Friday, February 19, 2010

Freedom of a Different Sort

So, in case you haven't noticed, this isn't a very "normal" blog. Entries are posted in a haphazard fashion (sometimes several in a week and at other times not for several months) and are written by many different people (as time allows and hearts are moved).

There are many reasons for this, but the chief reason is simply because the blog is maintained by wives of injured Veterans.

For many of you - especially those who live this life - that statement says it all. It's a complete and total explanation for disorganization :)

But there are many who don't get it, and it is for those that I write this post. If any of the following sounds sarcastic or snippy, I truly, truly don't mean for it to sound that way. I really do mean to help "outsiders" - those who care about a Veteran or the loved one of a Veteran but don't live this life everyday - understand why we seem... well... scatterbrained, unorganized, and a bit kooky sometimes (in my case, a lot of the time).

I was once a very organized person. My car was immaculate. I knew where 90+% of my things were. My home was not perfect, but was certainly passable the vast majority of the time. I could get places on time, every time (not just by random chance). I remembered birthdays, sent "get well" cards, hosted parties, and was in general a fully functioning, "normal" member of society.

Then, my husband came home from his second tour of duty in Iraq and my "normal" life was never seen again.

Now, my house is often a mess because my brain is too full to handle it.

My car is... well... umm... an embarrassment.

If I manage to get my child to preschool on time I do a secret "so happy I'm not such a horrible mom after all" dance all the way home in the car.

I've been planning a Christmas party for 2 years.

I send birthday presents months before or months after the actual event (thank God for friends who love me anyway).

I know where 30% of my stuff is (and that may be an optimistic estimate).

And, though I pretend not to notice, I'm well aware that several family members and a few friends are shocked, dismayed, and maybe even a little disappointed by the general state of our world.

Life has, without a doubt, changed. And it's changed for a lot of people who now struggle to live with and love our nation's physically and mentally wounded Veterans.

I wish I could adequately explain the sometimes mind-numbing, overwhelming, completely consuming nature of life with an injured hero. As a caregiver, I'm not only responsible for myself and the normal "wife" and "mom" stuff - but I'm also my husband's memory, calendar, finder, shield, go-between, shopper, errand runner, medicine checker, doctor talker, physical therapist, hygiene policewoman - and I'm also responsible for all of the things in our household that he would "normally" do.

My to-do lists have to-do lists and very little of it ever gets done because at a moments notice a "bad" day (a PTSD flare up, or a day where my hubby's back/hip/etc are particularly painful, or a day following a sleepless, nightmare-infested night) can mean that the day is simply spent in "survival" mode.

Survival mode basically boils down to scrapping anything and everything that could put any strain on any member of the household. It's a bare bones, "if we manage to get to the end of the day, we're going to say that we've been successful" sort of deal. And for a caregiver, it means 24 hours of constantly being on guard against anything that could upset the delicate balance and create a complete meltdown.

And, as bad as "bad" days are, they also have a secondary impact. After a bad day, the next few days are spent trying to mentally recover from "survival" mode. Your brain just wants to go to Tahiti - it cares nothing about the laundry that is stacking up, or the dishes that need to be done, or the dust bunnies that are planning their own fiestas. [If this sounds like you, you may want to check out our website section on Secondary PTSD.]

I don't know if there's anyway to adequately explain all of this. I've offered several times for my husband's doc to come live with us for a few days (especially when he decides he needs to lecture me on something I've forgotten, etc). For some reason, though, he doesn't want to.

The long and short of it is, if you know someone who is caring for one of our hundreds of thousands of injured Veterans, please remember to cut them some slack. Don't comment on the dust bunnies (unless you're planning to hire a maid for them). Don't mention the dishes (unless you're offering to do them). Don't criticize their efforts (unless you're going to start living their life).

If you truly care about and love a Veteran, allow his or her caregiver the freedom to not be perfect. Their work is hard and thankless enough without criticism. We're all just doing our best. Love us for that.