Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I've Been Thinking...

So, I've been thinking about whether I should continue writing here.  Not because of any worries or fears regarding whether anyone reads this or if my message is getting out there.  No, more of whether I still have something to say.

Allow me to explain.

I haven't written in here since the end of September and though I have thought of a few different things I could write and even tried to sit down and write, something usually pulled me away.  I've often wondered if perhaps my writings were becoming repetitive.  I keep thinking while I write my entires that I've written many of the topics before and that I shouldn't bother because I've nothing new to say and why bother then, right?

I was even planning out a final entry so as to not leave my blog readers hanging.

Then it occurred to me that I don't have to stop writing.  I always tried to show off how one living with a disabled veteran can find a more positive side to things and there is still plenty more to share.  There are still journeys to go on and struggles to handle.  Even when some of the things seem like the same rough cycles as before I'm always learning and finding new ways to deal with them.  New ways I can share in hopes for others to find useful for their own plights.

Thus I decided this wasn't the demise of my blog just another chapter.

It is currently the last hour of 2013 now as I'm writing this, a year that has brought much turmoil and unexpected stress, but here I sit perfectly fine.  We as a family survived all that was thrown our way this year and for that I am thankful.  Sean went through his ups and down as he usually does but he also showed me that he is still the man I love and that when I'm in need he can work through his struggles to be there for me.  When we were faced with the flood disaster and couldn't handle things the way everyone else around us were I had to learn to regain my patience and remember that because our family is different it is okay to take things at a pace that suits us best.  

I've no idea what 2014 will be bringing our way but I do know what we have thus far planned to help us through it.

I've managed to get back into my hand sewing and have found it to be as soothing as it once was.  I think it will be my new "me" time that helps give me breaks like Fanfiction use to.

Sean picked up an electric guitar with the intent to learn how to play and I think it is great that he is finally trying out a hobby of some kind!  It is long overdue and I think it will help him a great deal by giving him some focus and helping him to keep from getting bored because he plays through his video games too quickly.  Anyone in my World understands that boredom for a veteran with PTSD equals brooding and not the Hollywood Joss Whedon's Angel kind of brooding either.  I see much encouragement from my side over the next several months!

The biggest thing for 2014 is our busy Summer.  We are planning a trip to visit friends and family and then we will also be in a fellow veteran's wedding.  Yes, it will be rather busy but I always plan any trips to be as easy and as stress free as I can for Sean.  Knowing Sean and his habits as well as his comfort zones I plan accordingly, but these trips are good for him too as they allow him to visit with people he doesn't get to see very often and that is something he looks forward to.  I try to squeeze in these kinds of trips every so often while we still can do the traveling because I know one day it won't be possible for Sean to do so.

I've also started a plan to reorganize things in the house as a way to make things easier around here for all of us.  We're going to turn a closet that is hardly used into a pantry as an example so that we can stock up on food because currently we don't really have the space to do so.  

In the end I'm looking forward to 2014 and what it will bring our way.  I know that not everything will be good or easy, but I know that whatever it turns out to be we will survive.  :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

This Is Me

I'm not a writer.  I love writing, truly, but I am no writer.

I don't have these constant stories or thoughts flowing through my head that my fingers are just aching to get out.  I don't shut myself away as I while away in front of a keyboard spewing out sentences that have been begging to be put in writing.  I've often said I wanted to be a writer but I've never been able to complete a full book and most of the short things I write I'm sure seem rather novice.  I do write this blog, but I wouldn't call myself a blogger either as I have no steady flow.  I could seek out ways to improve my skills, but...

I'm not a seamstress.  I love hand sewing, but my skills are limited and everything is self taught.

I've only ever made Barbie dresses and purses and though I love what I have made I don't find it worthy of being sold.  Gifting the items, sure but not worth a profit.  There is much I could still learn, using a sewing machine would be one, but...

I'm not a baker.  I love baking new things, but I don't make anything that looks fancy.

I have a huge sweet tooth and am always seeking out new yummy recipes to bake.  Except I don't bake to make things look like works of art or cute.  I bake to make something tasty to eat.  You don't see my children taking cupcakes to school that look like their favorite cartoon characters.  I just don't get that artsy with my food.  I could watch videos or take a class to learn but...

This is what I am.

I am a Wife.

I am a Mother.

I am a Caregiver.

I am simply Aimee.

I have a slew of things I can do, but nothing I can say I am proficient at.  I have many things I love but I have no passions.  I dabble in a variety of things but I don't place all my focus on one thing and try and excel at it.

This doesn't mean I could never learn to improve any of my skills and some of the things I know I hope to one day become more proficient at.  See, I have often heard that if you want to do something bad enough you won't make excuses, you will go for it.

I agree and disagree with this.  

Yes, if you truly want something then it is a good thing to go ahead and try to get it instead of sitting around talking about it.  However, I think people forget that life doesn't always work that way.  Sometimes lack of money holds you back or even lack of time.  To that argument I have heard that one would make time to do the things they want, but sometimes we can't make time.  It is true.

As a Caregiver I spend so much of my time keeping up with my husband and children that I get little time to myself.  Then those few times where I try and give myself a break I find that it means I have to sacrifice things like, cleaning the house.  Then I end up with a messy house on top of caregiving and anyone can tell you clutter just adds to one's mental stress.  So, even though I try and take a break to help decompress from the stress of being a Caregiver I end up adding to that same stress later by getting backed up on something else.  You can double this if any kind of emergency or disaster occurs.  In our case the flood that happened this Summer.  I still can't seem to get ahead of that.

Now am I blaming being a Caregiver?  Am I saying being a Caregiver is holding me back from doing the things I want?

Absolutely not!

I CHOOSE to be a Caregiver.  I chose to live this life and because of that I chose to make certain sacrifices.  I am not unhappy.  This life isn't always easy and it certainly isn't stress free, but it doesn't make me unhappy.

I am the kind of person who has learned to enjoy the little things in life as well as the big ones.  I have learned to not weight my skills against other people's because I know we all have things we excel at and things that just aren't our cups of tea.  When we have good days at home I use that to do the things I enjoy and when we have bad days I let those things rest.  It keeps me from getting burnt out on all the things I love.

I am simply happy just living life each day and seeing it where it takes me.  Some days it takes me to a dark cave and others it takes me to a walk in a park.  It is the beauty of life.

Being a Caregiver and learning to live life the way I do isn't an easy choice and it can mean a very difficult path.  However, it is my choice and I have no regrets.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Flood Part IV: Picking Up The Pieces

Though the Summer didn't go anywhere near how I imagined it, it was certainly filled with its own adventure I guess you could say.  (Check out Parts I, II, and III to read that adventure.)

The point is we survived.

It was rough as it would be on anyone, it was rougher on us because of our situation.  My stress level has been so high I'm pretty sure the neighbors could have gotten wasted off of it.  My children seemed more like little terrors because of the boredom and complete disruption to what is the "norm" around here.  Sean's guilt oozed from every pore in his body because he couldn't help more.  Oddly enough the animals just seemed to go with the flow of things.  Perhaps they could teach me how they do that?

Anyway, now that I am looking back on the whole situation a month and a half later I can definitely see how things could have been so much worse for us.  Yes, it was pretty rough and sucky while dealing with the whole thing, but our house is still here and that is saying something considering others couldn't live in their houses anymore.  I did lose a good deal of things, some sentimental and irreplaceable, but in the end it was still just that, stuff.

My family remains unharmed and that includes the furry menaces that reside here as well.  Aside from causing me more grief than I really would have liked, the flooding gave me perspective.  It helped me to see how I was handling certain things and how I wasn't considering other things.

I've learned that sometimes warnings may seem like "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" when they are constant, but that we should never treat them any less seriously since things are unpredictable and anything can happen anytime.  Mother Nature is always unpredictable so one should never doubt that she can bring upon you a disaster that will take everything away if she wants.  Not trying to be doom and gloom and say we should all be paranoid people, just that if you get a warning about something it may not hurt to be a little cautious and possibly slightly prepared in case that warning becomes something more.

I've learned that you need to pace yourself at a speed that works for you.  Don't worry how fast or slow others are moving because everyone's situation is different.  You need to handle things how you are comfortable.  You need to make sure that no matter the pace you set for yourself it is always good to take necessary breaks to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  Your situation and life is unique to you and thus you must work within that realm and no one elses, don't worry what others will think or say, they aren't you and don't know your life.  Worrying about others only adds to your stress, so make sure your focus is where it needs to be.

I've learned that it is okay to let go.  This works in two senses.  One regarding the items lost.  I lost a dress I loved and can't replace.  I lost video footage from back when I was in school and pictures that again I can't replace.  I was really bummed about it too.  However, I realized that I still had the memories.  Yes, I lost sentimental items, but I didn't lose the memories those items reminded me of.  It allows me to make room for new dresses, pictures, and if I want video footage of future events.  It is okay that I move forward.

The second sense is allowing yourself to let go of your emotions.  Having your house flooded can be quite emotional.  We are talking scared, worried, distressed, depressed, angry, frustrated to name a few.  Now imagine feeling all of those things at once for weeks.  That was me and the rollercoaster I was riding was no fun at all.  The meltdowns I mentioned in the previous parts were how I dealt with the overload of feeling all of that.  The thing is that was okay.  It would seem odd if I didn't release all of that in some manner.  When you have so much built up within you, you need to let it out sometime because if you don't the explosion that hits will be of such epic proportions you may struggle to crawl back from it.  Let yourself feel and let yourself release, it is okay.

So, now that I am still in the middle of replacing my furnace and putting the rest of my house back in the order it should be, I know that everything will be fine.  It may still be another month before things are fully back on track, but that is okay too because I'm moving at the pace that I am most comfortable with.  School starts back up in a couple of weeks, routine will be started back up, and we will continue on with life.

Until the next disaster of course.

But we will survive that too.  :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Flood 2013 Part III: The Lonesome Find Help in Unexpected Places

For those who need to be brought up to speed check out Parts I and Parts II before reading this.  :)

Being alone sucks.

Being alone with a ton of nasty water and mud to clean out of your basement sucks even more.

Now as I mentioned it took me a couple weeks of going down there every day in shifts to clean a little bit here and a little bit there to get all the trash and mud and nasty water up.  This whole time I was watching my trash pile up outside in my lawn, mud track through my kitchen from the basement, bugs and flies take up residence in my house, clutter everywhere due to the boxes we salvaged, and with all the increase heat going around my mental state was reaching a point of meltdown.

This is where that whole thing of not being able to see what the neighbors are dealing with too comes into play.  Often times when Sean is in a more depressive state he will remark upon how his other buddies from the Army are unaffected by the same problems he has.  How they seem to be fine and not struggle the way he does.  Now I have reminded him at these moments that he doesn't truly know if that is the case because he only sees what they share on Facebook, but that he knows a few of them do struggle as he has spoken to them about it before.  The thing is unless we are in their presence 24/7 we aren't going to see everything they struggle with, but we do see how Sean struggles.  I have told him that he isn't alone as he thinks in these moments because even as I write this I can think of four of his Army buddies that I know of who deal with PTSD whatever their severity.  I realize not all of them deal with the physical limitations Sean does, but I know of at least one who struggles with his own.  The point is it is good to note that everyone with PTSD may share many of the same symptoms they do have their own ways of coping with it.  Just as Sean doesn't exactly post on his Facebook all the time about his struggles, in fact Sean doesn't make a lot of posts at all on his Facebook, his buddies who struggle aren't always going to post about theirs.

So, just as Sean can't see the struggles of his buddies, I couldn't see the neighbors dealing with their after flood issues.  To me it looked like they went back to things as normal because they were no longer outside dealing with the trash and cleanup.  That left me feeling like because we had to go at a much slower pace it was taking us so much longer to cope with everything.  Thus a couple of days in the midst of all this I literally sat down and cried from sheer frustration.  I ranted and lamented to Sean and my parents over the phone about how tired I was of the constant cleaning, the mud and flies all through my house, the heat with no ability to use our air conditioner (I will elaborate on this in the next Part), and just how I wanted it all to be done so we could do as we planned to do for the Summer.

I mean I had times where I sat restless because I couldn't bring myself to relax and read or sew or anything because my mind kept reminding me of the mess there was still left to clean.  The thing was I had to force myself to take the breaks because I needed to not overwhelm myself.

What made me feel worse was that when I vented and cried to Sean about all of this it only enhanced his guilt of not being able to do more and thus I felt guilty for venting.  It was a vicious cycle.

I kept trying to remind myself mentally that it didn't matter what the neighbors were doing and it didn't matter how fast or slow we dealt with this, and that I should be glad this happened when it did because if it had happened a month earlier it would have been so much worse on me.  (I had my own medical issues come up and the result ended with me being on some medication to help stabilize my Thyroid hormone, I didn't mention it here but I did write a blog post about it some for Familyofavet which you can find here.)  It's just when I was feeling the most overwhelmed by this whole ordeal my mind wouldn't listen to the reasonable and logical side of my brain.

Then I started to notice a few things over the course of all of this.

When we would pile the trash outside to be taken to one of the dumpsters the village had out at a later time when Sean felt alright enough to drive some of it over, a few of the neighbors would come over with their wheelbarrows in tow and would load up our stuff and take it for us.  One of those neighbors was one of the couple we are friendly with and knew our situation with Sean's disabilities.  Another one was a neighbor we have had some slight trouble with in the past and the other was one I had never seen before.  The point was they were helping us in a small way but it helped me mentally in a big way.

Then a bigger help came from a very unexpected source.

About a day after I finally cleared all the mud out of the basement we heard about some folks that came up from Virginia (which was where I was born, a little bit of info there for you) and were helping locals with clean up through our other neighbor who we are friendly with.  Sure enough the next day when we were outside letting the children have a bit of playtime before more work the first neighbor I mentioned( who is friendly with us) stopped by with a couple of the people from the group and introduced us.  He apparently told them about our situation and figured we could use the help.

So, while Sean watched the children I took the couple to our basement and showed them what was left to do.  Turns out the guy was also a veteran and they told us they were from a group called Southern Baptists Convention of Virginia and they go around and help with disaster relief for free.  They said they do it as a kindness.  So, I signed the form they provided and because of Sean being disabled we were considered priority.

A few days later a group of eight people came to our house and cleared out the rest of the trash which included the old washer and dryer, took out a shelf unit that had black mold on it, pulled out some other bits of wood here and there that needed to be taken out, power washed the basement, sprayed a substance called shockwave in the basement and garage to help prevent further mold, and cleaned up and mopped up all the mud that was tracked through my kitchen.  On top of that one of the guys was a combat veteran Marine who upon hearing of Sean's situation made some phone calls and gathered some phone numbers of helpful resources in our area (DAV, VFW, American Legion...etc) and brought them to us because he wanted to make sure Sean was getting all the benefits he deserved and we as a family were getting all the support we need.  Then when all the work was done they invited us to join them for lunch which they had delivered, so we all sat outside and had a sort of picnic.

It was completely unexpected but very much needed at that point.  It saved me another week worth of clean up in the basement and made it so where I was able to get started on replacing the items I needed to replace. and could finally get around to getting the house back into order which would take me another few weeks I am sure.

It is good to know though that sometimes help is out there even when we think we are completely alone.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Flood 2013 Part II: Water and Mud and Yuck! Oh My!

So, the first day of the flooding after the water dispersed and left the neighborhood with watered basements, garages, and nasty muddy streets it was time to begin clean up.

If you recall from my previous post Sean had gone to sleep because he was awake the entire night before hand, so it was just me there with the children waiting for my father to show up so we could get the generator up and running.  I felt rather lost at first because I could see through the windows and doors which were open for once due to needing light and air thanks to lack of power, that all the neighbors were bustling about with activity as they started clean up.  I couldn't do that because I had no one to watch the children and I had to keep an eye on Sean.  So, I decided it would be best to make sure the rest of the house was clean since I figured we would be so focused on everything else the next several weeks I would probably not being keeping up with the rest of the house.

I did pop outside later that day and chatted with our neighbor across the street discussing the damage and how clean up was going to be.  That was when I learned that the Fire Department had a list you could get on to have your basement pumped.  I also know between the fire department, Salvation Army, and the Red Cross fresh drinkable water, cleaning kits, meals, and other helpful items were passed out through out the weeks this was going on.  It was good to have what little help we could because the biggest problem we faced was we were alone.

That first weekend I watched as my neighbors had family and friends come in to help them clean up their garages and basements and help square away their homes.  We didn't have that kind of help.  My parents in the area can't help with the physical clean up and since they already watch my two nephews on a regular basis I couldn't have them, babysit.  My mom was helping with laundry though, which was needed.  She had me drop off a load or two as needed and she would wash and dry it for me.

The thing was as far as the physical labor of cleaning the entire mess up it was all on us.  Any one we knew that would have helped live in other states.  This is one of the downsides to living someplace different than where we grew up.  It is also a downside to not exactly seeking out friendships here locally.  We are friendly with a couple of neighbors but they have their own houses and damage to deal with.  It is just how I said in previous posts that ever since we moved here back in 2005 we haven't joined any local groups, even when I worked I didn't make any close friends that I would hang out with after work.  We basically were very private people who stayed in their own space and didn't want to be bothered.

I know I've mentioned in the past the loneliness that comes from this life.  Sean likes to keep away from others and anyone who knows what it is like with someone with PTSD will understand that.  I keep so busy with taking care of him, the children, and everything else I hardly have time and when I do it isn't like I can just leave.  I don't have a driver's license and I again don't really have anyone to hang out with.

Of course I digress, but that loneliness is felt doubly so when you have to deal with a disaster like we did.

Aside from not getting much done that first day, Sean and I did start the garage clean up the next day.  We had to do it in shifts though because of the children.  So, at first our routine went one of us would do clean up, one of us would try and entertain the children with no power and then we would switch off.  Real quickly we decided it would go much faster if we all sat outside and switched off that way except this time the person not cleaning had to also tend to the dog because he does't do so well being separate from us.  This made it go much faster and we got the garage pretty much done in a few days, but I also think it helped that it didn't have quite as much mud and muck as the basement.

We lost some boxes and the ones we salvaged ended up being stacked up in my dining room adding cluster, but we had nothing else we could do until I went through each box and figured out where things should go.  We decided from then on all items will be placed in bins, no more using boxes for storage.

The basement was next and due to our lack of help we couldn't start on it till a week after the flooding.  We were able to get my niece to help watch the children while Sean and I would start on the basement.  That situation escalated quickly.

For those who know Sean's physical disabilities as well as his PTSD and TBI know that he struggles with chronic lower back pain due to some herniated discs as well as upper body pain from his crushing injury in Iraq.  So, physical labor taxes him rather quickly and usually I handle a good bit of the main cleaning and labor, leaving him to handle things that won't aggravate his pain too much.  Well not even a few minutes into cleaning Sean was getting angry.

The basement involved lots of carrying heavy "trash" (all the things we had down there that I mentioned in Part I but of course now it is all water logged and covered in mud) up stairs, hosing the mud and sweeping it to one spot for the shopvac to pick up, and then carrying the shopvac up the stairs and outside to drain.  All of that was going to be difficult on Sean and me as anyone who is familiar with my lack of upper body strength can tell you.

As I said Sean became angry within a few minutes because of the aggravation to his pain which then struck a nerve and got his PTSD going.  We managed to get one bag of trash outside and vacuum up one 16 galleon tank of muddy water and as we tried to carry this thing upstairs Sean was already telling me he would need to sit down because his back was killing him.  His aggravation and the frustration with this whole situation had me on edge as well.  He and I ended up arguing all the way up the stairs and even outside about where to dump the water.  I was trying to find a good spot and he was tired of standing there and told me he wasn't going to walk all over the neighborhood just to dump out the shopvac tank.  So, in turn he set it up right outside the fencing by our back door and let it drain, unfortunately he didn't think about where it would go because he was tired, in pain, and angry and so the water instead of going into the grass as he intended it poured back onto our bit of sidewalk and driveway.  I know I said something about how I was trying to avoid that which was why I was looking for a good spot.  Sean's expression in response was enough for me to make an executive decision.

Back inside the house I told him to go sit down and that I would have my niece help me do the basement and he could sit with the children.  After a bit of grumbling he did as I suggested and my niece and I began the routine of bagging up and hauling outside the nasty, watery, muddy trash.

My niece was only there for a day or so and it had already been one week since the flooding and the weather outside turned very hot and I could already see some mold and such developing in the basement.  There was no way I could hold off cleaning it anymore.  Thus Sean and I looked for a new solution to cleaning it up that wouldn't be as difficult for him.

That was when we realized we could use the natural drain down there.  It is the long rectangular shaped hole in our basement, it was where the flood water came up from and it was where it drained back down too as the fire department never made it back to my house to pump it.  So, if it can drain then we can just hose the mud and water and push broom it towards that hole.  Of course we would only be able to do this for one side of the basement as we had my father put in this vinyl fencing when we moved it to divide the area.  The other side we would have to shopvac it up and then take it to the drain, but that was still preferable to lugging that heavy thing upstairs.

For the next week we began the new routine of taking shifts to hose and sweep the basement and then switching off.  We had to take regular breaks too, but we each tried to do about two shifts each a day.  Progress was slow, but I kept reminding myself that we had to go at what pace worked best for us and any progress was something.

It still took a toll on my mental state though.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Flood 2013 Part I: So, We Got A Water Problem

June 27th was a nice day.

Not only was it PTSD Awareness day but it also happens to be my son's birthday.  I have always found it rather neat that my son's birthday is shared with PTSD Awareness day because we are a family that lives with PTSD, so to me it seemed fitting.  Since this year we let our children choose a place to take them for their birthday, we went to Friendly's per my son's request.  We all had a nice dinner and even took some ice cream home.  It wasn't a very adventurous day, but it was nice.

June 28th, was NOT a nice day.

I was startled awake by Sean yelling for everyone at about 6am.  Rubbing the sleep from my eyes and bursting out of the room wondering what the emergency was, I was directed to the window.

My house had become an Island as water roared passed it.

All those Flood Advisories, Watches, and Warnings we had been seeing for weeks thanks to all of the rain had finally come to pass.  See the road we live on there is a creek at the end which is just a few houses down from us which leads to the Mohawk River.  Seems the water broke bank over one of the other creeks in the area and was flowing passed to our creek.  I looked over and you could see how the water was well over the bank on our creek too.

So, basically this was what I faced that morning.

View from front door towards the left

View from front door towards right, the creek is at the end there.

View from back door towards driveway.

View from front door, slight right.

View from front door slight left, showing our poor willow tree,

 After staring at all of this rather stunned it occurred to me to check the basement so I rant off towards the kitchen and opened the basement door.  Sure enough I found water and heard trickling. I went back later that day and snapped a couple of pictures, of course based on the pictures you can tell I had a bit more water as you can see the line across the wall from where it ended originally.  We had a bag of trash down there that tipped and so trash was floating around.  We had a couple of cat boxes down there for the times the cats ended up down there and so litter and other unpleasant things were floating around.  I had piles of clothes, bed sheets, blankets, luggage bags, books, VHS tapes...the list could go on and that doesn't even bring up the washer, dryer, and furnace.  Here is a slight idea of what I was dealing with, but I never got pictures of the really bad areas.

To the left of where the furnace, washer, dryer, and all the others things I listed off were.

What it looked like when you first came down the steps, you can the line across the wall that I mentioned.
Of course power was shut off right before I woke up and so everyone in the neighborhood was staring outside their windows, standing on their front steps, and on their cell phones.  I was trying to call my family up the hill, while updating my family and friends on Facebook about our situation.  I was also trying to dig up the car charger for my phone because with no power my cell phone drains super fast.

Now is when things were starting to really hit me.

Some of the people in the neighborhood were evacuated by bucket loader.  My children kept saying we need to get out of there, but there was no way we could leave.  We have four cats and a dog as well as the four of us, no bucket loader would hold us all.  Plus Sean said we weren't leaving unless we absolutely had too and even though we didn't know when the flood would be done it didn't seem to be rising any further.  In fact not too long later I noticed the water outside was starting to recede.

By that point Sean settled on the couch and fell asleep because he had been awake all night again.  I was still trying to reach my family as I needed to talk to my father about helping get the generator we had bought from him (and at this moment I was so thankful we did do that) sometime ago started up so we could run some power.

So, there I was staring at the mud left behind once all the water was finally gone...

View from the driveway to the left.

View of the driveway

...with Sean asleep and the children still bouncing off the walls from all the excitement, just thinking about what a nightmare all this clean up ahead was going to be like with a disabled combat veteran, a Caregiver with little upper body strength, two children, four cats, one dog, and not much in the way of help nearby.

It was not something I was looking forward to.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Important Message

What are you?
Were you able to answer?  Did it involve words like "wife", "Caregiver", "mother", or any other similar terms?

If they didn't then I want to commend you for not losing yourself!

If they did though I want to talk to you for a few minutes.  No it isn't bad, but I have something I think would be very important for you to hear.

Women tend to be rather emotional and I am not talking about the irrational mood swings we can get over sappy movies and at the slightest sign of weight gain.  I mean we feel.  In everything we do through out our lives we do it with some sort of of emotion behind it.  This doesn't mean men don't feel, but that they tend to function more simply and don't always have to run every decision they make into the ground with all the aspects that could be involved.  (Key words there are they don't always, there are men who can be this way, my point is I see more women do it than men and thus why I don't direct this at men.)  You ask a woman what she would like to eat for lunch and she will most likely run through her mind at turbo speeds all the pros and cons of what she could eat.  You ask a man and he will either know and answer right away or he will tell you he doesn't care.  The woman has to decide if the meal is something she is craving, will it make her feel too bloated, will it make her put back on the five pounds she lost, will she be able to swap out the calories for something else if she indulges, will she be judged to harshly based on what she chose...these are just examples, but there are millions of things that could run through a woman's head at this point.

A woman over thinks things because she feels and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It is good to feel and enjoy life's journey experiencing all the great emotions that it can bring.  However, those emotions can also bring about a whirlwind of trouble if the woman allows them to.

This is very important to note for those who live the life of a Caregiver and mothers too if they aren't careful.

"We care", said the group of Care Bears to Dark Heart when Kristy was in need of healing.  (*Care Bears the Movie II if you were curious about the reference)

"We care."

Those are very strong words and greatly apply to us Caregivers.

If anyone shows how deeply they care it is a Caregiver.  We see first hand what is is like for an individual who requires constant help.  This isn't just specific to Caregivers of disabled veterans, this is for anyone who is a Caregiver of any manner of disabled person or even a parent of a young child.  We are relied upon for a great deal of tasks and it leaves our hearts open for all sorts of feelings.  Sympathy, sadness, love, are just a few examples.

For those of us who are Caregivers to disabled veterans we see an even darker side to the Caregiving universe because we see what things like combat can do to a person.  It effects them in not only a mental sense but also a physical sense and it isn't always for the better.  So, it makes sense that our emotions are so deeply involved.

The thing that makes this a very tricky situation is our feelings of sympathy and love can lead us down the path of losing ourselves.

We become so involved in fighting for our veteran because they need better medical care, they need to be shown that life is still worth it, they need to be guided on daily routines, they need to be reminded to handle various things, they need to be counseled, they need to be redirected, they need to be distracted, they need to be...well it is a pretty extensive list.  Somewhere in doing all of that for them the Caregiver takes over and we find that we draw away from family and friends.  We forget to handle our own care.  We stop taking time to enjoy some of our favorite things.  We basically drown ourselves in this sea of Caregiving that what makes us who we are as individuals gets lost.

So, when asked the question, "What are you?" we only have one way to answer it because we don't know our true selves anymore.

Where are the dreamers?

Where are the artists?

Where are the writers?

Where are the free souls?

Where are the singers?

Where are the gamers?

Where are the movie buffs?

Where are the collectors?

Where is everyone?

This is why even in our World of Caregiving you must strive to find the time to still be yourself, your true self.  Even if at first it is just small steps until you can find the balance again.  Try and make it a regular thing to go get your hair or nails done.  Try and meet up with a friend once in awhile for a drink.  (A side note regarding this, if the reason you are afraid to hang out with friends is because they don't understand this life we live I want to make something clear.  A true friend even if they aren't able to fully understand with still support you and your choices in life and be there for you no matter what.  If the "friend" stops being your friend because they don't "get" your life then they weren't much of a friend to begin with and you are better off finding a friend who is supportive.  Which I also understand the daunting task of making new friends, another set of baby steps to take, but keep in mind once you open yourself up to life again opportunities to meet new people will also open for you.)  Go see a new movie that has peaked your interest.  Go to a local coffee shop and read that new book you have been meaning to start.  Find some time to start writing that story or poem that has been floating through your head for months.  For those who can take a weekend getaway to the beach or that convention you've always wanted to go to.  No matter how big or small, try and start implementing your favorites things to do back into your life.

I know it won't always be easy and I know how unpredictable this life is for us.  Not everything will work out but as long as you make an effort to be yourself again even in the smallest of ways, you will find being the Caregiver is less daunting and not so all consuming anymore.  Perhaps even if some of those interests also peak the interest of your veteran you can make it something you do together as a way to reconnect with them on that personal level.  My husband and I play video games together and I find it a great way to enjoy one of the things I love to do but also a great way to bond with my husband.  See video games for him are used as a distraction from his difficulties and as he told me it is one of the few things left in his life that he can do because of his disabilities.  So, for us this is a perfect way to be together, call it our "date" times.  Average couples outside of our World have "date nights", we have "date games".

The point is, this life is stressful enough without losing yourself completely to it.  So, try not to lose yourself completely or if you feel you have then try and find yourself again.  In fact I urge you to!

So, I ask you again, what are you?