO MATTER WHAT PARTY THEY ARE IN, VOTE THEM OUT.  We do not need politicians up there who want to take away the little benefits that our veterans do get.  They have no business in Washington.  I dont care what party they are in.

Support our vets

A Journey

Here is an interview my husband and I sat down to last year whenever I was first starting the local peer to peer support group.  We stepped out in faith and outside our comfort zone.

We met with Laurie, from Channel 3 here in Hampton Roads, to participate in an interview to raise awareness and inform those in our area about the support group I am starting, PTSD, and its effects on the Veteran and their family.

In doing this interview, it was not easy for either of us. When you put yourselves out there, you are worried about judgment from other people. Hesitation is what the devil wants. The devil will try to hold us back as much as he can. I realize this is not about us, but helping others through what we have gone through. I do not want any other spouse to feel as alone as I did. We had to step out of our comfort zone, and step out on faith, in hopes of helping others who are going through what we have gone through.

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Channel 3 interview

Channel 3 interview – Web Extra

 

 

 

PTSD is like a pickle

I remember when we first started the process of getting my husband into the VA, my husband’s case worker gave an analogy to describe PTSD.  PTSD is like a pickle.  You can take a cucumber and turn it into a pickle, but you cant take a pickle and turn it back in to a cucumber.  There are several types of pickles; dill, sweet, bread and butter, “wickles,” etc.  It is up to the person to decide what “type of pickle” they want to be.  You then learn to love the taste of the pickle, but it will never be a cucumber again.  That analogy has stayed with me.  I know that my husband is forever changed, and the person who I knew is gone.  He still has parts of him remaining, but he is forever changed. Learning to accept and love the “new pickled” him has it’s challenging moments, but I still love this man with all my heart, who he was, and who he is now, “pickled” and all.

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Asking instead of Telling

Something I have found myself doing as of lately, is telling my husband what to do, instead of asking him.  After the behavioral issues we have dealt with over the past few years, I have found myself treating him as though he is my third child, and at times, it doesnt help things.  In fact, it can hurt.  I know for myself that I dont like being told what to do, like I am a child.  Why should my husband be any different?

One of the important things I am finding and having to remember is he is still an adult.  It is a hard balance going between behavioral issues, back to good, and having to learn to trust his abilities again.  I can honestly say I dont know that I will ever get back to not having questions about behavior, or decision making, but for the sake of our marriage, I have to learn not to treat him like a child, and TELL him what to do.  Asking him to do something goes a long way, along with a please and thank you thrown in there.  It comes down to respect, and I respect my husband

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Stopping the blame game and putting action behind “Support our troops”

One of the things I try to do is  keep my own political views to myself, at least off my public sights concerning our veterans.  One of the things I always remember my grandfather, and father say is you dont talk about politics (however this doesnt apply to them today, they are just like everyone else, freely speaking their mind about their views).  We all have different political opinions, and unfortunately these types of conversation are rarely kept civil.  Keep in mind, I am a Political Science major.  Not because I want to be a politician, but because I want to “learn the game” to help our veterans and their families, however that leads me to helping them.  The last thing I want to be is a politician, but do want the knowledge of how our system works, can lead me to finding ways to help.
With all of this said, I do want to bring up politics for a moment, but not for the reasons one might think.  One of the things I see over and over again on the posts about the VA scandal is people who automatically begin blaming one political figure, one party or the other.  STOP making veterans about the left or right.  We lose 22 veterans A DAY to suicide.  That is someone’s father, husband, brother, mother, wife, sister, friend.  The number is likely HIGHER than that due to the lack of a streamlined reporting system, and only getting the numbers from 21 states.  Our veterans issues not only affect the veteran, they affect the FAMILIES.  These issues ARE NOT just a republican or democrat issue.  It is AN AMERICAN issue.  Stop trying to make it about blaming one or the other, and come together for the sake of our vets and their families.  We have so many veterans families who are losing everything and many losing their loved one while people are arguing over who is to blame.  JUST FIX IT, and put action behind “Supporting our troops.”

This type of point the blame attitude is the wrong attitude to have, and will not help our veterans.  When we are so divided on this very important issue, very little will be accomplished to help them.