Sunday, December 19, 2010

He is Moving in Us

Church this morning was amazing! We had a guest preacher whose sermon really touched me. It was related to Christmas but then again, not so much. The first part was based on the story of Mary, when the angel came to her and told her she would birth Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Mary, a virgin engaged to Joseph was told she was going to carry and deliver Jesus! The pastor, Dave Burns, spoke of how much this must have "freaked her out!" However, because of her faith, she trusted that all would be well. She was literally pregnant with Jesus! There was no hiding it and many people would cast judgement on her, including her soon to be husband! But even with all of these things, she was His servant, and trusted that it would all be alright!

The second part was based on Matthew 1:18-25 which tells Joseph's side of this new revelation that his fiancee was pregnant. In those days especially this was a huge deal. Joseph really struggled with what he should do and even considered breaking things off with Mary. But, once again, through faith, he trusted Mary, and did everything he could to support Mary and the child she would birth! It just amazes me the strength and character that both Mary and Joseph show us through these two stories.

The pastor went on to show us how this pertains to our lives today, which really hit home for me. How many of us are in Mary's shoes, where God is working miracles in our lives and we have to have faith that He has a plan and knows what He is doing? Then there are the Joseph's, who may be in a supportive role for those receiving the miracle. How should we support those around us we love who are in the midst of a miracle? Do we doubt, or have faith?? How many of us are pregnant with a miracle from Jesus that is growing inside us? Yes, it may freak us out, but we must embrace and support it!

I know I'm not explaining it near as well as he did, but I hope you get the picture. Now, why this hit home for me. Allen is Mary. God is working a miracle in him through The Pathway Home. We were literally in a very bad situation with Allen and his PTSD. It had become VERY dangerous and we were desperately trying to find a program to help him find safety and peace. We had looked for a few months but nothing was working out. The VA said he wasn't stable enough for their program and medicare and tricare kept saying it was the VA's job to treat his PTSD. Oh a whim, I contacted The Pathway Home and we flew him there 3 weeks later. If this wasn't a miracle, I don't know what was! The miracle is still unfolding as he gets help there. His confidence is building and his coping skills are growing! It is truly miraculous!

Since Allen is Mary, that makes me Joseph! I of course had my fears and doubts, but I know that He has a plan for all of us. I also know that He didn't save Allen in Iraq to come home and live a horrible, traumatized life. I know that He has plan for Allen, me and our family and that once we are ready, He will show it to us. In the mean time, I have to support Allen the best way I can and constantly seek guidance from our Lord almighty!

I can see how these stories relate to so many lives, probably every one's. I'm sure that we each face being like Mary and Joseph many times throughout our life. I hope that by me sharing how this amazing sermon touched my life, it will in turn touch another.

Even Now.......Gina

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Missing Daddy

We are all really missing Allen lately. We all made it through Thanksgiving relatively easy, thankfully. I honestly did not think that the holidays would be that big of a hurdle for us, after all, this isn't the first time he's been away for an extended period of time. On top of that, we get to talk to him as much and as often as we want to, which is so much easier than the deployments. We sometimes went an entire month without hearing a word from him, so this should be EASY!!

Well, it's not! This week I think it really hit me. I always have our tree up by the weekend after Thanksgiving if not the weekend before. Here it is the 9th of December, and I'm still in the process of getting it up! What is wrong with ME?? I finally rearranged the furniture on Sunday so we had room for a tree. Then, yesterday I made my way to the attic to drag down on the stuff! Tree first. I manage to get it all down and into the house and put up the first layer of the prelit tree. Half of it doesn't light, and one branch is bent so far down it is touching the floor. Not quite what I was expecting! And of course, we've used this tree for the last 7 years or so, and it's this year it decides to act crazy! A year when Allen isn't here to fix it for me! I simply sat down in defeat and decided to call my dad. He came over later that evening and managed to get the branch bent back up and sometime during the afternoon the lights came on too. So, I decide to go on up with the rest of it, after being at a complete standstill all afternoon! The rest of it went up but a couple of rows of lights in the middle didn't light. We decided to leave them on for awhile, maybe they needed to warm up! After being on all night, they should have been warm but they still weren't lit. I guess Dreyson could see my sense of defeat and sadness and he told me it was all okay because it would still be beautiful without all the lights turned on! Man, I love that kid! I was ready to throw it to the curb and go buy a new one, but not something we really should be spending money on while we wait for Allen's VA claim to come through.

Through all of this ordeal the last two days, I realized how much Allen really does around here. As much as I take care of him, he still does so much to help me. He is definitely missed around here!! He seems to be doing pretty well still. I don't think it will really bother him being away for the holidays as they are not an easy time of the year for him anyway. He's really pretty lost in his own world this time of year, but we have felt his absence. Dreyson hasn't called him Daddy for several years now, but has recently began referring to him as that again. (Of course, this is very touching for me, but I haven't mentioned it because I don't want him to become self conscience about it.) I think it's just a sign that he misses him too. He stayed home sick from school the other day and told me he wished his daddy was here cause daddy helps take care of him when he's sick.

Makale is a little more reserved with his emotions and harder to read by nature, but also because he's a teenager. However, I see it in the little things. He often will text or call his dad and has been doing it a lot more recently. We are all affected by his absence.

As difficult as these past couple of days have been on my emotions it has been really good for me to reflect on these feelings. Being a full time caregiver for someone with a mental illness like Allen's is very difficult and often hard to stay emotionally connected. This time has given me pause to reflect on this love I have for him and how much I really need him instead of the other way around all the time. I'm also thankful that I'm able to see these things and know that it's only through God's grace and understanding that I can.

Even Now......Gina

Monday, December 6, 2010

PTSD: A Selfish Beast

One thing I have noticed about PTSD is how selfish it causes those suffering to be. Now, don't get me wrong, it causes a ton of other things too, but this is one that has hit me several times throughout this journey. It reared it's ugly head again today. It came up during a phone conversation with one of my best friend's who is also the spouse of a severely injured soldier who suffers from PTSD. Then, as if it knew I had been talking about it, it decided to present itself once again in my own husband today!

This is a really hard change to accept in Allen. Before suffering so severely from PTSD, he was one of the most selfless people I knew. He always put me and the kids first in everything, often to his own demise. He would have much rather gone without himself than to have one of us in want of anything. Notice, I said want, not need. He was just that kind of guy! I think this is partly what makes this uncharacteristic trait more difficult to adjust to.

It is crazy to me how PTSD seems to make those who suffer from it, unable to view things from anyone's perspective other than their own. No matter the subject, it is impossible for me to get any other view point, other than his own, through his head. He simply cannot see it! This makes it extremely frustrating as a spouse trying to adjust to a radically new personality of my husband. But the bigger picture is how it affects our kids and the relationship they have with their dad. It is often like a sibling relationship instead of a parent/child relationship. It is really difficult to get my husband to see anything from the perspective of our kids. This damages the relationships he has with our kids and puts me in the middle of it all. I end up being the moderator instead of the supporter. Or, it makes it impossible for him to support me in what I am doing with the kids at the time. It is a really weird dynamic and I am struggling to explain it all here.

Today, I noticed it during a conversation I was having with him on the phone. It wasn't about our kids or anything, but the selfishness was definitely at the forefront. Allen was telling me about a project some of the guys participated in over the weekend. They had the opportunity to go pack boxes to be sent to troops deployed to Afghanistan with a couple of other organizations out there. He says he wasn't personally invited, but he could have went if he had wanted to. He went on to say that he wouldn't have went even if he had been personally asked to go. I just don't understand this thinking of his. He loves the troops! He is sick to death that he was medically retired and does not have the hopes of ever being on active duty again. So, what a perfect project for a guy like that!! The Allen unaffected by PTSD would have loved to participate in such an event. The post PTSD Allen couldn't think past himself to see what good it would have done for the troops and himself! Maybe I see this all wrong, but I don't think so. I know it also has to do with the depression and headaches, but I can't help but see the selfishness in it as well. It simply breaks my heart.

Now a little disclaimer. Please do not judge my husband or myself just because I choose to write about something I see as a negative characteristic he is struggling with. I also have to follow this up with he is in California, so he truly may have not felt well that day. I could be viewing this one incident completely wrong! Just remember that we are all always a work in progress and my husband is a trooper and is working very hard to beat this PTSD Beast!!

Even Now.......Gina

Friday, December 3, 2010

Allen and Frankie

I've been asked several times lately about Frankie and Allen in one way or another. A common one recently is how has Frankie changed or helped our family. I started to respond to the last email that asked me this question, but then decided I should blog about it instead so I don't have to keep rewriting this topic! So, thanks Brianna for sending me the message asking about Frankie and Allen!

Frankie came into our lives in January 2009. The last week of January and the first week of February of that year Allen and I flew to Denver, Colorado to do an intense training session with Frankie and some of the best dog trainers around! For Allen and Frankie, it was an immediate connection, almost love at first sight! Before going to Colorado, Puppies Behind Bars had told Allen a little about both dogs that would be there. Samba is a black lab who is very laid back and loving! Frankie, a yellow lab, is always ready to go and eager to please. These two dogs couldn't be more different! Even before seeing her, Allen kept saying that Frankie was meant for him! I kept telling him not to get his hopes up for a certain one because I didn't want him to get disappointed! Well, he was right, Frankie was meant to be his!

The bond the two of them have is unexplainable. I have so many pictures I have snapped of the two of them and more often than not, she is glaring up at him waiting to work for him. They are extremely devoted to one another and I am convinced that they complete each other. The things Frankie does for Allen are unending. The list and this post could go on and on but I will try to explain some of what they do for each other.

One of Allen's biggest issues besides his PTSD is depression. He would go days in bed before getting Frankie and nothing could drag him out. Our kids would try, I would try, other family and friends would try but sometimes nothing was going to get him out of that bed or his recliner, whichever the case may be. Once Frankie came into our lives, she was that key to getting him up and out. He has the sole responsibility of her entire care so he has no choice but to get up to take care of her. The only time I will do it for him is if he is physically unable to do it. This is a critical part of keeping their bond so close and also the key to her being able to get him up. He knows that she has to be fed, watered, exercised, pottied, brushed, and so on to be well cared for. He also knows how hard she works for him that these things are the least he can do for her.

Another thing I notice is his confidence. He knows that if he hears something and Frankie is still relaxed, it probably wasn't anything to get too concerned over. She also gives him the courage and confidence to go out into public. While sometimes this can cause other attention from curious people, he knows with her by his side he can do it and get through tough situations. I also think that she makes me have more confidence in him. I trust her to get him through and to take care of him.

Recently, Allen has been working with a dog trainer at The Pathway Home. She is teaching him how to better use Frankie to get him through high anxiety moments. When he starts feeling his anxiety levels rise, he gets as close to Frankie as possible, and begins focusing all of his attention on her. He pets her, talks to her, and focuses on her breathing and tries to match his breathing with hers. This steadies his breathing and makes him forget whatever it was that had his anxiety rising. It is really quite amazing to watch these intimate moments take place between a wounded man and his dog.

Frankie has truly become a member of our family like I never imagined would happen. She goes everywhere with us and is constantly working for all of us by keeping my husband in the present where it is safe. She is the first to notice when he starts to slip away to that place that causes so much anxiety and immediately starts pawing or licking him. She grounds him like no person has been able to.

Allen had really become very dependent on me and had lost most of his confidence in himself. Frankie is playing a huge part in helping him gain these things back. Recently he has started going to the movies weekly and actually making it through a movie. He goes bowling every Monday which is a very noisy place full of lots of triggers. The first few times he went he just watched with Frankie on his lap!! Last week he started participating! He is walking to the gym nearly every morning, when it's still DARK, and working out, with Frankie! Honestly, I am completely amazed and thrilled that he is gaining so much of his independence and life back. He is beginning to participate in his own life again, not just be a spectator!

One other thing I want to mention about Frankie is what she is doing for him at The Pathway Home. Allen is currently in California at The Pathway Home. This is half the country away from home for him. He is gaining so much there I can't even describe! It's a miracle really. He had slipped so far before going there I wasn't sure he would ever gain his life back. I am so thankful he had Frankie to go with him. I really do not think he would have agreed to go without her. She is a huge part of our family and I think that helps him feel less alone there. He made it through Thanksgiving with her, and now we are working on the rest of the holidays and being separated. The boys and I miss them both terribly but also know that they will be back home when Allen is better!!

Even Now......Gina