First Step

Moving Forward

Us all fancied up.

Todd and I at our vow renewal. He still makes my heart a flutter after 24 years.

Todd was critically injured on our anniversary.  It was our 15th year one, to be exact. Not only was he badly injured, but he lost two of his friends at the same time. Most of you who have been through combat understand that these sort of losses are never forgotten. The survivor’s guilt that comes along with it never leaves.

At first, I vowed that somehow, we would still honor our anniversary. Seriously, the Taliban almost got my husband, I refused to let them get our day, too. However, the invisible wounds of war are some of the worst and as September would roll around, the dark cloud of grief would roll in right at the end of the month, smother the joy out of the whole month of October and linger until November.

I am proud of my husband. He puts in the painful work with his counselor to be compassionate to the grief of this and other horrible experiences from war. We see a neurologist for the chronic migraine sort of headaches my husband endures as a result of his moderate brain injury. He is one of the best doctors I have ever seen. His empathy, kindness and emphasis on neuroplasticity has been very helpful for us moving forward. He was the one that first thought up the idea of getting a vow renewal as a way to move forward. We had never considered it.

Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain is focused on survival. The brain is designed to remember pain first in order to keep you from hurting or killing yourself. When a brain injury occurs, the millions of pathways in the neurons and blood vessels are damaged, blocked, and eventually the brain starts re-wiring itself. Neuroplasticity explains that when you provide your mind with positive things, that it helps the brain create new pathways that connect its memory to enjoyment. I have to say this really does help. For the past 3 years, horse therapy has been one of those purposeful joys that really has improved my husband’s quality of life.  His recreational therapist has also been extremely helpful. Providing him with something new to learn, in his case photo development with black and white film. This is an amazing new hobby and he is really getting good at it. He is really engrossed in learning all he can and we bought him an SLR, too.

Check out http://reset.me/story/neuroplasticity-the-10-fundamentals-of-rewiring-your-brain/  There is also a great book our doctor recommended on Amazon called Neuroplastic Transformation Workbook by Michael H. Moskowitz M.D.  http://a.co/78gQp26 

I recommend it for you caregivers as well. Your lives are just as important, and your mental health equally so. No one deserves to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Do this bit of work and you will be rewarded. Seriously, what do you have to lose?  That is also one of the helpful things for me on the darker days that still happen but fortunately not as often in a week. I work on something that brings me purposeful joy like dancing or being outside.

I haven’t written much in this blog in two years.  Life has been super busy in the past two years and my mind hasn’t wanted to dig into the deep cathartic emotional topics. In the past two years we have been on a really good path. I became a caregiver to my elderly aunt, and having her close by and getting to spend time with her has been a joy for me. She has the most can-do attitude better than most people my age. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and she is sharp as a tack. She honestly is one of my role models.

I really have been focusing on mindfulness, which is a huge complement to neuroplasticity. http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

Basically you reframe your thoughts on what you’re dealing with. Instead of saying,”Sigh..I have to drive us to the VA today and deal with a lot of painful bureaucracy,” I try to think of it as,”I am lucky my husband is here in my life. I get to hold his hand and walk through the VA today with him. Let’s see what we can accomplish.” The focus on a more positive aspect really helps. I will even put on a cute outfit, just to make him smile.

Those that know me personally know I am a dark, sarcastic and very skeptical thinker. Kind of like an artist/scientist hybrid. A mathematically challenged scientist. Some of my favorite memes deal with Skinner’s cat.  Alright, back to the original concept of mindfulness.  You can go on YouTube and find a lot of free stuff. This is really fantastic. There even are mindfulness concept coloring books. Feel free to share your Skinner memes with me though, they truly crack me up.

You have to have humor in your life as that makes it all bearable.

 

 

 

 

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The Beginning

I wasn’t aware in 1994 that I would ever be a military wife. When I met my husband, he had always been civic-minded and very patriotic. He was a Chemistry and Physics teacher that had recently retired to get into working the chemical industry. Our family was in a car, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive a few days after 9/11 happened.

My husband commented,”Here I am enjoying my freedom with my family, while our guys are dying in Iraq. I just feel like I need to do my part to keep that evil from invading our land and possibly hurting you or our son.” He said he was thinking about joining the military to do his part. He asked me what I thought and I said he needed to do what he felt he had to do, and it was his choice and that I support him no matter what. Thus began his research into joining the National Guard.

A couple of weeks pass and he had a meeting set up with a recruiter.
He came home all excited from the meeting with the recruiter about the various benefits. With his classic sick sense of humor, he said, “Ooh they have death benefits so if I get killed, you will get $250,000.” I said,”Very funny, but that would actually screw me out of some income as I expect you to at least live ’til 78 and what you would make as a chemist times 45 years of earning would definitely surpass that 250K. Plus, you are a much-needed fixture in our lives. I couldn’t imagine it without you.”

Did I mention he was only 34 at the time, without much cartilage or cushioning in the knee joints? Our son was maybe 6 at the time when his father left to go to basic training. Proudly, my 34-year-old husband kicked the butt of half the cheese-eating high school kids when it came to running and PT. He was so proud to tell me of his various accomplishments during the training. Plus, having been a high-school teacher, he was used to the tempers, testosterone, etc. that the younger privates were dealing with and the mind games the drill sergeants were using. It still sucked, but he made it through and his graduation was one of the proudest events for him.
He looked amazing in his Class A’s. Damn, I love a man in uniform.