Happy New Year’s Eve! (Look out for a Veteran)

colorfulfireworks

What a year.  Seriously.  In our house, we are really ready for 2016 to be over.  At this time of year, I am always hyper aware of how difficult this evening can be for Veterans to get through so I thought I would post our top five ways to get through the night.

  1.  Listen to music:  Headphones in the ears with your favorite music can really help ease the noise and the triggers the noise creates.  Whether you opt to jam or meditate, choose a playlist for tonight that will help you feel groovy.  Here is one I made if you have Spotify.
  2. Hug a pillow:  This may seem strange but one of my Veterans biggest triggers is the vibration, particularly from unruly neighbors that shoot them off near our house.  Body pillows are cheap and holding one to your chest can minimize the shaking feeling.
  3. Watch a movie:  We usually opt for an action movie right as the sun begins to go down.  This gives the drunk bozos a good hour and a half to set off their fireworks and depending how into it you are, you will barely notice the noise because of everything going on.  If you have surround sound, this is 100 times better because it then just seems like background noise. (Best thing we have ever purchased)
  4. Eat your feelings:  This is one that I got from an Occupational Therapist.  If you can tolerate crunchy things, make a NYE bowl.  Depending on your preference for salty or sweet, fill it with items that are crunchy when you eat them.  This is a perfect pairing with the movie because you are desensitizing yourself to the noise in your ears at the same time as keeping occupied.  Ours consist of crunchy pickles, carrots, nuts, cheese and some sort of chip or cracker.
  5. Practice patience:  Once the flurry of war fails to be the lead story on the news any longer, people just don’t take it into consideration.  We are less than 3% of the population and on your block, I bet there are many people who don’t even know anything about what we go through on these holidays.  You can put out a sign, you can ask people not to do it or you can call the cops when they do (we have had to do this) but ultimately, the day will pass and life will go on.  If you can try to handle it better each year, there may be a time when you don’t even notice what is happening any more.

We can dream, right?

No one appreciates warriors until the enemy knocks at the gates.

Here is hoping you and yours have a lovely transition to 2017 and we make it the most amazing adventure.  That’s what I am hoping for any way…

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The Odyssey and the Agony

sunrise jax

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we applied for a couple’s Project Odyssey through Wounded Warrior Project.  As we have attended other similar events, we did expect some type of group therapy discussions.

We were housed at the beautiful TPA Saltgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach (I highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato Pimento Cheese Sandwich if you are ever in town).  The folks at this Marriott were beyond kind and went out of their way over the couple of days to make sure we had what we needed.  This location caters to corporate meetings and they have a Starbucks located inside.  How genius is that?

The staff from WWP were great.  Their intent was to facilitate all kinds of discussions through thoughtful discussion, art projects and bonding exercises.  As with most groups of military families, this can devolve into herding cats.  A lot has been going on in their corporate offices and they handled it well.

I am not a big fan of team building exercises (in corporate environments I have seen the quickly go awry).  A similar thing happened on this venture but with a lot more emotion.  On our first day we were kind of thrown into tandem kayaks with no instruction and told, go to this point down river.

What a mess.

Our guide was knowledgeable, the area was beautiful and my Veteran had the most epic melt down in the history of melt downs out in the middle of the water.  In retrospect, it was HILARIOUS, but at the time it didn’t feel like it.  We had to work through some things for sure but I could have done without the trial by fire.

The next day was a team exercise where half of us were blindfolded and had to come from a room off the larger area into a place where the other half was to make us sit in chairs but no one could talk.  In preparation, my team half developed more than one plan cheerfully and were ready to go.  My Veterans team half apparently fought the entire time.

What happened next was even worse.

Being unable to see and have people grabbing on you brings up all kinds of issues.  Whether you are a Veteran or not, if you have trust issues or space issues or all of the above from a trauma, this reignited all of that.  To say that there was some emotion and crying is an understatement.beach backpack task

The next day’s beach activities were much more beneficial.  Everyone worked together and felt supported.  It was nice to see.

We have talked often since about whether we would have participated had we known any of this in advance and I am not sure.  They don’t give a schedule so you are forced to roll with it but that resulted in being ill prepared wardrobe wise and very stressed when it came to times for medications.

It could hbeach task2ave been handled better.

The results, however, are hard to argue with.  There were conversations that needed to be had that finally started.  There were plans to be made that finally were.  There was thoughtful consideration of personal goals which had been lacking.  I am glad for the experience of it but not sure I would recommend it for everyone.  If you aren’t in the right head space for that or not in the place in your relationship where you are ready to work on things, you would be miserable.

Fair warning.

 

 

I Lived

Coming back from vacation this week I heard this One Republic song and I became a little overwhelmed. For whatever reason, that day, I felt like it was really speaking to me, to all of you, Warriors and Caregivers. Life can be hard and it can be a struggle sometimes to keep our heads up and our eyes open. My goal for the new year is to laugh more and seek out more experiences that add to the health of my soul and that of my family. It is really about that, right? It’s the experiences, not the stuff, that equals a life.

Here is to hoping you own every second!

Happy New Year!

 

“I Lived”
by One Republic

[Verse 1]
Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wallHope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stayHope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Verse 2]
Hope that you spend your days
But they all add up
And when that sun goes down
Hope you raise your cup

I wish that I could witness
All your joy and all your pain
But until my moment comes
I’ll say…

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Bridge]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Chorus]
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

[Outro]
Whoa
Whoa
Whoa
Oh
Oh

Have a listen, and a sob, HERE.

Inspiration

I saw this today and thought of you guys.  Being a caregiver is hard, especially when you are part of a couple and the Veteran is your spouse.  I loved this so much because its a great description of what we go through.  The original post was from a life coach that maintains a couples enrichment board on Pinterest. I would encourage you to check it out too, you can find it HERE.

quote

Resilience

I logged on last week to check the status of my Warriors pending claims, and much like many of you have experienced, something didn’t look right. As I clicked through the endless links and parts of the eBenefits website, I became increasingly irritated as I realized the situation in front of me. After the hours I spent online filing and uploading documents, I am met with an all too familiar site. Some of the claims “didn’t go through” and the documents were loaded into “miscellaneous” instead of attached to claims as intended.

This is no surprise but does add to the frustration with the Veterans Administration.

I am computer literate and I have a graduate degree. I know what I am doing. Yet so many glitches and “updates” on this site produces results that directly affect the outcome for Warriors claims that makes it is hard not to feel it isn’t on purpose. What does someone older, less tech savvy or worse; someone with TBI and no support network do when they see this stuff. I mean I know I did it correctly but what if you weren’t confident in your knowledge and skill level.

It would make you think you were crazy.

Yesterday I went back in and patiently entered the things that didn’t go through and attached files where they should be and got the message, AGAIN, that every thing was accepted so we will see in a couple of weeks if that ends up being final.

But it wears you down.

I think that is the biggest reason people just give up. There are so many Warriors that we meet that haven’t gotten through the process because it becomes so difficult to not be angry. Sadly, you can put your life on the line for your country, incur permanent harm but not automatically get taken care of when you return. It’s another battle that most just does not have the energy for. It’s sad.

It requires resilience most of us don’t have.

My Warrior would be quick to tell you, if I had not been persistent, he would have given up a long time ago. I recently caught Madonna Badger on Super Soul Sunday and a lot of what she talks about in her TedX talk, really applies to the caregiver scenario. There has been unimaginable terror, grief and pain in the lives of Warriors and they just have to keep getting up. A lot of times they can’t and that motivation comes from the Caregiver. A lot of times as a result, a Caregiver becomes completely wiped out. It’s a vicious cycle that only keeps everyone afloat because of that resilience that each victory and defeat help us build.

But it is hard!

Sometimes I am really good at it and sometimes I am not. I would love to hear about how you stay positive and what you do to make sure you aren’t stretched too thin. Everyone can always use good advice!