Friday, March 4, 2011

Housing Issues

Many wounded warrior families have housing issues, most of which involve handicap accessibility. There are several great organizations out there that address these needs of wounded warriors, often even by building them a brand new, mortgage free house. The VA also has a program that grants $50,000 for accessibility improvements. This is great and very needed as the statistics on those coming home injured are staggering. I think I just read an article this week that listed the number at 40,000 combat injured in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There obviously is then a huge need for handicap accessible homes for these families who have sacrificed so much.

However, (I hate that I always seem to have to have a however or a but!) there are many other issues besides accessibility out there in the wounded warrior community in regards to housing. Take us for instance, we live in a single story, ranch style house that is almost 9 years old. We have a mortgage on this house and overall it is a great house. It is small, and this is an issue in and of itself, but if this were the only issue we could make it do.

The bigger issues for us are the external, environmental triggers that are very close to our home that constantly keep Allen revved up and on edge. He has been away getting treatment for his PTSD for the last 6 months. Is all of this treatment and coping he is learning going to be sabotaged by the constant triggers he has to deal with in his own home? These triggers I am talking about are huge for anyone with PTSD, but Allen's severity is over the top.

The first environmental trigger is the rail road tracks that are about 100 meters from our house. Just the noise and vibrations from this are enough to keep him awake and revved up all the time. Then, add on the fact that there is a train depot just down the tracks about 1/4 mile makes it that much worse. They use the tracks next to us to connect the trains. Do you know what this sounds and feels like? You guessed it, incoming. The two cars bumping together make a huge boom and large vibrations. They do this all day and often at night too. No wonder why his PTSD is off the charts!

The second environmental trigger we have going on here is the rock quarry that is exactly a mile from our house. They blast with TNT 1-4 times a day depending on the season. And again, guess what that sounds and feels like!! A real live blast!! That's right, that's because it is! To Allen, it sends him right back to Iraq every time. He has several different reactions depending on the day. We can only hope it is one of the milder ones. He takes cover. He runs to our bedroom, gets in the corner and curls up in a ball. He has been in this position for hours before. I've had to call 911 to get him to come out. The paramedics have had to physically remove him from the corner and take him to the hospital for medication to get him out of that state. Another time, he might run out of the house to go search for casualties. He doesn't see what is really there, he sees whatever happens to be in his head that time. Yet another reaction may be for him to find a weapon and look for the insurgent to take out. Thankfully, he's never found anyone who he deemed to be an insurgent, but what if someday he sees me or my children, or someone else as the insurgent? I can't even think about that possibility or I would be crazy!

A third, and less severe causing trigger is the tornado sirens. In our town they test them every Monday at noon. These used to really send him running as well, but he has become somewhat desensitized to these as long as we remember that it is time for them to come. He worked on this several times in counseling with them going off there. Whoever the genius was that made the tornado sirens and the incoming warning sirens the same tone was not very smart!!

These environmental triggers are all things we never would have thought about had we not lived through these scary and often dangerous dissociation's of my husband's. When we first bought our house, they were not an issue. We didn't even know about the quarry since we were always at work when they blasted. Now though, since he has returned from war with such disabling PTSD, these are a huge component in our everyday life and his well being.

Fighting these invisible wounds is so frustrating much of the time. There is so much stigma and discrimination tied to them. The non profits set up to help the wounded often do not consider the invisible wounds for their programs. It hurts. It hurts Allen and the rest of us. It makes him feel that his sacrifice is not as significant as some of the others. But it is. His PTSD will never go away. It is chronic. He will hopefully learn to manage it better, but it will always be there. It is no less significant than the physical wounds. After all, there is no prosthetic for his mind.

Even Now.......Gina


  1. I can relate. We live near a ballpark that has Friday night fireworks in the summer..... its bad. My poor husband has to suffer thru them weekly if he's not at work. I've actually gone and complained to neighbors that set off fireworks after 4th of July has long gone and tell them that my husband has PTSD and their fireworks are freaking him out. They're usually very understanding and stop right away.

    Its amazing the triggers that you'd never think about until they're upon you.

    Good luck to you and your family Gina.


  2. Thanks for the support and for posting your comment. I don't think people really understand who haven't lived it. I know we are not the only ones which is why I write about so many difficult topics. Fireworks are illegal in our city limits and the first year my husband was home the police passed out reminders of the ordinance and to let them know there was a combat vet in their neighborhood. It didn't help much so we just try to get out of town around the 4th. Thanks again and good luck with your family.