Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stress Tax.

I try to do so much (like three summer college courses) and excel as a wife and caregiver. I try to do all of that and travel with Aaron so he can explore incredible recreational therapy opportunities. I try to do it all and by not addressing how hard this is I think I am focusing on how much we have and how hard it really isn't (it is hard). I think that if I acknowledge that this life, even with its blessing, is incredibly stressful then I'm dishonoring all the people who do this life with more complications. I'm just going to act like everything's normal and okay!

And I fail at something, inevitably. I of course can't preemptively ask for help because that would mean I understood what I was doing to myself in the first place. Now I'm groveling with one professor, but at least that class is all I have managed to really screw up. My other two classes are okay, and I've been kicking butt at the wife/caregiver work. So I didn't crash and burn at everything, but just burned up a little bit.

But I'm fucking exhausted, people. My brain never fully turns on. I never actually get to sleep. I wake up everyday with back pain and a right elbow and wrist that doesn't want to help me work on the computer. I am so tired and sometimes I don't know why, because I think I got to sleep. I get distracted easily, and I can't seem to get motivated. At all. It sounds like depression but I'm not depressed right now. I mean, I've always got this little black cloud (and there is actually a technical name for that) all the time and I'm pretty much a realist (no sunshine and rainbows here, just give me the damn truth). But I am honestly happy with my marriage and the work I've been doing.

So, after seeing my counselor and doing some serious self-reflection, I realized that my body is stressed. I am physically affected by all of this, and not just because I literally carry more things than most husbands do. My whole body is responding to all of this and I haven't yet taken what that can do to me into account. I just need to suck it up and push harder, right? People do this warrior life with kids. Aaron nor myself have debilitating mental health or brain injuries, so there is no reason why I can't just do this already!

But I'm being too hard on myself and I'm admitting it. Next semester, I'm taking fewer classes. I am taking more time out of my day to stretch my body, work my mind, and relax. I just need to admit that I am not failing by not doing it all. I need to stop minimizing myself, my mental health, my reactions, and ultimately my life. My house is clean, some school work is done, and Aaron is happy as a pig in mud with what I do with and for him. He doesn't mind it when I breakdown at a meeting where we find out that the wheelchair clinic has yet again messed up and he won't be getting what he needs in any fashion of a timely manner (that happened today, by the way). I am getting better at recovering from those incidents, too. It doesn't knock me out all afternoon after I cry.

I realized how to improve: I can't completely change something in a moment. I have to ease into it. Do this a little less every week, and eventually I will have totally changed a behavior.

My ultimate goal is to focus on my abilities and not my limitations. I am also going to immerse myself in brain exercises and the book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. I think I need to try new things and reinvent my goals a little bit. I know it looks like a very strange way to deal with my stress, but I think it's going to work for me. New stuff. New successes. Focus on my health and get back to a chiropractor. Work my creativity more. Keep breathing. Keep improving, little by little. And give myself more time to do this. Also, I will actually go to the doctor and address my right arm issue. I am not getting any younger, and I can't keep wrapping my wrist in Coban to deal with the pain when I know I'm not doing anything to realistically make it better.

So there you have it, folks. I tried to do it all and pretend that this life wasn't such a big deal. I wanted to push on with normalcy because I'm so grateful for all we have. I would feel lazy if I didn't sign up for classes and do other things when Aaron doesn't need me. I am not a super human, at least not all the time. I feel like I can do anything- and I mean that, I could dig myself to China if it would make our situation any better- but that doesn't mean I have to do everything. I am a resilient woman and I have nothing to prove. I need to accept that it's okay to give my mental health more room in my life. I tell other people to do it- why don't I? I am unrelenting on myself. And it's time to stop.

Thanks for listening, kids. I hope you're all having good weeks!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Twihard drama clogging up my internetz!

Ugh. As if some Hollywood people canoodling affects any of us, but everyone is saying so much and now my own reels are turning. There are a few perspectives I haven't seen supported, but I'll discuss just because well, it's in my head now.

First of all, the director dude is kind of a creep. He met his wife when she was 17 years old, and recently talked about the experience in an interview. He said something along the lines of how beautiful she was and how he was drawn to her immediately. They apparently married 5 years later, when she was just 23. Yes, I said "just" 23. I think anyone getting married under 25 is young. I am not implying it's wrong or not intelligent, but it is young. So there's that.

Kristen is 22 years old. Apparently, she has been with her vampire lover Rob for three or four years. That's kind of young to be soul-mated off. And yeah- it looks like that is exactly what happened. It seems to have always been super, super intense. They've been living together for a while now (years?). It doesn't seem like she's had a lot of experience in relationships. God forbid the things I did at 22 be held against me for the rest of my life. I didn't touch a married man or anything like that, but I was certainly up to no good.

Maybe this old dude fed her some bull about how she hasn't had a lot of experiences and it's hindering her ability to emote as an actress (and we all know she has issues with that, good lord). So she gave in and now has not only experienced the feeling of doing something you shouldn't (and that feeling is pretty addicting and tempting), but hurting other people and herself. How's that for experience? What also supports this theory is her magazine interview last month in Elle. She openly discussed how her life had been very easy for her and she just wanted to experience something messed up. Her whole life has been set up for her, from child actress to Bella Swann. Seriously. She has hardly experienced anything worth feeling, other than being grateful, I suppose. And rich. And loved. She probably just wanted to feel some new feelings. Or something. It's why most of us experiment in relationships with different things, types of people at some point. And I would venture to say that if don't test yourself before moving into a serious, hardcore relationship, that things like this could happen.

Everyone's trashing Kstew like she raped this director dude and she should kill herself because he was married and had kids. It's all her fault! She owed his wife something! I hate, hate, hate slut-shaming. Oh, look at the whore, she touched this other woman's husband! It's kind of sexist, in my opinion. It takes two. And no one is talking about director dude publicly apologizing to poor Rob. He was wronged too, you know. A relationship is a relationship. It's Sanders's fault for jeopardizing his family. Kstew's boyfriend doesn't mean less than the one with the family. And honestly, if there are to be scorned-wife/boyfriend apologies made, they should be done in private.

Also, this whole "soul mates til we die" thing is creepy as shit and I wholly blame the Twilight franchise for it. Let's hook as mere children or very young adults and decide that our whole souls and happiness and existence depend on each other! Yay! And let's add in not having any other or very limited relationship experience so no one knows how to handle finding someone else attractive or alluring! Double yay! You know, I loved someone once a whole awful lot and when that relationship ended, I was devastated. You couldn't reason with me. But it wasn't because I felt that my soul mate had slipped away and no one else mattered. I knew something special was gone and I felt betrayed by how it ended (abandonment sucks) but I didn't think that I wouldn't go on and find someone new and better. I was 25 when it ended. With that relationship and a few other intense if not long pairings, I thankfully had enough experience by the time Aaron came along that I could know I was making a great decision by deciding to live my life with him. Maybe vampire boy wouldn't be so horrified and heartbroken if he had not decided a teenage Kristen Stewart was it for him. It's great his parents got together young, but most people don't do that anymore. People got to live a little before they go about dragging someone else with them.

And honestly, I wouldn't want Aaron to leave me if something awful happened and I made out with another man. (And yes, I said made out. No one knows if Kstew and creepy director old dude humped or even took off any clothes. What we see on the internet and in the magazine is a heavy make out session.) Yes, cheating is cheating but there is a huge difference between wanting to feel naughty and sexy and having a no-no makeout session and humping someone else. I wouldn't leave him if he did the same. I mean, I don't think I would. I'd probably spend a bunch of his money, burn some things, but I wouldn't throw away my marriage. I don't speak in absolutes about maybe-probably-not things that most likely won't happen. About the only way I would walk out forever is if he came home one day and inexplicably beat the crap out of me. Or I found out he had been trying to beat Jesse James and Tiger Woods for cheating douchebag awards. I don't know what it takes to be married ten years, twenty years, and so on and I don't know what happens when people feel the need to go outside of the marriage. I don't even know how that occurs. So who am I to speak indignantly? I hear some much of, "I would never ever do that!" and "I hope he doesn't take her back, I'd leave my husband if he kissed another woman!" "I'd kick another woman's ass for touching my man!" It's so obnoxious. Violence and verbal abuse are never okay. Neither are absolute statements about your own relationship when the situation being discussed might not actually ever happen.

Sometimes people do get together young and it works. One of my best bloggy friends married at twenty and as far as I know, they are a model couple. I know a few people who have only dated their respective spouses even if they didn't marry young. But these people didn't seem to get together because "they would just die without each other." It was because they wanted to forge on in life with this amazing other person, and decided to go ahead and get started. Awesome for them! I wish I had had more time with Aaron. But we got married pretty quick even if we weren't particularly youngish. I was nearly 28. He was 30. I don't think about "what if" because both of us were off having experiences in our past lives that would only make us more perfect for each other later. At least, that's my fairyland thinking. And I like it.

But at the end of the day, I'm not me without Aaron and I'd be lost without him. What we've been through the past ten months has been incredible and profound, taking our marriage to places people who don't do this can't even fathom. So yeah, I get it. But I'm not young. I'm not trying to feel things I haven't before. Hell, a lot of my 20s was spent feelings things I didn't want to hang around. I haven't lead a sheltered life and I don't have to seek out situations to go beyond my comfort zone. I have an honest, open, progressing relationship with my husband. I seriously doubt either one of us will ever feel the need to go outside of our marriage for any type of relationship fulfillment, so I won't even waste time thinking about what we would do if anything ever happened. Obstacles are going to arise and all I can say is that I know we have the ability to talk it out, work it out, and walk (roll) it out. As far as I know, we're always gonna be okay. :)

And I hope everyone in this whole Kstew and co. works it out and stays together, and eventually moves on from this.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Just. Be. Happy.

At some point you realize there is more behind you than is in front of you. I don't want to wake up one day and be sad about all the things I didn't do because of all the things I felt I should be doing. Aaron almost dying has really given us a second chance to know things that some people never get to figure out. We know what's important, we know how to live, and we know how to love. There isn't really much going on for us to fight about, because if it's going to cause a fight then it isn't important. He's off shooting today and I'm going to try and wrap up my schoolwork for the weekend. No matter what we do from here on out, I know our only goal will be making the other one happy.

And one of the best parts of my life is that I am supported and surrounded by people who feel this way too. It is as easy as it sounds: just be happy. Just do what you gotta do to be happy and have everyone around you happy.

At least, I think so.

I still live in a terribly abnormal environment and that might be why I've gone all emotional and poetic here. ;)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

We're Alright.

I'd be lying if I said everything was all better but it is getting better. I feel like I left a lot of people in a lurch with my slightly-nutty last post, but the support as been incredible.

We got the Very Important Appointment that was missed rescheduled, we're on track with getting a new wheelchair, my mom has a contact for me to facilitate getting some needs met, Aaron had a great primary care appointment, and hopefully all the referrals are made by next week. I'm going to insist that he participate in a sleep study, which I think should have happened a long time ago. I'm fine with doing things "their" way as long as it works, but when it fails it just tends to burn. I have spent two days running around, talking to people, and trying to iron everything out. Our financial situation is changing rather drastically, too. Some of it makes sense, and some of it is just insulting. My NMA pay is being replaced by BAH, but it's not my pay anymore. I  wonder what happens when non-spouse attendants go through their warrior being assigned here, as opposed to attached. It's as if I'm not worth the expense. Also, finding a living situation that continues to be low-cost for us and include our dog isn't possible. Even though we found a place cheaper than the government contract apartments, anything outside of what is offered is to be paid for out-of-pocket. Like most of the policies and procedures in the military, there's a lot of money spent on contracts and nothing ever wholly makes a ton of sense. I promise to explain it all soon. It's not that it puts us in a dire situation, or that I'm ungrateful for what we have, but it's a lot of added stress to have the income we've received for 10 months reduced by a third in a short amount of time. At least we figured this out a couple of months in advance so we have a little time to practice living on less before the changes take effect. We received a substancial amount in donations, and of course we have the TSGLI (the military price list for compensation for loss of limbs- look it up, you'll either laugh or cry). We are secure, but it's still an adjustment and some of it- say it with me, now- just ain't right.

I'm also sad I haven't been able to take a safety course to get my scooter on base yet. It's such a hassle since nothing is offered here, and the Navy Yard and surrounding bases aren't exactly close.

But we're okay. We're always okay. I have an incredible man and marriage. It just sucks that recovery comes with so much other bullshit. Sometimes it is just too much to process. It's why I have a therapy appointment on Thursday. What I have accepted is that this is an incredibly abnormal environment and therefore, no one can be expected to act normally here. It's easy to judge people who go a little crazy while they're here, but until someone has lived at a hospital in this environment for these reasons a single judgment can't reasonable be made against anyone who at least gets out of bed in the morning. Even though I feel beaten down, I know I'm still thrivin', not just survivin'. Bethesda Tour 2011-???

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sometimes it's just not right.

I've been pretty much immobile for the past few days. I feel emotionally paralyzed, and my crying fit a few minutes ago finally told me why: It is suddenly hitting me how abnormal this life is. I'm not ungrateful, at all, but this just ain't right (as we say in the South). We live at a hospital. I mean, this whole place... there is nothing normal about it. And I wonder if "they/it/life" get away with it because the military lifestyle is so strange that we become accustomed to it, but now it feels like we're doing the only thing weider than that. In this moment, that's what it feels like.

Life just keeps getting "curiouser and curiouser," as Alice would say. And I'm going mad.

I just noticed that this is my 100th post as the Warrior Wife. Now isn't that apropos! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Last Innocence.

As my birthday draws near, I find myself reflecting on the past decade of my existence, or at least trying to do so. I am leaving my 20s having been several if not a dozen different versions of myself, the last five years bringing the most formative changes to my life and myself. It doesn’t weird me out that I’m entering my third decade because age is just a number and I don’t look a day older than 22 on my most dressed-up, perfect makeup day. It also helps that I still insist on comic hero t-shirts and shorts.
But overshadowing what should be a great time of inspiration and documentation of a decade well lived is that this time last year was “the last innocence” for every entity in my life. Aaron and I were still trying to figure out how to be married on deployment, I was getting ready to start college again after a five year break, hanging out with my battle buddies and my dogs- just basically not doing anything particularly special, but it was a good life. I knew that Aaron and I would work everything out and come out stronger for it. We had been married for just over a year; what did we really know?

But oh,
if I knew then what I know now. I wish I didn’t know the things I do. I’d give anything for it all to be taken back to where it came from (most likely a particular layer of hell). I had experienced certain things, of course, that had stripped me of any feelings of sunshine and roses I was going to have about certain aspects of humanity. My marriage, though, was untouched. It was mine and Aaron’s to grow, feed, nurture, and protect. He was and still is the sweetest man I’ve ever known. It’s one reason I was so angry he had to go through nearly dying and losing so many body parts. He didn’t deserve it (does anyone deserve this?!) and it wasn’t fair it was him. I mean, it shouldn’t be anyone at all.

I think about last summer and how little I knew about life and the military. I know for a lot of soldiers and their families Aaron was the first very seriously injured soldier in any unit they’d served in to end up this way. The notification, the FRG email- the whole unit was shaken to its core. Everything we thought about what could happen when there’s a WIA was stripped and all we were left with were questions. No matter what, though, I will always be glad it was the 760th Aaron was injured with. They couldn’t have done more or been kinder, even though everyone else had something to deal with, too. No one came out unscathed.
I just- I don’t know, I’m still just a little sad about it all. It’s fine, Aaron and I are doing great even if recovery is taking longer than either of us ever could have dreamed it would (please make it stop), but I can’t help but just be sad about what we had to lose to get to where we are. This time last year, we didn’t know anything. Aaron knew more because he’d been an EOD tech for over a decade, but he’d been alright. He adjusted well and carried his burdens in such a way that it did not affect me. But our marriage, our love for each other, our very dreams were untouched.

Especially our dreams.

We could still plan stupid things, like what he would re-enlist for (the ability to move from Fort Drum was the big frontrunner). We talked about Washington state, Savannah, Georgia, and even Colorado. We talked about children and my education. Silly, stupid plans. I might not be the most outwardly religious person, but I do often think of the line, “When you have plans, God says, ‘What plans.’”

So there it is. I would like to think that I will sit down sometime before I turn 30 and write about the past 10 years, but right now I think about how just a year ago everything was okay, and how so quickly it wasn’t. I do look forward to the day we will have spent more time married with his injuries and this new life than without it. I just want to keep moving on. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

I Am Just A Spouse, & That's Okay!

Fort Drum’s EOD battalion has three companies, and one just deployed. I know this only because some wives from our Fort Drum unit posted thoughts and prayers, of which I did, too. At least one soldier deploying with them was injured on the same deployment Aaron was on, and I know that the work-ups for this company were incredibly stressful. I don’t wish it on anyone.

But what is getting me, in general, is that so many military communities define what a good deployment spouse is and how he or she behaves. I am just tired of all the polarizing factors that can be listed. What we need to start doing is promoting the idea that we are doing what any loyal, faithful spouse in any situation would do- not just the extra-special military spouse. Separation is not for all folks and the marriages that don’t engage in it don’t ever have to deal with the plentiful issues that arise from it. But it’s normal to deal with separation in the military, so we design our marriages to cope with it and recover from its more adverse side effects and consequences. I don’t think I’ve done anything that anyone else who doesn’t love their spouse wouldn’t do; I’m just in a very specific environment that makes what I do more common. A lot of it this is birthed with what people think marriage is, and how they define their own marriage. It’s different for everyone, and what works for one couple probably won’t work for another. I know that I still required Aaron to be respectful and contribute (as he was capable) to our marriage while he was deployed. Emotionally, I think he did a pretty good job and so did I. That said, we had a really difficult time working out some of the finer points of a relationship and I won’t ever paint a different picture. But our main goal, at all times, was to work those issues out so we could focus instead on simply loving each other.

 I know some spouses virtually leave their deployed service member alone when it comes to all aspects of the home life, and they’re still happy and healthy today. Some soldiers don’t even offer up to be a contributing part of the relationship, and spouses accept that. Personally, that’s not for me but I won’t judge anyone who engages in that type of relationship while dealing with the separation of war. As long as everyone is happy and healthy when the last homecoming balloon floats away, whatever you did was the right thing to do.

What I am getting at is that I don’t think it’s healthy to keep defining ourselves by being a military spouse when it comes to certain (but not all) aspects of the relationshi. We are simply doing what we need to do to make our marriages function now and at a later date, hopefully for the rest of our lives, just like anyone else would do. We choose to engage in the environment that separates us from our spouses, and so we deal with that. I will always stand by the statement that if this life isn’t for you, then simply don’t do it. If a spouse is angry that their soldier “chose the military” over the marriage, then there are much bigger problems at hand. Aaron and I don’t make big decisions, at all, without considering each other and even though I just said I don’t judge, I have to admit that it bothers me when spouses do make choices that affect everyone else without consideration. Sometimes supporting your spouse and watching out for your marriage includes knowing when to say that you aren’t all in for a certain decision, and it would hurt you if your spouse went ahead with it anyway.

But this doesn’t just apply to military marriages- anyone could benefit from taking away qualifiers and declaring that you’re just doing what you have to do to have a healthy marriage, a healthy you, and contribute to your spouse’s health as well. I have plenty of civilian friends who would do what I’m doing now, and they would have to do it without the support the military is offering us. We don’t have to worry about a household right now, and that’s a huge difference between the civilian and military worlds. There are resources for us that aren’t tied up in financial-based need, but simply there in case we need it. I have a ton of people around me in the exact same place I am. We’re a bit spoiled and that isn’t lost on me. Hell, even the fact that I’m here is easier because of the military lifestyle- this is always a possibility when your spouse deploys. I knew a good deal of what was going to happen the instant I was informed of how serious Aaron’s injuries were.

 I’ve rambled a bit here, and this won’t be the last time I touch on this subject. One of the reasons I’m writing about it is because in due time, I won’t be a military spouse anymore. I’m neither sad nor elated about that, but I do want to process the change in as healthy a manner as possible. My active duty lifestyle ended on September 7th, 2011 and almost all remaining ties were cut with Aaron’s unit coming home. If I have any military friends now, it’s because we are actually friends who have more in common than just being in the military together. There are a few aspects of this ordeal that irrevocably tie me to certain people (those who were there for me in my worst moment, the spouse of one of the soldiers who helped save Aaron, and so on) and when it comes to that, I couldn’t be happier about who those people are. But that happens in regular life, too- you go through something profound with other people, and that binds you together.

 So stand up and open up to the idea that we’re just spouses doing exactly what we need to do to secure our marriages for the future. I’m not advocating dismissing the military component in any way, but adding in this concept of “just a spouse.” I hope you all have great weekends and such. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

HLN Blog Piece Published!

Not only are Aaron and I excited about our special airing tonight at 7pm and 9 pm CST, HLN also asked me to write about Independence Day.

Red, White, Blue, & Purple: A Warrior Wife's First 4th. 

I'm not going to lie, I am really proud of what I wrote. It was completely last minute (they asked yesterday) but what came out is more sincere than I could have ever hoped for. I hope you all enjoy it, too!

Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A grateful post.

The farther I get along in this mess, the more I realize it isn't a mess anymore. Yes, we're still at the hospital in our government barracks' room and this still isn't a normal life, but it's life. Everyone who comes into our little space tell us how much like a home it looks, instead of an extended stay suite. I'm proud of it.

Everything is just beginning to feel a little more normal. I think less of the horror we've experienced, and in fact I don't think of much at all besides the present moment. I have always said that I feel like this time I have with Aaron is a gift and I don't want to squander a moment. I know that sounds really cliche`, but I live it everyday.

I still catch myself having moments of utter disbelief that all of this happened to us, how far we've come, and how far we have to go (ugh). It's never not overwhelming, to be honest; I just choose not to think about it all the time. We just do each day and as long as there is cuddling each morning and night, nothing else really seems to matter.

I wonder if other people ever get to feel this way about life. I've learned some incredibly valuable lessons, all by my 30th birthday. I am a bit miffed at all the time I wasted in 20s, but I know I'm still far ahead of the curve. I still have a few things that seem innate of me to work out: I anger easily, I don't forget what I consider egregious wrongs or blatant meanness, and I have my own moral lines. I try everyday to think about Jesus and how he loved everyone and didn't really judge. Not just what Christians say Jesus was, but who he was historically. He was a pretty cool dude. I also try to consider the other person's life from a different angle. If  nothing else, I at least think to myself how terrible it must be to be that kind of person. And of course, I bless their little hearts, like all good Southern belles do.

I suppose this is a "grateful" post. I have nothing to complain about in my life. I still get pissed about what happened to my husband and our life, and our uncertain parts of our future is. This is worse than usual military unstableness. We're kinda stuck for at least a year, if not longer. But once things pick up, life will go lightening fast. And somewhere in all the business of the next two years, we really hope to have a baby.

We don't dream of fancy cars or huge houses. We talk about normalcy. We are considering renting our own apartment later this year just to get a little piece of the normal pie. We want to live with our dog, Charlie Buckles. Aaron needs to remember what it's like to wake up, get ready, and drive into work even if that work is rehab at the hospital. We should have a household again, with bills and budgets. It's been a nice break from reality to live at the hospital, and maybe some people might think it completely irresponsible that we'd go out and pay rent like that (and I do plan on shopping around to see what assistance is out there for us), but we miss life. There's a reason people need a break when they go through what we've been through, and it is a blessing we and so many like us can take that break and not really worry about "life." So, so many people can't do that. We have had our break and we're ready to be normal again, though. At least, as normal as we could ever be. Nothing is ever going to be the same again.

I had a Canon Rebel T2i land in my lap for a total steal, so I am excited to take up learning all I can about digital photography. I am not interested in ever calling myself a photographer, but I would like to make my own multi-media art. I like the idea of hanging my own creations on the wall. I never got into crafting, but I really think that this is my lane. Aaron bought me a zoom lens, and I ordered a LensBaby Composer pancake lens and a lot of books to help me learn all I want to know. I hope to pretty up my blog in due time.

Hope you all had great weekends. Hugs and love. Also, don't forget about HLN Robin Meade's "Stories of Courage" featuring Aaron's story, along with several other incredible troops' tales. It airs at 7pm and 9pm CST on HLN.