Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"No Man Fails Who Does His Best"

“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”

~O.S. Marden 

Often in emails or conversations with other spouses/Veterans via phone, the questions always begin. Much of the time, this makes me nervous because I really don't have all the answers. Disappointing someone with my responses is always a fear that nibbles at the back of my mind, but I always aim to be honest and make sure that they all know there is no "one size fits all" scenario. Questions like "How do I help him?", "How do I do all this?", "How am I supposed to deal with all this?" "How did you get through all this?" and the list goes on. After speaking with another spouse the other night, I went to bed and thought back on the conversation I had with her. I felt in my mind that I gave the God's honest truth and the best answer I could give her, but my heart felt heavy because I wish I could have been more well, sugar coated. Perhaps the years have hardened my ability to slowly pull the band aid off. When it comes to these questions though of how to deal with the war at home, there isn't an answer that is cookie cutter, inside the lines or a straight and clear cut one for any of us.

My best analogy is the sink or swim scenario. Many of us learned to swim with someone holding on to us, directing, and making sure one hand was under us the entire time; much like riding a bicycle with training wheels. Some of us were just thrown in as that was the way they learned, and it was learn to swim or sink. To this day, I remember my father saying "its now or never, girl. You either sink or you swim. There is no time to think about it." I used to as a child think my father to be this hard core, harsh, firm and no nonsense stone of a military man. However, looking back as an adult now, I see his point and it wasn't just about a swimming lesson. It was a life lesson and swim I did. It was the same way when my husband came off the plane; I never looked back. I just kept swimming to any where I could get my feet on solid ground.

With this life we are living, there are no guide books, no training wheels or hands being held underneath us giving us the courage that comes from knowing someone is there to hold on to you while you flail around. We get shoved in head first and never really get a good bearing on the direction we are going; it's just up or down. I can't remember honestly, how I did anything. I thought about this a while last night and all I could come up with was, "how the hell did I do it?". I just did. That's the truth. I think the reason I gained my bearings because we were on a track with a fast coming train coming down on us. With my Veteran and children, it was grab and run while trying to not ever look back. I took my home, what was left of it, and turned it into trenches for safety. I made a fortress out of love, stocked weapons made of patience and the will to keep my family together, all while we watched as the enemy fired upon us. I paid attention and tried to think on all opposing sides, especially that of the enemy, PTSD. I slowly found the courage to take on one fight at a time, choosing my battles wisely and learned from my mistakes. Trust me, there were many and more failures than successes for me. I think though looking back that is what made me even stronger and while I learned, my confidence grew. I learned much from many of those knock downs. I learned what was my limit, what my strength level was and when I needed to walk away. More importantly, I found out what I was truly capable of doing.

 "Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" 
~O.S. Marden

There were times there was no hope, and what hope was there was just a stone wall. That changes though as we go along because our point of view, especially that of hope...changes with us. We learn to seek out the only thing we can find and that is to survive, day by day and on our own. Over the past six years, things have come a long way although we are still far off from things being good. There are many of us all looking for that safe place to run to all while questioning if it even exists. Many of us are still fumbling in the dark, looking for some sort of thing that resembles our former lives we all got so comfortable in. Many of us fell behind and just didn't have the strength to keep going. Many have adapted and made a new normal for themselves.

  “No man fails who does his best" 
~O.S. Marden
 My advice is this, to all who may read this. Like many of our War Veterans, paying attention, relying on their senses and learning new strategies, saved their life. It's the same with us family members. Don't second guess yourself as sometimes the answer lies within, we just overlook it. Sometimes talking about it to another person in similar situations, you realize you had the answer all along, but it just took another point of view to put it out in front of you. Sometimes you walk away and then the answer sucker punches you out of nowhere. More times than not? There is no answer and that's ok too. Eventually, you will create your own.The game of life can't be won in a single play. It takes strategy, confidence and knowing the mind of your opponent. That comes from education, listening and learning from other failed moves. In this life, I don't think there is such a thing as winning, but surviving and making it work is the goal you seek. Hope rises from the ashes of all those burned bridges we lost along the way. For those that simply find themselves so battle weary that the only thing they can do is retreat, there is no shame in that. I know in some cases, walking away is the hardest thing to do but it is the only answer.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else"
 ~Albert Einstein
  Many of you ask questions in regards to therapy, counseling, taking on a new hobby to fill the gaps of what was our old life. Some want to journal, some want to write or blog and some want to go on to do other things such as starting their own groups, or even non-profits. I encourage each to find their own niche and what's even better, is just when you think things are going all to hell? Life takes a swing and plops down opportunities in your lap and that niche finds you. It's just up to you what you choose to do, but don't second guess that and ignore it. Sometimes in all of that? We find new answers, renewed strength, new hopes and we see much more of ourselves and what we are capable of doing.

  “Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them" ~O.S. Marden

Because there is no answer to anything, and this is in any part of life; you simply choose to live or give up. As some of our parents once told us, and for those who are parents now; most us expect nothing more than trying their very best from our children. So why do we find it so hard to expect the same thing from ourselves or our Wounded Warriors? The answer doesn't lie in how do I get through this, how did someone else get through this, or even how do I help someone. It's how do I try to find the first step? You can't climb a rock wall without finding that first rock or ledge, can't read a book unless you start from that first word on the very first page, can't swim until you get into the water and you can't fail unless you never try. No one has a skeleton key to unlock all the doors. We just have to keep trying each and every one, even if it means getting a few slammed in our faces. It's a hard, challenging life we now live but it can be lived. There will be good days, there will be some really bad ones. What you take from each of those, what faith you have in yourself and the Good Lord above along with support from others who are living it too, is what gets you through. Trying to live is better than not living at all. As long as you try, you give your best, the rest of the answers will come to you.......... 

“No man is beaten until his hope is annihilated, his confidence gone. As long as a man faces life hopefully, confidently, triumphantly, he is not a failure; he is not beaten until he turns his back on life.” ~O.S. Marden

Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Have No Good Excuses But He Has Plenty

You probably thought I disappeared, huh? It's been quite some time since my last blog. I won't waste your time reading up on my lame attempt to make some excuses for my hiatus, but will say that it's been more than hectic here. There just doesn't seem to be a whole lot of time for anything anymore. My mind is foggy, my body over extended and my sanity? Well, let's just say it's on the verge of giving me a permanent eye twitch!

I fell outside and encountered my first broken bones a couple of days after my last blog posted. It was a doozy of a fall and well, I figured that was a sign from the big man upstairs that I am just doing too much. I had no choice then but to walk away from many things and try to heal. All healed up pretty decently since surgery but two fingers which are sort of frozen and unable to move. My sanity and stress level improved but while I had that much down time, I did the most dangerous thing a Caregiver could do....THINK. 2012 wasn't very kind to me and if I had endured any more surgeries that year, well I could literally be my own sprinkler system with as many holes as this body has had! 

We managed to make it through the the month of October with the help of my mother in law and my oldest son and husband. The lack of sympathy or any remote interest from my husband was disheartening but I don't know why I expected anything more from him. I find by lifting any expectations, I always fall flat on my face and end up with skinned knees from disappointment. I always wondered what happens to Caregivers who need care giving too? That is probably one of those questions that stumps irony.  Kind of like "where do doctors go when they are sick?"

It's been quite a road since Thanksgiving with the Army, husband and school for two of the three children I have. Thanksgiving I couldn't cook with one arm so we ended up grilling out hot dogs and all the fixings. Turned out to be one of the lesser stressed holidays we have ever had. My husband tried so hard and offered to take us out to dinner but in our rural area, it seems that was everyone's idea as well. Just the thought of the crowds, his reactions and all that comes with it? Yeah, the hot dog were damn good! Four days before Christmas our PEBLO decides to finally contact us and wanted everything done right then, right now which was literally impossible. He moved on to another station and I can't say I will miss him at all. Right now, we are appealing much of the MEB reports because he failed to do his part of his job, failed to add in a few important details and for some reason; proof reading and correcting things that are important went by the wayside. We haven't even heard from our new PEBLO yet and of course, she is new so it should be interesting. New people seem to always be a challenge to break in, kind of like a wild horse. It's amazing we haven't scared off our Federal Recovery Coordinator or our Army Recovery Coordinator. They must be gluttons for punishment but I am so glad they have stuck around to see us through. That, and we are probably good dinner table talk and worth a few laughs here and there! I love that I can call one and she has a great sense of humor. She must wonder if I am on the thresh hold of running a circus here.

Christmas went well with few minor hiccups along the way. My husband had some bad days but at least we didn't have to deal with suicide attempts, drinking binges or anything serious. However, New Year's came and he went to see a friend up the road and never came back. I don't know why it bothered me so badly that he just ran and disappeared, but I feel not only a responsibility for him but it was New Year's Eve too. I wanted to bring it in right and I am hoping like hell that the whole old wives tale of "what you will be doing on New Year's Eve will be what you will be doing the whole year long" is just a crock. If it turns out true, I am not going to have a good year as I spent my New Year's up all night, crying. I was hoping we would be having sex or maybe share some laughs while we watched the ball drop in New York City. At this point, I would have been happy just going to bed together early and not doing anything; not crying though because my husband stood me up for a friend that he couldn't care less for. I think I was more hurt than anything. 

Excuses and Lies

My husband has a ton of them and lying has become a serious issue now. Excuses for his behavior, excuses for where he is, excuses for getting angry, excuses to the kids, excuses for everything. I am so sick of hearing them and they are constant with no rest. If it's not a long drawn out excuse, it's a lie. He is a horrible liar and most of the time, he won't even look me in the face. I especially hate when I ask him something because I know he is lying, he looks away and says "huh? what? huh? I didn't hear you?". Seriously? It's like watching a child make up an excuse to not listen to your question and then try to back peddle into a good lie to cover the real reason why he spit on his brother or why he lost his report card which had an F on it. I am not sure why this started all of a sudden but all I can think of is dammit, haven't we already been through this in the past? I used to think that PTSD/TBI had a pattern during certain periods of the year. Holidays, major event "memory day" and the rest just falls in the "other" category. Over the past five years of living with all this, it has bettered in some areas like the abuse of alcohol and suicidal tendencies but worsened in other areas. Major events I thought we were done with but after thinking about just repeats itself. Every. Single. Year. There is no break from that and I realized it's just a vicious cycle that we will repeat over and over again just a little different each time. 

I just can not tolerate lying. I try to teach my children they can tell me everything, even if it's the worst. My husband and I built our relationship on that foundation of trust, honesty and friendship. I never have had that tolerance and the worse part is? I don't lie to him and he would always tell me everything. I feel guilty NOT telling him something even now. I think the part that has the highest "suck" factor is that the lying is nothing really that important to even lie over. I mean, if you are going to lie? Lie big or go home right? Don't lie over silly small things. Now, its not the "I just forgot and I need to lie to make up for the fact I don't want to admit it" just for clarification. It's just lying to be lying. I am at a complete lost at this point and I found dealing with him this latter part of the months I have been gone, has really reduced my toleration for a lot of things.I am pulling myself further away from him to protect myself. I am starting to look away at certain behaviors because it just isn't worth the damn fight or listening to the lies. I don't know if it's him or if it's me slipping further away.

Funny isn't it, how you fall in love and when you look at this person who has swept your heart away, you don't think of what you will deal with in the future. You never really stop to analyze at that point, of what would be the whole picture because one really doesn't know right? You just know you are supposed to be a part of that person and that's all that matters. Any obstacles you can overcome you think, any burdens you will carry together and all you really focus on is happiness with that person. You just know your life is never going to be the same. Boy, wasn't that the truth! Here lately though, I feel like it's more of a "phantom limb" situation. It feels like he is still there, still a part of me but you can see it's not there. The worst part is, my trust had been broken so many times that it took a lot for me to open back up and trust him once more. One year of therapy, lots of break downs and chastising myself for not forgiving and it led me here. I don't know if he even remembers the past of the wrong doings, or even acknowledges that broken trust is truly hard to gain back. I wonder if he knows how truly hurt and disappointed I am in him right now? Does he even really care anymore about anything? Now I feel like he has broken it again and again with just stupid and tiny lies, so how does one trust again? Sometimes I wonder if he knows that I still think he hung the moon just as I did the night I met him? Regardless of the bad times, I never once faltered on that thought.......

Sometimes I question the whole "is this it for the rest of my life?" probably just like my husband does. I am sure everyone does, I don't care who you are. I mean you fall in love, you get this person in your life that you love and learn to lean on. Then all of a sudden your on your own. Seems somewhat unfair and I have to question the whole "plan" for me because I just don't get it. So far God has given me the strength to carry my family and myself through, the courage to take on more but what are we really gaining? That part bothers me the most and heaven help me, I just want a small hint. Anything that says "this is where you are heading" because right now? The directions I am seeing are more like my stupid GPS with the lady and her perfect voice stating "recalculating" over and over again. Yeah...ain't that the truth!

There are days where he is truly appreciative of things I do for him or how much time I put into advocating or representing him. I do not hear "I love you" which to me I long for more than anything else. I wonder why three words are so hard? Often I wonder if that means he doesn't anymore? There are other days though, he could care less and I don't think he "sees" me anymore. As long as things go the way he wants them to, as long as it benefits's all great. Of course it is, it's great for him. Anyone else though be damned. I hate thinking this way, and like I said before...thinking is dangerous for us caregivers and spouses. Thinking to me is like mopping. You start mopping but sometimes we don't always pull out the fridge or the oven right? (if you do every time you mop, that's just weird) All that stuff gets built up under there but eventually sometime, you clean under there. When you pull it ALL out, you are horrified at how much shit comes out. Yeah....that's what thinking is to me. Strange way of describing it but then who said I was normal right?

I wanted so badly this year to be a better year, but so far it really hasn't impressed me much. I will say I am trying to focus more on me. Maybe that's where we are all going wrong. Perhaps we should just think of ourselves and "put on our safety O2 mask before others". I think many of us caregivers focus on everyone else but themselves and I know how hard that is to change. I am the worst to take on everything for everyone at any time and its exhausting. So I am trying to get caught up, better organized, finally catching up to some movies I want to watch, and even bought myself an Xbox game. Now for many of you who don't know me, I haven't played a game system since Nintendo and Sega came out although I was the queen of Pacman and Donkey Kong once upon a time. I was pretty good at Super Mario Brothers too. Haha! I made myself a promise I would keep blogging and just putting it on my weekly "list of things to do". I am trying to keep up more on my facebook page, I taught myself to "tweet" (@Unclesamsmiss) in which I am quite proud of (yes, USM is not technically savvy; see above mentioned GPS comment) and planning on skipping town to see my sister who lives in AZ in which I haven't seen in years.

I am trying to do more things with  my sons albeit hard because I feel some of it should be done by/with daddy and he just can't do it. I realized my two younger sons, due to living in a rural area, have never ridden a bicycle which I hope to remedy soon (somehow). Leaves me wondering how the hell I will find the strength or the courage to teach my oldest son to drive who started Driver's Ed this semester. I honestly did try the whole "list positive things" on a piece of paper or journal bit that's been going around as a bit of therapy for Caregivers. I so far had a few positives like "we are all here", "we are all healthy somewhat", and the rest? Well, I had "I positively suck at the MEB stuff", "this list positively sucks", "I completely suck at Walking Dead on Xbox because I can't figure out the damn controller", "This list sucks" and "this list positively sucks ass". Perhaps that's why so many major organizations don't want to accept me as a's my award winning positive thinking isn't it? **cheesy grin**.  Hey, at least no one can accuse me of not being honest.

So here I am. 
Still alive.
Still trying to figure everything out and crossing off the things I don't understand.
Come On, 2013...
Mama needs a new lease on life. 

Recalculating, Recalculating, Recalculating,