Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Decisions Ahead

The last couple of weeks have been extremely stressful for me. There has been questions raised about whether or not my husband is going to be graduating the program he is in next month. This very issue causes huge anxiety in me which of course also produces huge amounts of guilt. Finally, late this week I just called his counselor in the program to start asking some questions.

Previously, the only communication I get from the program is from my husband. We have had 2 marriage/transition planning sessions on the phone, but otherwise nothing. So, thanks to the encouragement of a dear friend, I finally just called and left a message for his counselor to call me back. She returned my call late Thursday and really did not have many answers for me. We spoke for about 30 minutes and ended with her promising to consult with other staff members and the director to get me some solid answers.

So, the big questions/decisions I am facing in the process of transitioning my husband home? Many of you, I'm sure will not understand my hesitation. That's ok, but I have serious reservations about him returning home. I'm not convinced he is ready yet for one. For two, we have had some SERIOUS safety concerns and episodes come up that could have ended very tragically. The last of these happened the night before he went to this current program. So, I am left with that memory for the last memory before he left. Did it give me PTSD, probably. Has he stopped having these dissociative episodes, No. As a matter of fact, they have increased in frequency once again. He has also started sleeping a lot and withdrawing again. None of this is helping me be confident in him returning to our family.

His counselor was able to assure me that this is his way of reacting to anxiety. She went on to tell me that it doesn't surprise her he is feeling more anxious with the trauma class he is in and the idea of transitioning home. Of course, none of this is reassuring me that it is safe for him to come home again. She also made the comment that she's not sure how much time he actually spends in his body. Now, that one really made me confident.

So, what I am faced with maybe deciding is whether or not he is able to move back home and live with us as a family, or if we are going to have to find some type of long term residential care for him. I did not bring this up with his counselor, she did. I mentioned my concerns with safety and told her the things that had happened to make me question that. No matter what I decide, someone very well may get hurt. If I decide that he has to go live somewhere else, then it hurts him. What kind of life would that be for a 42 year old man, who does have his good days? On the flip side, what if I decide he is okay to move home and then something tragic does happen? It is my responsibility to keep us all safe.

Then how will these decisions affect me and the boys? If he comes home but isn't safe, well, I won't even go there. If he goes to live in some type of institution, what kind of life is that for any of us? The boys will completely lose their father, and I will physically lose my husband, but then again not really. It is just really a bad situation all the way around.

I have had so much pressure taken off of my shoulders since he has been in treatment in California. It has been a much needed break. However, I would love nothing more than for him to be able to come home and participate in life again. For him to be able to experience some peace and happiness in our own house. For him to be able to be a husband and dad. He has already sacrificed so much, it would be nice to have him home and at peace.

I really debated about sharing all of this on here. Then I thought about how much it helps me to write. I also thought about the fact that surely I am not the only one facing these tough decisions. Although, I do not personally know anyone facing these same things, but I can't be the only one. Also, I figure we can use all the prayers we can get!! If you pray, please keep us on your list! So, there it is. What is really going on in the life of this invisibly wounded family.

Even Now......Gina

Friday, February 25, 2011

Other's Expectations Equals Pressure To Measure Up

Sometimes in this crazy role of wounded warrior caregiver/spouse, I feel a lot of pressure on my shoulders to live up to other's expectations (as well as my own). The first one with high expectations is myself. I have a very close friend in this wounded warrior world who often reminds me that I am human. Often times, I put very unrealistic expectations on myself and forget to cut myself some slack. This life I am currently living is not an easy one. I need to give myself a break sometimes and let myself just be. I know that I am not perfect, or not superwoman, but sometimes, I tend to act like I can do it all.

Another place I often feel this pressure is from Allen himself. It's not something he does intentionally by any means. Honestly, he probably doesn't know that sometimes his nice comments about me and how great I am, add this pressure. Last week, we had a marriage counseling session over the phone with his counselor. These sessions have been very good and I always get excited about him returning home afterwards. However, he often sings my praises and puts me on a pedestal. It comes from a place of love, but often it just adds extra pressure to my already high expectations of myself. It makes me feel like I ALWAYS have to have it together. I'm not perfect, like he seems to "see" me as. And quite honestly, this is a big pedestal to stand on. I don't always have it together. I'm not always smiling, like I appear to be most of the time. Sometimes, I want to melt into a big heap on the floor and just cry. Sometimes, I even wish I could just run away and choose a new life. You know, like in the game of life. If you land on the right square on the board, you can choose a whole new career, income, and pretty much change your life with a simple spin of the wheel.

Lastly, this pressure comes from well meaning people in my life. Friends and family who are trying to let me know how much they admire me and my strength. I've read several blogs lately and been involved in some conversations about this very topic. It is common as a military spouse to hear the phrase, "I don't know how you do it." Well add this to an injury and it has that much more pressure that builds behind it. I know the ones that say this to me are trying to be supportive, but really it makes me feel like they are seeing me as something I often do not feel about myself. It makes me feel like I am somewhat of a super hero, doing something that other's couldn't or wouldn't do. It's one of those situations, you really have no idea how you would handle it until you find yourself in this situation. You might just surprise yourself. I had no idea how I would handle such a traumatic injury. Trust me, my life looks NOTHING like I thought it would at this point. I never imagined I would be a full time caregiver for my husband who suffers severely from the trauma he witnessed in war. I remember the 5th anniversary of 9/11 hitting me like a truck. When the terrorists struck NYC, I knew it would impact my life. I just never knew how personally and greatly it would affect me. This is not the life I would have chosen. However, I know God has a plan for me and that this is where He wants me. He is preparing me for something, and when His time is right, I will know what that is.

I also want to say that I know these are well meaning comments. At times, it is nice to hear that someone recognizes the struggles that we face and that not everyone could/would do it. I also know that I shouldn't let these well meaning comments add pressure to my already heavy load. However, once again, I am human. I also know that I am not the only one who feels this same pressure. Sometimes I just need to blog about things for my own well being and for other's who I know are feeling this same way.

Really, I am just Me! I know that I am strong, thanks to my faith in Him. I also know that I am still human and make mistakes everyday. I don't always know much about me and who I am. I often get lost in taking care of my husband and our boys. I do what I have to do to make it through each day. And, at the end of each day, I am assured that I am right where He wants me to be.

Even Now.......Gina

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

One of the most important lessons I have learned since my husband's injury is that I learn and grow so much by stepping out of my comfort zone. Prior to injury, this is not something I realized. Now, it sounds ridiculous to me, but I know that it's not. This is a difficult thing for many people, if not most people. Therefore, if it was possible to stay in my zone, I did. Period. End of story.

In the last three years, I have stepped out of this comfort zone so many times, I am beginning to think I am out of it more than I am in. Just thinking about all of these times, my heart begins racing! It causes huge anxiety in me, but I know that it makes me grow! I cherish the times I've done this and how much I have learned along the way.

The first time I can remember this being a significant deal was at the very beginning of Allen's injury. I had never travelled anywhere on my own. Getting on a plane, by myself was a huge deal for me. We tried everything to get my sister a flight to go with me but it just didn't work out. So, add on top of this the stress and anxiety about flying to Walter Reed to see my husband was a huge step! My sister and I talked about this just last weekend. I was so terrified to go alone and not to know what I would be walking into. However, looking back, we can see how much that one time changed me. I know that God has a plan for every step I take and this is just more proof!

That was just the first of many, steps out of the ole comfort zone I've taken in the last three years. I am so happy that I have had to do this time and time again. I'm also so thankful that I am able to see that this has made me personally grow so much. Now, I am happy to say that I often find myself taking these giant steps out of my zone, willingly! That doesn't mean it is always easy or doesn't cause significant anxiety in me. But, I am able to see the benefit instead of being so stuck in my ways that I can't see beyond that. I am able to take those steps that help myself but also others!

Pubic speaking is a huge step out of my comfort zone. However, I have had several opportunities in this arena that have been hugely rewarding. Allen and I were on the Oprah show, I served on the media panel for the AW2 Symposium last summer, and most recently I have been asked to be a keynote speaker at an Erase the Stigma Conference this summer in St. Louis, Missouri. While I easily could have said no and avoided the anxiety and fear it is causing, I said YES!! Although I am anxious, I know that I have an important story to tell and that I can do it!

Stepping out of my comfort zone has been hugely rewarding and I am looking forward to whatever God has in store for my life. I can now say with confidence, BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!

Even Now......Gina

Monday, February 21, 2011

Budding Actor on Our Hands

One thing is for certain, every member of our family, as well as close friends have been changed in one way or another by Allen's injury. Our kids have had to sacrifice more than most and have been changed by this. I know that some of these changes have been negative, but most I think are positive. I sometimes think about how these injuries in their dad is changing who they are going to be, but I honestly think it is shaping them to be amazingly strong and compassionate young men.

Last September, our youngest, was able to begin taking a musical theatre class thanks to a grant we received from a great organization called, Our Military Kids. This organization, can be found at and gives grants for military kids to participate in extra curricular activities or tutoring. Without this grant, we would not have been able to put our son in this great class that has allowed him to focus on something he is interested in. It has also allowed me to focus on him, completely away from his dad's injury. He has thrived in this environment and found something he really loves.

His musical theatre class is offered through a local community college and a local theatre. It runs a semester long and he is currently taking his second semester of it. At the end of each semester the class does a production. They learn how to audition, learn lines, perform, get into character and a host of other live theatre essentials. At his production from first semester, there was a producer there from the large theatre venue in the community. The producer found our son after the show and personally invited him to come try out for the productions they are self producing this summer, specifically The King and I. Of course, we were all thrilled by this invitation! We knew for a very long time that our kid had talent, but to have a producer in the business see it to was thrilling for all of us.

We were totally new to all of this. I had no idea who auditions went or what was expected of him. Well, we soon found out. Last month he auditioned. Getting ready for this was quite the experience and a lot of work. We had to have head shots done, make a resume for my 7 year old, and he had to learn a song. So, he began voice lessons and learned his song. We had head shots done which turned out great! I researched online how to make a resume for him. And so it began. Auditions were scheduled for 4:00 Saturday. We got there and we signed him in. We had about 45 minutes to wait. Finally, he was called back. He had to go in alone while I waited in the big area with all of the other parents. He was the first one in his group to go. He had to get up and sing in front of the 2 producers and the piano player. He must have done ok as he was asked to come back the next day for movement. He said he was nervous. He wished it had been on the stage because then he would have been less nervous. He is completely comfortable on the stage which is beyond me!! The next day we drove the 60 miles back to call backs. That took all of 30 minutes. They announced that if we didn't hear anything by April 1, our kid probably didn't get a part. I was shocked! April 1st. Really?? That is a long time to wait!!

Well, we only had to wait 2 weeks!! We got the call on 8 February. The call came in the evening and as soon as Dreyson heard me ask about rehearsals he started screaming! He was so excited!! So, he got the part of a King's son for the musical The King and I. He will begin rehearsals in May and will perform 6 nights in June! He tells everyone now that he is royalty!! I can't wait to see him shine!! He has sacrificed so much in his young life, it's nice to see him being successful at something he loves!

Thank you Our Military Kids, for this amazing opportunity for my son to shine!!

Even Now......Gina

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Married, Single Mom

I've wanted to write about this topic for quite awhile now. Yesterday, it hit me again, how difficult it is to be married, but yet very much a single mom. This may seem like a very odd or unrealistic status, but it rings very true for many within the wounded warrior community and possibly even outside of that.

The reason it hit me yesterday was because it was parent's night at our 8th grade son's basketball game. Our school does this for 8th grader's in sports, similar to a senior night at the High School level. Yesterday, as I was thinking about the event and being there for our son, I was really saddened to know that I would be the only one there for him, once again. Even though we are not a true single parent home, we often appear to be that way.

After being escorted across the court by my son, I was looking around at all of the different family situations surrounding me. There were kids there with one, two, three, and even four parents. I know that our kids are used to this, it's just the way our life is. However, I can't help but think about it from their perspective. Was our son relieved that it was just me? If my husband would have been here, could he have went down on the court in a crowded gymnasium to support our son? He would have had Frankie, his service dog with him. Would that have bothered our son? This son, in particular, hates to be the center of attention and is sometimes bothered by the extra attention Frankie brings. He is thankful his dad has her, but do we really stop to think or even talk about how it all affects our kids?

Currently, with Allen being away in California, this topic plays out many different ways. With him being away for treatment it is a little bit different than when he is home. However, just because he's home, doesn't mean he is being a dad. So, this means I am often a married, single parent. I know that a lot of this comes from Allen's fear and concern for our boys. He doesn't want to do something wrong when it comes to them so it is easier to just bow out. If he's not interacting with one of them, then he can't have an inappropriate incident with them whether that be losing his temper or accidentally hurting them in some way. So, in his PTSD way of thinking, it's better to just not interact with them at all than to risk hurting them. What he doesn't see is that his lack of interaction does hurt them, and me as well. Essentially, in many, many aspects, my boys have lost their dad. (We do have hope that this will not be permanent and that he is learning ways to have positive relationships with our kids.)

This really does affect all of us. It is hurtful to Allen in every way. He remembers the things he used to do with them and the way it used to be. The boys also remember this, (for the most part,) so it hurts them as well. It is really hard for a 7 year old and 14 year old to logically understand why this has changed. Then add in that they have been experiencing this for over 3 years now, from the ages of 4 and 11. I then have that added responsibility on my shoulders of being caregiver, wife, mom, dad, advocate, and everything else that goes along with all of this.

So, many things in the lives of the families of the wounded that people just don't realize. We have all sacrificed so much, and will continue to sacrifice the rest of our lives. This has changed who we all are and who our boys will grow up to be. (Not all negatively I might add.) It would be so nice, if our nation, our lawmakers, and the general public would take the time to get to know some of these families and their struggles. I think it would be shocking to many and possibly quite life changing. I know it has been for us.

Even Now......Gina

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nice Surprises

A dear friend of mine once said, "Every once in a blue moon God gifts us with someone new in our lives who inspire and challenge us." (I would mention her name, but she knows who she is and I definitely feel the same way about her!) I think this is such a beautiful thing, and am so thankful that I have been blessed more than once by God with this amazing gift.

This week was my birthday. Last year, my birthday was not a good day. My husband completely forgot about it and so did both of my kids. (Let me remind you, kids were 6 and 13, and of course my husband doesn't remember most things with his TBI and PTSD!) And, of course, I was too stubborn to say anything to them to remind them. Instead, I chose to take it personally, and wallow in my hurt! So, as the day started getting closer this year, I decided I was going to choose to make it different. It didn't need to be a big day, but I at least wanted my immediate family to let me know they remembered and that they loved me!

I started reminding them late last week and it worked!! My parents and my sister always remember and make me feel special! However, both of my boys went and got me gifts, very nice gifts I might add and even remembered on the actual day to tell me! Allen remembered too by calling me first thing in the morning which is huge for him. (Of course, someone from my family might have reminded him without me knowing, but that's ok too!)

Another, completely unexpected surprise was from my good friend Renee', a fellow wounded warrior spouse. She sent me flowers that are beautiful. Every time I look at them I think about how blessed I am to have the amazing friends that I have. Most of my closest friends are people I have met since Allen was injured. Most of the friends I had before have fallen out of touch so my new friends are precious to me. They have been through similar situations as I have and completely "get it". These friendships are priceless.

It is so easy to get caught up in daily life and forget about the blessings we receive everyday. I just wanted to take this time to thank those of you in my life that are there for me. You love me without judgement and through thick and thin. I should tell you all more often how much you mean to me, but I don't. Life just happens and time gets away. So, I'm taking the time now to tell you all I love you and wouldn't be in the place I am in my life without your love and support.