Saturday, October 22, 2011

Joplin: Finding Hope

Today my family and I spent the day on the Extreme Makeover build site in Joplin, Missouri.  It was so amazing getting to see the process from both sides.  I was amazed at how quickly things progress on these sites!!  One of the greatest things here though is to see the hope that these people have here.  It is so inspiring to see people living through so much fear and devastation rise up and prosper.

It was also great seeing the production team again from our build and the designers.  We had so much fun hanging out with them again.  We were also able to meet many of the people that worked behind the scenes on our build which we never would have been able to see.  They all seemed really happy to see us again as well and to see how well we are all doing.   Many of them said how rare it is for them to get to see the families again after they leave and how great it is for them to see how well Allen is doing.  They said they had really wondered how much the house had helped us and how Allen was doing.  So it was great being here for many reasons!!

We found an organization here that is called The Hope Station.  You can check them out at and it will be worth your time!  They have these amazing t-shirts that inspire hope and healing and the stories behind the people.  They were here giving away t-shirts for hope!  We got several different ones and plan to order some online as well.  For every shirt they sell online, they give one away.  Check them and their story out!!

We are all looking forward to being back on sight tomorrow!!  It is at times a struggle for Allen as much of it still looks like a war zone.  Seeing the hospital was very eery for him.  However, he is a trooper and keeps pushing himself to get through it.  I'm so proud of him and how well he is doing.  He is regularly stepping out of his comfort zone and trying things he never would have a year ago.  He amazes me often and inspires me even more.  He's my hero!!

Even Now.......Gina

Monday, October 10, 2011

Keeping Quiet at Whose Expense

It's normal for married people to fight, argue, bicker, disagree, or whatever you choose to call it.  For Allen and I, it really is not an often occurrence.  However, I often find myself keeping quiet about things that I probably shouldn't, in order to spare him.  I worry that if I upset him, I may make him feel worse about himself than he already does.  Or, that I might be the cause of him going into a depression.  Or even, that if I say something, he may have some type of an episode.

I'm not sure when I completely started putting myself aside, but I did.  This caregiving role makes it really hard to not lose yourself.  I try really hard to take care of myself too, but sometimes that isn't as easy as it seems.  I always think of how something is going to affect Allen before myself, and often even before my kids.  Somethings just have to be said, in a respectful way obviously, without my fear of causing something negative for Allen.  I try to protect him from so much, but really, in all honesty he is stronger and more resilient than I give him the credit for.  He's ok and he's going to be ok.  He can handle it.  I just have to find that balance.

It's hard in any relationship to decide which battles to pick and which ones to let go.  I've recently, very recently, discovered that this applies to husband and wife as well.  We always talk about it in relation to our kids, but it also applies to us.  I have to learn that it's ok for us to not agree on everything.  Or for me to be able to tell him when something is bothering me without fearing that it will cause a negative response in him.  I have to learn to trust him.

I've been doing this on my own now since 2005.  It's hard to give up that control and learn that I can count on him for certain things.  I think that we really do a pretty good job of communicating with each other most of the time, but I just have to build my confidence in him that he can handle it.  It's time that I let him have some control back and shoulder some responsibilities.  He definitely has taken on a lot more of this since coming home this time, but it's still hard to find that balance.

Just like everything in life, I am still a work in progress.  I try to balance it all, but it's really hard sometimes in many ways.  I have to trust that Allen is in a good place and really can handle more than I give him credit for.  We can't work on us, if we can't talk to each other.

Even Now......Gina

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dream Journal

While Allen and I were at the NICoE (National Intrepid Center of Excellence) in Bethesda in July, we had an amazing team of doctors and support staff there.  One of those, Dr. Panetierre taught Allen something to try to help get rid of nightmares.  Well, he has finally tried it, changed it a bit with the help of his psychologist here, and has had some success!

The basic concept is to write the dream out as a story.  Get it down on paper as soon as possible after having the dream.  If it is a recurring dream, you can probably write it anytime.  Then, you rewrite the most traumatic part and change it just a little so that it is less traumatic.  For example, if in your dream you are in a car accident that killed someone.  Keep everything the same in the dream, but instead of the person dying, they get critically injured.  So the accident still happens, just the most traumatic part is changed a little.  Read this new story each night before you go to bed until you start dreaming the dream with the changed event.  (This usually takes a couple of weeks.)  Then, change it again, just a little more.  Maybe the person is injured, but only goes to the hospital and then is released.  Keep changing it little by little until the dream is tolerated better.  It can be a long process but is a way you can control what happens in your dreams.

This is the main concept Allen has followed.  However, instead of changing the parts of his dream, he puts in self affirming terms that help him realize he is safe.  For example, Allen has a recurring dream of the night he was injured by the IED.  He spent time writing it out and has started to reread it.  When he feels that first tinge of anxiety, he puts something in that spot in the document that says, "You are safe now," or "You are back in the States," or "this is just a dream."  He has several phrases he has come up with to write into those places that first start his rise in anxiety in reading his story.  He then highlights them, puts them in a box, or makes them bold to make them stand out.  They are the words he is initially drawn to when he reads through the dream.  This process took him several days to be able to get through it without having a break down.  But, he did it.  Now he tries to read through it through out his day so that he is comfortable with it.  It now isn't causing the feelings and anxiety it originally was creating.  His nightmare has also been much less intense since doing this.

He now is creating a dream journal on his desktop to keep track of his nightmares and where he can do this with each one as he experiences it.  He has several that seem to recur.  This is neither a quick or easy process but Allen has experienced some success with it.  Just thought I'd share.

Even Now.......Gina

Monday, October 3, 2011

Daddy Time

It is so great to see Allen being a dad again.  For so long, he simply watched as his life passed him by.  He was a spectator in his own life.  He missed so much even though he was here physically for part of that time, not to mention how much he missed while he was away.

Not only is this all bringing about a change in Allen, but also the boys.  Dreyson is his daddy's shadow and gets his heart broken if his dad is doing something that he can't help him with.  Makale is also reaping the benefits of having Allen to throw a football around with or play video games with.  I see them all really forming bonds that have been missing for a really long time.

Hearing them all tell each other "I love you" is music to my ears.  I don't think I go a day without hearing it between them.  And, to have Allen initiate the sentiment is huge!  My boys are learning it's ok to show good emotions to one another other than anger and frustration and their dad is leading the way!

Last weekend, Allen went out and taught Dreyson to ride his bike with no training wheels.  Dreyson had been extremely resistant to this without his dad here to help him.  He didn't trust me or his brother to help him.  Now that his daddy could do it though, he got it on the first try and hasn't stopped since!  Allen and him are going on regular bike rides around the neighborhood.  Yesterday, he even took off with a couple of the neighbor boys all on their bikes.  He's so proud of being able to ride it and that his Dad taught him how.  It's amazing seeing his confidence grow as his relationship with his dad is blossoming.

Thank you to all of the programs, organizations, friends, and family who have supported us through this journey and helped us get to where we are today.  We definitely are blessed and couldn't have done it without all of you!

Even Now.......Gina