Freewriting With the Demands of Life, Interruptions and PTSD


Dearest Readers:

Freewriting today, so here goes. Freewriting has been described as a time for writers to sit and write about anything that comes to the mind. It is now 3:52. I am supposed to write for five to ten minutes. Just write. No editing.

What is on my mind? It is Monday, my scheduled day to clean and catch up on things at the house. Moments ago, my husband walked in – asking me IF I read a card that was addressed to him. “No,” I reply. I do not read your mail.” He got just a bit touchy then. I suppose it is another PTSD day!

What is PTSD? If you have to ask that question, you’ve never been around anyone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When my husband walked in, I could see that he has dealt with a bit of stress today, although he denies it. Silly guy. Doesn’t he know I can see those eyes and I know I must walk on eggshells once again?
My husband is a Vietnam Veteran. How I wish I could pull those memories of war out of his head, but I cannot. Nor can I get him to calm down from his actions. Sometimes, I simply feel like running away – FOREVER! But, what good would that do? It would simply make him angrier. When he attacks me verbally with his PTSD, I walk away and give him space.

In my next life, I want a happy life. A life filled with someone who appreciates me and treats me kind. Yes, there are days when my husband is kind – it seems the PTSD outweighs the good days. He is a generous man. But kindness – well on his good days!

So be it. Enough about my husband’s attack when he walked in the door. He will not ruin my mood. Today has been a good day, and I am actually sitting here writing again – even IF it is freewriting.

In case you, my readers are interested, I am writing again, but it is so difficult. Years ago, a professor of an English class I was enrolled in asked our class if anyone loves to write. Silly me! I raised my hand. The professor was tall and thin, he had a slight beard and his facial expressions reminded me of George Carlin. He moved quickly to be by my desk. Pointing his finger at me, he shouted – “Then YOU are not a writer! Writers HATE to write.”

I’ve thought about that professor many times, and now I suppose I am a writer because there are times I actually detest writing. I don’t like to say the word ‘hate’ – especially since that dreadful word opens up a can of worms to many people. I try not to ‘hate’ anything.

My computer is telling me it is now 4:07 pm. Time to go start dinner and feed the dogs. Will I cook tonight? Not if my husband’s demeanor doesn’t change! For now, I think I will glue myself to my chair and write. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll repeat this exercise of the brain – writing! Later, Readers! Enjoy your day!

Friday Reflections…


Dearest Readers:

If you follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know I haven’t written much in this column in about two weeks. Last week was truly the week from Hell for me. Beginning with suspected car problems where the technicians replied, “The engine light wasn’t on when we checked it…” Of course, that is a typical response from men to a woman at a service department…now, isn’t it — WOMEN! They were slightly mistaken. The engine light icon returned, and on Wednesday, it took over three hours to get it repaired. Of course, the main reason it took so long is due to the fact my car warranty was purchased with the car ($1549.00) at Car Max. Still, I am furious with Car Max; however, I will go on record to say that the service tech at Dodge possessed an amazing amount of patience with them — JUST — to get the warranty approved. Thank you, Dodge…and NO THANK YOU…to Car Max!

But — that chapter is closed and I am pleased to share that the repair that I had to pay for in the amount of $477.21 has been compensated to me – minus the $100 deductible since I DID NOT USE CAR MAX FOR THE REPAIR… Heck, I could not get Car Max to return a phone call, or the Mouse Lady to acknowledge me! Can you detect my frustration with Car Max???

Enough about Car Max! I suppose this post should actually be Friday frustrations, instead of Friday Reflections; however, since I am a person who looks for the positive in life and not the negative, I will do my best to reflect with a positive attitude.

While I am reflecting on Friday and this week, I would like to share that I was finally able to attend my weekly Weight Watchers meeting yesterday — the first meeting I’ve attended in four weeks. I confess, I anticipated a weight gain of 3 or 4 pounds and was a bit happy when I had only gained .06! It was wonderful to get back to my REAL life again. This reflection proves to me that I cannot complete my Weight Watchers journey alone. Like someone with an addiction, I must attend weekly meetings to share my ups and downs with all. I confess, I think the only reason I did not show a weight gain of four pounds or more was due to the fact that I have worked out on the treadmill every day since last Saturday. It was suggested at the meeting for me to ‘shake up’ my exercise routine a bit, so this week I will go for an extended walk — on the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge, and I will return to walking my dogs again. I’ve been slack about walking my dogs ever since we lost my precious Shamey-Pooh. The last time I walked the dogs on our three-mile journey someone actually stopped me to inquire where the ‘beautiful silver dog was,’… when I replied that he died, they apologized and I burst into tears.

Undoubtedly, there has been a black cloud over me for a few weeks, or maybe it is the full moon returning; nevertheless, this week started off — shall I say unpredictable. Monday afternoon, Phil and I left the house a few minutes after 5pm, headed to the Coastal Carolina Fair. What would normally take about 30 minutes was at least 1.5 hours. We arrived at the fair at about 7pm. Never did Phil get annoyed about the traffic and we had a great time at the fair. Little did I know how things would change within 24 hours!

For those of you who do not know – My husband has PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you do not know what it is like to live with someone with PTSD — count your blessings! Tuesday afternoon when Phil returned home from work, he had a strange look in his eyes. I know that look well — PTSD! Within 30 minutes, we were fighting. I cannot recall what set him off, or me off – but our fight continued. I decided to shut myself away in the bedroom. That night, I broke our rule – a rule made when we were newlyweds…the rule of “never going to bed angry, or without a good night kiss!”

Wednesday – we had the same scenario. No matter what I said, we could not stop the fight. Listening to someone is difficult with him. I approached him carefully, telling him ‘we need to talk.’ When someone has PTSD communication does not exist. Every time I said I needed to talk to him, we fought. The real kicker was when Phil shouted to me that I was exactly like my mother. Yes, he does know the right buttons to push! I exploded although with a calm, diplomatic voice letting him know that I was ‘nothing like my mother!’ Never did I behave, or deceive him in the manner my mother deceived my father.

I gathered my dogs and off we went to the bedroom. I pretended to be asleep! No kiss. Nothing! Breaking the rules continued. I should add, Wednesday, Phil called me several times. No doubt, he wanted to end this scenario on the phone. I stood firm.

Thursday morning, after Weight Watchers, I had lunch with a close friend from Weight Watchers. As I was leaving the car to meet her, my cell phone beeped with an e-mail. From Phil. Subject – Peace! He said he was tired of fighting…recognized that at times he could be difficult, only that is not the word he used! And he was sorry. I phoned him. Fight over.

No, I was not refusing to take the first step to end this emotional battle, but when you live with someone with PTSD there does come a time when you must be firm so they can see the issues related to PTSD. I’ve had several friends ask why I tolerate his behaviors and mental treatments. My reply – simple –he is the only person who has ever loved me. He rescued me when I needed rescuing. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, reading my issues with my mother and the domestic abuse of my family, then you must understand. When someone grows up in such an environment, never do you anticipate a life of love and peacefulness. Never did I EVER see my parents hug or kiss, so — due to LOVE(??) that is why I tolerate such behaviors. I do recall my parents shouting and I shall quote:
Mother – expressed to my father: “I hate you…You no good Son of a B—-!”

Dad’s reply: “I wish I never married you!”

Mom’s reply: “I hope you die soon…”

Those cruel expressions echoed in my ears as a child, and they still echo in my ears. Once you live in an abusive family situation, you never forget it!

Maybe that is why I strive so hard to be positive. When I hear others gossiping, ridiculing others, I say something positive about the person. Maybe that is why I’ve lost “friendships” because I do not wish to gossip about others. I do not function well with gossip or negativity. As a child, I recall my mother dragging me to the beauty shop in Bibb City, GA where she would sit for hours gossiping about women, men and the couples within the village of Bibb City. I hated these moments and would rush outside, or sit with my head covered with one of the bubble hair dryers so I would not hear their shrewd gossip. Women can be so dangerous and cruel. I suppose those ‘toxic stories’ made my mother feel better about herself, and I do recall saying to my mother, “God don’t love ugly.” My grandmother’s favorite expression! My mother’s response, “You shush your mouth, you stupid girl!”

Later in my life, I focused on a new definition of STUPID!
S – Sensitive
T – Tenacious
U – Unique
P – Passionate
I – Imaginative; Independent; Intimate
D – Dignified; Dependable; Desirable

Perhaps for today, these are my Friday reflections. I am hopeful next week will be a positive, happy week for me, and for you. What are your Friday Reflections?

PTSD, Lack of Medical Care, and Blue Water Navy Dioxin Exposure The Emotional Wars Necessary to Wake Up the VA


After my marriage to a soldier, I was blissful of our future life together. Kissing him goodbye at the Charleston, South Carolina Airport I was fearful of what he would be like when he returned, or what would happen to me, if he did not make it home. Young and excited, I believed the military practiced their belief of taking care of their own. When I arrived at R&R in Hawaii, nine months after he departed, I was informed I had to attend an orientation before his arrival. I was told that he might overreact over something as silly as leaving the toilet seat up, or forgetting to place the lid back on the toothpaste. I needed to know how to respond. After all, he was in a war zone, seeing things that most Americans did not see normally, and I needed to know how to care for him. One year and five days after he left for Vietnam, I was completely surprised when no one contacted me to see how I was adjusting with my soldier husband home. Unlike Army Wives, I did not receive any type of family support. Never did either of us get a phone call or a referral to his reentry into a normal life. Never did anyone ask me how he was doing after fighting in a war zone. Our life as husband and wife finally began in Fort Gordon, GA where I witnessed flashbacks, irritability, and night rages where he choked me while shouting in Vietnamese language. When I encouraged him to get some help, his reply was an angry, “It don’t mean nothing.” Little did I know my husband was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with the side effects of Agent Orange.

Flash-forward to 2009.

The war in Vietnam ended April 30, 1975. I remember watching the stories on the local news, while feeding our child, now three years old. My husband never expressed his feelings over the war ending. He simply rose from the table and walked away. I heard, “It don’t mean nothing,” again. Never did I understand the chill of those words until I slipped into a deep depression over the wrongs of my marriage. Suddenly it seemed my husband was an angry man. He spat off into bitter rages, shouting at me, telling me I should be ‘seen and not heard.’ He wanted me to be the happy homemaker, not the actress, singer, or writer I desired to be. I shouted at him, unable to understand why our marriage was falling apart. He blamed me – for everything. Our fights were my fault. Our finances, and our tight budget, were my fault. The car breaking down – my fault. The lack of intimacy was my fault. Defeated, I crawled into a shell. Why couldn’t my husband understand, I needed more than wife or mommy, I needed a life that was fulfilling, not just domestic. Our fights continued as he demanded that I quit work and focus only on him and our son. Defeated, I granted his wishes while the anger was brewing inside of me. In early 1980, I read an article in a magazine, describing how many Vietnam Veterans had returned to America, only to become angry. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was the culprit and it was destroying the lives of the Vietnam Veteran. The marriages of the Vietnam era were falling apart, with only 1% surviving. We, my husband and I, were 1%, and we were crumbling.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] became a household name in the early 1980’s. As the wife of a former military man and a veteran, I was compelled to learn all I could about it. On one occasion I told my husband I suspected he had PTSD. He denied it, telling me our problems were all because of me and my independence. Yes, I was a feminist, and the longer I lived with him, the more defiant I became to make my own way. Nevertheless, I did not have the courage to end our marriage and I stayed with him because I loved him and I was afraid he would not survive without me.

In early 2000, he met a Vietnam Veteran on the golf course. Together, they bonded as brothers. With the acceptance of their friendship, my husband has recognized the behaviors he battles daily are a reflection of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He met with a representative of Veterans Affairs in 2001 or 2002, and is still battling to get the benefits he was promised. PTSD is his daily battle and there are times he actually wants to run away from himself. If only the VA could live with him for one week they would understand how painful his emotional wounds are. If only the VA could hold him during the flashbacks. In many ways, my soldier husband is still in Vietnam, never to return. On one occasion my husband met with a VA rep only to be told, and I quote, “It doesn’t help your case that you are still with your first wife.” When my husband expressed his comment to me, I was outraged, wanting the name, phone number, and contact information. My husband did not share it with me, but I can certainly educate others into the scenarios I discover.

Recently, I became involved with non-profit groups that desires to wake up Congress and fulfill the promises made to Veterans. In March 2008, my husband traveled to Columbia, SC to appeal a decision from the VA. Now, he is told his file is in Washington, still awaiting a decision. My concern is not just for my husband, but for all veterans. Just how long does it take for a veteran to get the physical, emotional, mental, and monetary care he or she needs so life can return to normalcy I recognize there is a multitude of complaints that must be addressed by Congress or the Veterans Affairs, especially in 2014 with all of the complaints finally coming to the surface. My mission is to write about these scenarios and to share with my readers. When called to duty, to service America and its freedom, our Veterans stood tall, fought the battles, and now when needing our service the most, the VA ignores, or procrastinates to service their needs. This is a disgrace to all serving in the military.

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

VA Physicians are being instructed to deny or misdiagnose PTSD, or they are simply ignoring the signs, over medicating or improperly medicating, and simply not even looking into alternative ways of dealing with PTSD. Many Veterans are left to feel as if no one cares, or no one listens to their symptoms. Instead of listening, or asking probing questions, the medical practitioner prescribes a drug and it appears that the VA has a drug for every ailment. We as Americans must take a stand to service and understand our soldiers and Veterans, not simply remove their weapons, dust them off, and refer them to another source of treatment, or someone else at the VA. We must learn to listen and stop the habit of prescribing drugs for every ailment. Veterans are not pin cushions or guinea pigs. We promised our Veterans benefits, freedom, and a better life, not simply prescribed drugs by doctors who react by overwriting prescriptions, instead of listening to their emotional ailments. Is this the way the VA strives to help our Veterans? Just simply prescribing a drug in hopes the Veteran will feel better in the morning? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] is described as an ‘emotional illness’ and it was not recognized as PTSD until the 1980’s when the American Psychiatric Association recognized it as such, according to the website, http://www.psychiatric-disorders.com. PTSD leaves no visible scars, only the emotional scars that will remain forever inside the mind of the war veteran. PTSD leaves a stigma attached to it. To those who do not understand this ailment, the looks, discriminations, and lack of compassion leaves the Veteran with a lack of understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the wounds of it. While it is true, the wounds are embedded within the mind, the wounds are so obvious to those of us who love the Veteran suffering with PTSD; and we strive to do all we can to make their life more productive and pleasant. We need the VA to do the same.

President Obama has said: “We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America, a commitment that begins with enlistment and must never end.”

You, as Americans, and politicians of a free society, do have a moral, ethical, and Patriotic obligation to provide benefits and care, regardless of the costs involved! Our government has a moral, ethical, and Patriotic obligation to care for those who did the job others failed to do, or the many millions of Americans who chose to escape the effects, physical ailments, illnesses, and emotional wounds of war. Freedom is not free; it comes with a price tag. Veterans paid a gigantic price, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Only a war veteran can comprehend how that price was paid for in full by our military and war veterans, along with their spouses and children! The price they paid for their devotion to their freedom does not have a monetary amount and it could be considered priceless since the effects of war leave so many emotional and physical scars that cannot be repaired. The price our war veterans paid was distributed in full with blood, sweat and many tears.

Isn’t it about time Congress, the President, and the Veterans Affairs actually stood tall and paid that bill? Isn’t it time to help our wounded warriors, including those who suffer with PTSD, lack of medical care and improperly cleaned or sterilized equipment, and Blue Water Navy Dioxin Exposure, along with the emotional scars, to be compensated? The actions of Congress and the actions and policies of the VA seem to express so loud and clear that it would have been far better had our men and women not served or died at war than to suffer the denials, the schemes, shenanigans, and the maltreatment provided by the government of the United States. Let us all make a bit of noise with our Congress and all lawmakers. Send a copy of this article to those in your community, along with those who represent your home front. Isn’t it time our Veterans were treated with respect and dignity? Isn’t it time we welcomed them home and gave them the benefits promised, without the emotional war they must battle now, just to get those benefits? The choice is yours. You must decide.

Barbie Perkins-Cooper is an awarding winning writer who loves the journey and exploration of travel, health, and hospitality. She is the proud wife of a Vietnam Veteran and works full-time as an editorial photojournalist. She has published numerous articles and photographs for regional, health and beauty and travel publications including the Travel Channel, New York Daily News and Buick Magazine.

TODAY IS — HEART DAY…


Dearest Readers:

Today, according to my headline is “Heart Day.” Perhaps you are a bit curious as to why I say today is Heart Day. Allow me to explain. The morning of February 4, 1998 I awoke, dreading the day. My dad was at Roper Hospital on the 5th floor, fighting desperately and oh so weakly, for his life. Esophageal cancer was trying to take his life. On February 2, of the same year, my husband was rushed to Roper Hospital with suspected heart problems. After a cardiac catheterization procedure, http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cardiac-catheterization/basics/definition/prc-20023050 the cardiologist recommended heart surgery since four of Phil’s arteries were blocked. If my memory is correct, two of the blockages were at 90% or higher. I have to admit, my memory is a bit lacking where the statistics and medical diagnosis during this stressful time. Two of the most significant men in my life were now fighting for their lives.

On the morning of February 4, I remember driving to the hospital, arriving extremely early so I could kiss my dad good morning, and be with my husband during the prepping time for his surgery. What I did…who I was with…discussions…etc…etc… are a cloud of fog inside my brain, but I do remember praying, and I do remember going to the chapel — alone — so I could talk with God…say a prayer and light a candle.

All throughout the day I had friends drop by to see how I was doing. When they wheeled Phil to surgery, I remember walking along the gurney, holding his hand. I forced myself to be strong. “Don’t you dare cry…” I kept saying quietly to myself. “You have to be strong!” I did not have my immediate family with me. My son was out-of-town. Additional family members lived in Georgia, so I could not expect them to be with me. Besides, everything happened so fast. On February 2, I got a phone call at work, from ‘Karen at the doctor’s office.’ Funny, I thought. Why is Karen phoning me when Dad is in the hospital now. When I answered the phone, I discovered Karen was my husband’s doctor’s nurse. She was calling to tell me Phil was rushed to Roper Hospital. “This can’t be happening,” I whispered. “Both of my guys are at the same hospital. This must be a nightmare.”

There was a black cloud hanging over me!

On the date of February 4, as I kissed Phil bye, I wiped a tear from his face. I confess…I’ve never seen this man cry, until that day. I entered the cardiac waiting area. I asked someone where I could get a cup of coffee, recognizing I needed additional caffeine to get me thru this date. I was told we could not bring coffee, drinks of any kind, or snacks into the waiting area. Yes, it was a new, beautiful waiting room, but I ask — have you EVER sat in a waiting room, alone at the moment, without caffeine???

A few minutes passed. A friend joined me. Later, there were more friends…many…so many that if I listed all of them, I am certain I would leave someone out, and I would never want to seem ungrateful.

As the hours ticked away, I continued closing my eyes for a moment, to silently pray. I do remember one prayer. “Please God…I have two of the dearest men in my life fighting for their lives now. Please…God…give us all more time to be together. Please.”

I made a promise to myself. I had total faith that Phil would survive this day, and I intended to make this day — the Fourth of February, a special day for us to remember…February 4 will be our Heart Day.

For many years, I kept that promise, but like all things in life, the demands of life have a way of making us forget. This morning when I awoke I found myself contemplating — February 4…What is it about February 4 that continues to echo in my mind. I stopped for one brief moment, remembering that we lost our precious little Maltese on the 4th of January. Could that be the reason February 4 keeps ringing in my ears and brain?

On the way to get my nails done, the date of February 4 finally clicked! Today is Heart Day! I confess, its been years since I’ve bought a card, or wished Phil a Happy Heart Day, but today was a new day and I promised myself that this date would not slip by without a card, or some silly memento of the occasion. After all, not everyone gets a Heart Day!

Yes, Readers, you might call me silly, or a romantic…or someone who is so unpredictable that she would strive to make the most of something, especially a special day. I confess, I am definitely — silly, romantic, and unpredictable! Today is the 16th anniversary of my husband’s heart surgery. SIXTEEN YEARS! Still, his heart is going…even when he gets in his PTSD rages and I have doubts that he DOES HAVE A HEART. Nevertheless, today is Phil’s Heart Day.

Sitting on top of his computer in a bag is a silly little stuffed animal with a heart and “You Fill My Heart” inscribed. Yes, it’s silly, but what the heck. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Shouldn’t we all take the time to stop…for just one moment to cherish those important moments in our lives? Phil and I did not have a wedding, so getting married wasn’t exactly a precious moment. We’ve lived together for such a long time now that it is hard to remember exactly how L-O-N-G we’ve been married. I say I’ve been married ALL OF MY LIFE because in many ways it is true. I married three months after high school graduation. In all reality, I never had a life until I got married…so it’s no wonder I say, “I’ve been married ALL OF MY LIFE!”

So, for those most significant moments in our lives, we must cherish and strive to appreciate these precious moments, such as ‘Phil’s Heart Day.’

After his heart surgery, I was happy to know that Phil does have a heart. You have to get to know Phil to understand why I say that! Let’s just say, someone who has been to a war zone and saw the horrid things that happen in a combat zone, only helps to almost destroy the person who has seen the emotional scars of war. Phil suffers with PTSD. Yes, he has good days and bad days…but today is Phil’s Heart Day!

Sixteen years of heart surgery…Let’s continue hoping and praying for the best!

Happy Heart Day!