Tag Archives: PTSD

Casualties of War

 

I am not naive enough to believe that war does not involve ugliness beyond my imagination. 

But what of the ugliness when it is experienced by the person you love most?

Who are the real casualties of war? 

There are so many.  So many faces near and far that haunt the soldiers we love the most.

Recently, I had a birthday – don’t ask which one, let’s play nice here – the good Sergeant Major (SGM) took me out to dinner at the restaurant we went to on our first date nearly ten years ago. 

It was a beautiful, hot-as-hell summer day and I was relieved to be sitting in the a/c and sipping a glass of wine and chatting it up with the love of my life. 

Behind me, above the bar area was a television displaying the latest headlines.  One video clip in particular caught the SGM’s attention and he apologized for the interruption but he had to take a moment to watch.  It was something regarding a group of Taliban training in the mountains of Afghanistan. 

“Wow. I really miss that.” 

What’s to miss?  The sound of bullets piercing metal?  The ringing in your ears after an IED explodes just a few meters away?  The scattered, smoldering remains of the suicide bomber and his victims?  The smell of death? 

No thank you.  I simply could not handle such things. 

A knot begins to form in my belly and suddenly I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the parts of my spouse I do not know or understand.  I am pretty sure I took a rather large swig of wine at this point. 

How do you reconcile the man versus the soldier? 

This is not a new subject between us.  My SGM and I have always talked openly and honestly.  He has shared the ugliness of war with me from the beginning, stories of his time as a scout sniper in Desert Storm.  He speaks cautiously, carefully choosing his words as though he has yet to process these events himself.  Often, it sounds as though he is reviewing a film he caught at the local cinema with a few buddies.  Surreal, graphic detail of the reality of war.  I find it all easy to take in at first and make sure that I am involved in the conversation.  I maintain eye contact and ask questions.  I ask him how it felt.  I ask him how it feels now.  The conversations flow, though they always come back to haunt my dreams. 

I am not so disturbed by the graphic nature of war as much as I find it a strange reality to process.  As if my brain is saying – hey, I don’t have a file folder for this.  So it becomes an awkward bubble of information that floats from one space to the next, occasionally popping up into my consciousness and reminding me that my SGM is truly a hero in so many ways.  That his service to our country to protect our freedoms does not come without a heavy price and many casualties – the lives that are lost, the lives that are changed forever and the distance that grows each day between a soldier at war and the loving arms of his family back home.  The sights, the smells and the carnage of war.  The heavy burdens our soldiers carry for a lifetime. 

So many casualties.  So many that go unnoticed – 

The little girl who fell to her death from the shockwaves of a Taliban mortar – some nights I swear I can see her face. 

The family whose son is ripped from their arms and made into a terrorist. 

The mother and father who willingly hug their child with pride and send them off to serve this great nation – never to feel that embrace again. 

The military spouse left behind to care for a child with autism – without the therapies that child needs and deserves – without a roadmap for this journey.

1 in 88 – unnecessary casualties of war.

It is time to change that. 

Please support the Caring for Military Kids with Autism Act – HERE.

We cannot change the world without first being the change we seek.

Thank you,

Rachel

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PTSD Part II

[Editor’s note: To echo Jess from Diary of a Mom  today, I am reposting my own PTSD experience to share again.]

·

There is an interesting topic of discussion brewing in the autism community… Stemming from an otherwise “typical” conversation between an amazing group of moms navigating life with autism on board. 

After blurting out “PTSD” at a recent gathering of other Warrior Mamas, I thought for a moment my snarkyness had gotten the best of me, and perhaps I had gone a little too far this time.  After what felt like the longest and most awkward pause in conversation, in a room full of women I had never met before, the reaction so far has been nothing less than positively healing… I think my fellow Mama did the most spectacular job bringing this topic out of the darkness and into the light >here<. 

~~~~~

It seemed like a great idea — Sergeant Major had the day off today, the kids were at school, and we decided to begin the arduous task of prepping for our ridiculously gigantic yard sale this spring. FEEL THE PURGE, BABY is our new motto.

I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.

After less than an hour of sorting through boxes and piles of everything you can imagine — I suddenly felt like I had just stepped away from the most unbelievable car wreck, where everyone is staring at me because they cannot believe I haven’t a scratch on me.  Except — I am broken everywhere on the inside.

Five long years of everything I had planned to do lay before me, tearing away at my heart, ripping my soul to shreds.  A set of small plastic pots from when my son begged for the third spring in a row to plant some sunflower seeds and watch them grow.  I had finally bought the seeds, and now had no idea whatever became of them.  There were empty picture frames by the dozen.  The most beautiful pictures of my boy when he was 3, that never saw the light of day.   I stood there unable to move for what seemed like hours.  I felt stricken by those deep, dark greenish eyes and how he must see right through me.  Every promise I had made to him that disappeared amid the chaos of 4q and deployments and autism.

Then there were the fairy wings I got RM to wear for preschool when she was 3.  It had been Princess Week.  Most of the little girls wore their favorite Disney Princess gowns every day to camp, beaming with pride from their tiaras down to their slippered toes.  RM wore the precious green wings long enough for me to take one picture outside of the school. 

Really, it was the absence of fruitless promises to my little angel that burned me.  There were no piles of projects never touched, nor dress-up clothes for her to grow up and fuss with.  Nothing of what one expects to share with their baby girl as they watch her grow into a young lady.  Rather, boxes and boxes of medical supplies and feeding tube bags. 

PTSD.

It was more than four years of struggles and surgeries and the sweetest, lingering goodnight kisses PRAYING they would not be the last — hitting me all at once — a powerful, silent undertow dragging me deeper into an abyss of emotion, filling my lungs with salty tears — desperately flailing to stay afloat —

With autism on board.

~~~~

I cannot describe how blessed I feel that in a flood of sobs I was able to tell my SGM how I was feeling today… and he understood completely.  He had been sorting through his five years of wreckage, too.


It’s an Anniversary, Charlie Brown

Eight years.  EIGHT YEARS!!! 

~~~~

                    “I freaked out. I joined the Army. I went into business for myself… I’m a professional killer.”

                 “I hear that’s a growth industry.”  

 (“Grosse Pointe Blank” 1997)

~~~~

Well it’s more like five years when you subtract the time that Hub has cheated on me with the Army.

Seems like yesterday.

Well no – no, it doesn’t seem like yesterday at all.

I love you, Honey, but it’s been a LOOOONG road.  Albeit a blessed one with many more ups than downs, most is a literal blur.

Our story is like a drive-by shooting – with paint guns – it sounds fun when you’re strapping on all that gear, loading your weapon with neon pink pellets because you know how hilarious it will look to see your manly soldier all decked out in Pepto Bismol.  But then you step onto the game field and it’s a WHOLE ‘NOTHER STORY.

We met in August, 2001.

Moved in together two weeks later.

Within 9 months of being together, with a single late-night phone call we became fulltime parents.  “Sissy” was 12 years old at the time.  I was 26.  In feverish anticipation of her arrival, I had painted her room a delicate lavender, stocked it full of any and all “teenager” novelties I had left from my own room at my folks’ house.  I was just putting the ladder away when the doorbell rang.  Our Landlord needed the apartment and we had 60 days to find a new place to live.

We bought our house in August, 2002.

Christmas Eve, I found out we were unexpectedly expecting.

March 8, 2003, we were married.

The next eight years would be no less disorienting than riding the Cyclone drunk, strapped in backwards while having Pink Floyd blasted into your eardrums.

So for the sake of saving time, I will make two ‘short’ lists here:

Things I have loved in our 8 Years

Your smile

Our beautiful babies

Ranger TV in the backyard

Our handful of actual dates (NOT including the two in which you made me cry in public)

Our ability to be actual 50/50 partners through the understanding that reality means those numbers are fluid at any given time but always balance out in the end (or else you’d never hear the end of it)

You’re the Problem Solver

Your faith is unyielding

Your honesty, loyalty, integrity

Your humor

Banff Mountain Film Festival

Things that have sucked, but have made us closer and stronger

Deployments

4q

Feeding tubes, open-heart surgery, redeployments home

Cancelled vacations

Missed opportunities

Poop EVERYWHERE

PTSD

Autism

  

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary, My Love.

Baby, You’re the BEST!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Don’t Go In The Attic

There is an interesting topic of discussion brewing in the autism community – stemming from an otherwise “typical” conversation between an amazing group of moms navigating life with autism on board. 

After blurting out “PTSD” at a recent gathering of other Warrior Mamas, I thought for a moment my snarkyness had gotten the best of me and perhaps I had gone a little too far this time.  Following the longest and most awkward pause in conversation, in a room full of women I had never met before, the reaction so far has been nothing less than positively healing.  I think my fellow Mama did the most spectacular job bringing this topic out of the darkness and into the light >here<.

It seemed like a great idea.  Sergeant Major (SGM) had the day off today, the kids were at school and we decided to begin the arduous task of prepping for our ridiculously gigantic yard sale this spring.  FEEL THE PURGE, BABY is our new motto.

I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.

After less than an hour of sorting through boxes and piles of everything you can imagine I suddenly felt like I had just stepped away from the most horrific car wreck – where everyone is staring at me because they cannot believe I haven’t a scratch on me.  Except I am broken everywhere on the inside.

Five long years of everything I had planned to do lay before me tearing away at my heart, ripping my soul to shreds.  A set of small plastic pots from when my son begged for the third spring in a row to plant some sunflower seeds and watch them grow.  I had finally bought the seeds and now had no idea whatever became of them.  There were empty picture frames by the dozen.  The most beautiful pictures of my boy when he was three that never saw the light of day.   I stood there unable to move for what seemed like hours.  I felt stricken by those deep, dark, greenish eyes and how he must see right through me.  Every promise I had made to him that disappeared amid the chaos of 4q and deployments and autism.

Then there were the fairy wings I got RM to wear for preschool when she was three.  It had been Princess Week.  Most of the little girls wore their favorite Disney Princess gowns every day to camp beaming with pride from their tiaras down to their slippered toes.  RM wore the precious green wings long enough for me to take one picture outside of the school.  That was it.

Really, it was the absence of fruitless promises to my little angel that burned me.  There were no piles of projects never touched, nor dress-up clothes for her to grow up and fuss with.  Nothing of what one expects to share with their baby girl as they watch her grow into a young lady.  Rather, boxes and boxes of medical supplies and feeding tube bags.

PTSD.

It was more than four years of struggles and surgeries and the sweetest, lingering goodnight kisses (praying they would not be the last) hitting me all at once.  A powerful, silent undertow dragging me deeper into an abyss of emotion.  Filling my lungs with salty tears as I desperately flail to stay afloat – with autism on board.

I cannot describe how blessed I feel that in a flood of sobs I was able to tell my SGM how I was feeling today and that he understood completely.  He had been sorting through his own five years of wreckage, too.


Allow Me to Introduce Myself…

Hi! My name is RM.

 I am a bright, happy and unique young lady.  Please don’t judge me by my disabilities, but I do have more than a few.  I was born with a rare chromosome abnormality called 4q Deletion Syndrome.  My first couple of years were challenging, and I have overcome A LOT!  There was only a 30 percent chance that I would survive past my second birthday – but I am a fighter!

 I used to need a feeding tube to thrive, but now I am a big girl and I eat all on my own!  I still suffer from “silent reflux” disease (GERD).  I take a daily medication and have yearly endoscopies to monitor this condition.  My heart needed some repairs when I was 4 months old.  The doctor did an amazing job and now I only have a small hole (VSD) that remains, but it doesn’t affect how I can RUN, RUN, RUN!

Sometimes, I don’t like my surroundings.  Certain lights or noises bother me.  I have a hard time paying attention when there are a lot of people and noise around.  I’m really not very good yet at waiting for things or taking turns.

I have speech and language impairments and autism.  Though these are my biggest challenges, my family works very hard to help me learn, communicate, and control my behaviors. 

I use sign language paired with words to help me regulate my speech-flow, articulation, and to remember appropriate sequencing of words.  I may need surgical intervention someday to repair velopharyngeal air escape. 

I like to be around people, but I am not ready to approach other peers yet.  I do like to form warm relationships with adults once I have had some time to get to know them.  I work best in a 1:1 setting that is quiet and distraction-free.  One of my favorite things to do at home is read sight-word flashcards with my Mama.

When I have free time, I like to play with my Disney Cars and my GeoTrax train set.  I love the Muppets, too.  I also have a dollhouse that I enjoy pretend play with, but I sometimes need some direction to do more than just sit the dolls in a chair or line the furniture in rows.

I hope to meet you and show you all of my wonderful gifts.  I have so much to offer, and I always have a smile and a hug to share.  I have a beautiful, fantastic future ahead of me!

 Fondly,

RM

~~~~

**This was a cover letter to the “Binder of RM,” a 3″ binder I plumped full of medical and educational records to present to the Director of the out-of-district autism program we have been fighting for RM to be placed in for more than a year. I am thinking from all I have seen personally throughout the special education process, and what I hear on a CONSTANT basis from other moms of kids living with Autism, no added effort can hurt – and these professionals NEED to KNOW YOUR CHILD!!!**


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