color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: The Grind & the Grindstone

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Grind & the Grindstone

I know I only occasionally blog around here any more... life moves on... the Army veteran attends school, works and is raising his son... the Navy son can't say much about his line of work and what he can say doesn't need to be posted. "My guys" have been deployed twice since Noah was with them and there isn't much to write home about these days (a pretty much "been there done that" from the guys). I'm not really a "diarist" that feels the need to document my daily life -- don't get me wrong -- I LOVE to read some of the diaries around the blogsphere (mostly because it reminds me how grateful I am that I don't have young ones to raise any more! WHEW! It is HARD WORK!)

I suppose I could post every time I discovered evidence on what moms, dads and spouses have all known for forever and is now being verified through clinical studies:

The list could go on and on...

Which is what leads me to this post.

First, let's get clear that FAR MORE soldiers/marines come home from combat WITHOUT POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD) than who suffer symptoms.  Even accepting the highest estimates of 15% with symptoms of post-traumatic stress there are even fewer with the more chronic form -- called PTSD. Which translates to more than 90% of returning combat veterans DO NOT have PTSD. (and I resent the efforts of organizations, the anti-war crowd and many in the mainstream media who are so eager to broad brush ALL combat veterans as somehow being abnormal or to be feared upon their return and ascribing all bad conduct by anyone who ever wore a uniform to this condition! more pointedly, I am entirely DISGUSTED by those who only CLAIM to be afflicted in order to game the system and be unjustly rewarded. To those I advise: What goes around, comes around.)

That being said, for those who suffer from PTSD  or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or both, the daily "getting on with it" can be a grind. The grindstone can be smaller some days and way larger the next. That grindstone of depression (sometimes), anxiety (sometimes), nightmares (sometimes), insomnia (sometimes), anger (sometimes)... it wears on these warriors. The need to take daily medications to control some symptoms -- or the resistance to being medicated -- wear on them, too. Their worry and efforts to define what is "normal" (hint: this IS "normal") adds to the grind.

Reintegrating into a world that doesn't quite get it -- however appreciative they are or say they are -- is grit on that wheel. Getting into school, getting a job, raising a family, dealing with family (basically living your life) -- all the situations, problems and stresses the unaffected world does -- but so much harder for those with the vagaries of memory problems, physical ailments, concentration issues, etc. This all speeds the grindstone's spin for those dealing with the effects of PTSD and mTBI.

The families of these people -- parents, spouses, siblings and children -- do not escape the grind or the grindstone. That temper, those nightmares, that depression and anxiety, memory issues and problems with concentration... and their WORRY for those they love can grind on them, too.

It has been five-and-one-half years since my son, Noah, deployed to Iraq. Just about five years since he was wounded. Four years since he was diagnosed with PTSD. Three years since he was medically discharged for all of the above. He has had to juggle many things in these five years -- marriage, a new child, divorce, school, job -- but he has done it. It has taken work on his part and a lot of tongue biting and sometimes gentle coaxing on family's part. It is a journey that has many twisted roads... it is not a journey that will be over any time soon. It will be a challenge for all of his lifetime.

Don't misinterpret this. The road to "recovery" is NOT a snake pit. It is NOT a losing proposition. On the contrary -- with the permission of the military and society to admit you suffer these things... with the encouragement to recognize the need and seek help from so many sources -- the prognosis is better than it has ever been! 

But it also requires a great deal of acceptance and understanding... and effort, commitment and resources on the part of those afflicted with PTSD and/or mTBI and their families. Is it hard? Can be. Is it a bumpy road? Usually. Will there be bad days? Yes. Will there be good days? Yes. Is it worth the effort? HELL YES!!

And the more we talk about it, the more encouraging we are, the more we applaud those who accept that challenge -- to be better, to get better... fight the grind and the grindstone -- the better we all -- as people and as a society -- will be. 

The important thing to understand is that THERE IS A BETTER. It is NOT a hole from which you cannot climb. It is NOT a permanent state of "sucks" and "sucks more"... "sucks less" and "doesn't suck" CAN be part of the vocabulary. Most importantly: you are NOT alone and you will NOT be left behind.  Our son Noah, our family and his friends can all testify to it.  Remember, grinding rock is what produces the brightest gems! :-D


Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center


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At 6/19/2010 6:47 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Good read above and it makes a lot of sense to this Vietnam vet. Like to share a story with you and your readers.
Have a good friend who is a Vietnam combat veteran and tried to get into the R.I. Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association but was denied membership by another veteran who was the state rep of this assn. This VNam combat vet met every condition in order to get into this veteran organization on two wheels but would not be prospected. The CVMA claims it does not prospect but the R.I. chapter 9-1 makes one wait for membership in order to judge who wears their COOL patch as the arrogant state rep puts it. The National CVMA was notified of this problem and did nothing to rectify it. The Vietnam vet was awarded the CIB and other awards, plus he has a honorable discharge. What is the CVMA afraid of by letting a real combat vet in their ranks?
Thought the days of judging Vietam veterans were over but guess not.

At 6/19/2010 6:47 PM , Blogger Spockgirl said...

Thank you for another great post. I still can't get over how vocal you are, since I am not. You handle heavy issues with a huge heart and in such a down-to-earth manner. I do hope you continue to write about the ones closest to you, as these issues will not be swept under the carpet nor will they simply go away.

At 6/20/2010 10:12 AM , Blogger Should Fish More said...

Good post. My son Henry is just getting ready to come back from Afghanistan, his second deployment to the middle east. I know he changed after the first, quieter, smiled much less. He seemed good on his mid-tour leave this time, and has decided to get out when his enlistment ends in the fall. Good luck to you and yours.

At 6/24/2010 4:08 PM , Blogger Jackie said...

I agree with you on your excellent post! My husband came home from Iraq in 2005 and has suffered from PTSD to the point that he was almost committed. He is still actively serving in the military and while most days he's fine, for periods of days sometimes weeks he hardly speaks and seems to be in his own little world. It's been trying on our marriage, but I am a faithful wife who believes that God will help us through anything. Our lives together mean more to me then anything else in this world (other than our children) and I will stick by my husband and fight to get him help when he needs it. I fight him to go to the doctor for help at least once a month. He's so hard headed! Thank you for being a supportive mom and bringing the good, the bad and the ugly into the light for the whole world to see! I will be following your blog...

At 7/02/2010 8:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the PTSD links. I have that myself and the sites really did help. If you need anyone to talk to or help with any questions. Feel free to contact me.


Btw, I love how vocal you are, it's very admirable.


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