Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A New Start

It has been awhile since I have posted anything, and I am hoping to revive my blog.  Since my last post a lot has changed.  We moved from WA to Pittsburgh, PA in October of 2011 to pursue better medical care for my husband.  The transition has been bumpy, but we are starting to get somewhat settled and used to how things are here.  It couldn't be more different here than it was in WA.  In fact, I have been compiling a list of the differences and hope to post it in the near future.  The VA care here has been SO much better than what we had in WA.  It has been good to see a positive change in my husband as far as his ability to access more of the specialty care he needs.  I don't know that I will feel settled here though until we are in a permanent house that has the handicap access that he will need long term, and right now the rental we are in is no where near that.  Regardless of this I am just trying to take things one day at a time, and hope that our house in WA will sell sometime this year.  This is the short version of what has been going on, but I hope to write more soon.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Tough Love

Yesterday I had an opportunity to have a meal with some of the members of my extended family.  My mom is out of state visiting other family and so it was rare to be able to talk to my Dad without anyone around.  While I don't talk to him very often, it was nice to catch up with him.  While he was at the grill cooking steaks, burgers, and hot dogs he asked me how my hubby was doing and he wanted an honest answer and made sure our daughter was out of range so she couldn't hear our conversation.  I guess I always assumed he didn't think much of what we go through because Mom for the most part acts like she could care less.  I don't think she means to come across this way, in fact most people aren't comfortable with such conversation or how to approach chronic health issues.  Dad wanted to know if my hubby was getting worse and I told him in some ways yes and in other ways no.  It is difficult to explain the constant change that TBI and PTSD bring. 

Dad said I look exhausted lately and he thinks I am depressed.  He also said that he couldn't really blame me if I was because it isn't exactly the life I had dreamed of.  While there is some truth in all of that I don't want to feel like a medicated zombie and I have tried antidepressants and that is how they make me feel.  I don't want to be drugged in order to be happy.  I instead take vitamins and vitamin D supplement and try to get adequate sleep and exercise.  I try to watch what I am eating and making sure Its not an emotional thing.   The truth is every day is tough because yes I do most everything myself, including the parenting of our two young children.  It is also true that we are still thriving and there are definitely others out there that have it worse than us.  I really try to not pity myself.  God chose to keep my hubby alive that day in Iraq and I am thankful for the time that I do have with him. 

I don't know what our future looks like or if any of the docs will figure out the best mix of meds to help hubby's quality of life, but for now I try to keep him comfortable through all of his pain and fatigue.  He sleeps a lot and needs more care now than he did a few years ago.  I just hope I can keep up with it all for the long run.  Thanks for listening! I needed to get that all out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Heavy Heart

So many days I struggle when I think about the depth of what his injuries have done to us.  I have to be honest that I am having a rough night.  I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and at the end of the day I make all of the big decisions that most couples take for granted that they get to make together.  It has become more and more obvious to me lately how difficult it is for my husband to understand and follow a train of thought.  While I have known that he has severe frontal lobe damage for years, I guess I have ignored or not realized how directly that effects SO many aspects of our life. 

We have been trying to sell or rent out or house now since February of this year and I gotta admit I am getting tired of living in a state of limbo.  I have been praying lately and I feel like I cannot have this situation stay this way for much longer and have decided that if nothing happens by the end of September we will stop trying.  As much as I don't like living here I am trying to find the blessings it does offer.  I do love our house and I do love the Mom's group I go to.  God does not always give us what we want, in fact I think sometimes we are miserable because of our own selfishness and he uses those times to help us grow even though we can't see it at that time.  I have a feeling that might be what is going on here.  In fact, my husband and I were both talking about how we really do not have a church around here that we like at all.  It is tough to find one that is accepting and actually understanding of our situation without judgment.  The truth is many people say that they understand and will help us, but we have found to opposite to be true especially in churches which is really sad.

I don't know what our future holds or where we will be or if any of this will work out like I think it will, but I am going to continue moving forward and taking care of my husband and children.  In fact, as much as I don't want to be here the reality is that I am.  I need to get my daughter registered for Kindergarten soon.  I am putting that on my list for later this week.  Tomorrow I am looking forward to spending some time with a friend and supporting our WA Soldier's Angels Dine to Donate drive at Applebee's.   What are you doing this week and what have you been up to?

Monday, June 27, 2011

National PTSD Awareness Day

Today is National PTSD Awareness day.  I would assume that a large majority of people aren't even aware of this fact.  However, my those of us who live with it everyday we are very well aware of it.  PTSD is not easy, but it is something we can live through and with if we just take it one day at a time.  I know that sounds really cliche to just take it one day at a time, but it really does work.  With the 4th of July approaching my husband's nervousness is coming out.  I would say that his PTSD is very different than most Veteran's in that he doesn't really have many nightmares about war as much as he does about his company which was very abusive towards him.  He was a great soldier and the leadership in his company was beyond horrible.  A lot of his PTSD stems from trust issues because of them which has also boiled over into his life.  I don't know that he trusts anyone 100% including me. 

PTSD manifests itself differently in every person that has it and it is not something that is specific to war veterans.  Anyone can have PTSD due to multiple things.  I personally have some from when I was a child and someone tried to kidnap me.  I do not like being outside late at night in the dark.  Luckily during that incident my parents were nearby and took care of the situation but it was really creepy none the less and something I have never forgotten.  I also have some secondary PTSD due to my husband's own issues with his and me trying to protect him as much as I can.  When  you are totally surrounded by something like PTSD you naturally adapt and take on some of the characteristics of it yourself.  I think that is pretty much unavoidable.  If you ask an adult daughter or son of a Vietnam Veteran I am sure they would speak of many stories where they were impacted by living with someone suffering from PTSD.

I often worry how this will effect our own children and though they are young now (5 and 1) I know they will not always be and someday they will understand all too well what is going on.  PTSD does not make their father crazy or a monster or someone to fear.  It is a normal response to an abnormal situation.  If you went off to war and came back you would have some level of PTSD too.  You can't live in that kind of situation or environment and not have some sort of stress related to it.  So many of our troops are coming home with PTSD and left untreated it can have some devastating effects.  We have actually lost more Veterans to suicide than to the battlefield itself.  If that doesn't speak volumes I don't know what does.  The truth is there is still a huge stigma attached to PTSD.  Until we start treating this as a normal response to a traumatic situation the stigma will remain.  I think education is the key to beating the stigma along with action. 

If you know a Veteran or someone else with PTSD, don't be so quick to judge them and decide they are crazy, but rather support them and let them know you CARE.  If we had more people reaching out to our Veterans and letting them know they matter and that someone does care I think that would make a big difference.  Unfortunately the truth is the US is tired of hearing about these wars and they are burnt out on supporting our troops for the most part.  I hardly see anything in the news anymore about our service members and it saddens me that they have become a lost priority among the American people.  After all freedom is NOT free, but how do we remind people of that again?  Today and every day I think about PTSD and hope that if even one person reads this and it makes a difference than I have done something right.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

So many Emotions

Memorial Day to most people is just another reason to kick back, enjoy a long weekend and drink and party.  For me and other people directly involved in military life it is much much more than that.  As I sit here contemplating how many people have died for my freedom I am completely overwhelmed.  How could I ever say Thank you enough to their families for what they have sacrificed?  How many children have grown up without their Father's or Mothers just so that I can enjoy living in a "free" country?  The truth is that freedom is NOT free. 

I also have a deep internal struggle with memorial day because it is a yearly reminder of how close I was to being a widow myself.  There is nothing easy about taking care of a severely wounded Veteran.  My husband's near death experience in Iraq has totally changed the course of my life as his wife and caregiver forever.  When I married him I never envisioned that our life together would be what it is now, however I am incredibly grateful that he is still alive and with me.  I will never assume to understand what it is like for a widow to wake up every morning alone, just as that widow will never be able to understand the ins and outs of constantly caring for a Veteran that has so many needs.  I will not compare our situations for they are not the same.  The point is some gave all and all gave some.  Even the families who have gone through deployments and had their service member return to them healthy and in one piece without being injured have sacrificed SO much for our country. 

It seems that with this war going on forever it seems that the American public has grown tired and weary of supporting our troops.  You no longer read about those who have died in the newspaper.  It seems as though for the most part people could care less if they even think of it at all.  I will never forget for I live with the reminders of my freedom constantly, not only through my husband but through friends of his that didnt make it home.  I know a few widows and my heart goes out to them all the time.  They are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.  If you do nothing else this weekend, I want to you stop the BBQ's and shopping and truly think what it is like for some of these young children to grow up without a father or mother.  I want you to think of the spouse who is suddenly a single parent.  They are deserving of your time and respect.  Let's take time to truly honor them and the life and legacy of their loved ones who paid the ultimate price.. they gave their lives for our freedom.  God bless each and every one of them for their selflessness and their families who must learn to live without them but will never forget them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Fun

Tonight I actually was able to get away and have some fun.  I am part of a Mom's group that is kind of like Mops.  I was on our leadership team this year and it was great getting to spend time with the ladies that served alongside me.  Tonight we went to Red Robin for our end of the year party and it was nice to just relax and not have the kids crawling on me or have the hubby asking for something.  Somehow I still always manage to feel out of place no matter what, especially when they start talking about their hubbies being off at work and the latest things they are doing at work.  I try to be normal and yet somehow no matter how hard I try our situation is always brought up.  I appreciate that people care, but at the same time I miss the days when we were just like everyone else.  I am trying really hard to find a few things/hobbies that are just for me.  I feel like my identity is gone and I want to be able to have something that is just mine again.  I have really been missing Army life lately, even though I didn't know it for long, I loved it.  I miss my independence and yet I don't think I would know what to do with it if I had it.  I guess that is all for now, my mind is just kind of wandering all over the place. I hope you are all doing well.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Silent Epidemic..

Tonight something is weighing heavily on my mind and heart.  Tonight on our VOW blog talk radio show we were supposed to interview a hero, a combat veteran that suffers from PTSD.  I was looking forward to hearing someone speak openly about their struggles with something that isn't really talked about.  I was hoping to gain another soldier's perspective in hopes that I could take something, anything away from it and maybe use it to help my own husband who struggles with PTSD and more than he likes to admit.  It seems like that was not to be tonight because unfortunately this soldier who was lined up to speak is instead mourning the loss of his best friend to PTSD and suicide.  You see whoever his friend was, he was a hero too and yet he lost his battle against those demons.  I do not know who this soldier was, but he was more than another statistic, yet that is what he will be seen as by most.  Why is it that American's see PTSD as some kind of disease that they might catch?  Why do we allow there to be a stigma associated with it? What can we do to continue to raise awareness and see that changes are actually made and carried out?  What will it take for more American's to guinuinely care about what is going on with our Service Member's and Veterans?  Sure it is easy to slap a sticker on your car saying," I support our troops", but how many actively do? I think we would all be dissapointed to know the truth on that one.  Are we seeing a nation that is experiencing burnout? A nation that is so tired of hearing about 10 years of war that they would rather turn a cold shoulder than hear about anything solider that has died? The current trend that I am witnessing is disturbing and it is of great concern to me.  Ughh!! I am just so frustrated that this is even an issue. 

Along with being concerned about our Soldier's and Veterans I am also afraid for our families that live with them.  I am worried about how PTSD manifests in a home, how it effects, parents, children, spouses, etc.  Who is keeping an eye on those who are developing secondary PTSD? Who is making sure the caregiver's of these heroes are not suicidal themselves?  Until recently I don't think much thought or attention was being given on this subject, yet it was and is still an issue.  By now many have heard of Jessica Harp and have read her blog, she is an example of what can happen when family member's are not taken care of.   Thank goodness her suicide attempt did not work and that she is still with us and receiving the help she needs, but what if that was not the case?  How many other's are there like her that feel hopeless right now? 

Maybe a family member is not suicidal but in crisis.  Is there help for them at any time of the day?  The answer is yes, but the tough part is very few know that there is help out there 24 hours a day from qualified professionals.  There have been many times where I have felt incredibly overwhelmed with this role that I was trust upon.  I never asked for my husband to be blown up in war.  I never asked for him to leave to Iraq one person but return to me a completely different one.  Am I blessed and happy that he made it home alive?  Of course I am! BUT that does not change that NOTHING since then has been what I thought it would be.  When we got married, I accepted the fact that we didn't get a real wedding because I knew once he got home we would get one.  Ha! We have been married 6 years now and I still have yet to have the wedding I have always wanted.  Our plans changed when he was injured and the wedding is only one small example of what I thought would be that is not. 

I think it is easy for people outside of our situation to look in and say well you just need to  do this or that and then things will be better or easier or you just aren't trying hard enough.  My answer to all of them is to Shut the crap up!! and that is putting it nicely.  Until you have been in a situation, it is not fair or even right to presume you know what someone should do.  I would never tell a widow what she should be thinking of feeling or do because I have not walked that path.  I do however support her, and let her know she is in my thoughts and prayers.  I would ask for specific ways I can help and then do something if requested and it was within my abilities.  I guess the point of all of this is to just realize that we need to wake up and understand that things are NOT what we think they are.  There are many signs out there to how someone is really doing, but the thing is we have to actually stop and really care.   How many times have you had someone see you at the store or wherever you might be and say, "How are you?" and you respond with, "Oh, I am great" but not really be great at all? Maybe you just want them to go away, or maybe they can't handle the truth. 

For me I don't think people would want to know the truth if I was to actually give it to them.  Some days I am actually great, but most of them time I am struggling with something because the life of a caregiver is not an easy one, especially when you are in your 20's and suppose to be having the "Time of your life." It is barely 9 pm as I write this, and yet I am alone once again.  Most of my evenings are spent this way, the kids are fast asleep and so is my husband.  He used to be able to stay up for hours on end and get maybe 3 to 4 hours of sleep and be good to go for another day.  When that IED blast went off and damaged his brain, it took that freedom from him and me along with many others.  I sit here lonely for your freedom and this is how most of my days end.  I have left you with many things to ponder, I hope that the next time you ask someone how they are doing, that you actually are willing to listen to their reponse.