What are your friendships built on?


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I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

Friendships are commonly built on being able to relate to each other. My friendships involve encouragement, laughter, commiserating together on difficult days, and bouncing ideas off of each other.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have some of the most wonderful friends a woman could ask for. Many of them I have never met in person! I’ve lost a few along the way, too. They fell to the wayside because we either grew apart because we could no longer relate, or I could see it was a one-way street and not a give-and-take relationship. Instead of mourning that loss of what the friendship once was, or feeling bad for being taken advantage of, I remind myself that that loss  just made room for better friendships to come into my life.

There are some moments in our lives that can change a friendship forever. The best moments are the ones where we find out about each other, or find out more about each other.

Don’t hide from the world because you are afraid to get hurt. You are losing out on a chance to form friendships or relationships that can last forever.

God will weed your garden and help you make room for those who deserve and earn your friendship. I promise.

Most of all, remember this: One of the best friendships you can ever have is with yourself. Some people will stab you in your back. Some people will lie. Others will leave you feeling alone when you can’t afford to be. Those are the days you need to be your own best friend.

A strange thing happened when I started writing on this blog. People I’ve never met — who were scattered to the four winds — came out of hiding to say, “I thought I was alone, and now I realize I am not.”

And that made me feel less alone too.

We have to stick together, and I am so grateful for each of you who are in my life. Even if it is a quick comment on my blog or on social media, I value each of the connections that come with sharing my story. In turn, I get to learn yours too.

What are your friendships built on? Have you made room for more meaningful relationships along the way?

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Dear outsiders looking in: Don’t let the appearance of normal days fool you

A relatively new blogger on the caregiver scene wrote a fantastic post about her feeling a need to explain or apologize whenever her wounded warrior has a good day. He’s able to participate in the family on these days. He’s able to get out of the house on these days. They feel like they have to justify monies spent on a family dinner. Worst of all, it opens up their exposure to insensitive comments about how ‘lucky’ they must be to not have to work or how fortunate she is to stay home as a caregiver on a full-time basis.

I could relate to every single thing she discussed. I am betting there are many more who can relate too. Can you?

Here is the original post, which I would like to address here with my own opinion and experience of the issue:

I feel like I need to apologize

Specifically, I want to quote the following from her blog…

“It isn’t just the motorcycle that makes me feel like I need to explain and apologize when we act normal. If we take the kids to dinner or go to a movie I feel like I have to (take an extra mortgage out on the house to take 6 people and) explain to everyone that it has been a very good day for the hubbyman and we were able to get out of the house, but this doesn’t happen all the time. I think I know why I feel this way. I, like many other caregivers and disabled veterans, have been the recipient of the dreaded “oh it must be nice to get paid to stay home” remark. I have also heard, “he doesn’t look disabled” too many times to count.  I have also been told by other wives of disabled vet’s “I wish we could live off his disability” and “Why can’t I can’t paid to stay home? Why are YOU so lucky?” These statements in any form or version make me want to lose my shit and bug the fark (see momma I didn’t say the “F” word! hahaha) out on whoever was DUMB enough to say it! I think it irritates me so much because I can’t think of a single polite way to respond. What I want to say is something to the effect of “You are too stupid to keep sucking air. Get out of my face!” or something sarcastic like, “Oh yes, because the hubbyman is SOOOOO lucky to have fallen 27 feet and broken his back in six places at the age of 27. I wish everyone could have been that lucky!””

And this…

“What I usually do is remember to breath, smile, and say politely, “Not every wound is visible, but I agree that the country needs to do better about taking care of it’s wounded warriors.” or “We budget every dime we get. It’s not easy to manage a family of 7 on disability and caregiver pay. The hubbyman would LOVE to be able to work, but he simply isn’t able to.” Let’s be honest, the hubbyman is a man like any other. He has struggled (and STILL struggles) with the fact that he cannot physically or mentally get up and go out and work to bring home enough to support our family.”

Lastly, and probably most importantly…

“PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY don’t ask my hubbyman how he got hurt or if he has killed people. Don’t ask those questions of any combat veteran! It sets the veteran off and puts us wives into a tailspin because it can cause our veteran’s PTSD to flair up. Flashbacks are a bitch (sorry momma I couldn’t say it any other way) and they can happen to if our veterans start talking about and reliving their war stories. If the veteran wants you to know those kinds of details he will tell you (or give his wife permission to talk about it on her blog…ya know, whatever the case may be).”

In my world, it happens almost every day

steak dinner Like I said, I could relate to her post on many levels. I’ve written about elements of these issues before but it has been awhile since I’ve mentioned it. Just last week I hesitated to post a picture on Facebook of a fabulous steak dinner that my husband and I were enjoying at a restaurant while we were out of town. I wanted to explain and re-emphasize (which I think I actually did to some degree in my comments) that we don’t eat out for multiple reasons: We can’t afford it unless it’s a rare occasion, and this was a rare (and special) occasion. We live in such a remote area that dining out is a major event just to DRIVE far enough to get to a restaurant. I cook every night regardless of how tired I am because there is no drive through or pizza delivery. And, in the case of this specific dinner splurge, it was on special.

Why do I even feel like I have to explain?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Just like the above-blogger said, we get insensitive comments from others who assume too much. I was even stalked by an online group who said that my husband was ‘stealing their hard-earned tax dollars”! They went absolutely bat-shit crazy when they later found out (through their continued stalking) that my husband’s student loans were forgiven due to his disability, and I was teaching others how to apply for the same benefit too.

I know I need to work on my need to justify the good days, the good moments, the good times, but it’s hard to do when people who don’t even know you feel like they know more about how your life should be lived than you do. It’s a guilt complex, in part, but it’s also a pre-emptive need to ward off attacks that we know will eventually come. At the very least, insensitive comments that pop up when you least expect it.

There are only two days a week that my husband leaves the house, and those are the days he goes bowling. We chose to regularly go bowling because it also serves as physical therapy for him. PT is hard to acquire through regular VA channels so this is our ‘outside the box’ approach to his ongoing need for treatment. It forces him to get out of the house. It forces him to work on his depth perception (because he only has one eye). It forces him to remain upright and balanced. It improves his self esteem. It took years, actually, for him to get comfortable enough to trust all the people who are with us on those days. He’s still on guard in this environment, but the support of our team mates has resulted in this success for him. I am truly thankful for our community for their supportive part in this journey.

However, even with our amazing community support, there will always be that ONE person who assumes that if he is able to walk and talk or throw a bowling ball, he has no right to a handicap parking space. Or, perhaps it’s another person who assumes he functions at this level 24/7. Just the other day we had a conflict. Our son was advocating for the bowling alley management to turn the TV’s to a benign channel like the Weather Channel so that my husband would not be exposed to news about the Boston bombings. Management insisted the news remain on for the rest of the customers. You can imagine how helpless our son must have felt in not being able to minimize his Dad’s exposure. We just do the best we can with what we have and navigate through this difficult world as best we can.

What I am trying to say and share here is this:

If you are a caregiver like me and the blogger quoted above, I believe we NEED to continue talking about these struggles. We also need to celebrate the good days and not feel guilty about it when they happen. We need to share those stolen moments more than we tend to do.

For those who are not in our shoes, please keep reading our stories. Take a few minutes of your day and try to understand the world we live in. We don’t necessarily expect you to understand it on every level, but on the most basic levels. It makes my heart sing when I get comments on this blog from readers who say things like “Wow, I didn’t realize or look at it this way. Thank you for opening my eyes!”

In order for us to remain sane in a crazy world, we need to celebrate the good days. We need to splurge once every few months and do something ‘normal’ for a change. We don’t sit around doing nothing all day. We work our asses off, and if one night of no cooking and no dishes bothers you that much then the problem isn’t with me…it’s with you.

Sound off! Do you fall into the trap of feeling like you have to explain or apologize for your good days? Are you on the outside looking in and now see things just a little bit differently by reading our stories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Please consider sharing this post elsewhere to continue the discussion. Thank you!


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“There is no prosthesis for the brain” – {featuring Lisa K from Texas}

brainTorrey’s Note: This post was authored by my dear friend and fellow veteran caregiver, Lisa Krohnke. I was really impressed with the message that she shared on her Facebook page that I asked for her permission to reprint it on my blog. In this piece she articulates so well a deeper message that people need to hear. Take a few moments to read through. You’ll get a glimpse of many layers of the lives we live. I hope you can appreciate it as much as I did!

There is no prosthesis for the brain

I’m really not a fan of whining about my ailments on FB (although I have been known to a time or two LOL) because I realize there is always someone way worse off than me. But I am kind of going to tonight but I promise I have a point.

I have many friends who are either wounded warriors with PTSD and TBI or their caregivers (including my husband). Most of them have physical injuries as well; injuries like amputations, burns, degenerative joint disease, lung disease etc. All of them have been told by some one at some time to just “get over it”. Just focus on being positive and you can learn to walk again. Just focus on being positive and your burn scars won’t bother you as much. Just focus on being positive and you can do physical therapy to restore your mobility etc. etc. etc.

This advice is not given to be mean or degrading although it is given with a certain ignorance to what its like to have an injury to the brain. One friend has been branded “lazy” by some fellow amputees who do not suffer from severe PTSD as he does. They can’t understand why they can work, they can attend retreats and they can socialize with other amputees when he can not. They have decided he just isn’t trying hard enough. Yet he does try hard. He tries extremely hard. Just to find the emotional strength to face another day. And he is not lazy. In fact, he deployed multiple times to combat and was awarded medal after medal for his heroic service. One of the men who has treated him the worst lost a limb at the beginning of his first combat tour. Not that that makes it easy but he is not dealing with PTSD or TBI so it does make it easier.

Which brings me to my whining.

In December I had a sinus infection that became septic and spread to my knee. Last night I had an incredible run (well walk/run for me) with my son Mike. It was not long (only 30 minutes) and like I said I walked a lot. It was the first real attempt at a run for me since the infection. This morning I woke up with a knee swollen to at least two times its normal size. But Mike needed to be taken an hour away for his STARR test and I needed to run some errands in town so I did what the army wife that I will always be has always done – I sucked it up and did what needed to be done.

It wasn’t until my knee gave out from under me this evening that I actually accepted something is wrong. So I did what any good Google doctor would do and I googled my symptoms. I promise I am not a hypochondriac but I could not find a thing that this could be that didn’t mean I will probably never run again. At the very least it will be a long road back and even then running again is unlikely.

So I did the natural thing. I held a pity party for myself. I cried and cried and in between catching breaths I sniffled that I will never be able to run with my son again. When I was tired of crying I hopped on one leg into the kitchen, grabbed a bag of cookies, and proceeded to scarf down half the bag.

After about two hours of this I finally decided it was time for the pity party to end. I did what most of us would do. I brushed the cookie crumbs off of my give-up-on-life pants and proceeded to google ways around my fate. I looked into alternative medicine, I ordered books on my kindle about healing the body using the mind, I downloaded physical therapy videos, and I researched every orthopedic surgeon that takes tricare in a 100 mile radius and checked their rep (no way I’m going back to the quack I saw when this all started).

Now before anyone gets upset I DO realize my situation does not compare with an amputation or other war injury, but that’s not my point. My point is that thinking about life without running, and possibly without walking in a few years is devastating to me. But I am able to use a positive attitude to pick myself up and find ways to adapt. How do I do that? The same way we all do it- I use my brain.

But what does the person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? What does the person with a Traumatic Brain Injury use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? For that matter what do they use to “get over” their brain injury?

There is no prosthesis for the brain :-/

The end :-)

(written by Lisa Krohnke and reprinted with permission)


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If you are having a bad day, read this…

Having a bad day? Read this.

For best results, use as directed.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

For internal use only.


Today was just a bad day. That’s all… just a really bad day.

You are not alone.

You are not worthless.

You have value.

No one is out to get you.

You are strong.

Believe it.

It was just a very bad day. Nothing more, nothing less.

You are not fat.

You are not ugly.

You are not lazy.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is working on. You are doing just fine.

In fact, most people could not walk a mile in your shoes.

Own it.

Bad days don’t define you.

Your husband will not leave you.

Your children will not be scarred for life because you yelled at them.

Your mother will get over it.

Your friends will still be there. The good ones, that is.

In fact, your relationships will become stronger with time.

You are doing just fine.

Bad days rattle all of us. You aren’t the only one that has them.

Work on what you are working on.

What you are working on is good enough.

No one is keeping track but you.

In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you ate the whole tray of brownies.

Tomorrow is your do-over. Today was just a blip on your radar screen.

You will feel better tomorrow.

Bad days give us perspective. It was just a bad day.

As with everything in the world that God gave us, we have phases.

The sun and the moon, tides, seasons and weather.

It’s all just a phase.

The sun will rise, the waters will calm, and the storms will clear again.

Just give it time. It will pass.

Hope springs eternal.

This, too, shall pass.

Start where you stand.

Start by saying NO.

It is quite alright to say NO.

Don’t feel guilty. It’s energy you can spend elsewhere.

Just move on.

Really! Do it! Just move on!

Give your bad day an eviction notice.

I know.

You don’t get enough sleep.

You don’t get enough exercise.

You don’t get enough fresh air and sunshine.

It’s not fair. I know.

It’s going to be alright.

It was just a bad day.

Do this: Take a small sip from a stream of calmness.

It runs deep.

It feeds into a river of purpose and promise.

That is where you find yourself.

Just you. No one else.

That’s all you need to worry about in this moment.

Today was just a bad day, and tomorrow will be better.

I promise.


If you are having a bad day, maybe these posts will continue to help you:

Join me in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment

Create your own DIY Pampering Kit

How do I get to a place called “Anywhere but here”?

Top 10 Tips I learned to do for when the going gets tough

How (and why) I ditched the toxicity in my life and how you can too

If you want more, be sure to visit the sidebar of my blog and click on any of the topics in my tag cloud!


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Book update – progress report for 2/25/2013

I know I sound like a broken record, as the theme this week is “I have a lot on my plate” {including 200+ emails that need to be dealt with tomorrow (and through the week)}, but I am happy to report I am finally making some progress for my (our) book*.

It occurred to me that I really never give public updates about my progress. Since I work best by making myself accountable to others, I think I am going to share updates periodically to keep me on track. I hope you’ll follow me as I go through this journey.

Maybe you are writing your own book and want to see how I am doing it so you can do it too? Maybe you just want to see the gestation period play out and witness the birth? Who knows… even if no one reads these updates, it still holds my feet to the fire and helps me continue with the progress.

*(I say my book, since it is up to me to write it, but it’s really our story.)


Where I’ve been so far in the development

The book starts and stops as life speeds up or slows down. I wrote the first draft of Chapter 1 last year. After much thought and restructuring of my chapters, I came to the conclusion it needs to be completely revamped. This is what writers coin as “killing your darlings” — by cutting major segments out of a book or rearranging them entirely. It’s not easy to do. Trust me.

I struggled with how to proceed after that. I went to two Writer’s Guild workshops in New York City and won a scholarship to the Twin Compass Writer’s Workshop over the summer. I got some wonderful and constructive feedback from my peers and mentors. As a new writer, I felt more equipped to move forward, but in the course of this I discovered an underlying problem. Part of why it was taking me so long to get this thing started was twofold:

  1. Since this book is memoir based, it naturally relies on memory. When you have a man as a main character who suffers from memory loss, it becomes complicated. Plus when you consider the fact the memories he does have are those he works hard to forget, it becomes a dicey situation. Just asking a basic question about his memories could trigger a negative emotional response by accident. I have spent years trying to build up and protect his mental health and didn’t want to be the one to tear it down again. Now imagine how protective I am in asking the actual hard questions…
  2. Most of the paperwork that would be used to compile the story was tucked away in boxes and scattered to the four winds of my life. I not only had to unearth these items, but I had to process the emotional response that came with each memory I uncovered.

Think of this entire process like this: You are on a treasure hunt. You have a general idea of what you can expect to find, but until you dig it out of the depths of where it is buried (figuratively and literally) you just won’t know what you will get. It could be a good find (treasure) or it could be a ticking time bomb in your memory bank.

Where I am at this moment


After a week-long marathon sorting of my barn this past summer, I believe I have condensed most of my paper collateral. I estimate about a dozen boxes still need to be sorted, piece by piece, and that may take another couple of months to fully process and organize.

Since it’s about 3am as I write this, I am not going to dig through my bookshelf and Kindle to give a full list (that’s for a future post), but let’s just say I have read a ton of books about the publishing process and how it works from start to finish. I’ve poured over examples of book proposals and made a short list of agents that I hope to query soon. I researched story mechanics enough to understand plot points, character arcs, the importance of fatal flaws, and so on. It’s not good enough in my mind just to start writing in a linear fashion. It has to have structure and balance, go through the best of hands, and matter in the end.


I bought the Scrivener program a few months ago and have started inputting the major elements of the story into the program. Basically, I have the skeleton of my outline started.

In the meantime, I’ve come to the conclusion that as I have a memory of the past I simply can’t stop what I am doing to write about it in any details, let alone at length. So, to solve this problem I bought some index cards and put them in key places of my house (and in my purse) with pens nearby. Now when I have a flash of a memory that I think would be pertinent to the story, I grab an index card and jot down the basics of that memory. I can write about it in more detail later, and this way nothing is lost after I remember it. It also allows me to sort and rearrange them as needed based on the timeline (and subsequent story elements) I am working with.

Next up:

I realized that a lot of this book will require Dan’s input… no matter what. I decided to write my ‘interview’ questions down in advance in a notebook. I am working on starting a compilation of questions this week. Once I get enough of them down, I’ll take it to the next step. The goal is to go over my questions as his days allow; meaning, I’ll start small and build up from there as he tolerates the process. If he is having a hard day, I won’t ask anything. If he is having a good day I can start asking some of the benign questions. If he tolerates that well, I can move on (and prepare myself for the outcome) of the harder questions.

That’s all for now. I don’t know if anyone can appreciate just how much goes into writing a book of substance or quality. I am probably over-thinking this process, but this is how I am doing it. Maybe this year I’ll actually get it finished!

Then again, I tend to be an optimist. :)

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About that meltdown I had on Facebook the other day…

Photo credit: Gizmodo.com via  (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

Photo credit: Gizmodo.com via (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

In my last post I talked about the two things I do each day to help maintain my sanity. Well, not too long after I published it, I was facing a meltdown of epic proportions that ended up as a public display — a rant that could only be described as me on the verge of hysterics. Even though I had my “two things” done for the day… I still snapped. This makes me a bit of an asshole that no one wants to invite to pool parties because I turned into somewhat of a hypocrite within a matter of 48 hours. I admit it probably would have been worse had I not done my two things, but it still happened.

It wasn’t one of my finest moments, let me tell you, and part of me felt really bad about it. I felt like I was making people feel guilty for having their own needs and not thinking about mine. A couple of people left my page entirely, which could be directly related or just a coincidence. As much as I vowed to speak my truth and live it, I even debated deleting it because there may be unintended consequences of laying it all out the way I did.

I decided not to delete it, but use it as a learning opportunity for not only myself but for you as well.

Since it happened I’ve put a lot of thought into WHY I snapped and I came to the conclusion that nothing I was doing could have prevented it, but there are things I CAN do from now on to help keep it from happening again.

At the rate I was going in my everyday life, it was only a matter of time before I was bound to snap. Let me explain why…

Let’s do a little review:

Here is a copy of the mini-meltdown. I will then explain the reasons and circumstances behind it that brought it on.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I truly appreciate everyone who cares, but I have to share something and you need to try to understand…Just like anyone else, my day can turn on a dime. One minute everything is copacetic and the next minute all hell breaks loose through no fault of my own.

 My stress barometer hit the red line today with new news that I need to mitigate. No one is dying or anything like that, so it’s just a matter of logistics on my part to sort out and put MY family first with our individual and collective needs.

So here is what YOU need to really understand and not get offended over in the process:

I am not answering the phone, door, PM’s or emails. I have an assistant to manage many of these things for a reason. If you really need me, email her at media@torreyshannon.com, but remember that your emails COST ME in order to pay her to take care of them, so please make sure it is important. I consider each and every person who contacts me as important, make NO mistake, but I have given of myself for free for so many years and make NO MONEY to do any of it. I bear the burden of many, so me asking you to bear a burden to just give me a few days to focus on no one but me and my family is all I ask.

 AND for those that get pissy and start gossiping because I got creative with my grocery budget to pay for that kind of help (an assistant) a few hours each month, you can kiss my butt, quite honestly. If you have nothing better to do than to criticize me for needing one or paying for one, you may need to reassess your own priorities and get busy enough with matters of real importance to need one of your own.

I told myself that I wouldn’t post status updates that say I am going offline any more, as it just makes people PM me twice as much trying to ‘catch’ me before I sign off, but this time I am sharing this because you have GOT to understand I am human and need to manage emergencies more than you realize. Please…I love you…but give me a day or two without adding more demands that can wait. Even messages asking “How can I help?” or “what’s is wrong?” turn into explaining everything or thanking you for your concern is time I need to be spending working on the actual issues.

I will be reaching out to certain people in the next few days to either talk about what is going on to get ideas I need, or to outright ask for help. If I am not reaching out to you, responding to your own requests for help, please don’t get offended. Also, if you see me online to zone my brain out on FB to chillax, it doesn’t always mean I am bored or have free time. Just because I am on FB does not mean I am at anyone’s beck and call. I have a LOT of things in my pipeline I am working on as it is. If I take 5 minutes to find something funny online, it’s me trying to keep my friggin’ sanity.

Thank you. Again, I love you all and will be back when I can.


Here’s the deal… my frustration stemmed from a few categories of my life that became a source of contention for me. I spent the last few days reflecting on these sources of frustration and sorted through a lot of guilt for feeling the way I did. What originally was a fountain of joy in my life became a cesspool of disappointment later on. For instance:
  • I do a LOT for others. I LOVE helping people and am driven to do it because I know what it is like not to have anyone to turn to. I know what it is like to not know where to start. I don’t want others to suffer the ways we did, and if I can use my knowledge that I have obtained over the course of many years and many relationships that I’ve invested and built over time, I’ll gladly share it.

You don’t get a reputation for being an expert in caregiver or veteran issues by accident. I’ve worked HARD to become a reputable source of information and resources, so it’s natural that people will come to me for help. I rarely talk about the things I have going on in my advocacy pipeline, so here is a quick glimpse of just SOME of the things I am involved in:

  • I’ve been honored to be selected as one of the 20 inaugural Caregiver Fellows working with the Senator Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
  • I’ve been honored to serve on the Department of Colorado American Legion’s VA&R Committee for the past two years.
  • I’ve been on countless segments on national news or in international publications.
  • I just wrapped up filming for a documentary with another in the works.
  • I have a 24-hour news source flying out here soon to do another segment/interview about veteran and caregiver issues.
  • I’ve worked silently with programs to help them get funding, develop initiatives, served on panels at national conferences and have top-level executives contacting me for my help, connections, input and advice.
  • I answer dozens and dozens of questions EACH DAY through personal messages via social media, emails, phone calls, via this blog or other electronic means. In doing so, I make connections between veterans and caregivers to organizations that have a huge impact on their lives. In many cases, and I mean many, I give more help through these connections than we’ve ever received for ourselves. People have free homes, free cars, thousands of dollars in financial assistance, free vacations, no-cost house repairs or in-home services, etc. just for reaching out to me as their starting point in the process.
  • I am part of a big initiative by a national veteran nonprofit to publish a ‘how-to’ manual for veterans, caregivers and their families. Out of all the collaborators in this project, big names that I am not at liberty to discuss quite yet, I identified that I was likely the only person not attached to a major organization or held a title of any kind, all of which are fueled by funding, volunteers, staff or other resources. I identified that I am just little old me and do a pretty good job on my own.

Part of me doesn’t want to ‘brag’ about these things, but I do admit I am proud of myself for all my hard work and dedication to serve people outside of our own selves. I do it all for free. I do it for a greater good, not just for fame or glory, let alone for any real recognition. The flip side of this issues is this: It becomes a double-edged sword because it also brings the following pitfalls:

  • Because I do it for free, people don’t put any monetary or intrinsic value in my time or my knowledge. Even after writing out my Rules of Engagement, people tend to overstep their boundaries with me. Not everyone (especially the list of examples above) does this. It’s just a select few that poison the waters surrounding my islands of reasonable expectations. Like the meltdown above, I can be harsh or insistent about my boundaries on what I can or can’t do, will or won’t do, and it goes in one ear and right out the other with some people.
  • When you become a public figure, you attract people who would love nothing more than to shoot you down, undermine your authority or otherwise sabotage anything and everything you work for or represent. As one friend put it “When you soar like an eagle, you attract hunters.”
I’ve struggled to find a balance through all this. I identified about a year ago that helping each and every person by holding their hand leaves me open for being taken advantage of, or enabling the very people I am helping into a habit of not helping themselves. Some questions I receive could be answered with a simple Google search. I try to remember that not everyone has a built-in quest for knowledge or have problem solving skills like I do, so I remain patient and help them.

However, I resented those who treated me like their own personal secretary, or viewed me as having nothing better to do than to help them with minor issues. The real insult is when, after only a few hours since a question is presented to me, the person waiting for the answer to a problem THEY created is “Don’t you even care?”

That makes me lose my ever-lovin’ mind, y’all.

The fact is, I have no one to blame but myself for the predicament I was in. I have branded myself by reputation as the go-to person to fix nearly every problem that is presented before me and have ALLOWED people to walk all over me in the process, despite setting boundaries. Helping others like I do is not a problem until the demand far exceeds the time I have in a day to get it all done, and if/when *I* have needs, it’s difficult to establish a line in the sand that says “Give me a minute…I am working on my own stuff right now.” It’s a bigger problem when people feel ENTITLED to my time and connections, like I owe it to them in the first place.

At the same time, I’ve been relatively silent on a topic that needs to be discussed. This topic is about the underbelly of the wounded warrior community, which has earned an entire post of its own (and once I have a chance to brace myself for the criticism it will surely bring, I’ll compose it and publish). Since this post is already getting long, let’s just say I become more and more aware of the who’s who in the wounded warrior community that would do anything to step on your neck to make themselves stand a little taller. It especially comes from those who overtly use the word “God” in their everyday vernacular, and it downright pisses me off.

I touch on struggles we deal with in our everyday lives from time to time, but I don’t go out of my way to share them all. Why? Because there are many worse off than us. I know that and it drives me even harder to help all of them in some way.

But I still have problems.

I especially have problems when you lay them all out on one place and stop to realize realize I single-handedly deal with them simultaneously and every single day.

For instance, I shared an example of a typical day in this post. I talk in circles sometimes because there is just so much going on in my muddled mind. The entire foundation of this blog is to give my own life as an example that no one is perfect, nor should they strive to be. I talk on Facebook in segments about the goings on in our life: The good, the bad and the ugly. But to be clear I think people need to see the bigger picture that I see — all laid out in one place to fully absorb and appreciate the chaos of our life. I think I need to be more clear about what I am contending with right now (on top of the hard work to help others outlined above) that you may not even know about or have considered, so you can understand the WHY behind the meltdown I had:

  • After months of fighting the Goliath of the Department of Defense, among cutbacks and unfair circumstances, our son was honorably discharged from the Army this past week against his will and despite his great service record. He and his wife are expecting their first baby (and our first grandbaby) in a few short months. This means they are now homeless (and coming to live with us as a result), jobless, and without healthcare for their unborn child and the mother who carries her. How could this happen? Part of it is due to cutbacks and loopholes the Army is using to cut the numbers of troops on their payroll, but the other part is the saddest of all… it is due to incorrect medical records from when he was 13 years old that put him in a category of needing mental health services while his father was traumatically injured in combat. It’s like he’s being punished for being a child of a wounded warrior. My fight was huge, as was his, and it will continue despite the loss of a career he truly wanted for the rest of his life. I am just sad that out of all the people I advocate for, my son’s outcome was not the outcome I worked so hard to get.
  • Because of the above, I am swarmed with a newly-revived and seething hatred for the Army, the very institution we dedicated our lives to over multiple generations. I become angry at the unfairness of my son’s circumstances. I become angry at how my own husband was tossed out like a piece of trash, never getting a retirement ceremony or anything to say “thank you for your service and sacrifice”. Which brings me to the next issue I am dealing with…
  • I am still fighting a bill from the Department of Defense in the amount of over $7,000 for Dan’s “free” final move. Even though he is repaying this amount (which I can prove is illegal to even collect the way it all came down) we are getting daily calls from the DoD appointed collection agency, who refuses to comply with the most basic elements of federal and state consumer protection laws. I either have to fight this fight on my own, or pay an attorney to fight it for us.
  • Our middle son has had health issues to the degree of needing specialty care by a neurologist, who has put him through MRI’s, CT scans, EEG’s and medication changes with trial and error results. As such, he is missing a great deal of school, struggling with the residual depression that comes with it, and may very well need to be homeschooled to avoid failing his first year of high school. The amount of pressure on me to resolve this issue is profound.
  • My parents are now in a nursing home, and due to the dysfunction of the structure of our family, I am put between a rock and a hard place to manage their end-of-days. I worked hard to let go of the anger and angst I had regarding my family’s role in the toxicity of our days after Dan’s injury, so opening this in-your-face wound with the demands that are expected of me is truly a struggle. I can’t bear to hear my mother beg for me to come visit, when the reality is I can’t just up and leave like everyone thinks.
  • Dan’s health is not where it needs to be. Neither is mine. I have to chase down doctors, departments at the VA, case managers, etc. to make sure they are doing their job. Then those providers change faster than we can be seen, which brings us right back to square one every time I get traction on an issue.
  • I am overdue on getting the children’s braces adjusted, as they both need teeth extracted before we go to the next stage in their dental care. I can’t pull that kind of money out of my ass right now.
  • I am still needing to fight the unfair situation with our cell provider, Verizon. It looks like the only way to deal with it is through arbitration, which means I have to arm myself as my own attorney to see this through. I just don’t have the time to proceed, or the energy. I may just have to walk away from this one, and that sucks even more.
  • I need to pursue some VA benefits for Dan to help improve his quality of life. Once again, it’s a fight and process that I know in advance will be exhausting once everything is said and done, and may take a few years just to see the benefits.
  • Our dog, Miko, is the best line of defense for Dan’s PTSD, but she is aging. We spent quite a bit on vet bills last month due to health complications she was having, and this month new symptoms have rendered her unable to get up on the bed or in the truck to go for rides…her favorite part of the day. She will be 8 this year, and I am having to come to terms that she won’t live forever and losing her down the road will be a catastrophe for our family.

I could give you more, but I’ll stop there before I depress the hell out of you and trigger a panic attack for me. Let’s move on to the next level of this equation — the things I want to be doing, but can’t do right now or am struggling to get done:

  • My 101 in 1001 list
  • Getting our book written
  • Finding a reliable source of income to offset the above needs
  • Having more time to enjoy my family and everyone in it

Can you see the recipe for a meltdown yet?

Shortly after I had my meltdown on FB, my friend and fellow caregiver, Uncle Sam’s Mistress, wrote on her own blog about her own struggles:
Some days I felt fractured, emotionally pulled away from my own mind and body and just so tired of it all. Other days, I wonder how I don’t keep from smacking someone. I began to start resenting a ton of things, anger seeped through my pores and I just wanted to walk away from it all and never look back. I think all of us have felt this way at one point or many other times in this life. I worried that I was facing a mid-life crisis, early menopause, or hell, I even considered possession. (Sorry Horror Fans, I am completely demon free) I just could not for the life of me get my shit together. I needed a break.


That’s a BINGO!

So, here’s the deal… I put a lot of thought into the overall situation and how I can fix it. I started with this post on Facebook:

I’ve put a lot of thought in over the last few days on how I can prevent myself from becoming frustrated to a point of breaking or snapping. As much work as I’ve put into giving myself permission for self care, finding balance, picking my battles wisely, setting boundaries, etc. the fact is we are all susceptible to overwhelm and frustration of things out of our control. Just a ‘normal’ life can dish that out to you like a Jenga game on steroids, where one missing piece of our life can make the entire stack fall down. But when you add in things like being a caregiver or an advocate, this compounds the situation immensely. Case in point: Just in the course of writing this single paragraph, I was pulled away no less than six times for the needs of others. I guess the point of sharing this is that we all have a lot on our plate, some more than others, and we need to be tolerant of each other in our unique situations. But the most important thing we can do is be tolerant of our own selves and be kind to our inner needs during our must frustrating times. Today, as you flitter about your normal days, try to think about those that don’t have any sense of ‘normal’ any more. And for those in the thick of it, remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to slow down and take care of you.

This is where I stand, and what I am doing to make sure my needs (and the needs of my family) are met:

  1. I stand by my original post meltdown, though in a softer and kinder way. You may not be able to reach me for more than just a few days. I may carry this on for a few months in order to really catch up. This does not make me a bad friend. It means you get an opportunity to be a better friend during my time of need.
  2. I will pursue income-producing activities to cover the unmet financial needs of our family.
  3. I will compose a list of every resource I know of and post it here on my blog so others can take the initiative to fix their own problems. This way I can link to the resources page and those in need can get to work on helping themselves.
  4. I am going to stop dwelling in the past and worrying about the future. Deadlines will no longer be part of my life. I will live in the NOW and just remind myself that my best is all I need to give at any given moment. This also means I will build in more time for self care, thus leading to more rejuvenation and energy to get more work done in the end.
  5. I will continue to be thankful for God, who weeds my garden silently.

If you got to the end of this post, I want to thank you immensely. Your time is valuable and I know you could be anywhere else but here. It’s people like you, to be honest, that really fuel my fire to keep on writing, sharing, learning and growing. You have more value to me than you may ever realize, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Writing a book is harder (and more exciting) than I realized

dont be afraid to fail I am sitting at my computer right now, jazzed up to work on my book, fighting off the incoming demands that will pull me away from my mission. My head is swarming with reflective moments, thinking about how this whole process has turned into a perfect storm.

Last year around this time I was laser focused on getting the book in the hands of a publisher. Some way, some how, I was going to make it happen. Up until that point it was just a dream with no plan of action. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I only knew I needed to do it.

That was about the time I looked around me at all the chaos in my life and said to myself, “Who are you trying to kid? You don’t even have time to pee, let alone launch a major project like this!”

I converted my ambition to write the book into ambition to set the environment in which to write a book. I started working on ME first. There is a huge emotional process that a writer like me has to go through. I had to be emotionally ready to purge the most intimate portions of my life in a non-fiction book and let my words out for the world to see. Add to that, I was certain to rock the boat of my own husband’s well being by bringing up the past and making him remember things he’s worked hard to forget.

I had to steel myself first. I started working on my mindset. I started giving myself permission to slow down, despite the incredible urge to speed up. I let perfection go. I started mapping out a plan of action for anything and everything that could potentially stand in the way. Some things I couldn’t change, but the one thing I could change for the better was ME.

Here we are, a year later, and I am at a place that I feel I can proceed. In fact, I am eager and excited about the journey that lays before me. I can’t sleep because I am busy mapping out my book outline in my head. I wake up and say to myself, “Today I am going to make more progress.”

And progress, my friends, is what it is all about.

I am still just as scared to write this book as I was a year ago. Will anyone read it? Will they like it? Will it serve the intended purpose of helping others and bridge the gaps I see between civilians and the wounded warrior community? What kind of outcry will I get? The good kind, or the bad?

The difference is this: I am scared but doing it anyway.

One thing is for sure, I’ve realized how hard it is to write a book. I see not-so-shiny people shuffling out mediocre works that serve no other purpose than to promote their own selves. Yet, for some reason, I still hold myself to a much higher standard. Maybe that’s why it has turned into a harder process than I imagined. I want this to be my Magnum Opus in my life, right behind celebrating my strong marriage and the going above and beyond the call of duty regarding the welfare of my children.

So, as I sit here and write in another format entirely, I want to say that I’ve learned a lot over the past year. I am more excited than I ever was before. I am more driven than I ever was before.

And I am more ready than I will ever be.

Thank you to each and every reader and friend that has followed me on this journey. I hope you will continue to read, listen, support and sympathize as I go through this process. Without you, I would not be where I am today….


….and exactly where I wanted and needed to be.

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What is worse? Failing, or never trying?

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

I hope that you all will join me as I take on this challenge. Every Friday for 50 weeks will be devoted to answering one of the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. Since this is a blog hop, you can add your link each week to my post so that you can connect with other bloggers and challenge yourself to answer the questions as well.

Never done a blog hop? No problem! It’s really easy and really fun. If you are not familiar with what a blog hop is, this is a great explanation by another blogger: How to Blog Hop. Just see the cute little froggy at the bottom of this post to add your link too!

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

Week two’s question:

  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?

My answer:

Hands down, it’s worse to never try.

If there is one guaranteed way to assure failure, it’s to never try something in the first place. At least if you try, you may find there is a chance you won’t fail in the first place!

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I have an innate fear of failure. I have failed so many times in my life that I can attest to the fact the sting of failure lasts and the memory hardly ever fades. I hate failing, through and through.

BUT…I have also matured enough over time to realize that in each instance, there was a learning lesson to take away in the process. I learned things like what I could have done to prevent the failure, what I can do the next time to guarantee a better success. Sometimes I learn something about my own self in the process. Failing will always teach you something.

Failing leads to experience, and experience leads to success.

Thomas Edison admitted that he made more mistakes and failed in many aspects of his life than most others when it came to an invention. However, he says that his successes are due to trying and not giving up.

What are your thoughts? Weigh in via the comments section below, or if you are a blogger, feel free to answer this via your own blog and join the link-up!

Add your Blog Hop link to the Free Your Mind Friday topic here!


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Top 10 Tips I Learned To Do For When the Going Gets Tough

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I know things COULD be worse, but oftentimes we just have a sense of overwhelm that puts us in a tailspin. Can you relate? quote-diary-find-happiness-in-a-simplest-things

Things have been pretty tough lately at the Shannon household. I’ve had a twitchy eye since the first week of November that just won’t go away. I am stressing about some major issues going on in our life, which is likely why it won’t spontaneously resolve on its own. I’ve tried everything to make it stop: supplements, naps to get more sleep, reducing caffeine…everything. Nothing short of shifting my stress will have any real impact, so that’s what I am trying to do.

But first, let’s talk about some of that stress…

My time has been consumed more and more with helping others in crises of their own, feeling helpless to help in some of these cases.  I am wishing I could go back to school, but realize there is no humanly possible way I can add that to my plate right now. My kitchen is still in a half-gutted condition following a flooding incident last year, simply because I don’t have the time to manage that issue or funds to cover the deductible or replacement of our appliances (which is not covered by insurance). I am looking at my ever-growing to-do list and thinking it will be the year 2020 before I can possibly catch up.

If that wasn’t enough, our dog got very ill and had to be taken to the vet on an emergency basis. I had to rush to my children’s school in my pajamas for another kind of emergency, thus humiliating myself in the process. I had a major issue trying to do a simple act of carpet cleaning, resulting in being up all night trying to get too many suds out of my carpet. I accidentally broke lane 8 at the local bowling alley, inconveniencing the entire community of league bowlers in the process. Dan has been having more disturbing dreams, thus increasing the agitation level of the entire home. Our son is having some major health issues that require multiple specialty tests with no real answers to how we fix it from here. Because he is missing so much school, he will have to have some serious intervention to help him succeed. We may have to consider homeschooling him, which adds more time commitments from me and expenses we don’t have funding for.

I am missing deadlines and having more added to my plate, and I am completely and utterly overwhelmed.

I am short on funds, short on time, short on patience, short on sleep….just short in every way.

However, among all this, I’ve found some saving graces that have helped me get through it all.

I’ve posted snippets via my Facebook page for some of these topics, but this week was an amazing week on many levels. I’d like to share a few highlights with you:

  • We found out our first grandbaby, due in May, will be a GIRL!
  • I have been struggling with finding the ending to our book. In order to write a novel, you have to know where it will end before you can realistically begin. I found the perfect ending for our book, a serendipitous moment brought the answer to me, and now I feel like I can move full speed ahead on the production of the book.
  • Last year, after sending many veterans in need their way over a long period of time, the Quality of Life Foundation stepped in for a need of our own. It was a need that I had researched and kept running into road blocks over and over again. I asked them where else I could look to address the need, and they offered to take the issue off my hands and work on it themselves. Six months later, on Friday to be exact, the Healthy Back company donated a medically necessary bed to help Dan with his multiple physical issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, regurgitation/aspiration of vomit while sleeping (thus choking profusely), scoliosis of his back, degenerative disc and joint disease of his spine and limbs, neuropathy and a few other issues. Between those issues and his constant PTSD flare-ups, neither of us were getting much sleep, and that just exacerbates the issues even further. Not only was the bed donated to help him improve his sleep and overall quality of life, but the delivery of this bed was donated by JL Transport based out of Denver Colorado. The owner if JL Transport is a veteran and also the founder of the veteran nonprofit Wounded Warriors Impacting Neighbors. Multiple organizations banded together to make this happen, and we are truly thankful for this incredible gesture of thanks that came our way for Dan’s sake.
  • Out of nowhere, a person from our past reached out to us. Come to find out, this person found us after researching information on brain injuries and found an interview Dan had done via GQ Magazine. The reason for this research? She now has a brain injury. Not only did we reconnect, but we came full circle in crossing paths again.
  • For the first time in three years since moving to our home in Colorado, we had guests in our home. Some people don’t realize just how much of a milestone this is, but to us it means we had developed trusting relationships within our community with people who ‘get it’ when it comes to my husband’s PTSD. Dan had hives the night before, then had the shakes as soon as everyone arrived, but he muscled through it all (with pre-planned exit strategies to escape to the barn when it became too much to bear) and even spent some of the time with all of us during this gathering. I am so amazingly proud of him for taking this big leap of faith and so grateful for the people who surrounded us that day with their understanding and support.
  • I’ve taken time to reconnect with multiple friends that I’ve lost touch with over time. I can’t tell you how nice it is to pick up the phone and call someone and find your conversation picks up right where you left off, as if no time had passed in between.
  • Home Depot delivered some new replacement appliances (courtesy of Operation Homefront) to help us move in the right direction to resolving our kitchen flood issue. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have properly working basic appliances for a change, which makes my overall life easier.
  • A Congressional inquiry I am involved in took a major twist and turn thanks to a 5,000-word letter that was composed into the wee hours of the morning. The letter worked, much to my surprise.
  • I managed to get some major overhaul cleaning and sorting done, which lifts my spirit when I walk into a clean and organized space.
  • A caregiver friend of mine was in a crisis of her own, and with my help she was able to get everything resolved quickly AND get help she didn’t even expect.
  • We just wrapped up filming of a documentary that will potentially create more positive changes and impact others who need help. On top of that, we were contacted by a major news outlet about doing an in-depth story that will also bring awareness and help to those in need.

Even if none of the above items never happened, I’ve learned to find happiness in the simplest of things. Here are some examples of the things I focus on when the going gets tough:

  1. I remind myself I have a wonderful husband whom I love and cherish, and as long as I can continue to be of support to him, this makes me happy.
  2. I stay focused on the fact we have three wonderful children that I can take pride in knowing I am doing the very best as a mother to help them succeed.
  3. I give thanks for what is around us: We have therapeutic outlets like great friends, loving therapy animals and a community that supports us.
  4. I remind myself I have the ability to make a difference, whether in simple or grand gestures.
  5. I take heart in the fact that small things turn into bigger things, for good or for bad. I just have to choose which one I want to focus on! A carpet cleaning fiasco turned into a sense of accomplishment and sanctuary once all was said and done.
  6. I stop to remember that I get 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else in this world. I have the power to choose how it is spent. I’ve learned it’s okay to take a tactical pause when I need to.
  7. I give myself permission to be imperfect: I can still dream, think deeply and plan goals for my future. While many things may take until the year 2020 to accomplish, I have the power and ability to set smaller goals along the way.
  8. I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help. There is no shame in saying to others that you have needs. I know there are people out there willing and able to help, and just knowing they are there brings a sense of security if I ever need it.
  9. Sometimes things come when we least expect it. I just have to have faith that it will come when the time is right.
  10. I repeat this mantra as many times as I need to: Hard work does pay off eventually.

You see, despite all the hardships and struggles, I am learning to handle what comes my way. I still have a ways to go, but I am getting where I need to be. In the last year I have dedicated myself in developing and carrying out the Extreme Do-Over Experiment. The first thing I had to learn was my mindset is what dictates the level and duration of my success, regardless of what is thrown on my plate.

It was nice to have many things finally come together for a change. I just have to remember to find happiness in the simplest of things and The Universe will take care of the rest.

I hope that sharing my top 10 tips will help you during your difficult times, and you’ll soon have reason to celebrate the successes that are sure to come eventually.

Sound off! What are your favorite ways to get through hard times? I’d love to hear your suggestions, comments and experiences in the comments section below!
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Introducing: Free Your Mind Friday Blog Hop

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

On Kristle’s list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, you will find that one thing she planned to challenge herself with is to answer “50 Questions that will free your mind.” Even though I didn’t put that on my own 101 list, I wanted to join her in the fun and encourage you to do the same.

If you are not familiar with what a blog hop is, this is a great explanation by another blogger: How to Blog Hop

Each Friday I will answer one question from her list. This will repeat every Friday for 50 weeks. My own list got started a wee bit late on my blog because I was busy recovering from my carpet cleaning calamities. I hope that ‘better late than never’ holds true and you will join me!

Here is the list of questions; take them, think about them, write up your answer, and then come back here to link-up with others who will also be participating!

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

  • How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  • If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  • When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  • What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  • If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  • Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  • If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  • To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  • Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  • You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?
  • If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  • Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
  • What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back?
  • Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
  • If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
  • Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
  • Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  • Why are you, you?
  • Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  • Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  • Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  • Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  • Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now?
  • What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?
  • At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  • If not now, then when?
  • If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
  • Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
  • Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
  • Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
  • If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
  • Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  • Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
  • When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
  • If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
  • Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
  • What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
  • When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
  • If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  • What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  • When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
  • What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
  • In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?
  • Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Hope to see you back here tomorrow when the link-up goes live!

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What to consider if your husband stresses out while you are away from home

Have you ever left the house by yourself, even for a short time, only to come home to find your PTSD/TBI husband having a tizzy, or in a bad mood, and neither of you really know why?

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

Photo credit: Dosomething.org

I didn’t know it at the time, but in 2008 the clues were staring right at me, smack-dab in the face, and I still couldn’t see it to understand it. Even with four years of practice with this ongoing issue, it took a few more years to fully understand the depth of this problem, let alone learn how to handle it.

Because I wasn’t able to see it, it only made things worse before it would get better.

I wish someone had told me what to look for and how to deal with it. We could have saved tons of stress, resentment, fights and misunderstandings.

I am going to share the insight we’ve had through that discovery process of understanding WHY this happens so hopefully you can learn from it too.

Our history of this problem:

The first year that my husband was home from being a patient in a hospital environment was incredibly hard. The transition out of the military presented many obstacles. He wasn’t the independent person he used to be. He needed help with a lot of things, but sometimes I wasn’t there to assist.

Back then, I ran a business that kept me outside of the home on a full time basis. I found it harder and harder to run my business because my husband needed me more and more, and part of me resented the fact that he couldn’t do simple things.

End result: I closed down my business and became his fulltime caregiver. Once I did that, things became so much smoother for him and for everyone around him. However, I noticed that any time I left the house I would come home to a fully-agitated husband who couldn’t articulate exactly what it was that got him riled up in the first place. In one particular incident, I was gone for less than an hour and came home to the worst PTSD episode I had seen to date.

How I reacted:

At first I resented the fact that I couldn’t leave for a coffee date with a friend for an hour. At times I took his agitation personally. Then I started to wonder if he was showing a side that I had never seen before, a possessive side.

Did he not trust me? Did I somehow give him reason not to trust me? I started to question whether a lack of trust was the reason for it all. (more on that later…)

Deep down inside I knew him better than that, but I was the only one who wasn’t willing to point fingers with blame or accusations. Even friends and family thought he was just a controlling and selfish asshole. All I knew was he was forever changed, and I still didn’t know who this man was that I was married to. I had to learn about him all over again.

I decided to listen to my gut in this situation. I started getting curious and watching his patterns closely. I decided not to take his outbursts personally. I had to set aside my indignation at the mere thought that he was trying to control me, and step outside myself to see the bigger picture.

It seemed logical to me that while I was gone, he was forced to manage things that were too overwhelming. If something required more than three steps to complete, or required fast thinking on his part…he would fall apart even if I was there. The pressure to be responsible for himself with no assistance on my part was just too much on any given day. Imagine the pressure I was placing on him if I was not there in the first place?

It didn’t help matters that in one case, while I went to town to get milk, our son had to use the fire extinguisher to put out a fire in our stove. Why? Because A) My husband forgot about the food he tried to make after the kids asked for a snack, and B) he has no sense of smell to notice the smoke billowing from the next room.

The irony is, that situation DID help us in the end. That day was the turning point of discovery for us to really understand the years of episodes that occurred if I ever left the house.

He was terrified that his inability to prevent or respond to the danger he created would have killed his family in a matter of minutes, and was able to SAY it and UNDERSTAND it for the first time in five years!

Fast forward to today: As a rule of thumb, I am with him 24/7. However, there are times I have to leave the house without him and there is no other way around it. I engineer my grocery shopping to be done just once a month, and our 16-year-old son is in charge while I am away. Even giving my husband reassurance that he wasn’t going to get a chance to accidentally burn down the house, he was still having episodes of stress and agitation, which came in the form of bad moods and lashing out at me later.

After a lot of observation and {gently!} coaxing him to talk about what triggers him while I am gone {which I must emphasize should be done when he is calm again}, we figured out one of the reasons why he got so upset in the first place.

It wasn’t because he was a controlling man, nor was it because he resented me if I took time out for myself. It also wasn’t because he still thought he would burn down the house by accident.

It was because he felt he couldn’t protect me and keep me safe.

Let me be very clear here: Dan is the bravest man I know. He’s also the most tenacious and independent man I know.  The only control he expects of anyone is the control of himself. He is not, nor ever was, a controlling person when it comes to me or the things I do or say. As a highly-trained sniper in the Army, it was his job to protect the innocent and make hard choices about life and death.

That background and military experience will leave an imprint that will last for the rest of his life.

We discovered that while I was gone, he was afraid that something terrible would happen to me and he wouldn’t be there to protect me. The thing he loved the most, his family, was something he felt he couldn’t keep safe if we were out of his sight. It’s one thing to have another adult in charge while I am away, or to have a fire extinguisher in every room, but being completely out of his sight and protection zone was too much for him to contemplate, process and handle.

The key to our discovery is that I had to remember a brain injury will tend to do that to a person.

It was the visions of me being stuck in a ditch, or — God forbid — me ending up in a fiery car crash that set him off. He couldn’t shake those fears of the possibility, even if the logical side of the brain knew better. He intellectually knew I was a safe driver and had a good head on my shoulders if there ever was an emergency, but logic is not part of the equation when you add PTSD or a brain injury to the mix.

Once we were able to narrow down the underlying and subconscious issue, we figured out a way to manage it.

Now when I am on a rare opportunity to be alone on my own, I call him with predetermined times or checkpoints so he knows I am safe. For instance, when I go ‘down the mountain’ to get our shopping done in the Springs (90 miles with only one stoplight in between) I call when I reach the gas station on the way. I call when I arrive at the store. I tell him where my next stop is and call when that errand is over. Then I call again when I am ready to head back home again. Then, right before I pass the last stoplight before getting to my house (which is 45 miles away) I call to say “I’ll be home in an hour.” Each time I call, I can hear the relief in his voice. I can also take that moment to mitigate his fears and say “I love you” before I hang up.

He doesn’t breathe easy until I walk back in the door, but this does help him manage his anxiety while I am away. He knows and I know that he can’t prevent an accident from happening, but knowing I am making progress along my journey means the world to him.

Now, some people will reel at the thought of having to ‘check in’ for simple things like going to a grocery store, getting your hair done, or taking a one-hour coffee break with a friend. I’d venture to say that some would resent it, or feel that it is too controlling on their husband’s part. But I am here to tell you that I do not mind it at all. It’s actually nice to feel loved enough that my absence is noted, or that my presence is appreciated all the more while I am by his side.

He worries because he is afraid. And, that’s pretty normal. We ALL do it every day!

Worry vs. fear

People worry for many reasons. We believe that if we chew on a problem long enough, eventually we will figure out a solution. Worry gives us illusions of control over the future. We dream up worst-case scenarios, thinking we can prevent bad things from happening. Sometimes worrying helps us get things done. For example, we worry about exams, thinking it will help us study. We worry about our appearance, hoping it will encourage us to work out or stick to a diet.

But most of all, and this is a hard concept to grasp…we worry because it makes us less afraid.

Worry is basically a body’s way of trying to suppress fear. However, there is a difference between the two: Fear is an emotional response, much like PTSD. It manifests physically in the form of tension, muscle aches, rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc. Worry suppresses that arousal. It’s the mind’s defense mechanism! It temporarily makes us feel better so we keep doing it.

Unfortunately, it sometimes backfires, because too much worry can take a toll on a person. It adds stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion.

And what does stress, mental fatigue and exhaustion do to someone with a brain injury or PTSD?

It puts them in a bad mood and exacerbates the issue like a big, vicious cycle.

His doctors know about these issues. Luckily they don’t find it to be a cause for concern right now to insist on treating him with more medicine {in a world of the VA over-medicating our veterans, this is huge!}. Yes, too much worry can be addictive, but there is good to be appreciated in this case. It’s considered growth on his part to not only identify and articulate his fears and anxiety, but they congratulate us because we found a mutual ground to manage the situation in my absence that we can both live with. They also understand that my calls inject a level of mindfulness into the equation.

Mindful… what?

Mindfulness. It teaches us to distance ourselves from our worries and stop engaging with them.

In short, mindfulness is the ability to take thoughts that enter our consciousness and ultimately let them go. You acknowledge those thoughts but you do not react or attach emotions to it.

Mindfulness. A topic worthy of another post entirely. (I really hope you click that link) The point I need to make is it’s another key to unlocking this mystery of how to handle my husband’s stress while I am away, both for him and for me.

So in summary, the more regularly I call him to check in, the more I break the cycle of worry and the more he can focus on letting it go. The more mindful I am, the more mindful he will be, and the better the both of us are overall.

We reduced his worry based on natural fears. That’s the best anyone can do!

But what if it really is a trust issue?

Well, let’s go back to my own initial reaction. I figured he didn’t trust me. I had to step outside myself and look at the bigger picture and not take it personally.

Could you blame him if he felt he would lose you to another man? Even if he doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s there.

He’s not the same man he used to be. There are others out there that are not broken. He probably feels like a burden in some way, and how easy would it be for you to just find someone else when he is not looking?

It’s not because you’ve given him a reason not to trust you. It’s not even because he doesn’t trust you.

It’s because he knows you deserve the very best, and he’s not feeling like he’s meeting that criteria to begin with.

If you are dealing with this issue, I encourage you to do as I did and really think about what may be going on that you might not see. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that your husband is just being an asshole, or controlling, or that he is just being a big old baby. Go easy on him.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it is annoying. It’s even frustrating to the point of wanting to scream sometimes. How can one simple thing like leaving the house be. so. HARD?

Ironically enough, he needs time away from you as much as you need time away for your own needs. Think about that. You have to find a way to make that time apart workable for the both of you.

Here is my advice:

Don’t take it personally. Breathe deep and put it into perspective. It’s likely not a matter of anything negative at all. It could be that he loves you so much that the very thought of living a life without you is too much to think about in the first place.

And that, my fellow caregivers, makes you the luckiest woman in the world.

If you are having trust issues or feeling resentful, if my advice doesn’t help resolve the issue soon, I encourage you to seek couple’s counseling so that you can find a better way to get to a happier place. We had to learn this through trial and error and it was damn hard, but fortunately for us this obstacle was fueled by a kind heart and an open mind to get us to the other side.

I am hoping I helped you find yours… but I know you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have both of those things in the first place. <3

Sound off! Do you have this issue with your spouse? Did you find ways to cope with it, or are you still trying to understand is in a bad mood for no reason at all? Share your experiences and questions here. If it is something we have worked through, I’d love to share ways on how we dealt with the same issues too.

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