Saturday, April 21, 2012

From Heroes to Monsters...A Question not an Accusation

I originally wrote this on my other blog, Southern Girl's Stand, and decided to share it here as well...

It seems the Dr. Phil episode from yesterday, "From Heroes to Monsters?" has stirred up an increasingly crazy amount of controversy. Many have had very negative views on it, while others have seen nothing wrong. In the beginning, the title to the episode had me in a stage of anger and disappointment. It was a let down to think that Dr. Phil would stoop to a point of referring to our combat veterans as "monsters". After watching the show (and talking with a friend) I came to my senses on what was behind the phrase. He was not referring to veterans returning from combat as monsters, he was instead attempting to show that the label as "monsters" is a false label. As a friend put it, "hence the question mark. The question mark shows that was a question and not an accusation". I do, however, think the title could have been labeled as something different. Something that would not have instantly drawn so  much negative attention. Just by adding the word "monsters" to this topic has an instant negative impact.

The comment out of the whole show that disturbed me most was the one in which he stated that the service members returning from war are "damaged goods". I don't look at my husband as "damaged goods" and for anyone else to think that, refer to our veterans as that, or allow other people to believe that is purely upsetting. I would not want nor would I allow anyone in our lives that even thought for a moment that it would be okay to refer to my husband as "damaged goods", because he isn't. He enlisted in the army as an adult, a husband and father to two little girls. He left his family to fight for his country, for what he believed in, to keep those he loves and many others he has never met, safe. By enlisting, he proceeded to do one of the most selfless things a person can do. Him returning someone different, someone injured, someone with the daily battles and struggles of PTSD is NOT "damaged goods" by any means.

During another point of the show, Dr. Phil made a comment on them being healed - or something in that area. I cannot recall word for word what he said. PTSD cannot be cured. The memories and horrors cannot just be erased. What they did, lived through, witnessed will not just disappear. Everyday, every morning, every night these are wounds - many invisible - that the ones that did thankfully return will have to live with. I am not referring to something they will have to live with for a few days or months, but instead it will be something they live with everyday for the rest of their lives.

I do not feel like there was anything positive to take from this episode of Dr. Phil, which saddens me. In the world of PTSD, we often find ourselves looking for that shining light to guide us through. We want that glimpse of hope. The show did not offer that. It also portrayed the some of the worst cases, such as the veteran that caught his wives legs on fire. Was that PTSD or was there more of an underlying issue? To me that is very extreme. When Dr. Phil listed some of the signs of PTSD, he did not offer to give the ones that we as spouses and family members see everyday.

The episode and topic that was aired yesterday gave Dr. Phil and his producers the opportunity to explain PTSD and to educate not only the veterans and their families, but the general public as well. This was the chance to make society view veterans in a different manner. Instead of doing that, more fear was put into people by thinking of our veterans as nothing more than a liability. The stigma that the public has over combat veterans with PTSD has amplified since the episode aired yesterday. This should not be the case. This show did not make anything any easier for veterans and their families, instead, it may have made it much worse with the way society as a whole views veterans following an intense combat tour.

I say all of this as a wife of a wounded combat veteran, one that was married to her hero before the military came into our lives. We survived basic and AIT. We survived an uncountable amount of field probs, trainings, nights away, and deployments. I write this from the heart of a woman that sent her husband to war to have him return as a stranger. Over the past five years I have watched my world become one that I never imagined to exist, one that I never understood until faced with it. There isn't a very good way to understand it unless you live it daily.

As much as I would love for my husband to be the man that I married so long ago, I know that will not happen and I have grown to accept that. I have learned to cope and manage with the bad moments, days, and weeks. Where we are in life is simply where we are. We cannot change it. We can't reverse the PTSD, the TBI, or other injuries. I can't just bring the "old" Kevin back. Instead, I have adapted to who he is now and how our lives have changed. I have grown accustomed to checking out surroundings and thinking things through because I know there are many situations that he can no longer handle. I have changed our routine, as have our children out of the love we have for him. Do I fear him? Absolutely not. Do I fear the way he could act around others and the outbursts he could have? Often times I do. That is just part of this life that we now live. No matter how much Kevin came home changed, I am forever grateful that he came home. With so many close calls, I could have very well been that wife answering the door to the military informing me of his death, yet I wasn't. That alone makes these trying time worth it.

After watching this episode of Dr. Phil, I would give anything for others to become more educated in the life of Combat PTSD. I hope and pray for society to find a different stance when it comes to viewing our combat veterans and what their families live through. They are not monsters in any sense. They are not damaged goods. They are individuals that selflessly went to war, willing to give their lives if that's what duty called of them. Yes, they returned to us as someone different, but take the opportunity to educate yourself on why they returned differently and what PTSD really is.  Society makes veterans with PTSD out to be a threat, when in reality it's the memories, flashbacks, nightmares, sounds, smells, actions, and overall hell of war that never leaves. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Moments of Definition

Sitting at Church on Easter, our pastor asked us to think back on the defining moments in our lives, which I of course did. As I thought back to the moments that have defined, shaped and molded me into the woman I am today, I felt overwhelmed with emotions. Here I am, cutting close to 29 and have seen, done, and been through more than many of my friends. In ways, I guess you could say I feel as though I have "lost" my place with many of them because of my experiences.

What has defined me? Where would I even start?

As a child I ran into health issues, which the doctor explained would take my life without the proper medication. Over the years, I have learned this to hold much more truth than I believed as a child. My health issues have left me in the hospital, fighting to become well again. As a teenager, I really went through some tough moments, ones of which I will not go into detail here on. Then at the young age of 17 I was faced with the reality of becoming a mother as I discovered that I was pregnant. Looking back, I was just a child myself, yet grew up rather quickly as I learned that I was responsible for another human being. By the age of 19, Kevin and I had two daughters just 15 months apart...after the doctors told me I would never be able to get pregnant.

Being pregnant with Bre was discovering my second home to be in the hospital. I spent the majority of the last fifteen weeks there and ended up having her right before 35 weeks gestation. At this defining moment, I learned to cherish every moment. Breanna flat-lined multiple times during the last couple of days that I was pregnant and she had her struggles the first year, and even some now with her breathing. We like to refer to her as our miracle child.

At the age of 20 my husband decided to enlist in the army. At this time we were faced with new challenges, new experiences, and many changes. During the eight and a half years that he was in, we endured numerous field probs, training, two deployments, and countless nights apart. We learned to depend on each other in ways that we never would have imagined. We grew apart at times, just to find our way back to one another and fall in love all over again... or more than we ever were to begin with. We lived through the fears. We lived through all the army throws at a soldier and his family. We lived through the realities of war really can do to a soldier. We lived through hearing of permanent damages. We have survived thus far with my husband being forever permanently wounded from combat. He survived one of the most selfless acts a person can do after countless convoys and multiple IED's, VBIEDS, mortars, rockets, RPG's, Snipers, and so much more. After many close calls, he is here. Everyday may be a struggle at times and we do live our lives in ways that family and friends may not understand, but we do it together. This is just another defining moment of ours that has shaped us into who we are.

One of the most defining moments for me was realizing that I may not live in 2010. When I had to send Kevin a text message from our upstairs room (El Paso, TX house) because I could not breathe enough to yell for him, I knew something was terribly wrong. I looked like I was nine months pregnant due to me being so swollen, not being able to urinate, filling with fluids and bleeding internally all because a doctor did not cauterize sites after surgery. This was a time that changed many things about me. This was a time that truly opened my eyes. At one in the morning, I had to make the phone calls to my parents and Kev to his to inform them that the doctors did not know if I was going to live or not because my body was shutting down. My kidneys had already shut down. There I was, a 27 year old, mother to three little ones, wife to an amazing man fighting like hell for my life. I called my dad and told him what was going on, feeling strong as I dialed his number. When I heard his voice, it was like I became that little girl again, just needing her daddy. Needing for him to say "everything will be okay". I was honestly scared. Before Kevin left the room to call his parents, I kept telling him "I'm my Grandmother's Granddaughter, so of course I would be okay". Yet, after he left, I was on the phone bawling like a little child. This to me, was one of the most defining moments of my life.

Surviving kidney failure not once, but twice within a two and a half month span opened my eyes, it allowed me to let go of the negative and cling to the positive. It has allowed me to cherish the small things and moments in life, as we never know when they can be taken from us. Lying in the hospital both times, fighting for my life, thinking about all that I have in life, made me a better person. I no longer hold on to the past or grudges. I have learned and accepted that I can't change people nor can I make them behave a certain way. I have learned that not everyone will be there when they say they will, and no matter how much it hurts, that's okay. That's just life. I've learned that often times, friends are our family and the last ones we expect to be there for us are often times the first ones opening their arms and hearts. I've learned that people aren't who they say there are and I've learned to let go of those people, just as I have learned to let go of the ones that I am always there for, yet do not have that in return in my moments of darkness. "If someone cannot handle me at my worst, then they sure as hell don't deserve me at my best" - one of the best things Marylin Monroe ever spoke. Why should I share my moments of joy and happiness with those that cannot stand beside me through my moments of weakness.

Even today in life, between my health issues, children, and wounded husband, I have my moments of weakness. I have my days of breaking into tears over a commercial. I have my moments that I want to yell at the world that sometimes life just isn't fair or want to fight with someone because why do I have these health issues? Why is my life so limited after kidney failure and other things? Why is my husband so damn broken? Then through all the pain, anger and sadness, I do find the happiness. I am still here to get angry over this - all things that I deserve to have anger and frustrations over. I am entitled to my "bad" days, especially when I do not feel right. I do have my husband around that I can get irritated with when he does things that make me stop and shake my head. A husband that does love me for me and that I would be lost without. I do have three kids that can drive me up a wall, yet can leave me with a heart so full of love and pride that I never knew existed. I have my family and friends, all of whom support me and love me for me.

The moments that have defined me are too many to mention and I know there will be many more in the future. Whether they are near or far, some I will openly welcome and others I will hope they remain in the far future. With whatever happens in this life, we are all faced with moments that define us as individuals, in our relationships, as parents, as children, and as much more. These moments will be good and they will be bad. They make us who we are. What we do with these moments and how we react to them is what makes us the person we are today. After my kidney failure, I started to change my life around more than ever before. I have opened my eyes and in ways become a new person. I like the new me and I learn more about me everyday.

Life is full of opportunity, take it. Life is full of moments to make memories, so make them! Cherish what you have and who you are with. The moment you are in is a moment you can never get back. Let the good and the bad define you into a person you are proud to be.

What moments in life have defined you? Leave a comment on this blog post!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter 2012

Easter this year was wonderful! We woke up to the kids bouncing around the house, ready to see what the Easter Bunny left. We all walked into the living room together, to see them become overjoyed to see Chipwrecked and three adorable Chipmunk t-shirts and their Thirty-One Mini-Utility Bin Baskets filled with goodies!

Following the Easter madness at our house, we all managed to get ready and head to church for Easter Service. Service was wonderful, one that left me thinking a lot.

After service, all of us headed home, changed clothes, loaded the truck and spent the day with Grandmama and Aunt Jeanette at Little Missouri Falls, Shady Lake, and the Cossatot River. Each one of us had such a great time being out.

We found a nice picnic area to sit and eat our lunch, that overlooked the river area and was out of the way. Before lunch, Kev, Bre, Nic, Aunt Jeanette and I hiked one of the trails and even walked a bit into the river while stepping on the rocks. Bre and Nic braved it more than the rest of us and walked further out into the river, only for Nic to fall in first - shoulders down ending up soaked! It wasn't much longer before Bre lost her step and ended up soaked waist down.

 Little Missouri Falls had so many trails and left us excited for the more pretty days that we can hike many more tails, fish, and play in the river!

Shady Lake was our next stop. It is such a middle of nowhere, beautiful and great place. The mountain water makes the lakes look very clear and inviting. Had it not been so cool outside, it would have been very tempting to jump in the swimming area! The lake is surrounded by a couple campsites and mountains all around. There is a designated swimming area that has a dock in the middle of the lake. Of course, that made me want to swim out to it even more and dive off! Oh how I cannot wait for the summer to get here! Outside of the swimming area is the area for small motorized boats and a dock for fishing. To those of you that know us, you know that this may very well be the PERFECT summer spot for all of us! Kev can fish, the kids and I can play in the water.

While we were there, the kids found a spot full of tadpoles and decided to catch a few to bring home. They are now living in a little Beta bowl (our Beta died a little over a month ago) and we are hoping they live long enough to turn into frogs. Which, at that point we will set them free into the pond across the street from us.

On the way home from Shady Lake, we crossed over the Cossatot River and decided to make a quick stop to walk across the pedestrian bridge and check out some of the hiking trails. The river below the bridge was beautiful and of course has us wanting to go back to walk the trails one day soon. By the time we got to the bridge it was already close to 7pm and we were all getting a bit tired.

Poor Nic spent the day tripping over his own feet or over absolutely nothing. At the end of the day his poor knees we bruised looking and scraped up, just as his elbows were. His last fall was in the parking lot near the bridge. He was running back to me from the restroom when he fell, head first - catching himself with his hands and knees. He instantly stood up, looking at his hands and said "Oh no, not again". Then the pain hit and he burst into tears. I felt horrible for him!

Nic and I

From our family to yours, we hope you each had a fabulous Easter with family surrounding you!