Ten years ago I got a call while at work from Red Cross that changed the life of my family forever.

Todd was deployed to Afghanistan as a Calvary Scout with the US Army in Ghazni. Several times the mission got called off, because air support was being tied up looking for one of the biggest d-bags in history.  I am not even saying the selfish bastard’s name, as he doesn’t deserve the font.

Despite that, the mission went on, my husband was so badly injured they didn’t think he would make it and he lost two friends in that blast. Todd almost died on me two weeks later after he was back to San Antonio.

Ten years ago was the last time I got a good night sleep. Ten years ago was the last time our son had a father that could run and play with him.  Todd never ever got sick, never had to go to doctors.

Ten years later even that has changed. Doctors and therapists continue to make up a big part of his life today. Kind of ironic there we were today, at the doctor’s office both wearing masks to avoid him catching anything worse from the great unwashed around us. We looked like a set of masked Bonnie and Clyde together.

Ten years later and I still watch him suffer in excruciating pain. Ten years later the war is continuing in Afghanistan. Men and women who weren’t old enough to be born when the Berlin Wall crumbled are going to be facing catastrophic injuries like Todd.

Those that know Todd, never hear him whine or complain about his pain or his vast health issues. He stands to greet anyone that walks up to him at a restaurant. He is a gentleman. No brain injury can take that away.

Ten years later, thanks to Equine Therapy, Todd shows smiles that reach his eyes. He finds acceptance in the big gentle presence of the horses. He thankfully has received help through the Wounded Warrior Project’s Independence Program, which helps moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injured Veterans. It provides recreational therapy and helps veterans learn a new art or skill.

He has been able to participate in photography classes and learn to develop film in a dark room. He will be having a show of his work December 2nd

Ten years later and I am still so very thankful to God that he is here.

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.





Not alone in being alone

One of my fellow wounded warrior wives posted a funny, but sad list of “You know you are a wife of a wounded soldier when..” It was amazing how many women posted something that I have experienced. It was very eye opening as I did not realize how much of it I had experienced.

What I mean is that the time has gone by so fast, I did not pay attention to all of the minutia that had changed in my life or that I had to adjust to. When reading some of the other women’s comments, they triggered memories in my mind that I had forgotten about. Kind of like when you watch a mother hold a toddler on one hip, balance a diaper bag, purse, laptop bag, and lunch in the other free hand. Her toddler drops a toy and she bends with everything else in her hands and arms and in one quick, efficient step, has retrieved the toy.

You just adjust physically and mentally and get stronger as your baby grows. In this case, it was mental growth. Realization of how things that can seem so bleak and difficult (and there were some pretty tough days) are surmountable. The ability to keep plugging along is something us WWW’s have in common. Ever since I had found the website for the Wounded Warrior Wives, it has been a literal lifesaver for me.  I have posted their website in the Useful Links area.  I recommend it to any of you spouses.

In some of my blogs I wrote about the isolation I felt being the caregiver of a wounded soldier. No one else knows what it is like laying next to someone having nightmares that cause their husbands to get up and run to the restroom because they are so upsetting they make him throw up. To lie there and listen the moans, yells, avoid the flailing arms moving in self-protection, and console him when he wakes up. To get up with your child in the morning after you have had only three hours of sleep and act like everything is rosy and handle a few things and then take a nap when scheduling allows. To be fully aware of all of the things that trigger his PTSD and keep him in a zone to allow him to be more comfortable when he is out in public, in crowds, and other places where he can feel apprehensive.

We (wives of wounded soldiers) do all of those things without really thinking about it. We do it out of love for our soldiers. Just like how my husband STILL opens the door for me first, even if he is having an extra sore day and he will walk all the way around his truck to my side first. Even in rain. The Taliban did not blast away the gentleman that he was prior to getting injured. They did not blast away his courage, his strength, and his heart for his country. He does those things automatically.

When I look back on the isolation that took over me when I was away at the Fisher House and had to spend the weekdays away from my son, I can remember when the darkness faded and the sun started to shine. It was when I first read a forum that one of the wives had commented in. It was seriously a light in the tunnel of never ending darkness. It makes me think of that Police song,”Message In a Bottle.” The lyrics in which Sting’s character finds a million other bottles with messages lying on the shore,”It seems I am not so lonely being alone..” It just rang true. None of us are alone anymore. There are brave wives dealing with bureaucracy to help the future veterans not have to fight as hard for their health care. Some of them are giving voice to the many issues we are all enduring. I applaud every single one of them. I can only thank you. Your willingness to share the resources you have found along the way of helping your husbands recover has only inspired me to do the same.