Dearest family and friends,
I’ve been a caregiver to my husband for the last 15 years. It’s been hard. Extremely hard. I’ve felt so very alone for so very long. And I thought no one would ever understand what all is involved. So I closed myself off and faced the world in silence. As did my husband.
Twenty-two veterans take their lives every day; but the uncounted are those friends and family who care for them. Invisible wounds are brushed away, hidden in our society. Most people don’t understand. Personally, we’ve received comments such as a snotty, “Well, you don’t look disabled,” which cuts my husband deep to the soul but he puts on his mask and says, “Thank you” and carries on. It’s a two-way street, though. Those who don’t understand the problems that our veterans live with day-to-day, hour by hour, and sometimes breath by breath need to have more compassion and education and don’t just brush them off with trivial comments such as “Suck it up. Get over it. You’re stronger than that.” But our veterans must also admit, face, and open up—which is so very hard to do when they’ve been shunned and looked down upon for so long.
And this isn’t just our veterans’ problem. Invisible wounds are non-discriminant. They can attack anyone, of any race, creed, or color. It doesn’t matter. Just look at how shocked the world was when Robin Williams recently took his life. So please, don’t sit in a dark corner and think you are alone with no hope. There’s always hope.
This year has been an exceptional year, considering. While we still battle the chronic migraines and pain, PTSD, and depression, along with the issues that come along with being a caregiver, I’ve deemed this year as the year for my healing. I never once opened up, admitted, or faced my own personal issues. But when I fell into the deep dark hole of my own last year, I needed to work on me. Because I learned that if I am not healthy, I cannot be there for him.
This year had me becoming a pin cushion for the many doctors I had to see throughout the year. Bouncing from specialist to specialist with no real diagnosis. Things were ruled out, old issues resolved, and new issues popped into play. I’ve managed to get a diagnosis for some of the seemingly random symptoms I’ve experienced – Fibromyalgia. And I am currently being seen for a blood “anomaly” that will just have to be watched periodically. The last thing on the list is my emotional health. I need to get that under control and I can focus on learning the new normal. Again.
Throughout this year of healing, I’ve made a point to confront, admit, and own my feelings. I’ve written them out here on my blog. This has helped me tremendously, and I hope to help someone else in their time of need. Because we are NOT ALONE. I was contacted by the publisher of The Veterans Voice and she wanted to publish this article from me. I was overjoyed. It’s not my first published piece, but my first non-fiction. It would be seen by so many people.
I found a veteran spouses/caregiver support group online and have found so many understanding people. I can help when I can, and others can help or listen when I need it. It truly is amazing when you find others who understand what you’re going through.
I’m learning a lot through this. The negative feelings I hold inside are what makes me human. Not a bad person. It’s how I confront each and every situation that makes me good or bad. I’ve learned that I AM strong, regardless of my situation. I’ve always been one to try not to complain because there are so many more families out there that have it worse than me. I’m understanding now, that yes, while this is true, I am living my situation not theirs. And I am also learning that while everyone’s situation is different, the feelings that go along with it all, the veteran’s actions and feelings along with the caregivers, are so very similar. We can learn from one another, we can become the support structure so we don’t crumble.
Even before I started the doctor route, I’ve started trying to change my way of thinking. Because negativity can kill. I learned this a long time ago, when TheHubs went to Kosovo. I was friends with a spouse who was so negative all the time and she was bringing me down. I knew I had to cut her out of my life completely in order to survive that deployment. Once I did, I was so much better for it. 3 years ago, I’ve been on a campaign of positivity. The blog-o-sphere has an annual A to Z Challenge in April. And the last two Aprils have seen me making positive notes to help me think more positively and hopefully inspire others. This year, though, I’ve expanded it throughout the entire year and have been setting out little positive motivational post-it notes in random public places. Hopefully I could make people smile. We need to change the way we think and we will be so much better for it!
Being a disabled veteran family, outings are very hard to come by, let alone vacations. I still hold onto my dream vacations and hope one day to be able to afford them and travel without the fear of the pain debilitating TheHubs so much that he cannot enjoy it, or worse yet, cannot go at all. There have been times he has had to miss outings, family get-togethers, and holidays because of it. But we’re working on it. Still. What I have to do is try to do little things that only last a few hours and hope he can manage the pain long enough to get through it and enjoy some of it. So here are a few things we did this year.
The Clay County Fair in April 2014
The Color Vibe 5k in June 2014
First there was Painting With A Twist by myself, with the Hearts of Valor organization on September 11th
I took TheHubs and TheBoy to their first Air Show on the Tarmac. It was the Blue Angels, but I just HAD to get the Thunderbird in there. 😀
It’s the little things that we treasure now. Happy moments to hold on to. And with the camera phone, I can document them all!
May you all find the positives in every situation, no matter how small.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Love The Dements