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. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Just another day

I was dreading today, and rightfully so.  You see it is Mother's Day and while I love that I am a Mom and my kiddos are incredibly precious they are 5 and 1, I still did not look forward to today.  In fact I pretty much dread most holidays, I am sure you are thinking, "What is she crazy? Why would she say that??" Well the truth is and you can hate on me all you want, but I just don't want to have any expectations of anything anymore.  In fact, I have never had a great Mother's day because when your kids are as young as mine are, the duty to take care of things is put on the husband.  For most families that isn't a horrible thing, sure men in general have a tendency to be a little last minute or need extra reminders about an upcoming special occasion, but even so most end up making it happen in the end.  When I first married my husband he was amazing at remembering the little things, when I flew in to TX so we could get married he greeted me with a kiss, a rose, and a stuffed donkey from Shrek.  He knew that my love language was gifts and he could remember my favorite color and he knew that my favorite flower is red roses.  Today is drastically different from then.  It seems that every time I try to move forward and be normal I find constant reminders of how we just aren't.  The invisible wounds come back to play and destroy the calm I once knew.  My husband was so sick all day and was pretty much asleep all day.  He missed out on an extended family dinner last night, and breakfast this morning.  I try to not let it get to me, because it is just our reality, but I still find myself sad and mourning the loss of what use to be.  What makes it even harder is to see all of my friends post on facebook what wonderful things they got from their kids and what their husband's did for them to make the day special.  While I am happy for them, that they were blessed and remembered today it is tough for me to read.  I am sure I just sound so selfish and down in this post, but I don't really care.  You can judge me all you want.  This is just my way of getting my feelings out and you will get the raw version of me here, so if you don't like it or have something nasty to say you can just leave.  The truth is, I am used to this and every time a holiday rolls around I prepare myself for nothing, because that is easier than being disappointed.  I don't blame my husband at all.  He doesn't have the ability to remember things, and he can't drive either, so even if he could remember something well he would still need help to do anything.  Sometimes, rarely someone will help him, but for the most part it is all just ignored. 

Today I tried to think of positive things even though I was mourning for his former TBI/PTSD self.  I wish I could go back to those days when his brain worked, but at the same time I am thankful for everything we have been through.  I feel like we I have weathered more storms than people twice our age.  Today I thought of and prayed for a friend who is still struggling to conceive after 2 years of trying to get pregnant.  I am sure today is tough for her as well because I know how desperately she wants to be a mother.  Today, I thought of everyone who has lost their mother and how sad and void they must have felt.  This was my dad's first mother's day without his Mom and I thought of him.  Even when I feel awful I try to remember how there is always someone with it worse than me, and I try to keep things in perspective.  I will admit that is not easy to do, but I try.  I smile because my little girl made me the cutest home made card and she is a very perceptive child.  I think she is more aware than most 5 year old's. 

I feel like I am starting to get sick with what my hubby has, and this isnt helping me either, but again I am going to try to not let that get me down.  I am loading up on OJ and taking vitamins to try to stay healthy because all caregiver's know you don't just get to take a break because you are sick, it doesn't work that way.  I am done for now.  Until next time have a good one!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Being Part of a Team

I am so excited to be able to be part of a team that makes a difference but first let me take you back to the beginning.  When I married my husband everyone I knew thought I was crazy, why you ask?  We had known each other for a very short time, about 6 months actually and most of our communication was online due to the fact that he was in the Army and stationed at Ft. Hood and I was here in Washington State.  We only spent two weeks together in person before we were apart again and when I flew to Texas late January of 2005 to marry him I had no clue what turn our lives would take just about a year later. 

So what happened? Well the obvious is that he was blown up in Iraq, but before that we got married early February of 2005 and I pretty much got pregnant right away with our daughter.  Coban left for Iraq 2 weeks after she was born and I spent the year away from him with my family here in WA, something I wish I hadn't done looking back but you live and you learn.  In April of 2006 Coban called me one night and he sounded different, as though he was having trouble forming words and sentences.  He could hardly hear and I knew something was wrong.  At that time neither of us had any clue what a TBI was or what the IED blast had done to his head and the long term consequences he would suffer. 

I now know more about the brain than I ever thought I would,  I also know that our love for each other is stronger than what some experience in a lifetime.  I know that we can weather in any storm thrown our way because we have been through a lot of difficult things and we are still together.  Do we have a perfect marriage? No.  There are many days when I feel more like his caregiver and a Mom to him than I do a wife.  This is not even close to the life I envisioned we would be living right now, but I accept it nonetheless and I am trying very hard to be okay with it and I know God will give me the strength to get through it.

Coban now has severe frontal lobe damage and mild damage to the rest of his brain.  He suffered not only the original IED blast that was huge, but also many subsequent ones due to the fact that he was never sent out of theatre.  When he did return home I pushed for testing to figure out what was wrong with him.  It seems that over these years I have lost a lot of who I am.  My identity seems wrapped up in him and the care he needs as well as taking care of our children who are 5 and 1.  Very rarely do I find something that is for me.  That is why I am so happy to be part of VOW.  Check it out and please read the articles and listen to our Blog Talk Radio Show.   It is nice to be part of a team again.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Wave of Emotions

First of all I will start by saying it has been far too long since I posted something on here.  Quite frankly I did not like the way my blog looked, and so I didn't feel like writing on it.  With the help from a friend, I was able to give it a much needed face lift.  Having said that I will now move on to what I want to say.

This weekend has been FULL of emotions that I don't know how to even put into words.  If this turns into a huge mess, I apologize now in advance.  My husband was injured in Iraq April 29th of 2006.  On April 28th of 2011 he was finally recognized for his sacrifice by receiving his Purple Heart in a ceremony that was simple, but amazing and it is something I will never forget.  On the 29th we celebrated his 5th Alive day by just being around each other.  My hubby doesn't really like a lot of attention or fuss over it all so I tend to keep things low key out of respect for him.  The 30th was spent resting and catching up on sleep from a very busy week.  We were blessed to be able to have his brother join us from PA and along with him our daughter S was able to come home.  She had been with family for 4 months visiting and experiencing some normalcy. 

Today is the 1st of May and there was some huge news that broke all over the news.  Osama Bin Laden has finally been killed by our US troops! I am glad that our soldiers have not died in vain.  I am glad that we no longer have to hunt for him.  Unfortunately, I can not celebrate for long because I know there will be retaliation against our troops.  It is not a matter of if, but rather when.  I hate this and will continue to keep all of our troops in my thoughts and prayers.  We may have cut off the head to their operation, but I am sure they had many trained up and ready to take his place because they have known this day would come at some point.  We must continue to be vigilant in our own security here and abroad and not let this keep us from being aware of our surroundings. 

I am sure I now sound like some crazy paranoid PTSD chick, well in one sense I would say that is totally true.  I dont know of any spouse/caregiver of a wounded veteran that doesn't have some form of secondary PTSD.  It will be interesting to see the reactions of our citizens in the days to come.  It will take awhile for it all to really hit me I think.  I have so many emotions because it was his(bin laden's) men who were responsible for the IED that could have easily killed my husband.  I have a lot of reflecting to do and that will take some time.  I am so thankful that my husband made it home alive, but my heart is also so heavy for those who did not. 

I have so much I could say, but for now I think I will leave it at this.  I still can't even wrap my head around everything I have thought and felt this weekend.  I am by nature not a very emotional person, yet I find myself feeling like a good cry would be nice however the tears won't come.  I think being in a pensive state is good for me.  I hope that I will never take for granted all that has been sacrificed by my husband and others for my freedom.  I don't think people in general truly understand everything military families have given up for their ability to enjoy the freedom's so many of us never have.  I say this all the time and will again, It is not only the service member that sacrifices but also the family that loves and supports them.  We do it because we love them and because we too choose to give up so that other's don't have to.