Tag Archives: guilt

Where Did the Magical Season Go?

So, can this day/week/season hurry up and be over with already?

Every year I hide behind my words – <Insert Holiday Title Here> is nothing but a commercialized guilt trip and we should celebrate love, kindness, thankfulness, gratefulness, family, friends, and whatever else, EVERY day.

Yeah, just words. Sort of.

In all honesty, I have always disliked many holidays. I dislike Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents day, Boss’s Day, Administrative Assistance Day, and any other day you can think of. The truth of it all is, it’s a holiday that people adopt so they can party (like St. Patrick’s Day, or Cinco De Mayo), or it’s a day that all the retailers try to lure you in with “savings” to get your money or guilt trip you into buying something for your love or your child and if you don’t, you suck.

And it seems to be worse around Christmas.

My heart and soul must live in a different time period, especially around Christmas time.  The magic of the season is everything to me. You know what I mean. Old movies like HOLIDAY INN or WHITE CHRISTMAS, or the kind you see in a Thomas Kinkade painting, and all the stories of miracles happening around Christmas. A quaint little neighborhood. A blanket of virgin snow. A single trail down the center of the road that leads to the horse-drawn carriage. Christmas lights and decorations lining the streets and warming the houses. Everyone smiling and wishing passersby a Merry Christmas, helping those who needed help, and giving a small gift of friendship in any form. Friends and family circling round the fireplace drinking hot apple cider, singing Christmas carols, and sharing in the warmth of the love. Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.

Oh to see the world through my childhood eyes again.

To set the record straight, It’s not just about the lack of presents. With all due respect, presents under the tree is only a tiny part of that ideal Christmas image in my head. With each passing year, though, the magic of the holiday seasons grows more distant and unattainable. Decorations, still packed away in boxes stored in the garage, are left untouched for years. The lack of cold and snow, does nothing to put me in the mood either. I have no motivation. And when I do, I do it all alone. And now, while the desire is there, that little voice inside my head says, “what’s the point?”

I no longer like going out window shopping, just to enjoy the decorations or looking for ideas for my own house. There are way too many people. It would be ok if everyone was happy it was Christmas time. But now, everyone is so rude, and a thousand times worse during this season. It spurs anxiety in both TheHubs and I.

PTSD and Pain have ruined this time of year for me. TheHubs only feels 3 emotions: rage, despair, and nothing. He doesn’t get into decorating, socializing, or celebrating anymore. This, in turn, makes me not want to put in the effort. Maybe it’s the lack of UV light, the drab days, the lack of color all around, that adds to the depressive state. They do talk a lot about this time of year being worse for depression. So maybe that’s part of it. But I also know that seeing your loved one in constant pain, suffering his demons, and hardly ever seeing the smile on his lips and twinkle in his eye, well, you just let it slip through and wish it were all over so you can get back to the everyday life without seeing everyone else’s Christmas cheer.

This year has been especially hard, making this holiday season a bit worse for wear.  We’ve been through some seriously trying times. Communication is the only way to get through it. And while the PTSD Rage Monster flares bright, I wondered if we’d ever get back to that point. But we did. We both opened up. We both are constantly working on our communication. But while you’re smack in the midst of living the hell, it is hard to see the light. There were several of these times throughout the year. More than we’ve had in a very, very long time.

And then there were all the medical issues.

For me, luckily, this year was pretty simple. Just a few follow-ups with my Psychiatrist and adjustments to my meds–which at this time, I am not going to up them because of the price. It’s like two completely different prescriptions, even though it’s the same medication. One strength dose in the morning, a different one in the evening. But, it’s on a higher tier in the formulary so I have to fork out a bit of money for that. (And don’t even get me started on next year’s medical insurance.)

When TheBoy started school this year, he also started complaining about his feet hurting. It wasn’t until about a week in that it got so bad he called us from the nurses office saying he couldn’t walk anymore. We took him to a podiatrist and that’s when we found out he has incredibly flat feet (like his father) and loose tendons (like his mother). Luckily, the doctor had a quick and permanent fix, giving him an arch and correcting his feet to hopefully not have pain. It would require surgery on both feet. And now was the best time for him to have it since he’s still growing. He’s already had one surgery, and his second is on Dec 8th. (if you want to read about this condition, you can see the pictures here)

And then we found out he needed braces. UGH!

On top of all this, we also have to foot the bill for what the VA doesn’t cover for TheHubs. All his medications, and the neurologist he’s been seeing for a little over 10 years. His Botox injections, and pain medications. He also had surgery in September to help correct his severely deviated septum, which was supposed to help his apnea and we were hoping to alleviate the positional pain that came from sleeping since he would now be able to breath out of his nose while sleeping on his belly. It helped somewhat, but nothing to write home about.

So, our bank account has been pretty much wiped out — of course adding to my already discouragement for this season.

So when TheBoy comes to me, without prompting, and says he would be fine with nothing for his birthday and Christmas, an instant surge of pride is quickly replaced with a great sadness because I know with all these medical and dental bills that are going on I cannot afford to get him something, or anyone else either.

This season is about giving. And I do so love to give, whether it be a present, a smile, a hug, a positive thought. I am happiest when I am giving and helping people. I am happy making others happy. Sometimes, though, I would love if everyone else felt the same way I do.

When I started writing this post, it was so very negative. I couldn’t see the positive, and wondered if I would ever feel any Christmas spirit again. After getting it out, admitting it, I realize that just like being positive in everyday life, being happy on Christmas is a conscious decision. So today, I am making that decision – the decision to try to enjoy the season and not focus on my dreams.

I am going to try to make other people happy. Maybe it will help me get back into the spirit of the season. If I can buy someone’s coffee while I’m out shopping, or find a homeless vet who hangs out on the corner near the mall and give them $20. Or get back to leaving my Positive Post-It Notes around town while we are out and about…*IF* we are out and about. I really want to be able to share the positive and the happy and give someone a smile. The more people who see kindness, maybe it will spread and the rudeness will diminish?

I honestly believe in karma and “what goes around comes around”. I just have to be patient. And patience is not my best quality.

One can only hope, though.

So I am going to ask you to do the same. Maybe it might help you too. Be kind to everyone. You never know what their story is.

Be kind. Smile often. And spread the happiness.


If you’re willing, I would love to hear your stories as well. Let us all feel not so alone, especially during this holiday season so we can have a little bit of light in the PTSD darkness. Love you all.

Related Articles you may like:
Christmas 2014
The Secret to Marriage
Finding the Positives

Present – Part2

In April, I wrote about being present. While I still struggle with the need to fix and make him happy, I am also seeing just how much being there has been a great help to him. It’s a constant struggle. But always, I must remember that single, solitary word when it comes to him…

Last week, I had a very big eye opener. It was quite coincidental when an 18-year-old Australian Model’s story went viral. I was very moved by this article. She had an epiphany and spoke the truth about how she lost herself in social media, how it consumed her identity, and made her so unhappy. It also woke me up to my own problems with social media. But this was only the beginning. My friend, Cheyenne, also posted her response to the model’s article. Like I said, it was coincidental because that same week, TheHubs came to me about how much time I spend on social media and how he feels neglected because of it.

I had to re-evaluate the time I spend on social media.

Because I am a caregiver, I don’t have the luxury of in-real-life friends. My friends live in my computer/phone. It is my connection to others outside of work and my home. I really don’t have friends that I hang out with. Sure I have a few friends at work. But our external interaction is null. So I rely on social media to keep up-to-date and in contact with my friends online. Over the years, we’ve lost all our friends due to his chronic pain, migraines, PTSD, and anxiety. He used to be our friend-maker. I’ve had to learn how. But, since no one understands our situation, his pain, his anxiety and PTSD, well, people only accept so many nos until they stop trying. So, I rely heavily on social media to have friendships.

Being present isn’t just about being physically there for him. It also means being there mentally. Ever since I got a new position at work that requires more responsibility, I’ve not had any down time where I could actually take a break, let alone eat lunch on time, so my social presence has been null while I worked. On one hand, this is good because I am not bored and I am doing my job, despite the drama that stems from those I work with now. On the other, though, I catch up on social media when I get home, I’ve neglected my writing, and now, I find out that he feels neglected, too.

So when we had our discussion about how much time I have my nose in my phone and not paying him attention and after I read that article about the model’s change of heart, and then my friend’s response to it, I knew I needed to take a time out.

It’s been hard to keep that phone off while I sit back and watch something TheHubs loves but I just don’t. It’s hard not to pick up the phone every few minutes to see what has been posted recently on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not 100% there yet, but I think I am doing better. I NEED to do better, for him. I need to be present, in every way possible. Because, when we stop being present, their hope fades, their demons rise, and they start listening to them again.

I’m not gone. I’m just a little less here. 😛
I hope you can remember all this, too.
Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others.

Related Articles you may like:
Anxiety, Depression, And Secondary PTSD
You Are Not Alone
My poem about depression and hope, entitled Pieces


PTSD Or Moral Injury

I’ve been in Veteran Caregiver support groups for a little over a year now. I see a lot of the same thought processes with our veterans, same issues, same emotions. While their experiences might not be identical, they are similar and carry on the same depressive patterns, the same thought patterns.

I’ve heard many veterans say something along the lines of, “It should have been me,” or “I deserve it all,” or “it’s my fault,” or even “God hates me.” A world of untruths swim through their brains and rarely escape their self-talk. When they do, their spouses/caregivers are left not knowing what to do or how to respond. No amount of “no” or “that’s not true”, or any variation, will sink in to their heart and let them believe that they don’t deserve this punishment, thus compounding their physical pain with emotional.

The things they’ve seen, the things they’ve done, all while in the danger zone could cause them to go against their core values of good and evil. Even though they may have seen some horrible things, or even possibly done some horrible things, it was all done to save lives. But in their heart, they know it’s wrong and it’s damaged their soul so deep that they can’t see any way to atone for that sin. They feel shame so great it consumes them. It’s like they are punishing themselves for everything they saw, everything they did or didn’t do. Punishment, or atoning for their sins. However you look at it, it’s a constant battle raging between logic and emotion. Logically, they know what they saw or did they had to do. Emotionally, they know it was wrong. And as I always say, the logical and the emotional brain never play nice with one another.

People call it Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But PTSD stems from life-threatening fear. And while there is plenty of fear associated with war, the military, with combat and hazardous zones, that fear can be addressed and become manageable and livable. What I’ve been seeing lately, though, is not necessarily fear, but more guilt and shame. It’s those things that the veteran has bore witness to, failed to prevent, or even committed that can tear their psyche apart.

David Wood says that “moral injury is a violation of what each of us considers right or wrong.”  PTSD has been recognized since the 1980s. Unfortunately, DoD has yet to recognize moral injury as a separate diagnosis. Doctors seem to always treat the wound, but never address the underlying cause, so it continually festers. The wound will sometimes scab over and things will look like they’ve gone back to a normal balance. Without addressing and finding ways to cope with that black spot, finding a way to accept it for what it is, thoughts will always chafe it and the wound begins to ooze, bringing the depression back to the forefront of everything once again.

It’s like putting a band-aide on a severed limb. If you’ve been in the military any length of time you’ll know what I’m talking about. Motrin, the wonder drug. That’s the go-to medication for any pain you go in to sick call or the hospital for. Military or civilian, it doesn’t matter. Motrin will fix it. If it doesn’t then you go back and go back and go back. We’ve been out now for almost 13 years and have been treated at both the VA and civilian doctors. We’ve only experienced one doctor who was baffled at the cause of his migraines. It wasn’t until about a year ago when he ordered a full head and neck MRI that he realized what was causing them. This doctor was the only one who wanted to get to the bottom of the why. Unfortunately, we are still at the same place with that. There’s no real way to fix it. We just try to manage the pain.

Not so easy for what they suffer alone in the darkness, though. It’s not something they want to talk about. It’s not pretty. It’s not politically correct. It makes the veteran uncomfortable. It makes the listener uncomfortable. If we never see or hear about it, it never happened, right? Wrong. Sweeping the undesirable under the rug doesn’t make it go away. It’s always there. For those living it, for those living with it. That truth is a lump under the carpet we try to avoid, but sometimes trip over. The truth is the truth, whether spoken or unspoken. The truth hurts. The truth is ugly. War is ugly. But it’s something that must be done at times and rather than ignore the problems that come from it, we should educated, understand, empathize, and help. Who are we to judge? Who are we to say what warrants this punishment or if it’s distorted? It is what it is and we must treat it. But the world always judges and that’s what keeps them in the dark.

This is going to take a long time to learn how to deal with. All we can do is be present. So, I’m here, always by his side. I am doing my best to help keep his hope alive, to help him see that what he did, or didn’t do, is not his fault, it’s not God punishing him, and that he doesn’t deserve it. I will offer my forgiveness, even though that’s not the forgiveness he needs. I will offer up that God forgives everything, all he has to do is ask. But it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

It hurts my heart deeply to see the torment TheHubs goes through. I know I will probably never know it all. What I do know is that I will forever be by his side, no matter what. He has to come to terms with it all and believe that he did what he had to do and did it well and honorably. He has to believe that what he couldn’t control is through no fault of his own, and his actions were always honorable even though someone else acted too late. He has to believe that he doesn’t deserve the punishment he’s putting himself through because of the situations he lived through. I cannot make him believe these things. I can only reinforce them and keep telling him, and hope that one day he will believe. Once this happens, he can be at peace, I think. Until then, I will continue my fight for him.


Related Articles you may like:
You Are Not Alone
My poem about depression and hope, entitled Pieces
Moral Injury: The Grunts
Moral Injury: Healing

My Greatest Fear


I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s how I process. It’s not always about my stories.

Recently, I happened across an article that talked about the fears that motivate our characters. Now we’re not talking about the fear of spiders or heights. I wrote about fear, once. It didn’t go deep enough. We’re talking about fundamental fears, the things that scare us the most, that shape our personalities and our decisions. It has given me insight into my own character – Me. But can I change it? That is a huge question. Well, maybe not change it, but at a minimum try to combat how I react to certain things.

This past week has put me back in my darkness, where I can no longer see hope. But I keep trying to reach out and find something, anything to grasp. Just when I thought I was learning how to better communicate, my whole world is turned upside down and I am forced back into a place where I can no longer get that communication across, either because I failed to say the right thing or because the other side has blocked me out. Either way, I’m lost. Without communication, we cannot progress, we cannot grow, we cannot change, and we cannot expect to have any type of relationship, with anyone.

My heart breaks.

So what is it I fear most?

I am afraid, oh so afraid, of being unloved.

According to David Wisehart, those characters whose greatest fear is of being unloved are called The Helper. He goes on to say,

These characters want most of all to be loved. To achieve this, they give love to others, expecting others to give love back. But no other type is as giving as they are. These generous characters may be disappointed by what they get in return. At times they may be manipulative and vindictive.

Helpers want most of all to be loved. They are people-pleasers. In an effort to get love, they give it first, fully expecting love in return. This bargain remains assumed and unacknowledged until the issue is forced to the surface by the Helper’s growing resentment. No one but another Helper can match their giving nature, so they often feel used, surrounded by a world of heartless takers. This is when their personality can pivot toward vindictiveness.

At their worst, Helpers are possessive, manipulative victims.

At their best, Helpers are generous, caring, and insightful.

I’m still trying to process the why of this fear. Where did it come from? Both my parents love me. I was never neglected. No, so far from that it was just the opposite. So that’s not it. But maybe it has to do with being an only child? Moving around every 4 years and losing touch with every friend I ever made? I think both of those play a major role in the development of this fear.

Being an only child meant I was alone most of my life. I had to learn to play by myself. I had to learn to rely only on me. Most of my friends lived inside books. The ones in real life, well, they came and went. Some friendships lasted 6 months, some a year, and then if I got really lucky, some would last through two duty stations, which meant about 6 years. I’ve never had the luxury of a childhood friend, a best friend, someone who would always be there for me.

So maybe I built defense mechanisms? Since I knew the only one I could count on, ever, is me, I only listened to me. Decisions, problem solving, directions, all were made by me, and me alone. It could very easily be the reason why some friendships didn’t last as long as they could. Because I expected them not to last.

Expectation is not the norm in the issues that have arisen of late. I mean, come on, 25 years and he’s still here. So why can’t I get it through my thick head he isn’t going to leave me? Well, that’s because those mechanisms seem to still be hanging around. That fear is my rock, my foundation. I guess I always knew it; but putting a name to it, validating it with proof, well that’s another thing.

These last two years have been a journey of discovering what makes me tick, as well as what makes him tick. I thought this was all progress. I truly thought we were working better at this whole communication thing. But I guess, he’s been holding so much back about me, letting me make all the decisions, for so long, for whatever fear he has, that he couldn’t take it anymore.

I’m selfish. I’m stupid. I’m inconsiderate. I never think about anyone else but myself.

As for being inconsiderate and never thinking about anyone other than myself. Well, that is so far from the truth. Everything I do is to please everyone else. That’s my downfall. Logically, I know you can please some of the people some of the time but you can never please all the people all the time. Still, my heart tries so hard to do the latter. Everything I do, I do out of love. Some of these decisions may be centered around me and I’m blinded to that fact, but in the end I don’t do it thinking solely of me. Yes, I’m stubborn. If I get an idea in my head I run head strong with it. I’m bull-headed. Always been told so. When something ticks me off, say a car that has broken down over and over and over again that we put so much money into I get fed up and just go out and buy a new car. I ask for input. I guess over the years with these major decisions, he’s given me less and less input. I get so frustrated at the “whatever” responses I get. So I just do. And that probably gets me in trouble, too.

I have told myself I am stupid countless times since I was young. Now, though, I know this is not true. I am doing my best to stop thinking this way about myself. Sometimes it’s hard when consequences of my actions, or words, rear up and show themselves. Yes, I’ve made some stupid decisions. Yes, I’ve said some stupid things. Haven’t we all? It doesn’t make us entirely stupid. Right?

As for selfish? That’s a whole lot harder to push down. I wrote about only some of the things I feel selfish about, before. Only child syndrome, I guess. I can’t recognize it when I’m doing it, so I wish someone would point it out to me. Yes, I might get upset, at first. But I need it. I need to know in order to change.

So why did he bottle it all up and never confront me? Maybe he didn’t want to upset me. But how will I know what needs to change? How can we compromise? How can I learn to recognize these behaviors and work on changing them? First off, acknowledging them, even here on the blog, helps. They become tangible, real. Rather than something fleeting in my mind. They always say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? So I hope I can change for the better.

What is his greatest fear?

What’s yours?

Related Articles you may like:
9 Character Types That Will Improve Your Story


PS: In light of this weeks issues, I am foregoing a post dedicated to Celebrate the Small Things. Please forgive me. It’s been a very, VERY rough week. I’m processing and recovering. However, I will say that I am celebrating peace returning. But there is a new challenge that we must deal with. We will get through it, together!


I am a fixer.

That’s what my therapist calls me.

I like to make sure everything runs smoothly. If something is wrong, it is my responsibility to make it right. I tend to keep order and peace amongst everyone in the house. If I cannot keep things going as planned, if I can’t keep everyone happy, if I can’t calm the anger or ease the depression, it’s always been my fault. In my eyes, I am guilty – guilty of creating the mess, guilty of being unable to fix the mess. I hold a perfect standard to myself, and no one else. And I’ve burdened myself with the weight of the world.

Not only do I resemble Atlas; I also torture myself like Sisyphus. It’s a never-ending battle of burden. Powering through the rough times, pushing the darkness away, carrying the load for everyone up hill only to have it all come crashing around me again. But what do I do? I don’t give up. I find my hope and keep going. And the cycle continues.

In my research of this Fixer-type personality, I ran across these words: “Most Fixers believe deep inside that they will only be loved for what they do, not for the person they are.” This is so me! Re-learning how I view myself is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do. Seeing his pain, his torment, our situation as “NOT MY FAULT” is one I must work on daily. I think I’ve gotten better over the last year; but I do falter every now and again. I’m learning to recognize those words, analyse the situation, and truly see that maybe it really isn’t my fault. Man is it hard!

This seems to be a common theme in my group of caregiver friends. We all seem to desire to “fix” our veteran. We feel so helpless when they get angry, when they get depressed, when they refuse our positive words of hope, when they push away any opportunity or kindness, when they seem to have given up. We seem to think it is always our responsibility to lift them up, to turn their anger to calm, their depression to happiness, their bleakness to hope. When they refuse us, we consider ourselves a failure.

Why can’t we love them enough to make everything better? If loving someone was enough to cure what ails, we could do away with the VA! Or even hospitals, doctors, nurses, therapists. But, alas, this is never, EVER going to be the case. My logical brain knows that love is no cure for anything. My heart always says otherwise. They never play nice. Pitting one against the other. For me, the heart always wins out. I am an emotional critter, wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Because the situation, his pain, his depression is not my fault, I’m learning to quiet the emotion and listen to logic. I doubt I will rid myself of my nature, but I can learn to listen, learn to hear the logic. It is something I confront daily. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not my fault. Sometimes out loud, even.

There is a single word my therapist says to me when I start trying to over control everything, when I start my “fixing,” when I start worrying that everything isn’t going as planned, or I can’t help TheHubs enough. One word that I have to remember, repeat, and believe.


All that is required when you love someone with PTSD, depression, chronic pain, is being present. I love him. He knows that. I want to make him feel better. He knows that. But me berating myself because I can’t make him feel better is not helping him in the least. All I can do is sit by his side, holding his hand, and loving him. THAT is what makes him feel better, even if it doesn’t take away the physical or emotional pain. My love for him is what gets him through each day. It is his guiding light through his never-ending darkness. It is what keeps him here, that I am the reason he lived. He has told me all of this countless times.

Why is it so hard for me to understand the depth of his love for me? Why can I not accept that he loves me so deeply? Why is it that I hold myself to such a high standard, a level so high that it is impossible to obtain, and always feel crushed when I cannot reach it? I am learning to step back, take a breath, close my eyes and evaluate myself. Am I placing too much blame on me? Am I carrying too much of the burden that is not mine? Am I lying to myself, creating false guilt with false evidence? Am I being too harsh, bullying myself into submission? Am I seeing things inaccurately, through the lens of my own high standards?

I keep saying “I am learning to…” and I really am. I am learning a lot of things about me through this blog, through my therapist, and through my actions. I’m learning to reshape my thinking. I don’t foresee an end to my learning or practicing. If I can make this a habit, I won’t let it overwhelm me to the breaking point, like I did last time.

Being positive is the hardest thing to do…ever. But even more so when you can’t see any light in that dark tunnel. Now, here’s something to consider. What is ever easy that is worth it? Do your treasure something that was easily obtained? Or do you pride yourself in all that you have overcome? Each day is a struggle and a choice. Some days are harder than others. When you are faced with that darkness and you feel it smothering you, I am here to be your beacon.

Going through all of this and coming out on the other side of darkness has given me the strength to help others again. Giving advice is so easy, now, though I still feel like a hypocrite because I fall down from time to time, not listening to my own advice.

I need to remember the single, solitary word when it comes to him.


All I can be is present. Be there for him. That is enough. I cannot make him get out of his funk. I cannot make him get better. It’s not my fault he feels the way he feels. It’s not my fault he’s not getting better. HE has to be willing to get there himself. All I can do it be present.

I hope you can remember all this, too. Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others.

Related Articles you may like:
Anxiety, Depression, And Secondary PTSD
You Are Not Alone
Present Part 2
My poem about depression and hope, entitled Pieces


The Sins Of The Father

I’ve never pretended to know everything that he thinks, everything that he’s been through, everything he blames himself for. I think it is a part of depression, PTSD, or whatever label you want to place on it. No matter how much they trust you, they will never give themselves over to you, completely.

I accept that.

This is where faith comes in. I’m learning more about God in my own way than I ever did sitting at Mass every Sunday with my mom for 17 years of my life. CCD, or Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School never really went into more than the popular stories everyone knows and reads from childhood. I have had to do my own research as my trials came to me in order to understand how The Bible addresses them. The problem I still have with it all is the dichotomy within The Bible itself.

It is my understanding that God is a loving god. He loves all His creations. He only asks that you come to Him with your burdens. He knows you will sin. He knows your pain. He knows the evil in the world and He cannot stop the free will He has given His children. He patiently waits for you to come to Him, ask for help, ask for forgiveness. He will wipe away your tears and pain. If only you ask.

The Old Testament is full of stories about a wrathful, vengeful, jealous God. I think He was learning how to parent us with the whole free-will thing. When controlling us through fear wouldn’t work, He decided it was time to step back and let what will happen, happen. He did give us a path back to Him, through his Son, and let our free will decide how we will live, think, and do. While our choices make Him sad sometimes, and all he ever craves is for us to ask for His help. He sits and waits. He is the most patient being.

I do not understand how He can endure the pain of watching our failures and waiting for us to as for His help. This is where I sit, at the moment. Watching my husband beat himself up, simmering in his murky darkness, listening to him berate himself, watching him self-destruct.

My heart hurts so much for him. I do my best to show him positives, to keep his hopes up. I can understand because he suffers all day, every day, the pain. I come home and see it on his face. But what he shrouds behind his eyes, I cannot fathom. He’s only told me bits and pieces. I used to believe that everything was my fault. His pain, his suffering, his lack of love of life. It was my fault I couldn’t love him enough to fix him.

That was my guilt. I still struggle with it today, even though I know it is not my fault. But, as I always say, my emotional heart and my logical brain NEVER play nice with one another.

My therapist calls me a fixer. I want peace and harmony in everything I do. I want everyone to like me and no one to be mad or upset. Conflict is the bane of my existence. It’s my job to create peace, harmony, and love. And if it’s not working, I have to fix it. If I can’t, that’s when the guilt manifests.

I want to fix my husband, but I know I can’t. I know he’s the only one who can fix himself, and the first step is to WANT to be fixed. He’s taking the steps, but I don’t know if it’s because I begged him, nagged him, or what. But he’s going to my therapist.

The other night, he told me that the therapist had something profound to say. “Only you know when to stop tormenting yourself.” I asked him if he will ever stop. His response was, “I don’t know. There’s a lot I need to pay penance for.” I also mentioned that he’s not just punishing himself. He’s punishing his son and I. Maybe if I opened his eyes about that, I thought it might start him thinking that maybe he needed to change. But his immediate response scared the hell out of me.

“The sins of the father.”

That stopped me in the tracks. How could he believe in that. What did it really mean. It couldn’t mean what everyone thinks it means. Could it?

I did tell him that I don’t believe, no, I CAN’T believe that God will punish a child for sins the father did well before the idea of the child was ever conceived? Children are innocent in His eyes. This is another issue I struggle with about the Catholic religion. Children go to Hell if they are not baptized; therefore, the Catholics baptize the child as soon as possible. How can they make the conscious choice to follow God’s Word? But I digress…

So, with that weighing heavily on my mind, I began to research the meaning of “The sins of the father.” I’ve read The Bible a few times. Once as literature for a college course and once for my own purpose. However, I find it quite difficult to understand the language and the meanings of the words. I struggle with “lost in translation” because, how many times has The Bible been translated over the years? I know that meanings of words change with the times. I know that there are certain words that you can get the jist of the meaning, but the direct translations usually fail. It’s just not quite right. Or the meaning is completely lost. Maybe I over-analyze?


So here I am, looking at the words in Exodus.

Exodus 20:5 “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”

Exodus 34:6-7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Four generations of God’s wrath? Really? This is how I read the words. That God punishes the children for the sins the father committed, and will continue to punish them through the fourth generations. Why? Why would he do that? I kept trying to understand those words. But all I could see was the negative in it.

I am of the mind that God is all loving. Ever since he gave His son to us, He has removed His vengeance and wrath. He loves. Exodus is in The Old Testament, before Christ. So maybe that’s why He punished the person through four generations.

I brought this all up to my therapist. He’s a Christian therapist and knows a lot more about The Bible than I. And he brought me to another understanding in the Exodus passages. That the Lord will punish the one who hates Him, and their generations. Not just anyone who sins.  I need to show this to TheHubs and let him see the context.  No one quotes the whole passage, it seems, and that’s where I get so confused.

Ezekiel-18-21A few other passages my therapist brought to my attention, regarding the sins of the father, is found in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel.

Deuteronomy 24:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

Ezekiel 18:3-4  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

Both of these books are in the Old Testament as well. The dichotomy of The Bible still holds. However, I was not reading Exodus properly. And, as I said earlier, the quote is always half-quoted. Now that I can see that the sins of the father are “of those who hate me,” I can better understand the meaning. I hope this will show my husband the same things I now see.


The challenge I face now, is showing this to TheHubs and allowing him to process it and come to his own conclusions. My challenge, is patience. I am not God. I am not perfect. I cannot fix things. I want to be my husband’s guide, showing him positives and hope, and showing him the path to getting better. I pray, now, for the Lord to show him its OK to let it go, to forgive himself. I pray the Lord to give me the patience and strength I will need as I watch my husband walk his own path to getting better.




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Anxiety, Depression and Secondary PTSD

When Going Outside Hurts


It comes and goes.

I notice it.

But I don’t say anything because I don’t know how to address it. Or even, what to say.

He sits in the house all day and all night. He does not come with me to family outings or even the simplest of errands.

For me, it starts off ok and I don’t notice it much because when I come home from work, I just don’t have the energy to go out anymore (fibromyalgia is kicking in full-time now). I just want to stay home and do nothing. But he’s been doing that all day every day when I’m at work and TheBoy is at school. I know he needs to get out and do something. So when he’s in the mood to go out, I suck it up and charge on.

Then I start noticing that he stops going with me to the grocery store, or when he says we need to go get the supplies so we can take care of the yard (or anything we ‘need’ to do) it gets pushed back. I always see him sitting on the couch with that pained look on his face and feel so horrible. Guilt because I want him to go with me; but I know that he’s in pain so I let it slide.

Then, when he can’t get out of bed to take our son to the bus stop, I start to wonder. Is it really this bad? His pain levels increase in cycles I’ve noticed. I wonder if the depression feeds the pain, or the pain feeds the depression. But then, I rationalize it. He’s receiving Botox every 3 months and we are in the latter part of his last set of injections and it always wears off before the 3 month appointment for his next round. So, I deduce that this is part of his pain, that every morning it’s harder and harder for him to get out of bed and I may have to take our son to the bus stop for school sometimes.

The next thing I notice is that I come home from work and he hasn’t gone outside to get the mail in 2 weeks. I can still see the pain behind his eyes. But is it physical pain? Or is it the emotional kind? Probably both.

He starts cancelling appointments (or won’t make the calls to make the appointments at all), next. This is the frustrating part. I work full-time so I cannot be there 24/7 for him, to make him go, to drive him all the time. His fear is that if I take off work every time he has to go, that I will lose my job. He doesn’t want that. Neither do I. But, I am his caregiver. My boss knows this and is ok with it. It’s just not comforting to him enough to allow me to leave work every time he needs me to drive him. He usually can do local, but even that now has gotten too much.

He feels the guilt. He feels like a burden.

And now he tells me that he doesn’t want to go outside anymore. It hurts. He panics. Just going to the mailbox now throws him into a full on panic attack. Driving makes him panic. It’s not so bad when I’m with him, but it’s getting worse. And if he drives with me and TheBoy in the car, it is insanely worse, especially over water. And we have a lot of water around here. He used to be ok if he took his anti-anxiety medication before we left. That doesn’t seem to be working anymore.

So now what do I do?

He’s told me he doesn’t want to go out of the house anymore because it causes him undue anxiety. Has he developed agoraphobia; I guess because of his pain and lack of social interaction? Or is there something deeper going on? I know that this is another symptom of PTSD, along with anxiety, obsessive compulsion, and paranoia.

I cannot help him. I cannot fix him. I can only be there for him. 

I’ve at least got him to agree to therapy again. He’s been through two different sessions with two different therapists through the VA over the years. He was not too keen on them. And they pretty much got to a point where they could no longer help him with his mental issues until he got his pain under control. How can they get his pain under control? It’s been 15 years and it just gets worse! He sees a VA Psychiatrist, whom he likes a lot, but only once every 3 months. The VA has offered him another therapy session, but they want him to go 3 times a week. It’s an hour and a half drive one way. He’s definitely not up for that drive three times a week. And he doesn’t want me to take off work for it, either. And if they schedule him for a time frame that interferes with get TheBoy to and from school, it is an inconvenience for sure. So, he has declined the VA’s help with that.

There are a lot of things I know I don’t know that’s going on in his brain. He’s told me that when he goes to talk he doesn’t want me to go with him because there are things he doesn’t want me to hear. He’s told me he doesn’t want to make me worse so he keeps it all to himself. But then my brain kicks in and I start wondering if it’s me that’s causing all this depression. If I can’t love him enough, then I’m failing. This is my brain. I ruminate. I start listening to those negative voices, my self-doubt, my insecurities, which then brings me down. I’m doing all I can to combat them, squash them, and put them in their place so I can focus on a more positive outlook, and inlook.

I know he’s protecting me from his demons. He feels guilty for not working, for not helping around the house, for not being a better husband and father, for not doing anything. He feels like he’s a burden and that he is the reason why I have to see a therapist now. I keep telling him that my vows said, “For Richer and poorer, through sickness and in health.” I love him with every part of my being and I will do everything I can to comfort and bring him some joy. I know I can’t take the pain away. NOW I know I’m not the cause of his pain, either.

I wonder, if sometimes, he punishes himself for the things he feels guilty over. And that he is keeping himself in a place of darkness as that punishment. He doesn’t realize that the more he hides from those demons, the more they eat him up. The more I see them chomping away, not knowing what they are, and not being successful in helping him see some light, the more he gets sucked in and I fear I will one day lose him completely.

Which would be worse? Becoming a statistic? One of the 22 veterans a day to lose their battle with their demons? Or to lose all sense life, the want and will to live and love, while all those around you watch your soul shrivel inside your shadowed shell? I think it would be easier for the one going through the torment of PTSD to end it all. Those left behind would be the ones who had to deal with their own demons forever after.

And then the question arises, which would be better for those left behind? To have your loved one physically gone forever? Or mentally?

I cannot answer this.

Nor do I want to.

I’ve been going to my own therapist locally since January. I’ve enjoyed him very much. He understands the military life. He understands PTSD. He understands my caregiver stress. It is very rare to find a therapist who can relate like that. I’ve been to a few before and none have been very helpful in that aspect. Ever since I started with him, I’ve been talking about him with TheHubs and reinforcing the fact that I think he would enjoy talking with this guy. My therapist has also been trying to get me to get my husband in to see him. After constant probing, and with the admittance to me that he no longer wants to leave the house anymore, I think I’ve finally got him to agree to go to my therapist. I’m now just waiting on a call back from the organization who will be setting it up and paying for it. (They’ve been under snowstorms all last week.)

Because I’m learning how to deal with the ebb and flow of things, trying to understand him better and possibly help my emotional health out as well as teach this all to TheBoy, I’m doing my best not to get back to the rumination I always seem to fall back on. Yes, I worry. Yes, my brain thinks of all the things that could be wrong, could go wrong. But I am doing my best to see the hope that is there, too. That he really does mean he will NEVER go back to that place where he wanted to kill himself again. But living in constant pain, fear of everything around, and the depression that ensues because of all this, he still tells me he doesn’t want to live anymore, that he’s a burden, that he’s useless.

My heart aches so much when he says this. My heart aches so much when he says nothing. Because that speaks volumes over words. I don’t know how to help. He has to want to change the way he thinks in order to stop listening to those negative voices. And I really hope we are on that path right now.



Yesterday was Mother’s Day.

I don’t understand. After 40 some years, I still hope that someone would surprise me, go out of their way to do something, anything, extra special for me, wait on me hand and foot, pamper me, just for one day make me the priority. I am feeling that selfish twinge again.

When I was little, I always had dreams of surprise birthday parties, or surprise trips, or anything that would be grand and exciting for my birthday. But, alas, my birthday was smack dab in the middle of summer. And living in a military community, my friends were either on vacation, or living off base and we couldn’t get together. I was always left to have a very small birthday with my mom and dad. Eventually, my birthday became just another day.

When I got into high  school and started getting interested in boys, Valentine’s Day was special. The schools would sell flowers that the guys could buy for their girlfriend or secret love. There were so many girls that got at least one flower. Me, usually I had none. My boyfriends were either short-lived, or non-existent. I wasn’t popular, nor exceptionally beautiful. And most guys were not very “creatively romantic.” The older I got, the more I saw that it was really nothing more than the retailers trying to guilt everyone into buying some overpriced thing for their love and if they didn’t get the biggest, most expensive thing then they really didn’t love that person. I resolved myself to the fact that Valentine’s Day was just another day. And I was OK with this because, really, you should be loved and cherished all the days of the year without being made to feel guilty.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, again being a military family involved a lot of distant friends and family. They’ve  always been a tight-knit holiday celebrated between me, my mom, and dad. We lived so far from their family that travel was way too expensive. I can only remember one Christmas with my Mom’s Aunt and Uncle in Washington state. The only time we got to see my mom and dad’s parents and siblings were when we were on our way overseas. Every 4 years doesn’t really make you close. So our holidays were always just the three of us. But it was always about the family being together.

Maybe it was living in England. Maybe it was being a close-knit family. Somehow, I developed my ideal image of Christmas, the kind you see in a Thomas Kinkade painting. A quaint little neighborhood. A blanket of virgin snow. A single trail down the center of the road that leads to the horse-drawn carriage. Christmas lights and decorations lining the streets and warm the houses. Everyone smiling and wishing passersby a Merry Christmas, helping those who needed help, and giving a small gift of friendship in any form. Friends and family circling round the fireplace drinking hot apple cider, singing Christmas carols, and sharing in the warmth of the love.


My heart and soul must live in a different time period because with each passing Christmas, I realize there’s no more magic in it. It makes me incredibly sad and frustrated. I want the magic. I want the love and warmth.

Because of the issues my husband faces daily. The pain, the depression, the forgetfulness, and everything else that comes along with my wounded warrior, my ideal Christmas never unfolds. Most of the time we don’t put up decorations. And if we do, it’s what I can put up myself, or with the help of my son. There’s no desire in my husband anymore. Every day is just about getting through the pain.

There have been so many family holidays and get-togethers that he’s missed because of the pain. I know it tears him apart. Now. But there was a time that those auto-thoughts kicked in and I wondered if he disliked my family, or he hated doing anything with me, or he just hated going outside. It took several years, and a lot of communication with him, to kick those auto-thoughts to the curb. Even now, I still have to tell them who’s really boss in my head. Some days are better than others.

So, yesterday was Mother’s Day.

The one day everyone raves about what their husbands and children do for them. Breakfast in bed. Homemade cards and crafts. Surprise visits. Dinner out or at the very least, cooked by anyone other than the Mom. Now that I’m in a community with other Veteran Caregivers, I see a different side of Mother’s Day. Many feel the same as I do. Left out. Just another day. Wishing that someone would make them the priority, or even an effort. But there were so many other posts out there where their veteran was blowing up, arguing, ignoring, leaving. These ladies were feeling that they weren’t important or loved or even recognized. Their day seemed so much worse than mine.

It made me take a step back and look at my day. Yes, sure I woke up like every other day. I laid in bed until TheBoy got up. TheHubs was already awake, downstairs watching TV after a night of insomnia. Yes, sure I had to remind both my son and my husband to wish me happy MomMom’s Day. But, hey, I got hugs and kisses. Yes, I made breakfast. And yes, hubs went to bed soon after we woke up. I managed to wake him up around noon and asked if he wanted to go with us to get groceries and TheBoy a new set of swim trunks. His pain level was pretty bad and I gave him two hours to see if it would calm down. Nope. As per usual, it remained high. So TheBoy and I went out by ourselves.

I had those bad thoughts, those selfish thoughts again. But I didn’t let them get to me. The guilt tried to creep in, too. But I pushed it aside and did what I needed to do. I did do something bad, though. I bought some cookies, some donuts, and also the items to make strawberry shortcake. I also bought Subway for dinner. Hey, it was Me Day, right?! 😛  I wanted to go to the salon and cut off all my hair but decided I wouldn’t put the boy through that. I also wanted to look for a new swimsuit for me too. That whole ordeal, for both of us, was a disaster. But we did have a little fun with hats (in which I bought him one).

When I came home, TheHubs was on the Xbox. I had to bring the groceries in and put them away without his help. I understand that playing the Xbox does tend to allow him to forget his pain temporarily. I’m going to be honest with myself, and with you: I was a little upset when his match was over and he didn’t help out.  I was a little upset that he didn’t take time out to eat with us. I’m not entirely sure why I was exhausted after 3 hours of grocery shopping. So I went upstairs and laid down on the bed to watch some shows since he was downstairs playing his game. Yup, just a typical day for us.

While I was laying there, alone, I went over my day and all the posts I read regarding Mother’s Day. And you know what? I need to let go of those unrealistic expectations, those magical dreams of the perfect holiday, and just enjoy the small things. Count them and watch them pile up. Soon, it will be a HUGE mountain of positive.

My husband’s alive. He loves me. My son is alive. He loves me. He made a card with love  for me. We were together at the store and had fun trying on hats. We were able to enjoy some good food. And we made it through another day. I’d call that a win.

So when another holiday rolls around, I just need to sit back and enjoy what I have, even if hubs can’t participate fully. Because, you know what? I’m loved and cherished every day. Every holiday is just another day. I am thankful for what I have.



I was born, baptized, and raise Catholic. Guilt is a given.

From the moment I was born I had already sinned. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do it by choice. I was being punished for something that happened so many generations ago, for Adam and Eve’s mistake. Then I was taught the Ten Commandments, the six commandments of the Church, and a whole slew of other do’s and don’ts. If you do this you’re going to Hell. If you don’t do that, you’re going to Hell. I was unworthy.

As I grew up, I visited with many of my extended family members. I saw how some twisted the word of God to suit their needs. I saw the strict adherence to His word and any deviation caused many an argument. Every decision I made in life came under scrutinization. I tried to do everything right, but failed. Fingers pointed. Some even shunned me for my questions, beliefs, and practices. Eventually, discouragement set in, and I steered clear of hard choices.

No wonder I feel like everything I do is wrong. Every choice I made, and continue to make in my life, big or small, is weighed against some measure of guilt.

Everything I did, I did to please. If I could direct the decision making to anyone else, the blame would never fall on me. It could very well be the reason why many of my relationships failed, why I never really “took a chance,” and why I continue to work where I work.

Pleasing everyone is my comfort zone. 

I was young when I married my husband, not very self-confident. I let him make all the decisions. I thought if I let him chose and he didn’t like the outcome, it wouldn’t be my fault. Now, I’m pretty sure this was incredibly hard on him. I also did not like confrontation because that meant I was not pleasing him. (I did this with friends, family, and boy friends alike). Not pleasing meant guilt.

When things went wrong, or my husband was mad at something, in my mind, it was my fault. Because I couldn’t make things right, it was my fault. Because it happened in the first place, whatever it was, it was my fault. I took all the responsibility of everything in my loved ones lives, be it in my control or not, all on myself. And because I couldn’t fix things, I failed. Failing meant guilt.

Over the years, my husband built me up. My self-confidence grew. He was my rock, my strength, and he gave me the courage to stand up for myself. But, there were still certain things I just couldn’t do. I still wanted to please everyone. And when that didn’t happen, my guilt flowed free.

Telling my husband “no” was THE hardest thing to do. So I didn’t. It got us into a lot of trouble, financially. So much debt with absolutely nothing to show for it. Before he was diagnosed, I just thought he didn’t understand financial responsibility. When we first got married, he deployed to Korea for several months and I was responsible for paying all the bills. When he came home, he just let me continue. It was easier to have one person in charge of the money, especially since he was always working incredibly long hours, in the field, or deployed. After he was diagnosed, though, I still find fault in how I handled it but I know it’s not entirely my fault. If I had shown him what he was doing to our finances earlier, maybe he would have sought help before we got too deep. Maybe if I said no more often, we would not be in this predicament.

See, that…I still find the guilt.

We’ve managed to pay off most of that debt. It took many, many years. And now that he’s been diagnosed and receiving treatment, we now know the reasons why it happened and are learning to recognize the signs before they get out of hand. I’m very thankful for this, that he’s learning to control it, that he’s willing. Sure there are days he slips, but now, instead of me clamming up and just dealing with the issue inside, we talk about it. I’m still afraid to tell him no; but he’s helping me talk about it, helping me learn to say it. And I’m learning to let go of the guilt…a little.

But finances were only a small portion of my guilt.

Everyone was right. I was always wrong.  If I was a better daughter. If I was a better friend. If I was a better wife. If I was a better mother. If I was a better listener. If I was smarter. If I had more time. If I hadn’t said that. If I hadn’t done that.  If I hadn’t burned dinner. If I hadn’t moved his keys. If I cleaned more often. If only I left his stuff alone. If I tried harder to wake him up. If I had only let him sleep longer. If. If. If. If I had done everything right, none of “this” would have happened.

If I was perfect.

But I’m not. No one can be perfect. I am learning to accept this. It’s a constant struggle. I do believe my husband’s treatment is also helping me, though. Because he’s opening up to me, because we are communicating better than we ever have over the last twenty-four years, I’m learning to realize I am not Super Woman, no matter how much I want to be. I cannot please everyone. And just because I did something wrong, doesn’t mean that I am a failure. Failing only happens when we don’t learn from our mistakes.


Those times when my husband is angry, it’s not always my fault. I have to take a step back and breathe, let him process his anger. Patience is so not my virtue, but I am learning. Eventually, he will talk and we can work through it together. It’s the waiting that’s killer now. Guilt still floats around in my brain; but I’ve learned to look at it from a different perspective. I have to assess the situation. Is it a result of something I did or said, or was he just having one of those types of days.

There are those times when anger takes over as well. Anger at the situation. Angry at his pain. Angry at his medication and how it makes him look and feel. Angry that he’s not helping. Angry that we don’t have a life. Angry that I have to do it all. It’s not pretty and I feel guilty for those thoughts that run through my head. I understand it’s not his fault. It’s not my fault. It just is. But I still get angry and those awful thoughts that you just can’t help always make me feel guilty. Like I’m a bad person. That it’s my fault for everything. And the cycle of guilt continues.

Now I think back at how guilty I felt, how I always took the blame, and everything was my fault and I can see exactly how selfish that sounds. It’s not always about me. It’s not always something I’ve done or said. It just is. We will get through this. There are better times to come. These are the thoughts I use against the guilt that rises up. It’s not me and he just needs to process it so he doesn’t say or do something he will regret.

These are the feelings of guilt that I’ve had some level of success keeping at bay. However, there’s a new level of guilt that I have yet to even begin to overcome. The guilt of taking care of me.

My heart and my head have never played nice. I’ve always struggled with what I KNOW and what I FEEL. I know that in order to be the best possible caregiver, I need to take care of myself first. If I’m not healthy and strong, how can I be able to be 100% there for my husband? My brain knows this.


He worries about me. Dwells on his own guilt feelings for being the way he is and causing our lives to be the way they are. It’s not his fault. I keep telling him. It’s the fault of all those who caused his accidents over the years. So, expressing my pain, my emotional health, my physical health openly to my husband is very difficult. If whatever I say causes more undo worry and guilt for him, I feel guilty for saying it. It’s my fault. I made the situation worse. How can I be the strong one if I’m complaining about my faults.

See, guilt, again. 

I spoke about our lack of friendship, companionship, and understanding in my previous post. I also spoke about how I was persistent in my search for the same. I found an online group which provides an easy outlet for me. But it’s not the same. It’s the lack of physical contact that hurts, but one I’ve been used to for so very long. Now, I’ve also found a local group of ladies, from The Hearts of Valor, dealing with the same issues. I was invited out to dinner one night last month. I so wanted to call and  cancel. I came very, very close. It’s what I do. I was scared about meeting new people. I was guilty for leaving him alone, in pain, while I’m off getting out of the house, meeting new people, having fun. Oh, the guilt of having fun without him, while he’s laid up in bed because of the pain.

Yeah, that guilt. The worst one of all and the hardest to overcome.

Even this blog has caused some feelings of guilt, for saying things out loud, for everyone to read. It’s like saying them has made them real, made them something tangible. I can no longer hide from these feelings. I have to learn how to accept that they are a part of me, that everyone feels them. It’s time to process them and get through the negative in order to experience and cherish the good ones.

Without the hardships, the joys wouldn’t be very joyful. 


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If you’ve experienced the same feelings of guilt, you’re not alone. If you have suggestions on how to better overcome this, please feel free to share. I am open to any and all suggestions.