Sunday, January 27, 2008

If only things could stay this way!

"That Guy" is still missing in action. Today DH got up an hour early so that he wouldn't miss his Spenders meeting. When he got home, once again, he told me how happy he was that he had gone to the meeting, as he had forced himself to see that he had put his own selfishness and greed above virtually every relationship that he has--he owes money to everybody who knows him at all, hasn't paid anyone back, has lied to me, lied to his mom, and pawned his brother's gun, and he told me that when he looked at his behavior from the outside, he could see that he had become someone he wasn't proud of, and wouldn't want to be friends with. I'm not really sure how monumental this realization is, because to me it just sounds like he's feeling bad about the things that he's done, which is not only not the point, but feeling bad about those things is not something new.

DH has felt bad and remorseful (after the fact) about everything that's happened with his bipolar illness. I think that contributes to a lot of his depression, the fact that he's done a lot of unbelievably selfish things and he doesn't understand his behavior when he is "somewhat stable".

I don't really want him to feel bad about anything. I do want him to recognize what has happened and hopefully learn some skills so that those things don't happen again. And I know that he will feel bad as he examines his behavior, but that is certainly not the goal. So, even though DH thinks he had some kind of a breakthrough at Spenders, I'm not sure that it's really that big of a deal.

But I have to say this: When he comes home from Spenders, he is ALWAYS DH. "That Guy", if he does go to Spenders, never comes home from there. In other words, the Spenders meetings seem to help DH to think more rationally and more like a stable person. And that in itself is worth every minute of those meetings, even if he doesn't get anything else out of it.

I also told him that if the job isn't "happening" right now, that he needs to find a volunteer job. One that's structured, where they will say "You start at 8am and get done at noon." That way, even if it's only once or twice a week, he'd have something to get out of bed for, to feel productive again, even if there's no paycheck. And today, while "That Guy" was on vacation, DH thought it was a great idea, and even said that he thinks he will volunteer "until" he finds a paying job.

But I'm sure "That Guy" won't agree, when he gets back from wherever he went.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Well, "That Guy" took a break.

DH came back and once again was my regular DH. He told me that he doesn't know why he did that, that he knows we had "a deal" and that it was reasonable for me to expect him to follow through. He also said that he had no intention of "ripping me off", but I knew that all along. He NEVER has any intention of hurting me, it's just that things happen and he "doesn't get around to it"....like my Christmas present, which I didn't get yet.

It has occurred to me while I've been contemplating all of this, that maybe I've been looking at things backwards. I tend to think of my DH as being there all the time unless "That Guy" shows up, but maybe what I need to do is look at "That Guy" as being there all the time unless "DH" shows up. That would help me to keep my expectations low, I think. I'm going to try it, but so far I haven't been able to do it. I look at him and see DH. It's going to be quite a change to look at him and think it's "That Guy" right off the bat, without waiting for his behavior to prove it to me....oh--one more thing???? DH did sell the gun, he did get $500 for it, so he gave me $400, which covered the original $300 that I expected to be taking off my credit card, and then the extra money he took, too. So financially, this time, after my tantrum (and his), the finances are pretty much at the status quo--except that he has a little money to spend on pop and cigs for now.....

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Today I took my ring off.

I guess a lot of people reading this are going to say "you should've known better, how many times does it take for you to learn?" I guess I'm a slow learner.

I got home from work this morning at 7am. I think I've mentioned before that on Thursday nights I sleep over in the city, because it doesn't make sense to drive for two hours, sleep for 4 hours, take care of all the animals, etc., then drive for 2 more hours, when I could rent a room for the same price as gas, and sleep for a full 8 hours...so anyhow, I don't come home after work on Thursdays.

So I had been gone for pretty much two days. I walked in the door, the garbage was overflowing, and virtually every single dish in the house had been used. The animals' food and water bowls were empty, and there were pop cans everywhere. I reminded myself to "lower my expectations" and so I wasn't in too bad of a mood. I went into the bedroom. There's snack wrappers, pop cans, and other garbage all over the room. It's disgusting. But what really got me was there was DH, snoozing away, without his CPAP machine. It made me upset that not only could he not do one darn thing to help me out in two days, but he wasn't doing what he needed to do to work on getting better, either. I set my alarm for 9:30 so that I could wake him up for Spenders, because I knew he wouldn't. I was already dreading trying to wake him up, because I knew he had been up until 4 am playing the Sims game.

When 9:30 came, I was very groggy after only 2 1/2 hours of sleep, but I woke him up. And he fell back asleep. So I woke him up again. Same thing. Then I really started to get crabby. It's not like he didn't know he was going to have to get up this morning, Spenders is every week. Then he had excuses again, just like that other time. I wouldn't let it drop, though, because we had that agreement that while he was at Spenders he was going to sell the gun.

I went out into the living room to get my credit card back. Surprise, surprise, he had taken $40 more than I told him to. I couldn't believe it and I could. I want so much to be able to trust him with something like that. And after I came up with money I couldn't afford to spend, to fix a problem that I warned him not to do in the first place, he wasn't willing or able to hold up his end of the bargain. I can't describe how I felt at this point. I started to get dressed, because I would sell that gun and get my money back, if he wasn't going to. When he realized what I was doing, he got really angry, kind of like a repeat of that other day when I tried to get him up for Spenders, and he jumped out of bed, started slamming things around, and stormed out the door with the gun. Jim sleepily followed him. They drove off.

I went back to sleep. I was beyond angry. I think what I was feeling was more like a big sigh, like there just was no point in trying any more. I was so fed up. About two hours later, he called and angrily told me he was just about out of gas, and implying that somehow that was my fault (of course it is). I started to ask him where he was and he hung up on me. So I got up, grabbed a gas can and left to help. I called him from the gas station, and told him that I was bringing gas, and he told me that he "found three dollars in his pocket" and didn't need any. And hung up on me again. At this point I went back home, took my ring off, and argued with dd for a while about why I didn't think she should stay overnight with her bio mom. Then I went out to duck and cluck (feed the ducks and chickens) and I guess as soon as I went outside, DD was trying to get her bio mom to argue with me, too. I guess it was just an "argue with Carol" day.

I put my foot down with dd, told her she could go for three hours and that was my final offer, she took that. After I dropped her off at her bio mom's, I had to go and set up my mom's pills for the week, and when I got there, her toilet was overflowing, so she was in a tizzy, too. But the "helper" came and fixed it quickly, so there really was no problem.....but then I stayed and put the bathroom rugs in the wash, and I put on Lawrence Welk, and then Andy Griffith, to help her calm down. Then I went home again.

When I got home, Jim was getting something out of his car, I asked him if he was ok, and he said yeah, he was just getting some change(?). I don't know what DH has told him, but I suppose that even if he thinks DH is being stupid, as a good friend, he'll try to help....DH said "I'm leaving, your cell phone is on the counter." (because I bought the cell phone for him, and of course I pay the bill). So I just said, "ok, bye."

I don't think that was the response he was hoping to get from me, but I am so sick of the arguing and trying to get him to do smart things, I just didn't care at that moment, whether he ever came back, as long as Jim was with him to make sure he was safe. So they drove off, and about 5 minutes later came back, DH took some of his pills. He asked me, in an insolent tone, "Do you wanna talk?" and I said "No, I don't want to talk to "that guy", I'll wait until DH shows back up."
He said, "I AM DH!" And I said "no you're not."

So they left again. And I went and picked up dd and told her I wasn't sure if Dad would be coming home or not, but I suspect he'll be back as soon as he's sure I've gone to work. I keep thinking about how much easier things would be if he stayed someplace else for a few weeks. But I've wished that before, and it doesn't happen.

It's become clear that I am going to need to be assertive with him, if he wants this marriage to continue. I am going to need to make some rules, and he is going to have to follow them, whether he thinks I'm a big meanie or whatever.

It's just so hard for me to do this to my DH, who I love and respect so much. In our "normal" marriage, I would never ever have dreamed of giving him ultimatums, or telling him he has to "do this, or else". That's not me. I have always wanted a partnership where I didn't have to be like that ever. That was how the first 5 or 6 years of our marriage were. Where I could say "I wish things were like this" and he would say "Well, let's figure out a way to do that, then".

And he would say "this is important to me." "Can we make it work?" And I would work hard to compromise. We never argued. We would disagree sometimes, but we never argued, we would just find a way to keep us both mostly happy. It just pains me so much to think about turning this marriage into a dictatorship. I don't know if I can do it.

On a related note, dd's therapist has been urging me for some time to have Social Services assign DH a caseworker to take some of the stress off of me. I've been resisting, telling myself that he is getting better, and he's not so bad that he needs that kind of help....but I'm sad to say, I think it's finally come to that point.

I'll put my ring on again eventually. But not today.

Friday, January 18, 2008

By the way, GREAT quote of the day....

In case you don't get to see it until it's gone, here it is:

"Don't order any black things. Rejoice in his memory; and be radiant: leave grief to the children. Wear violet and purple...Be patient with the poor people who will snivel: they don't know; and they think they will live for ever, which makes death a division instead of a bond."

George Bernard Shaw(1856-1950)

I know I'll still be one of those that "snivel", but I also think this is a very profound way to look at death.

That bipolar guy....sigh

He's still here. "That guy", that is. Let me tell you what has transpired between yesterday and today.....

Remember when he pawned that gun that I told him not to? Here's the related links, in case you don't. (Link 1) (Link 2). Well, as I expected, he has not been able to get the gun out of hock. It's come down to where he is about to lose the $1300 gun for a $250 pawn for pop and cigs.

To avoid this, his proposition was that I would take a cash advance on my credit card (the pawn shop doesn't take credit cards) to get it out of hock, then we would go right to the sporting goods store and sell it for whatever. I didn't want to do it, but it makes no sense to me not to, because he can probably get about $500 or so at the sporting goods store, who will then sell it for $1300.....but if I don't cough up the cash, then the gun won't bring anything now.

I really wish that he had listened to me when I begged him not to do this. I cannot stress this enough.
What I wound up doing was this: I gave him my credit card. I instructed him to get a cash advance for $300, and then get the gun back. (I was at work, so I didn't have time to be involved.) I told him I need receipts for everything, and that we would go to the sporting goods store on Saturday, as it's in the same city as Spenders. Then he would pay me back so that I can pay back the credit card right away, and he will have a couple of extra dollars to buy his stupid pop and chew and cigs....

Then I gave him $20 for gas, so that he could go and get the free food while I worked. And I gave him $20 spending money. He spent $10 of that on a prescription, but he still had $10 of spending money.

So today he called me up and says: "I'm at Holiday." "I picked up DD from her friend's house and my gas gauge is on E, and I don't think I'm going to make it home."

So I said this: "Use the credit card and put $5 in."

And he said this: "But....OK." click.

He hung up on me. Apparently I am not giving "that guy" enough money!!!!!! I'm starting to get kind of scared, as I cannot keep doing this indefinitely. I thought I could carry us for a while, but if this is going to be a "forever" thing, I don't know how to do it. We've already got one of the cheapest houses we could get, I'm working tons, spending little, but I'm drowning. And today, as I listen to all the stories about inflation and how the economy is tanking, etc., I start thinking about "how am I going to do this?" And I have never been so financially insecure in my life.

That guy back again

DH came home from an emergency meeting with his therapist and told me that his therapist thinks that the memory problems and the depression problems he's been having lately are all due to the fact that he hasn't been taking his medications like he should. (!) This was not something I was aware of until this point, and could possibly be at least part of the problem....The therapist thinks I should be in charge of the meds, but DH seems to be resisting that idea, so I'm not sure if it will work or not.

DH also had an appointment with his mental health nurse and he couldn't wake up for it. So he has a call in to her to set up another emergency appointment, and I guess I'll have to just make sure he wakes up.

Things have been frantic, as usual, around our house, Jim is still there, but he's so addicted to the Sims game, that most of the time, I don't even notice any more. He does bring in firewood, though, and he does anything I request of him.....

And despite all the hugely bad news about the economy, I've been finding some bargains at the grocery store, so we aren't hurting as much as we could be. The grocery store even had candy bars on sale for .30 each, so I splurged, and got 2 for DH, 2 for Jim, and 2 for me. I put mine in the freezer, since I tend to savor my candy, and in the process, I found a candy bar that I must've stashed in there several months ago, too. I know it's been a while, since I don't usually spend money on my own candy, and it was one of my favorites. So I had three candy bars and
that was fun. I specifically told DH that those were for me.

Anyhow, the next night, I knew DH was depressed. DD wanted me to talk to him about the possibility of her having a friend over, and I told her that "Dad is having a bad day, and it might be better to talk to him tomorrow." She did try to argue with him briefly about something unrelated, got snapped at, and told me "I guess you're right" and went to bed. I decided I was going to indulge in a candy bar. But when I opened up the fridge, of course, all three of them were gone. Part of me wasn't surprised, but part of me couldn't believe it.

"YOU ATE MY CANDY BARS!" I said, in a tone that hopefully implied that I was half laughing and half not all that happy...."No, it was Jim!!!" he said, kind of laughing back. I said "Jim wouldn't touch them, because they were mine!" So he said, "It must've been Frosty then!"
And I said, "Well, Frosty didn't even leave me a single one!!! Three candy bars and they're all gone!!!" I really wasn't all that mad, just enough where I wanted him to know that I noticed, and that I hadn't intended them for him....and at that point, he stopped speaking to me, and even when I told him jokingly (I hope) "I still love you, even though you ate my candy bars", he wouldn't answer me. I figured he was mad at me for making such a "big deal" over the candy bars and I regretted even saying anything at all, after all, I knew he was in a bad mood....

Anyhow, that was last night. This morning before work, I was talking with Jim about something unrelated, and I said something about DH being very depressed lately, and how worried I am about him. Jim looked kind of surprised, and kind of gave me a "what do you mean?" look.
So I said, "I know I shouldn't have said that about those candy bars last night, I knew he was already down, and I should've kept my mouth shut, because I made it worse." He said, "what do you mean?" and I said, "Well, you noticed he didn't speak to me at all last night?" "Yeah, I noticed that..." "Well, I think I caused that by bringing up the candy bars. And it made him even more depressed."

He gave me this "you've gotta be kidding" look, and said this: "Well, I've got some thoughts about those candy bars....when someone is working as much as you, supporting him (and me too), and wants to have a couple of thirty-cent candy bars, well, I've got some thoughts on that, and I'm going to keep them to myself."

This is the closest I have ever heard of Jim coming out and saying he doesn't approve of DH's behavior(s). And I don't know what was going on with me, hearing someone say that, acknowledging that I work hard for relatively few indulgences, well, I broke down and started to cry. I had to go into the other room so that Jim wouldn't notice. I hope he didn't, anyhow.

It's not my goal in any way to have Jim take "my side" over DH. So I don't want you to think that. I've been trying to put words to the feeling ever since this happened and so far I haven't done very well. I think I just felt good to know that somebody notices that I do these things....maybe??? If I come up with something better than that, I'll add another post.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Is it really bipolar?

I'm really starting to wonder if maybe DH's problem is due to something else, not necessarily bipolar???

It's all so strange, I'm not sure what to think. When I type in all of his symptoms on the internet, it always results in a ton of links to bipolar web sites. But a lot of his symptoms don't really fit a textbook case of bipolar, either. Like these memory problems. This morning I asked DH if he thought the memory problem that he had on the way to Spenders was just because he was drowsy, and he said, "No, it was something else completely." And he got this really scared look on his face, so I changed the subject again. That's not bipolar, from what I can tell.

And he's only 35. That's way way too young for dementia, isn't it?

I don't know what to look up to see what else it could be.

In the meantime, he did set up an appointment with the Psychiatric Nurse Practitioneer for Wednesday, so hopefully she'll have a better idea as to where to turn next....

And he has an appointment with his regular doctor on Jan. 22, and I think I want to go with, if he'll let me, just so I can listen to any test results that might be discussed (from the tests that he had done with the neuropsychologist in November). It seems kind of strange to me that nobody has called wanting to discuss the test results, and we haven't gotten any "all clear" letter from them, either (not that we were expecting that).

Today, DH has been very depressed. He's been just laying in bed, watching TV again. He's telling me that he feels "weird", "not right", and "pointless". So I've just tried to be supportive.

A question came to my mind this week, after the memory lapse on Saturday:
When I think about DH being bipolar, the fact that he is depressed, or any of his other behaviors or problems can make me so angry, even though I know with all my heart that this person is not the person I married. But still, all I can think of is how miserable he makes me.

But when I thought about him having dementia instead, suddenly I felt very guilty for being angry with him in those contexts. All I can think of is "oh, that poor guy, what can I do help?" I'm trying to decide if that is because of a deep-seeded prejudice that I have been harboring, or if maybe my mom having dementia makes it easier for me to understand? I've been trying to figure it out so that I can change how I respond to him if it turns out that we are just dealing with mental illness, as originally thought.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Today was a nice day, but I'm a worrywart

Well, DH is really staying true to his promise to go to Spenders every week without having a tantrum like he did a couple of weeks ago. He got right up this morning and went.

When he got home, he told me how glad he was that he went. He told me that today they talked about shame and DH said that he talked about some things like what a bind he has put me in and also about how his mom gave him that money to file bankruptcy and he spent it all, and he apparently also talked about the fact that he stole those gold dollars from me. I thought that was very interesting, because a lot of times I think that he has either forgotten all about that stuff, or when "That Guy" is anywhere in the vicinity, DH doesn't care who he's hurt.

Later on in the day, DH's cousin and her daughter (that's a whole other post) came to visit, and I made spaghetti. We were talking about Jason and how the dogs and cats were getting on Jason's nerves the last time he was over. I said "I have never seen Jason get irritated with the animals." And DH said, "that's because he acts different when you're around. He gets all happy and he loves the animals a lot. I'm not blowing smoke here, but I think you've got some kind of aura that makes people happy. Jason's not the only one." LOL, I told him I thought he was blowing smoke, but secretly, I thought it was a really super-nice thing to say, especially in front of his cousin and Jim, too.....see, it's things like that, well, he used to say stuff like that all the time when he was normal, where even though I know I don't have any special aura or anything, the idea that he thinks of that stuff feels really flattering and good. Unfortunatley, since the bipolar really showed up, comments like that are few and far between. But when he does make those kinds of comments, I remember why I'm married to him still, despite all the bad stuff, and I know he still loves me, even if it's not the way I envisioned.

One thing that did alarm me, though, was that about a half hour after he left for Spenders, DH called me on the phone. Here's how the conversation went, pretty shocking, and I don't know what, if anything we should be doing about it right now:

DH: Hi, I'm sorry to wake you up
Me: That's ok, what's wrong?
DH: You're not going to believe this...
Me: "Try me." I figured that he ran out of gas, or his car broke down or something like that.
DH: Um, I can't remember where I'm going. Why am I driving again?
Me: Are you serious?
DH: Yes, I can't remember where I'm going.
Me: Well, you're going to (city).
DH: Ok, but why am I going there again?
Me: "You're going to Spenders, remember?" At this point I thought maybe he was getting drowsy or something.
DH: Spenders?
Me: Yeah, at that church, you remember where it is?
DH: Yes I do. Oh honey that was so weird. I'm really shook up. All of a sudden I had no idea where I was going.

I didn't know what to say to this. I kind of told him that maybe he was just tired, but he didn't buy it. We still haven't gotten any of those results back from the neuro-psychologist that he saw back in November, and that's kind of weird, too. I'm hoping that when DH goes to his regular Dr. later this month, she'll have the results so that we'll have something to go on.

There have been some times lately, with DH's memory lapses, when I have wondered if maybe he is experiencing the beginning of some strange early-onset type of dementia. But I haven't found much at all regarding that, so for the most part, except for mildly wondering about it, I'm discounting that for now. But I think the memory problems are getting worse. And I'm too inexperienced at this to know if it's a new/different problem, or just a different manifestation of his mental illness, or if it's a side effect of his medications....?

Friday, January 11, 2008

An unexpected grief

As you know, I've been married to DH for 7 1/2 years now. About 5 1/2 years ago, we had a wonderful, strong marriage, and many plans and dreams. We heard about a young girl in town whose mother could not take care of her. She needed a safe place to stay for a few weeks while her mom got her life together.

As you can guess, those "few weeks" led to a "few months", and to make a long story short, after a lot of court stuff and child protection stuff, it was decided that DH and I would be her new family. She still has contact with her bio mom. Even though I would not allow any other child to go over there, DD is so bonded with her bio mom that I feel it would be detrimental to her if I was to forbid it. So she goes.

I love her so much, that kid. She has come so far despite huge obstacles. She has learned so much and grown so much, I'm full of pride when I think of her (most of the time, LOL).

The thing is, I always thought I would have a child of my own. It was never my plan not to. For the first couple of years when we had DD, there was so much going on and we were learning so much and adjusting to her behaviors, that there was no way I could have handled a baby too. Then DH got sick. Most of all that you already know. He loves DD, but sometimes loses sense of "good parenting" and "how to say no to a kid". And there are so many other issues related to his illness, not the least of which is finances. I can't support the family I already have, so that's that.

But the thing is, I'm 40. I know that my odds of conceiving have already gone way down, and when I think about the fact that I want to be a mom, I would be a good mom, but I probably can't, well, I grieve. DH probably won't be ready to be a parent in time for me to realistically expect to still be able to conceive. If ever. I find myself being a little resentful about this, but I console myself with "you can always adopt a kid who needs a home", "there's no age limit on that", but then I think, with DH's bipolar, would 'they' even allow us to adopt? Probably not.

So then I go back to "the only way you're going to have another child is if you have a child." And when I get to that point, I start feeling hopeless. I know it's not DH's fault, and there are a lot of people who are in situations like this or worse, but that doesn't make the feelings go away.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Good news or bad news, depending

I got called by a person who is a supervisor at my part-time job, asking me if I want to take an overnight shift (10 hours) at a different location on one of the nights that I currently am not working anyplace. I jumped at the opportunity.

So now, I will be working 66 hours a week instead of 56, but that extra shift will bring the budget hugely closer to being "balanced".

So it's good news as financially, more money is always good. And good news, because apparently that company thinks I am a good and dependable worker. Not so good that I have to spend yet 10 more hours away from home a week, but I guess it's better than the bank coming after me...

I've been really worried ever since I figured out how bad off things really are. So this was really a big relief. And I'm kind of excited about a new "adventure", too, at least for a few weeks, until it just turns into "work".

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A shocking story about the Armed Forces and Mental Illness

I found this article while I was looking for something else, and I thought some of you might be interested in it. It made me very angry.


'A Soldier's Officer'
by Dana Priest and Anne Hull
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 2, 2007; A01

In a nondescript conference room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 1st Lt. Elizabeth Whiteside listened last week as an Army prosecutor outlined the criminal case against her in a preliminary hearing. The charges: attempting suicide and endangering the life of another soldier while serving in Iraq.
Her hands trembled as Maj. Stefan Wolfe, the prosecutor, argued that Whiteside, now a psychiatric outpatient at Walter Reed, should be court-martialed. After seven years of exemplary service, the 25-year-old Army reservist faces the possibility of life in prison if she is tried and convicted.
Military psychiatrists at Walter Reed who examined Whiteside after she recovered from her self-inflicted gunshot wound diagnosed her with a severe mental disorder, possibly triggered by the stresses of a war zone. But Whiteside's superiors considered her mental illness "an excuse" for criminal conduct, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
At the hearing, Wolfe, who had already warned Whiteside's lawyer of the risk of using a "psychobabble" defense, pressed a senior psychiatrist at Walter Reed to justify his diagnosis.
"I'm not here to play legal games," Col. George Brandt responded angrily, according to a recording of the hearing. "I am here out of the genuine concern for a human being that's breaking and that is broken. She has a severe and significant illness. Let's treat her as a human being, for Christ's sake!"
In recent months, prodded by outrage over poor conditions at Walter Reed, the Army has made a highly publicized effort to improve treatment of Iraq veterans and change a culture that stigmatizes mental illness. The Pentagon has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to new research and to care for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, and on Friday it announced that it had opened a new center for psychological health in Rosslyn.
But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental health issues in an ad hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed. The stigma around psychological wounds can still be seen in the smallest of Army policies. While family members of soldiers recovering at Walter Reed from physical injuries are provided free lodging and a per diem to care for their loved ones, families of psychiatric outpatients usually have to pay their own way.
"It's a disgrace," said Tom Whiteside, a former Marine and retired federal law enforcement officer who lost his free housing after his daughter's physical wounds had healed enough that she could be moved to the psychiatric ward. A charity organization, the Yellow Ribbon Fund, provides him with an apartment near Walter Reed so he can be near his daughter.
Under military law, soldiers who attempt suicide can be prosecuted under the theory that it affects the order and discipline of a unit and brings discredit to the armed forces. In reality, criminal charges are extremely rare unless there is evidence that the attempt was an effort to avoid service or that it endangered others.
At one point, Elizabeth Whiteside almost accepted the Army's offer to resign in lieu of court-martial. But it meant she would have to explain for the rest of her life why she was not given an honorable discharge. Her attorney also believed that she would have been left without the medical care and benefits she needed.
No decision has yet been made on whether Whiteside's case will proceed to court-martial. The commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who has jurisdiction over the case, "must determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charges against Lieutenant Whiteside and recommend how to dispose of the charges," said his spokesman.'A Soldier's Officer'
A valedictorian at James Madison High School in Vienna, a wrestler and varsity soccer player, Whiteside followed in her father's footsteps by joining the military. She enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2001 and later joined ROTC while studying economics at the University of Virginia. During her time in college, Whiteside said, she experienced periods of depression, but she graduated and was commissioned an officer in the Army Reserve.
In 2005, she received her first assignment as an officer -- at Walter Reed. As an executive officer of a support company, she supervised 150 soldiers and officers, and her evaluations from that time presaged the high marks she would receive most of her career.
"This superior officer is in the top 10 percent of Officers I have worked with in my 16 years of military service," wrote her rater, Capt. Joel Grant. She "must be promoted immediately, ahead of all peers."
Maj. Sandra Hersh, her senior rater, added: "She's a Soldier's Officer. . . . She is able to get the best from Soldiers and make it look easy."
Seeing so many casualties at Walter Reed made Whiteside feel she was not bearing her full responsibility, she said, so she volunteered for Iraq. When she left in the fall of 2006, she carried with her a gift from her father -- the double-bladed buck knife he had used in Vietnam.
Whiteside was assigned as a platoon leader in the 329th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance) at the Camp Cropper detainee prison near Baghdad International Airport. The hot light from the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal still charged the atmosphere at Cropper, which housed 4,000 detainees and included high-security prisoners such as Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali," as well as suspected terrorists and insurgents.
Whiteside, given the radio handle "Trauma Mama," supervised nine medics who worked the night shift at the prison. She was in charge of dispatching drivers, medics and support staff to transport sick and wounded Iraqis and U.S. troops around the prison and to a small hospital inside.
"I loved our mission," Whiteside said, "because it represented the best of America: taking care of the enemy, regardless of what they are doing to us."
The hours were brutal. Whiteside ate one meal a day, slept in two four-hour shifts and worked seven days a week. Her superiors credited her with her unit's success. "She has produced outstanding results in one of the most demanding and challenging Combat Zones," her commander, Lt. Col. Darlene McCurdy, wrote in her evaluation.
But the dynamics outside her unit were rockier. From the beginning, Whiteside and some of her female soldiers had conflicts with one of the company's male officers. They believed he hindered female promotions and undercut Whiteside's authority with her soldiers, according to Army investigative documents.
As the tensions with the officer increased, Whiteside said, she began suffering panic attacks. She stopped sleeping, she said, and started self-medicating with NyQuil and Benadryl, but decided against seeking help from the mental health clinic because she feared that the Army would send her home, as it had recently done with a colonel.
On Dec. 30, U.S. military officials took Hussein from his cell at Camp Cropper for execution. The next day, the prison erupted. Thousands of inmates rioted, and military police used rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and tear gas to restore order.
Whiteside took charge in the chaos, according to written statements by troops in her unit. She dispatched a pair of medics to each compound to begin triage, handed out gas masks and organized her unit to smuggle the prison's doctors out in an ambulance.
The next day, weary from the riots, Whiteside ran into the problem officer. They had another argument.
Army investigative documents describe what happened next.
At 6:20 p.m. a soldier frantically approached Maj. Ana Luisa Ramirez, a mental health nurse at the prison, and said Whiteside was "freaking out" and wanted to see Ramirez. The nurse found Whiteside sitting on her bed, mumbling and visibly upset. Ramirez left to get some medication.
Later, she spotted Whiteside in the darkened hallway with her sweatshirt hood pulled over her head and her hands in her pockets. Ramirez asked Whiteside to come into her room and noticed what appeared to be dried blood on her neck and hands. When she tried to take a closer look, Ramirez said, Whiteside pointed her sidearm, an M9 pistol, at her and "told me to move away and she locked the door," according to a statement Ramirez gave to the Army.
Ramirez tried to take Whiteside's gun, but Whiteside pushed her away and expressed her hatred of the officer she thought was sabotaging her. She grew more agitated and twice fired into the ceiling.
Nurses in the hallway began yelling, and Whiteside shouted that she wanted to kill them, the report said. She opened the door and saw armed soldiers in battle gear coming her way. Slamming the door, she discharged the weapon once into her stomach.
Whiteside says she has little recollection of the events of that night. "I remember bits and pieces," she said. She declined to comment on whether she was trying to kill herself.
The medics who responded to the shooting scene were Whiteside's own crew.Recovering at Walter Reed
Whiteside was still unconscious when she arrived at Walter Reed a few days later. The bullet had ripped through one of her lungs, her liver, her spleen and several other organs. Her parents and siblings kept a round-the-clock bedside vigil, and her condition gradually improved. Within two weeks an Army criminal investigator showed up in her hospital room, but a doctor shooed him away.
After a month, Whiteside was moved to Ward 54, the hospital's lockdown psychiatric unit, where she was diagnosed with a severe major depressive disorder and a personality disorder. According to a statement by an Army psychiatrist, she was suffering from a disassociation with reality.
Tom Whiteside visited his daughter every afternoon, bringing pizza or Chinese takeout. He often noticed from the sign-in sheet that he was the only visitor on the ward. The psych patients formed a close bond and shared an overriding fear: that the Army would drum them out with no benefits.
One soldier Whiteside befriended was a 20-year-old private named Sammantha Owen-Ewing. Intelligent and funny, Owen-Ewing was training to be a nurse when she suffered mental problems and was admitted to Ward 54. She was still receiving psychiatric care at Walter Reed when the Army abruptly discharged her. According to her husband, she was dropped off at a nearby hotel with a plane ticket.
While on Ward 54, Whiteside received a package from her crew in Iraq. Inside was a silver charm, inscribed with the crew members' names and the message: "Know that you are always loved by us. Never be forgotten and dearly missed. Your Trauma Team." The crew also wore "Trauma Mama" bracelets in solidarity.
After being released from Ward 54, Whiteside joined the outpatient ranks just as the Army was scrambling to overhaul its system for treating wounded soldiers and President Bush ordered a commission to study military care for Iraq veterans.
At Walter Reed, the Army brought in combat-experienced officers to replace the recovering patients whom it had asked to manage the lives of the 700 outpatients on post. The new Warrior Transition Brigade and its more experienced leaders were supposed to manage more adeptly the tension between soldiering and patient recovery.
It was Whiteside's commanders in this unit, a captain and a colonel, who drew up criminal charges against her in April. The accusations included assault on a superior commissioned officer, aggravated assault, kidnapping, reckless endangerment, wrongful discharge of a firearm, communication of a threat and two attempts of intentional self-injury without intent to avoid service.
The Army ordered Whiteside to undergo a sanity board evaluation to determine her state of mind at the time of the shooting.
Tom Whiteside said the criminal charges threatened to unglue his daughter's already tenuous grip on recovery. "If they are doing this to her, what are they doing to those young PFCs without parents by their side?" he asked.
By early August, Elizabeth Whiteside sought an alternative to court-martial. She requested permission to resign, a measure the military often accepts.
Rowe, commander of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, which has jurisdiction over her case, would decide whether to grant her request.
He reviewed recommendations from Whiteside's two commanders at Walter Reed and the facility's commander, Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, a physician. Whiteside's immediate commander at the hospital, a captain, recommended that she be given an "other than honorable" discharge, according to a document obtained by The Post. The captain wrote that her "defense that she suffers from a mental disease excusing her actions is just that . . . an excuse; an excuse to distract from choices and decisions made by 1LT Whiteside."
Col. Terrence J. McKenrick, commander of the Warrior Transition Brigade, agreed: "Although the sanity board determined that at the time of the misconduct she had a severe mental disease or defect, she knowingly assaulted and threatened others and injured herself."
Schoomaker, now the Army's surgeon general, dissented. "This officer has a demonstrably severe depression which manifested itself . . . as a psychotic, self-destructive episode. . . . Resignation in lieu of court-martial eliminates all of the benefits of medical support this officer deserves after 7 years of credible and honorable service."
Rowe overruled Schoomaker. He agreed to accept Whiteside's resignation with a "general under honorable conditions" discharge that would still deprive her of most benefits, according to her pro bono civilian attorney, Matthew J. MacLean.
But then, from her battalion commander in Iraq, Whiteside learned that an investigation there had concluded that there was "insufficient evidence for any criminal action to be taken against" her. Furthermore, it had found a hostile command climate and recommended that the officer who had been her nemesis be removed from his position and "given a letter of reprimand for gender bias in assignments and use of intimidation, manipulation and hostility towards soldiers."
With this news, Whiteside asked that her letter of resignation be withdrawn. She would fight the charges.
In an e-mail exchange, the prosecutor, Wolfe, told MacLean that even if Whiteside won in court she would probably end up stigmatized and in a mental institution, just like John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan.
Wolfe suggested that the military court might not buy the mental illness defense. "Who doesn't find psycho-babble unclear . . . how many people out there believe that insanity should never be a defense, that it is just, as he said, an 'excuse.' "Awaiting a Decision
Whiteside lived with other outpatient soldiers in a building on the grounds of Walter Reed. She kept her quarters neat and orderly. As her preliminary hearing approached, she often went to bed at 8 p.m. to sleep away her impending reality. She attended morning formation and medical appointments. On weekends she hung out with her clique from Ward 54, "my little posse of crazy soldiers," as Whiteside called them.
She still had the innate ability to motivate soldiers. To pass time one recent Sunday, Whiteside drove a small group of outpatients to go bowling at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. "You can do better," she told a young private who was a terrible bowler. "We'll pool our energy together and get a strike."
Whiteside also offered encouragement over the phone to her friend Sammantha Owen-Ewing, the soldier she befriended on Ward 54 who had been abruptly dismissed from the Army. Sammantha was waiting to see if she could receive her care from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Whiteside feared the same fate.
At the hearing, the testimony focused on Whiteside's state of mind at the time of her shooting. The hearing officer would have seven days to make a recommendation on whether to dismiss the charges, offer a lesser punishment or go to court-martial. The final decision will be Rowe's.
A psychiatrist who performed Whiteside's sanity board evaluation testified that he found the lieutenant insane at the time of the shooting. One of the doctors said that Whiteside had a "severe mental disease or affect" and that she "did not appreciate the nature and quality of her actions." Brandt, chief of Behavioral Health Services in Walter Reed's Department of Psychiatry, testified that Whiteside was "grappling with holding on to her sanity," adding: "She was right on the edge, and she fell off."
Wolfe made his argument for a court-martial. "These are very serious charges," he said. "The more serious the crime, the higher level it must be disposed of. . . . The government's position is it should be a court-martial."
When the hearing ended, Whiteside walked outside into the cold. Her phone buzzed with a text message from the husband of her friend Sammantha, asking Whiteside to call right away.
Sammantha had hung herself the night before.
On Friday, Whiteside and her father flew to Utah for the funeral. Yesterday, after a service at a small Mormon church, Sammantha Owen-Ewing was buried.
Grief-stricken by the death of her friend and bitter at the Army, Whiteside awaits the Army's decision this week.
"I can fight them," she said, "because I'm alive."

Staff researcher Julie Tate and photographer Michel du Cille contributed to this report.

How to juggle

Well, I waited until DH was acting like my "regular" husband, with no "That Guy" in sight. He was confiding in me, talking about his hopes and dreams, and not feeling sorry for himself. So I showed him my budget. I'd say he was shocked. He looked at it for a long long time, checking every bill to make sure I wasn't adding in anything frivolous (I did add in his cigs and pop, because that seems to be a new regular expense.) He commented on a couple of bills that were lower than he expected, like the satellite bill. The last time he was aware of the bill, it was $63.00 a month. Now it's 29.99 a month. He said, "How'd you get the satellite bill down to 29.99? That's really cheap!" I thought back to the day when I cut out all the non-basic channels, and how upset he was, and DD too. No more History Channel, or Animal Planet....just CNN, and a few others. (I would've cut that bill out completely, but when 9/11 happened, we didn't have TV at all, and I really regret not being able to watch news that day...) I can't believe that he either didn't remember me doing that, or didn't remember the reason I gave him...

Anyhow, he's been less demanding about money. (I know it wasn't realistic to expect that he would stop asking for money). The last few times he's asked me for money, he hasn't given me that "ok, I know you don't love me" attitude, like he does so often when I don't have money for his "needs". I guess that's progress, right?

And DD. Since she is special needs, and has a very long history of not being truthful, I monitor her email (without her knowing). Before DD lived with us, I used to think that there could never be any reason to monitor a child/teen's email account surreptitiously. But since she has done some things and talked to some people in real life that aren't safe, I knew it was something I was going to have to do. So I set up her email account, and her password. She (as of yet anyhow) does not have the interest/ability to change her password, so I'm lucky that way. The first week she had the email account, I learned that she had signed up for match.com and also another dating site, telling prospective "dates" that she was 18. Since we don't have internet at home, I knew she was doing that at home, so I told her the school called and told me about that. She claimed it was to find a boyfriend for her bio mom, but once we knew about it, she stopped.

Now, I have learned she has a MySpace account. I believe she set it up while she was visiting her bio mom and they had gone to a neighbor's house. It's relatively innocent so far. I looked into how parents react when they find out their teen has a MySpace account that they didn't know about, and I have opted to pretend that I don't know what's on there and that I don't mind her having it, because I would rather be able to look and know, than have her go behind my back and have it be so much worse. And if I see anything untoward, I can always have the "school" call again, although she might not believe it so easily this time, as I am sure many of her friends have MySpace accounts. This whole privacy issue is one that really pains me. I hate the thought that I am "checking up" on her, but she so much wants to be "like everyone else" and she is likely to do very unwise things in the process, so I feel like I really have to right now. Her disabilities make her very vulnerable to suggestions, and very impulsive. I hope I am making the right decisions. I'll keep you posted.

Sometimes I just feel like my life is filled with people who don't think right. That's why I named the blog the way I did. Between DH, DD, and my mom who has dementia, sometimes I can really do a mind job on myself....it's hard to make so many decisions for so many people and not feel like no matter what you do, you're going to mess up.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Who's the child, anyhow?

Today I took DD to get a haircut. It's about 30 miles away, so it gave us some much-needed mom-daughter time along the way. I commented on how much she's been helping around the house lately--she takes the garbage down every week, she's been taking care of the ducks and chickens when I'm short on time, and she's been scooping the litter boxes when I ask her to, without an argument! And she doesn't even grumble when I ask her to put her clean laundry away.

I told her that sometimes I don't see her to say thanks, but that I really appreciated all her help. The grin on her face was priceless, I'm glad I didn't just assume that she knew I appreciated her!

And DH had mentioned that he had borrowed $10 from DD (from her Christmas money) for gas to drive to his brother's house to deliver a table. His brother reimbursed him and paid for the gas back home, so that he could pay DD back right away, thank goodness. He also told me that DD had wanted to go into town to spend some of her Christmas money, but DH didn't have enough gas to get back home, so she GAVE him $5 of her Christmas money for gas. This shocked me and proved to me that she is growing up, because her disabilities make her rather self-centered, and she has never done things like that before. I was initially very proud of her.

So I told her that DH had told me that she lent him the $10, and that she had given him the $5 and here is what she said: "Oh--and I bought the hamburger buns for supper, and I bought him a frozen pizza and an ice cream cone, too, because he didn't have any money." First off, DH didn't mention that stuff. Part of his reasoning was probably that I GAVE him $1.25 to buy the hamburger buns with, so I have no idea what happened to that money!!! But he "neglected" to tell me about the pizza and the ice cream, too.

The thoughts that went through my mind were sad. DD only had $25 in Christmas money, she got it from my uncle. She spent a good deal of it on DH. That makes me sad, because the money was for her, not for him. And I'm sad because I imagine she didn't just walk up to him and say, "Hey, Dad, you want me to buy you a pizza?" In other words, the fact that he is asking her for money makes me tremendously sad and I'm not sure how to handle that. I'm proud that she wants to share and help. But she shouldn't have to. And I don't know what to tell her about the situation, it's so "not right".

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Oh Dear

Well, I did it.

And the results are terrifying.

I tried to make a budget.

I used the budget form on www.livingonadime.com, it's very convenient and simple.
Too simple. It appears that, if I figure in DH's loans for the Truck and ATV, and I pay the expected amount on each bill and have normal paychecks with no overtime, well, there is a $962/month shortfall. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?????

And that's not even counting incidentals like haircuts or car repairs.

Things have been getting paid on time, as I have been working more hours lately, but you and I both know that I can't count on that...my company is big on outsourcing work to India, so who knows if I'll even have a job in a few months, let alone overtime!

I liked my budget a lot better before I looked at it.

It is pretty clear that unless some drastic changes get made, the bank(s) will make some drastic changes for me. I printed off the budget, and I am going to try to show it to DH when "That Guy" isn't around, and see if it'll convince him to get a job at McDonalds or something. If he doesn't get a job somewhere soon, I am going to have to start slashing things like car insurance on his car that's paid off, TV (we get very basic satellite because there is no regular TV coverage where we live), food, etc. Seeing it in writing really makes me scared. I don't know how I've been doing this for so long!!!!

Last Saturday Spenders Anonymous

I don't really know where to start. Remember "Chuck Wagon"? Well he (and his alter ego, too, LOL) is really getting on my nerves!!!!

Thursday night (Dec 27), DH stayed up all night playing that Sims game. He did not do anything else at all. He stayed up until 10am Friday morning, then went to bed. At 9pm Friday night, I warned him that he had Spenders Anonymous on Saturday and he should probably take his pills and get to bed at a decent time. Of course he said "Yeah, I know". And then he stayed up until 4am playing the Sims game again.

At 9:30am I woke him up for Spenders, he made a whole bunch of stupid excuses, like "the holidays are so hectic, lets wait until after New Years" and "I don't have enough gas" (countered that one with "I filled up my car so you could go to Spenders")....so he sat up and then fell asleep again. So I woke him up again. And he got so mad at me!!! This was very out of character for him, of course it was "That Guy" again....he got up, put his clothes on without speaking to me, slammed the bedroom door, slammed the front door, got in his car and left. I was upset, but just happy he was going to Spenders. But he came back a half hour later, because he had left in his own car and didn't have the gas to get there. He apologized to me, and told me I didn't deserve that kind of treatment, then he told me that the main reason he came back was that he was convinced that I was going to put a virus in his Sims game(???) (What the??!!)

I went to work on Saturday night, and I worked from 10pm to 8am. When I got home, DH was still up. Playing Sims. And the animals hadn't been fed. And Kirby had apparently needed to go out, and nobody had time for that either (yeck). And everything was filthy. I got very disgusted, took care of the animals, and left. And didn't answer my cell phone at all until I could tell DH was starting to worry.

I went home and told him that I don't ask much of him at all lately. And it seems kind of unfair that he plays that game 24 hours a day and I am working both jobs, and coming home to have to clean up a mess, take care of the animals, and make sure DD and my mom have what they need...and DH said "You're right, it's more than "kind of unfair", it's very unfair, and I will try to do better." I was hopeful, but it took a couple more tantrums from me to get the point across again. He's been doing more now, but still not much.

And he's been depressed. He called me last night and told me he's "a waste of a life". And he was feeling suicidal again. But he wouldn't call anyone. It's been a long time since he's been this down. I think he has therapy on Monday, and there's Spenders tomorrow, too....he told me he would never pull "that stuff" again, and that he would keep going to Spenders, so I will wake him up again tomorrow....

Friday, January 4, 2008

An apology

Well, hi and Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you had some time to do whatever is important to you!

I wanted to apologize for not posting for so long. There's been a lot happening, and sometimes I forget that my purpose for this blog was to share these things with other people, in hopes that people wouldn't feel as alone as I have while I've been going through this. And then when things happen, I think to myself "I'm going to have to write about this on the blog" and then somehow I start thinking "If I don't talk about it, I won't have to think about it." It's easy to hope that if you ignore it, it'll go away, right?

But things don't go away, and nobody gets anything out of this blog, if I don't tell you stuff, so I apologize, and I will do better.