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    Hope

    hope that no matter what difficulties arise in family, health, or finances, a family can survive it and get to the other side. 'How' is not just one response, rather it's an evolving idea. Solutions present themselves as you go along the path. As you seek the thing it is you want to achieve, so will an idea come to you. I do not attribute it to a god or a religion, though I may have one or both of those. This is life. Hope. Live with me,... 

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    Entries in tbi (33)

    Saturday
    Aug162014

    Day 103

    Even still...

    With his prolonged absence, we feel the stagnation that life took. A hold came upon us all, our development inflicted with an emptiness where he once fit.

    The days could be a little bit brighter, the celebrations happier, the milestones attended to longer. We all feel the strange heaviness of him gone and try, all we can, to be happy for this moment.

    The milestones are the hardest, the traditions and the markers of life. These have us all reeling for closure and reuniting. These all pull our hearts, these all present a thickness in the day our feet attempt to walk through, heavily picking up one foot with hesitation and letting it fall in front of other. Wading through the sad undertone in the air, here we are together. Still, we sing; still, we dance; still we celebrate what we do indeed have anyway.

    Happy Birthday Shelemyah Amariah.... you brought daddy home from the war. He will come home to you again soon...

     

    Sunday
    Jul202014

    Missing

    It was forced but chosen, you being away. Necessary for the survival of all our souls. How fickle my emotions roll through time, hating, loving, rejecting, wanting,… ready to change everything and vulnerably desiring it all return. How can I ask for the good parts and expect the bad to not reappear? Who am I to think repair is possible, who am I to want and not be alone through life? Today I have not been able to live now, today I changed, today for the first time since his departure I truly missed who he is in our life. Today I saw hope peek around the corner and remind me dreams can happen, and that is what makes me yearn so much more. 

    Tuesday
    Jun242014

    From Our Perspective Back Home 

    "My fellow citizens, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations, to disarm Iraq, to free it's people, and to defend the world from grave danger. On my orders, coalition forces have began striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war...we will bring freedom to others and we will prevail." -George W. Bush

    I don't necessarily love the focus on the imbedded media reporters in this documentary, but since they are the ones making this, there you go. It does highlight how it felt to watch the news reports constantly rolling in about the war in Iraq in 2003 during my husband's deployment, it does have the concentrated narcissistic media personality focus we sorted through to get information about our soldiers, it is exactly what we saw back home to try and make sense of what was going on. Watching it again still has the exact same terrifying feeling as it did then. At 24 minutes is where I remember feeling initially mortified, the Shock and Awe bombings on Baghdad and President Bush coming on air to announce what all of us already knew. That in itself is worth a watch, to hear what he had to say about why we were fighting, from today's perspective.

    "To all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world, and the hopes of an oppressed people, now depend on you. That trust is well placed. The enemies you confront will come to know your skill and bravery, the people you liberate will witness the honorable and decent spirit of the American military." 

    *"From Our Persective Back Home" is a continuation of Her Story, which can be read in it's entirety here.

    Wednesday
    Nov202013

    Interview Day 

    Recently we went on a family military trip, the organization sponsoring it gathered families who had served and were now veterans, all hurt in some capacity during their service, and gave them some respite time in the great outdoors. 

    It. Was. Lovely. 

    And the biggest reason it was lovely was this: we were in our veteran community. 

    We don’t have that in Austin, there’s like 3 people. When it comes to the daily, daily stuff, like school and the neighborhood, it is completely non-existent. And we feel that. It is no more obvious than it was the weekend we spent there with each other, and when we drove back home I cried, deeply. The unspoken understanding we had there was gold, the easiness of interaction, the expectations, the camaraderie,…so comforting. Quickly we were ripped out of the indulgence of it all while our daughter had a medical emergency, we scrapped basking in the glow to survive the next crisis, once again. Today I had the opportunity to revisit the trip due to a phone interview the organization arranged to gauge how the experience was for us. I quickly remembered how comfortable we were there. Now that the interview is over, I realize how important that was, especially for my husband. 

    There, he was able to see his accomplishments. They were very obvious. All the work he does do, on himself and for his family, shined. The second we got back into our town, somehow that went away. It has everything to do with his in-laws past treatment of him as we realized what was going on with PTSD and TBI, the shaming people do, the way our neighborhood responded to our situation, the lack of veterans in the area to identify with, his entire family being far away and completely oblivious to anything going, his family not knowing how to respond once they did learn of his health and ignoring him, the lack of services for him in 2004 when he got out, people's inability to understand and be helpful in business transactions, the VA refusing his claim the first time and hardly giving him what he needs now, the sparse availability of advocacy for veterans in our area, etc etc. It just is not a “military friendly” place to be. I have managed to find a supportive community, though not military related, that I adore and feel comfort in. But, he is not experiencing the same type of comfort because he wants people who understand war. He feels supported by it to a point, but regular men don't understand the combat experience he craves them to. He must feel so very lonely, I realize, as I put this in text. I can see the difference in him when he is around veterans and when he is not. He needs it. He needs it to be easy to find and immerse into. We need it, the kids need it. We did not come from nothing, we all served, we were all affected, people need to truly understand that. 

    Monday
    Nov182013

    'The most important lesson after looking at 83,000 brain scans'

    'What if we evaluated and treated troubled brains rather than simply warehousing them in toxic stressful environments' 

    "Our imaging work also taught us that mild traumatic brain injury was a major cause of psychiatric illness that ruined peoples lives and virtually no one knew about it because they would see psychiatrists for things like temper problems, anxiety, drpession, and insomnia and they would never look so they would never know."

    "We are in a pending disaster with the hundrends and thousands of soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and virtually no one os looking at the function of their brain."

    Tuesday
    Nov052013

    Living in the present, reacting to the past

    In response to my recent freak out about abusive tendencies and family dynamics, my brilliant psychobiological couple’s therapist called a family session. My concern was that I had been making all the wrong decisions, letting my kids live with ptsd moments from time to time and ruining their lives. I'd say I have this type of hyper focus on my husband’s behavior.


    I saw a trend in my upbringing with an emotionally manipulative mom and my willingness to tolerate outlandish emotional moments in my marriage, and it became blatantly obvious after a run in with her a couple weeks ago followed up immediately by another with my spouse, eerily similar. Maybe I had allowed to much mistreatment because I didn’t know different. Maybe we deserved better. But, the question I couldn’t answer: what was considered normal and tolerable in a family and what is crossing the line? There have been so many variables, positive changes, setbacks, efforts, strides, and regressions I couldn’t tell what progress was anymore. Surely, everyone in any family has bad moments, frustrations, yelling, and saying things they regret. Perhaps, also, the important piece and the difference is repair.

    Her way of addressing my concerns was seeing the family together, checking in, and observing how we all interact. And it went great. My husband and I left there both feeling like we had done a good job parenting, and the kids were so connected and healthy. Everyone left feeling like we are a team, we all realized we had some good qualities with a lot to offer each other, and that our life wasn’t all hard or bad. This was refreshing.

    So now it has me thinking, what am I reacting to? Why am I on a negative loop? It seems a little late to be calling out abuse, shit has hit the fan in a much worse way years ago and I didn’t have the courage to go to a women’s shelter. So why now? Am I wanting some sort of validation for the past? Have I lost all of my tolerance because I haven’t dealt with those issues? I do know leading up to this event I asked myself, am I just stretched so thin over the years I’ve become extremely intolerant of anything? Even as incidents get smaller, fewer between, and easier to resolve I can’t take them anymore.

    So, how do I see things as they truly are now, rather than through the lens of previous happenings or even childhood echos? I think I finally found a place in life to realize it’s ok to stop reacting. It’s time to search through what went on and find healing. Things are actually safe, and it is time to correct the response and learn to live again, and to trust.

    Friday
    Oct042013

    Relapse

    It’s been a week now since my husband threw up out the car window on a drive home from the grocery store where we purchased our shabbat food to prepare. I ordered pizza instead.

    Our shabbat felt diviided and cold because I can’t cook for people I’m mad at, and I was so angry at him. 
    His habit of puking that week lead me to believe there was something going on I didn’t know. And there was. An agreement in our relationship to stay clean from any drug use and alcohol, broken. 

    So I lay here trying to get the motivation to visit shabbat dinner again, one Friday later. Nothing is resolved yet, but it’s not contentious either. We have help through this but I just don’t want to care. I have no idea where this is heading, or how it will turn out. I just know right now feels like yuk. 

    Monday
    Jun242013

    A Time of Change, Again 

    After some difficult adjusting and a lot of resistance and introspection, today my husband filed for unemployability with the VA.

    It is kind of a moment here.

    He has been through numerous jobs, over the number 10, since his diagnosis. I have watched him struggle endlessly, and grapple with his devotion to providing for his family and his constant battle to just be ok and get through a day. He needs time to recover, to heal, to receive consistent treatment, to acquire skills more suited to his needs and accommodations, and to gather himself. I know it. I fight the reality of it pretty much daily, grasping to maintain "what we should be doing" as functioning citizens. What I am saying is, I feel guilty asking for continued help from the VA, as if I cannot accept the reality of what he is dealing with, which in turn means us as his family. But reality is unrelenting and sits and waits patiently for me to address it. I think the step taken today addressed it to a degree. There are more things to do, but this was the most frightening for me. 

    It is frightening because he is no longer working. 

    You cannot file for unemployability with the VA unless you are unemployed. His last job, which we can now add to the pile of attempts made in the last few years, wouldn't accomodate his having his service dog with him. He tried and tried to keep it up, but just cannot any longer. I love his valiant effort. I also love his ability to know when he has met his end, something he has not always been able to say or do. My fear lies in the amount of time it will take for our claim to process through the Veterans Administration, estimating a duration of a year or two. I certainly hope I can make some impact on that waiting period by contacting representatives and fighting for a more fair time frame. We have survival to maintain here. Shelter, food, and safety for our family. 

    I wonder what will end up happening with us, I wonder where this will lead, I wonder how it will change our lives and what will turn out. So many unknowns as we go forward, still raising 4 young kids and hoping to ensure them a peaceful transition and a better future.

    Tuesday
    Apr302013

    Our Daddy Is Invincible! 

    "Our daddy is the bravest man we know. We are so glad that he is here to see us grow" 

     Our Daddy Is Invincible! is a book for children and families explaining life after a traumatic brain injury. Written by the wife of wounded veteran LtCol Tim Maxwell, USMC, author Shannon Maxwell puts together a much needed resource for our families, helping to put into words and pictures what so many of us are trying to say to our kids: Everything is going to be ok, and daddy is still daddy. Read the full digital book here.

    If you know a family dealing with combat injury, consider purchasing a copy as a gift to send to them. Parents with young children, this may be a good read to sit and share with your child. Remember, it's not about recreating what used to be, but finding the new normal. Thank you Shannon for giving all of us a tool to begin a few very important conversations. 

    Saturday
    Apr202013

    Mental Health Day

    Doggies can have jobs too, which means sometimes they get tummy bugs cus they ate a cricket off the floor that may have had insecticide on it. Or maybe it's just Shabbat. Either way, I think he's enjoying his time. 

    Wednesday
    Apr102013

    Lessons for Heroes and Healers

    Lessons for Heroes and Healers is a Google plus community that teaches and supports. Learn tips and share ideas on how to heal from combat experiences.

    Rebuilding is a community wide event, this platform is appropriate for anyone involved in bringing about recovery from combat experience: veterans, spouses, family members, and community helpers alike. This is not a catch all group collecting everything that is out there, rather a carefully curated source to filter some of the noise, and share what is the most effective. 

    We believe in Post-Traumatic Growth.

    Some categories include: 

    Getting Organized: Foundational tools to help you set up and prepare for the journey of advocacy and recovery.

    Read, Watch, Learn: An articles section that will hold a cache of news, scientific research, opinion, and healing method ideas, all which lend toward growth and recovery.

    Gather Your Resources: This section will share organizations, companies, and foundations great to get connected with. We are not meant to do this alone, allow support from others in your life. 

    ...and more. See for yourself today, contribute to the collective voice what has truly helped you. Do join us. 

    Thursday
    Apr042013

    Let Me Google That For You 

    A tip for veterans with service dogs:(and people who see them)

    It is not appropriate to ask a person why they have a service dog. Many people approach my husband, who presents very well and looks healthy to others, asking about his. I can tell you, it triggers his PTSD. Very much. If people are curious enough, they can go home and Google it.... The veteran and caregiver are not responsible for educating society one by one.

    We often joke about making business cards with the "Let me Google that for you" link on them to give people a clue, just so he doesn't have to talk. It would have a QR code and link that takes you to something like this.

    If you are a veteran with a service dog, learn to say no to others who intrude. It is healthy to keep your boundaries and privacy. Practice at home before you are faced with a public situation and rehearse how to use body language and assertive communication to let others know you are not interested in having a conversation.
    My husband was taught to put up his hand so a person will stop approaching first, then respond "I prefer not to_____" if a question is asked. 

    We have been surprised how many people do not understand how intrusive it is to inquire, but it is challenging us to attain skills of keeping our boundaries, and that is something I am grateful for.

    Thursday
    Feb212013

    Caregiver Reversal Tips

    My helper hero

    Caregiver reversal: this is what happens when one who is normally being taken care of needs to temporarily return the favor, if possible, to the maximum of his or her ability. This began happening to my husband last month. 

    I found myself flat on my back for more than a few weeks recently, unable to drive, clean, work, mother....just done for and useless. So, what is an injured veteran and his service dog to do with such a situation? I mean, who's gonna be overly responsible for him if I'm off the job?

    Turns out, he's going to have to. Here's some ideas if this happens to you. Remember, bring prepared is better than being surprised and clueless-

    1. Talk to your caregiver, now patient, and remember to use actual words.

    2. Don't forget to reach out your hand and touch the other person once, maybe twice. It's ok, you can do this. 

    3. Try to leave the corner of the room long enough to take your caregiver a splash of water.

    4. If you feed and water them, they might start to feel better.

    5. Bravely text or email a friend of caregiver to help.

    6. Breathe in, breathe out. 

    I kid, I kid... at the beginning of our recent role reversal he did seem a little panicked. But, any man on the planet probably would be. In all actuality, he was more than amazing. He did ask for support and took such great nurturing care of me. I am still on the mend, but so much better. More than anything, I am amazed at what he accomplished. This was, despite the unfortunate event of having surgery, the most healing experience of my lifetime to have him at my side as I recover. Thank you lovely, big, strong, caring, veteran husband. You completely rock. 

    Sunday
    Jan132013

    Shaky Ground

    I stand somewhere between comfortable abuses and freedom of voice. And I have no idea in this gray space what is right or wrong. 

    These are the moments in-between where guessing and assuming reign. Also where questioning my own actions play a one track repeat in my head over and over and over. It’s insidious. 

    For years, many years even previous to my marriage and family, this has been boiling. I’ve run and protected myself from past immediate family, seeking safety. Emotional and physical. And the reasons I ran seemed minimal, but perhaps they weren’t so much. And this boiled, and my choice in a husband wasn’t their favorite, and this boiled,… and I had children met with family expressions of disappointment,.. and this boiled. And we struggled and did not do things in the proper order as they saw, and this boiled. And my husband fought a war, and came home a mess, and this boiled. And their feelings about him not being the perfect pick were validated as he fell into turmoil with combat PTSD and TBI,.. and this boiled. And they did not believe me, and those that may have believed me didn’t seem to care. And this boiled…until one day he started getting better. Then “we” started getting better, and I learned so many things about us, myself, our kids and families, as we had struggled. Yet this still boiled. I learned I deserved to be treated well, and my husband deserved the same. And what was happening was they were wanting us to meet all their social expectations without accommodating or even beginning to try understanding our disabilities. And if we did not meet those, we were shamed by them. Thought less of, and put further in a corner. 

    I finally decided I was tired of showing up to gatherings treated as the loser. The family member who married “that” guy. The ones who forgot to mail a gift or could’t drive out of town to get together. The ones who forgot to write back or make a call. Ok, fair enough. And I felt as if they thought they were doing us a favor to invite us. We were tolerated, not welcomed. Of course our kids are magical and loved, but I found I was no longer able to step into the same room with these people assuming how they felt, determining this by the energy I received from them. Hell, I am not sure I could ever do that well. The utter silence. The culture of unwelcoming was running rampant. By this time both of my siblings had ceased communication with me, citing their reason as an unreturned email that one time back a long time ago. Really? If that is all it took, there was nothing of a relationship there to hold onto anyway. And really, there wasn’t.

    I finally learned, as friends treated me with more compassion and concern than exteneded family through these difficult years, that I was thinking this through all wrong. I learned I was trying so hard to impress and show up for the wrong people. I’ve spent years silent, coping with the horrors of my husband and daughter’s disability alone, without family concern. My husband and I go through this weird PTSD thing when we have to go over to a party or holiday, and it causes us heartache and turmoil. Especially him, though I think he handles it so well, could you imagine? Always showing up somewhere people make it kinda' obvious they hate you? And willingly repeat it? I don’t want him to have to do that any longer. And I don’t want to feel the horrible way I feel after a get together, always re-realizing how much I don’t matter to them as a person. As a sister or daughter. It is all so fake. Follow the protocol of showing up, and shut up is what's expected...”We get to treat you however we want, you are lucky we let you be here. We only think your kids are ok, you suck. You’re here cus’ we want your kids here. You are lucky you are in this family.”

    Guess what, no I am not.

    I finally said NO this weekend. I won’t go to the next kid's birthday party, because I don’t want to feel the tension that builds up before I go, and the depression afterward. I don’t want to be reminded how much everyone disapproves of my spouse, and dishonors his experiences in the war and in health. I want to save my energy to be happy for my own kids and spouse. And I feel bad for my kids not going, and I’m turning this around in my head. But enough is enough. I have to stand up and say it is not ok anymore. I want to be with those who care, those who possess understanding and compassion for us. Those who are on our side, not against us. Those who have love. 

    images by Brave Girls Club

    Wednesday
    Dec262012

    Be Understanding of Your PTSD Family Members and Friends

    "I think Christmas is one of the most difficult times of the year for a PTSD family. The one with PTSD is forced to put him or herself into certain trigger situations, simply because it is socially expected of them. Even though most extended family will not try to accommodate their disability. The spouse is then forced to act as a bumper to anything that will trigger them and usually fail because the extended family makes it impossible for success. All the spouse wants is a happy holiday and has waited years for it. Said "failure" to control the environment causes lot of stress on the couple. Please know I'm thinking of each and everyone of you. Both sides of the partnerships. We all deserve a measure of peace." -Shannah 

    Tuesday
    Dec042012

    Discrimination and Stupidity 

    My husband went to P Terry's, a local hamburger restaurant, with Echo recently. When he ordered, the lady said:
    "Sir, no dogs can be in here" 
    Marco says: 
    "He's my service dog" 
    She just says "Oh" and walks away. 
    As he is eating, another worker talks to him from behind the order counter, in front of all the other customers: 
    "Sir, I know you are blind and all but your dog can't be in here because of allergens and stuff" 
    Marco lifts his glasses up and replies:
    "First of all, I'm not blind..." 
    Then other customers interrupted and stuck up for him explaining to the P Terry's staff they didn't understand ADA law and should really get it together. 
    He later received an apology via text after a complaint was made. 

     

    Fast forward to today when he has finally decided to make the move to attend college with his GI Bill. Such a brave move for him. When he sent an email to make an appointment to create his class plan and register, here was the University's reply: 

     

    Good morning Marco,

    Thank you for your email.  Before we meet, I wanted to ask you if you are requesting for accommodations to have your service dog with you in the classroom.  My Campus Center Director is Yvonne Moduno and she wanted me to ask you this because this will conflict with our property management guidelines and Park University stance in regards to service animals in the classroom.

    Please let me know and if you have any questions.

    Thank you. 

    Cynthia Tafoya, Assistant Director

    Veteran Affairs Certifying Official

    Park University

    First of all, she is the Veteran Affairs Certifying Official. Shouldn't she be a little less clue-less? Combat veterans are receiving service dogs for combat related issues and she should be aware of that outside of us educating her. It's part of her job. As well as understand ADA law. She called his dog a "Service Dog" in her response, yet explained he wasn't allowed. Let's all learn to write an email and follow ADA law! Secondly, I was directed to the head of disability accommodations in Missouri to resolve this matter, since "she understands ADA law better" than the two ladies mentioned in this letter. The head of disability accommodations also did not grasp how Echo was not a "therapy dog" and could not understand how he provides a "service." She also violated ADA, even while quoting it to me, by asking for paperwork, certification, or proof of some kind as well as "where we got him."

    We are not even a year into this journey, and these are only a couple of the stories we have encountered. Here is the problem, every time someone confronts us about Echo, it triggers my veteran husband, and we tailspin for a day or two until he recovers. How is this helping?

    Please learn your ADA law businesses. Your Veterans need you to be a good, supportive, educated community. They sacrificed a lot for you. 

    "Some people are surprised to learn there are no government officials paying surprise visits to employers, state and local government agencies or businesses to see if they are in compliance. So consider yourself a member of the "ADA enforcement team."

    Sunday
    Nov182012

    Join The Conversation 

    From time to time we open up a discussion thread here on Simply Peachy to share each other's ideas. After a speech I gave this week on Veterans, there was a common question I received from the public and local VFW leaders, mostly from the Vietnam conflict, which brings me to the topic I would like to hear your thoughts on: Why is transition to civilian life for OIF/OEF soldiers seemingly more difficult than previous conflicts? 

     Join the conversation here: Post 9/11 Warriors 

    Examples:

    Escalated suicide rates: We lose an average of 18 veterans a day to suicide in the United States, and outpacing combat deaths.

    Homelessness: Veteran homelessness ccurrence is happening much faster compared to the vietnam conflict, 18 months now vs 5 years after Vietnam.  

    Higher Unemployment rates: "The unemployment rate for young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan spiked to 12.7% — more than 4 percentage points higher than the national average. For veterans ages 18 to 24 years old, the outlook was even worse-nearly 30 percent unemployment."

     

    References and Further reading: 

    Solving the Riddle of Veteran Unemployment -Forbes

    Suicides Eclipse War Deaths for US Troops- NY Times  

    Who Are our Veterans- American Progress

    Friday
    Nov092012

    Dance of the Day

    Again, early in the morning along with the sunrise.... we danced. This was the perfect song for today in light of all we are learning about love lately. Enjoy, and dance :)

    Friday
    Oct262012

    Dance of the Day

    Again, early in the morning along with the sunrise.... we danced

    Saturday
    Sep292012

    Depleted...

    Husband's newest VA paperwork states, along with a rate increase, 
    "Determined to have been exposed to ionizing radiation while in the military" 
    This really is not getting any funner.