Monday, July 23, 2012

It Takes A Real Man......

In the past two years, I have received more emails from Veterans than I do family members or spouses. Much of the same sentiment is echoed throughout each one; feelings of being alone, lost, confused, denial, hostility, anger and most of all...feeling like less of a man. Recently, I posted such a similar email on Facebook in regards to avoiding trash being on the road, the impact of being home, and the Veteran stating that he felt like he was less of a man because his wife had to drive him most times, that he still had a job to do and he was a leader of men in the military. I am not a professional but I use common sense and from the travels online that this life has led me through....I tend to see more outside of the box than many because you all place me there with different points of views, personal stories and sincere letters. Some of you I have seen come home, get deployed, come home again and deploy once more. It has been an amazing honor to talk to so many of you, getting to know each one of you and I have learned more from each of you than I ever could from a counselor, book, or support groups. I have been through suicides, babies born, love gain and lost, accomplishments and failures.....Where you went, I was there with you. Now it's my turn to give you something back in return.

As a woman, it hurts to hear each of you think that you are less of a man. Many of you, have no idea of how much strength, confidence and courage that resonates within you all. Because of you all...I found the strength to fight and the courage to keep going. Because of you.....I know you are out there reading and keeps me on the right track with good news, victories won, and positive things that happen in your lives. Some of you have been through hell. I am starting to find that more and more of us are traveling the same weary road and that we are just bumping into each other as we go along. Some have traveled with physical injuries, some with unseen ones and together...all of us are broken, desperately trying to pick up the pieces. What amazes me the most is how you see all the negative things but miss so much about you that I do see in all of you.

Less of a Man?

It took courage, strength, honor, integrity and pride to put that uniform on and place your life on the line for many who may or may not support you in the country; fighting for those who you don't know and will never know your name. We as women, family members, wives, sisters and girlfriends no longer need to see that uniform on to know those same qualities are within you. They will always be with you, no matter what you are wearing. No matter where you go, what life may hand you in the future...this part shall always remain a part of you. Anyone can put on clothing, but its what you do in them that tells us who YOU are as a person.

It takes a real man to step up to the plate and seek help for those problems that just doesn't seem right with you. The most courageous man I have ever met is my husband while I watched him walk down the hallways, after checking himself into a six week program through the VA for help. No matter how small he felt, unsure and a little scared, he looked like a giant to me with a chin made of steel built from the many falls and hits he took.

It takes a real man to struggle day to day, and still wake up for your family. That is love. No matter what you think about not having feelings or that you are numb...a part of you is still there and a part of you still wakes up for us.

We don't need you to sweep us off our feet any longer or try harder to win our love....we already said yes.  ;)

We don't need you to provide for your family, bring home the proverbial bacon, or to make sure we are all taken care of. Let us take care of you for a while. You had your turn, now let us as a family help you get through this. One man can be a rock, but a family is a whole island.

We don't need diamonds, pearls, or fancy clothes to pamper us. What we need is that smile on your face even if just occasionally. We need that hand held, to listen when we are frustrated, to wipe our tears away when we are sad and to laugh together. It takes a real man to talk about their problems or things they are worried about. More than likely? Your significant other needs to hear it and feels the same way. There has to come a time where you decide whether you want to be in the fight together or alone?

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
~Albert Einstein 

Helping you get through daily life, doing tasks such as driving or paying the bills, never made me look at my husband as anything less of a man. If anything, we are angry because as women we naturally want to comfort, take it all away, nurture and heal.  In my eyes, it takes a real man to hold a woman's purse for her while she is trudging through the VA or at the grocery store with you. It takes a real  man to reach up from his wheelchair and pat your hand. If you need shelter from the world, we want to take it all away and build you a fortress. If you fall....we want to be there to catch you and to take the fear away. A real man takes the time to say "I love you". That's what we want and what keeps us going.

Courage is walking into the VA system or anywhere and seeking the help. It's sticking with it and trying your best to deal with it. We know its not going to ALL go away, but it makes me tear up when I see my husband or many many others step forward and just do it. Most women don't want you standing in front us of....we want you to stand beside us. To me, that takes a real man to acknowledge that you and your SO are a team.

It takes a real man to realize his mistakes but even a better one for those that try to correct those mistakes. 

It doesn't matter whether the outside world pummels us into the ground, I still see a whole being there. Most women like us, don't want the flexing of the muscles, measuring the penis competition, trying to be something that you aren't. It doesn't matter what you have lost...its all about what you are doing with what you have now. To me, that screams MAN all over it.

Occasionally, most women want you to take the reigns in the bedroom. Often, this can be a challenge with the medications or injuries. Sex isn't everything in a relationship and there are ways to work around it. It takes a real man to speak up to his doctor when things like Erectile Dysfunction (which is extremely common) and not be ashamed about it. Sometimes, being held while watching a movie or just being kissed is enough for me. Most women just want the attention. The rest, can be figured out and most definitely worked around.

Talking to other Veterans and sharing your story, is helping others. You just don't realize it. It's inspiring to me to be in a room full of Veterans and watch them from behind the scenes and listen. It takes a man to open up to someone else. Giving someone advice or that leading into another adventures because you shared your story...truly knocks this woman's socks off. That is a MAN. 

We don't need you to pound on your chest, screaming "I am Man, You are Woman" all while dragging us around by the hair. The Caveman period is over. What we need is acknowledgement of our accomplishments and that we are still standing. Sometimes, we need a rock to lean on. Be there for us when we break down just as we are for you. Sometimes, or at least in the Mistress's case, I might need a really big, fat, hairy spider killed but I don't need you to be upset because the toilet is clogged up and you can no longer fix it. Kill the spider, we can figure out the toilet together. Kill the spider, and let me deal with the big, bad, scary VA for you in return. It doesn't matter about the rest of the world, as long as that damned spider is dead and gone! I think my hero is one who can tackle that spider and not shudder.


The most common statement from men is questioning their leadership skills. What the HELL are you questioning your leadership skills for? Is it because you are no longer leading? Is it because you are still leading, but are injured? How does being injured impair your leadership skills? A leader is defined as someone or somebody whom people follow; guides, instructs or directs others. This is based on integrity, respect, experience, behavior, courage, and strength. Did you lose those when you went to war and came home? Nope.  Standing up and getting help, does not make you weak. Speaking up, may put you in a precarious situation especially with the military but I guarantee you one thing....there are many under you who are impressed, think you have a big set of brass ones, and respect you more now than they ever did before. By doing such, you are setting an example for others to follow. If you give up, you let them down. If you lead by bad are losing the faith that others have in you. If you stand tall, no matter how many blows you have taken......people notice that. I would rather follow someone, who leads by example and against all the odds placed against them, across the face of the earth than one who sits back, is silent and does nothing. Leadership in true definition...isn't accepted by others unless you prove yourself. Everyone and anyone that has or had higher officers, Commanders and higher ranking in the chain, wonder how the hell they managed to scrape by, and how desperate was the military to put that person in that position of leadership, knows what its like to see some ass in a position that he cares nothing about. The integrity just isn't there and neither is the respect. To see someone below a SGT take the steps to get help, follow through, and try his best, outweighs any stripes, medals or stars on someone who just landed in there due to the years being in. To see someone in a command, doing the exact same thing...blows my mind as they are truly going against everything to make sure they are doing the right thing. Leadership is what you make of it. Never question that.

This blog is out of the norm for me, but it makes my heart hurt to hear so many of you writing in and sharing your stories, your fears but most of all....the uncertainty of who you are. Disability does not define you as a person. It doesn't change you are and you are still whole. Disabilities are just a new part of the person you were and that should never be something that anyone is ashamed of. As a Vietnam Veteran reminded me of a phrase he heard one time, "Let's concentrate on the doughnut, not the whole"; which is a really good way of looking at things.

Take a second, look in the mirror and say who you are and say it louder and louder until you can feel it. Each one of you is a bad ass, a force to be reckoned with and not many can honestly do what you have done. Don't forget that. That part never left any of you, no matter how many curve balls that life has thrown our way. Lean on your family, soak up the love that is in the form of help and positivity from your loved ones. We don't feel sorry for you, we want you to succeed. We don't want to fight this alone. We won't let you give up as long as you don't give up on us. It takes a man to really realize that its love that is holding all of it together. If you are single, then stop a minute and realize that its YOU that is making it happen without anyone's help. You were given a chance to be will you accept the challenge and beat it??

I hope this reaches and all my readers really read this. I think this can go for ANY Veteran; man or woman. It can apply to our many spouses and caregivers out there. Please feel free to add on to my list and pass on to others. 

The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.
~Albert Einstein 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Happens When the Battles Are Done?

Again, here I sit alone in my room trying to figure out what went wrong in our journey. It's been a while since I blogged last. I don't really know what's prevented me from writing but summer vacation has played havoc with my ability to schedule, find extra time and keeping the "Beast" at bay. I have had a lot on my mind lately and most of it, really isn't about my husband. It's been me. I am probably a psych doctor's dream patient in all reality, because I feel so lost most days. I am starting to question a lot of things, and question much more.

It's been a long journey and as our Federal Recovery reminded me....we are near the finish line. We were notified pretty quickly about the Med Board evaluations and within less than 24 hours, appointments were starting to pile up. I felt relieved but, at the same time I really wanted to reach out and smack someone because they were rushing us. I nicely reminded the lady who set our appointments that we have been waiting on the Army since 2007, and now I am supposed to drop it all to meet their demands? I think the problems I am facing are inside of my muddled mess I call my brain. I never really had time to just breathe in between it all, and haven't really fully taken a deep breathe since 2007. Of course, many hurdles have been jumped....mountains climbed, battles won and some still waging on but I am very weary and burned out. The anger still is in me, the fight yet not gone out of me but just am tired. I am ready to get the Med Board out of the way but at the same time I am a little scared of it all. I haven't the knowledge or my aces stacked for this, no plans for my fail safe- Houdini escape and then I wonder....what will I do after that?

I have fought so hard and for so long, that I know nothing else. Much of the conversation these last few months with my husband has been all the appointments, doctors etc. When I think about it...all we really have in common anymore is fighting back. I am going to be honest and say that I wonder what will hold us together after that? What bond, what fight, will we have to carry on? Right now and for the past couple of months, he has distanced himself from me and doesn't speak to me. It's like the only lifeline I have is the battle we chose to fight. I spoke to a dear friend the other night forever it seemed (literally I used two phone batteries up). Allan and Robin, who run Veteran's Benefits Support, have such a relationship that all of us could and would probably give it all for. I really opened up to him as he is so easy to talk to and talked about my fears, my dreams and my need to fill a void that is still in me. I think I have so much in me to give, so much more that is left of me to fulfill a purpose but I need to focus. A good friend, is one who can really put a boot up your ass and tell you that he loves you at the same time. He and a few others, really really know me and I felt suddenly vulnerable and naked as I explained my fears and concerns. He knows I trust no one, that I am a fighter and that I am passionate about my Veterans and all of you but at the same time, he knows that I slowly burning the candle at both ends. He knows that I am hurting still, even after all these years and still deep down...I miss my husband.

As we spoke, he felt I was still in the "fight or flight" mode. What would happen when it all comes to an end and I no longer have anyone or anything to be angry at he posed to me? Here we were, two friends really talking all through the night and man, what an eye opener did he give me. He was absolutely correct and the more I thought about it...the more I realized that he told me the truth. I am still stuck in a vicious cycle of resentment, anger, frustration and more. His analogy was that of a boiling pot and my fury and resentment that drives me is the stuff inside of the pot. If at full boiling point and left, eventually the liquid will dry up and all you have left is a burned out, sticky black mess. You have to learn, he said, to focus and let yourself simmer. It took all I had to keep from crying because I really don't want to be that burned up mess, a ruined pot, or an angry person forever. My friend told me that I can fight all I want but if they take my heart....then they won after all.

The Mistress really has a lot of things I want to do, and friends who will support and back me up. Some of them say I have a drive that they admire, and what they see I wish I could because I could use a break and a lift of spirits for a change. I keep asking myself what stops me from going after what I want and I find I make excuses. However, my excuses are that of my husband and that I don't know how to remedy. Some is just weariness bringing down my self-confidence. Some of them are based on where I would find the time? I want to make my husband proud, but I want to do what I want to do. I want him happy but I want to be happy too. I want him to acknowledge what others see or even notice me at all and I am not sure that will happen. Right now? All I want to do is run. Run far, far away and just start over. I am trying so hard but there is more than just wars won with the VA, more than a stable income, more than fighting for earned benefits. There is more to me as well and much more I have to give to others. In some ways, I feel I am failing somehow because the one person I need that push from is just simply not there.

Loneliness is a hard battle to wage against. I have tons of friends online, people I probably need to really call more often, and supporters out there. I got an email the other day from a "hater" who told me I should be grateful that my husband came home at all. I normally don't pay much attention as I usually use my middle finger to hit the delete button on those types of emails. That one in particular caught my attention as I will give credit to the asshole who wrote it, that it was well thought out and written. I sat and read it, then looked over at my husband and thought "how the hell am I lucky?". I swear if loneliness could kill you, then I am halfway there with one foot on a grave. I don't know how this person considered me lucky or felt that I should be thrilled that my husband is this way. Conversations include appointment times, what's the latest on Yahoo or what is going on with a TV show. Never before have I seriously considered doing the oddest things with his phone, or the tv...but it would make me ashamed to even write them out. If aliens are out there....I could give them some suggestions and it would go way beyond anal probing. Sex now a days? I probably need to pencil in on the calendar and next to it "pending possible cancellation". If he acknowledges anything, its negative things. If he touches me? It's a pat on the back like he might give to an elderly lady he just met and who wants to drown him in conversation over her arthritis. The only time I see any emotion is that of anger, hate, and sadness.

I don't understand how he can remember his show comes on, or a new season of something another starts but yet can't remember our Anniversary, appointments, or to eat. I wonder how it is that he can talk to his buddies, slap someone on the back and laugh....but yet I receive the cold, the dark, and never see the sun. Of course, its all for show...we all have seen it or notice it. The smile is false and plastered, the eyes are empty and the laughter hollow...but damn right now? I would take it selfishly just because I could use a change. I just wish I could get the support in my home and not have to hear from someone "aren't you getting paid to do this?" or "you have it made". Yep. That's me. Living in the lap of luxury, on Forbes Fortune Five Hundred list, and all the happiness in the world is being handed to me on a silver platter. I know PTSD makes them say things but these are statements that are constantly made. I am on my feet all day, I have to make myself stop for a bite at least once a day and the only person I know not doing him. I fight, he sits. I work, he sits. I try to encourage him, its a blank stare or one that could literally make you shrivel up. Here lately, laziness has been an issue and now I wondering what the hell therapy is really doing for him. He seems to like the doctor, really likes the therapy he is doing, I know he goes...but is it working really or is he just going through the motions? I don't know how to fix something like that and I don't believe anyone has the answer for it.

I find as the days go by, its a repetitive nightmare. Some days, I no longer even know what day it is and when the day is done....the calls have ended, the calendar is filled, the kids sound asleep; silence is my nightly visitor. We watch the same old shows, he asks me if I read an article on Yahoo three or four times if he asks at all, repeats the same questions a few minutes later, I go take a bath then I go to bed. Every night the same thing. I don't care about the shows he watches, don't want to talk about damn Yahoo articles, or ask me questions about the Army. I just want a little more. Maybe talk about the neighbors, perhaps the weather, hell even politics or religion. Instead, the day drags on and on and I am met with the same silent ending. I wonder if he even knows or cares that I go to bed and miss him like hell. I have tried to talk to him, I have explained that the cold treatment hurts, or sometimes I mention these are things we have to work on. I really don't think he gives a shit about any of it.

I find those talks are becoming repetitive too and that part worries me the most. I find I am a single parent 99% of the time and he has no interest in what they are doing. What is left between us, that one single thread of something in common, is the last battle we face. Once that battle is done? I am scared I will be lost and not know what do anymore. I have become master of words, one who doesn't back down from a fight or shy away from titles and ranks, and one who stands up to point out the wrongs. I just wonder though sometimes when our personal war is done, and we both show fatigue, battle scars....what will happen to us then? I sometimes miss the company and the safety the Army gave us; a foster family that we embraced and we built our lives around. Now it seems that family is slowly dissolving, and all we have to show for it is a hell of a lot of paperwork, and the ghosts of war haunting what was our home that was full of love, laughter and faith. I sometimes feel cheated, often rejected and angry...but do I have any major regrets? I don't think so because it is a chapter in our lives that we can look back upon and know that both of us gave all we could and both of us fought as hard as our bodies, minds and souls could fight. For the first time, I feel like I am suddenly losing my voice and terrified of becoming who I used to be when all I know is the person now.

One chapter closes and others open, I know. We often see that repeated all the time and I believe that's true but sometimes what if its the end of the book? The ending suddenly shows up and leaves you hanging? What if there never comes a sequel? I have come so far, and I don't want to pause but at the same time I can't keep running on anger either. For the first time, I am truly somewhat lost as to who I am anymore, what I am fighting for and what I stand for. I know in my heart there is more, but my biggest fear is losing the one thing that I fought for and that's my husband. Such hate he has towards me, and there is no reason, rhyme or excuse that he has and he truly doesn't know. Other days, he seeks me out and then doesn't know what to say or tries to start but stubbornness gets in the way. Pride prevents him from truly deciding whether he chooses to say I have been injured and that's just a part of me....the other part of finding a purpose keeps him lost. I see the light but he doesn't. I say I love you, he doesn't say it back. Most times I feel I am being punished but not really sure what I did. I am no quitter, but I am running out of aces to play at this late of the game. There really wasn't any victories won, just earned entitlements. There wasn't a war waged that I didn't have him as the primary focus, but somewhere along the way I met some amazing people who feel I have more to offer. Sometimes I wonder if its because of jealousy that causes him to lash out at me because I chose to accept the challenges? Other times, deep inside, I wonder if "hate" is just the way PTSD tells me he is lost too.

It's hard to carry an entire family through all this. Battle weary and tired, some days I don't know where the strength came from to hold my family together through it all. I don't know who is winning now, and if there was anything ever to be won to begin with? I just know there is something I am missing, some part of me as a person that is empty and needs to be filled, and my fire is still simmering but not completely gone out. I am afraid that once its all over.....will my voice disappear or will I simply keep adding to the book?

Sometimes Silence is the Loudest Thing Heard,