Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mother Hen: To Be or Not To Be

Sometimes it's hard to not be mother hen, especially when I know that a particular act will cause my husband's pain to increase later. Yesterday was my stepson's Christmas party at school. The middle school is large, so they have the classes broken down into teams. There are four classrooms to each team. I am the "Team Mom" for my stepson's team, which means that I organize all the parties, act as the liason between the teachers and PTO, and contact other parents for anything that might need to be done. I had planned to organize their Christmas party, but when Tim was in the hospital I got so far behind on everything. So the teachers planned the party, and I organized a few parents together to help setup and serve food and drinks (in addition to supplying everything needed for the games, paper products for food, etc., for 120 kids). Because we were last minute on it, I called one of the mom's who I always know I can count on to get nacho cheese and chips. Tim and I arrived first, and we carried in our supplies that we brought. I always make certain to grab the heavy items before Tim can. We came in the back door, so once we got our supplies to the classrooms we had to go back up to the front office to sign in. The mom who brought the nachos was there, and she asked us to help her carry stuff in. When we got to her car she tried to have Tim carry the heavy items. She knows his conditions, but I know it's easy to forget when it's a day that he isn't having to use a cane. Because he was raised to always carry heavy items for women, he feels too bad to say no. So I jumped in quickly and grabbed the heavier item. After the party was over she asked him to carry some heavy stuff out to her car for her. I tried to jump in, but I didn't want to embarrass him. I restrained myself, but I knew what all this activity was going to mean. Unfortunately I was right. When we got home he went straight to the couch. He did not get up until late in the evening.

It's a hard position because I don't often know what to do. I want to help him and protect him so he doesn't have to deal with so much pain, but at the same time I want him to be able to feel like a man. Is it worth the physical pain that he will endure later just to protect his emotional health? He gets down emotionally once we get home and he is in so much pain that he cannot move, but at least around other people he was able to feel "normal."

On to the baby update: We had our first appointment with a fertility specialist on Monday. This was our 3rd month of Clomid that was prescribed by my ob/gyn. The fertility specialist wants us to go through a series of tests at the beginning of our next cycle. He encouraged me to take a month off of Clomid until he figures out more. He did an ultrasound to check my uterus and ovaries, and I only had a small cyst on my left ovary. Other than that everything looked perfect. So now we just wait until January to go through more tests. It makes me feel good to have so many things in the works.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Exciting, but Exhausting, Time of Year

Whew! What an exhausting past two days! This time of year gets so hectic, and this week has definitely been no exception to the rule. Tim and I drove up to northeast Arkansas yesterday morning so I could help my mom cater their company's Christmas party. He was having a rough pain day, so I was glad he at least felt like going with me. I don't think I could have left him to go up there otherwise. He rested when we got there, while my mom and I worked to prepare everything for the party. Tim got dressed and came down for the party, but I could see that look of pain on his face through most of it. Toward the end of the night everyone gathered in the living room for prizes to be awarded for some games that we had. While we were standing there he started looking around in quiet distress. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, "I can't do this anymore. I have to sit down." I could tell he was pushing through a lot of pain, so I tried to help him find somewhere to sit. He sat for awhile, then he made it upstairs to lie down and rest.

We had planned to spend the night, but I found out on the way up there that I had a meeting at 8:30am the next morning in our town (2.5 hours away) that I couldn't miss. I am the chair of the fundraising committee for the PTO at my stepson's school, and all of the officers were suppose to meet with a fundraising salesman. Apparently this was the only time he could meet. The way Tim felt made me feel bad for him to have to ride in the vehicle all the way back down, but I didn't have much choice. A few minutes before 11pm we left to drive home. He started feeling so much pain on the way home that he was almost in tears, which is very out of character for him. We got to our house at 1:15am. He laid down to rest, but neither of us were able to get to sleep until 2:30 to 3am.

I got up this morning and went to my meeting. He made it to the couch before I left, and he stayed there sleeping until I got home. The rest of his day was spent on the couch. My hope, though, is that resting today will help him feel better tomorrow.

He's been very positive mentally, though. That is huge! Imagine what it's like when you are very sick or have a terrible headache. I can relate it to migraines, as I get them often. Think of how you just get frustrated after being down for awhile because you don't want to be stuck on the couch or bed. That is what he deals with most days, so frustration is inevitable. But his attitude has been tremendous lately. I don't know how he's doing it, but he amazes me. I just pray that someday we can find him enough relief so he can live a more normal life. Until then, though, we'll just keep pushing to find a fix while still doing everything we can think of to keep his life as active as possible.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

True Forgiveness

This morning a person who I was friends with years ago showed up in my "People You May Know" on facebook. This is a person who did me wrong in a way that still haunts me every day. A few years ago I had a talk with this person. They apologized to me for everything, and I told them that I had forgiven them long ago. My exact words were "the past is the past." And I thought I had. I knew I hadn't forgotten, and I never will. But I believed that I had forgiven them in my heart. I wanted them to have a good life, but there was still something inside me that wasn't right.

Today was different. When I clicked on their page on facebook I saw a picture of them with their family. As I read the comments I realized how happy they seemed to be. It actually warmed my heart. I felt so happy to know that this person is truly happy and living a good life. I tried to figure out what had changed to make me so truly glad to see them having a good life. Then I realized something about true forgiveness that I had never thought about before now. I am truly happy within myself. I could "forgive" them, but it wasn't complete. There were still some ill feelings toward them that I couldn't control. But finding true happiness for myself has allowed me to truly be happy for them.

It made me think about life in general. I've always been taught that the number one rule in emergency work is that you must take care of yourself so you can take care of others. For example, if a rescue worker races onto a dangerous scene without regard for himself because he is so determined to help the victims, then he steps on a downed powerline that's hot and gets electricuted, he is causing more harm than good. It then takes more rescuers to save him AND the other victims. Likewise, we must take care of ourselves so we can be the best we can be for others. Finding true happiness within your own life will allow you to be truly supportive and loving to others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hospital Transformations

The past two weeks were crazy busy for me as Tim was in the VA hospital in North Little Rock. We cannot sing the praises of this new doctor enough. He is incredible! They did inpatient physical and occupational therapy with him, but we also got many more things accomplished. They got him many aids that will help him function better. The hope is that if he stops trying to compensate for his lack of ability from his injuries by walking, sitting, and even stepping in and out of the shower with poor form, then it may decrease his pain level. They fitted him for braces for each lower leg/foot, and he can actually roll his feet as he walks with them. That decreases the extent of his limp. They ordered him a cushion that fits him well to use behind his back while sitting, and they got him another one to sit on. They got us a shower bench to help him get in and out of the shower with more ease, and to sit on rather than stand in the shower when he can't. Hopefully this will give him more independence to bathe himself on days that he otherwise couldn't. They got a toilet seat to help him get up and down from the toilet on days when he would otherwise need assistance. They got him a piece of equipment that looks like a giant fish hook with balls on the ends that he can use to work out the knots deep in his muscle tissue so I can rest my hands sometimes. They temporarily loaned him a Body Blade to use for core work. And they taught him exercises and games that he can do to work his core and extremities without overdoing it. They also convinced him to let me work with him on some exercises such as pilates, yoga, and tai chi. They have helped us get started on the beginning processes of getting him into adaptive sports. They got us connected with information on recumbent trikes and hand crank trikes. We hope to get him into Soldier Ride events before long. And they worked with him on memory skills, which brings me to another point. He has finally (5 1/2 years after the crash) been diagnosed with mild to moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I will never know why they did not evaluate him for TBI in the beginning. It took me pushing for it to get it done. We have known that something wasn't right, but he attributed much of it to his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and medications. As he switched medications, it remained. As we went through PTSD counseling, many problems got fixed or at least came to light to get worked on, but many remained. His memory is not there. There are daily occurances that show the memory failure. Concentration, focus, and comprehension are not good. These are why he had to quit school. He is unable to plan, control impulses in many situations, handle many social situations, and control certain emotions. This is all consistent with frontal lobe injury to the brain. PTSD just exacerbates the problem. Frustration occurs regularly because of his new lack of ability. He got out of hand with blaming others for EVERYTHING that goes wrong or isn't exactly the way he thinks it should be.

The good news on all of this.... discovering the problem and accepting it is vital to improvement, and that is what is happening. He finally understands that there is a reason that all of this has changed for him. He is gradually getting better on the "blaming others" problem. Although he still initially blames others, if it involves someone he loves he will now follow the blame with "or maybe it's just me." That is HUGE!!!! I cannot tell you how big a deal that is. That little bit alone has decreased my stress level tremendously. He still thinks that strangers are always doing him wrong, but he is learning that family is not out to get him. His family heard horrible things about me for so long that weren't true, and I heard horrible things about them that I have learned are not true. It was just his perception of everything. The other day he made a comment about some people who really mean alot to him. He was saying how much they have changed for the worst in the past 5-6 years. He said that all of them have lost their minds. I can now recognize this as a PTSD symptom, so I gently challenged it. I asked him what also corresponds with that time period that might affect the situation. He said his crash. So I followed by saying, "Are you sure that they have all lost their minds, or do you just perceive things differently now than you used to?" He thought for a minute and then responded, "You know, you're right. I don't think they have changed much at all. I think it's just that a different set of things bother me now than they used to. They always did these things, but I didn't really notice them because they didn't bother me back then." GIGANTIC STEP!!!! I breathed the biggest sigh of relief after that because I knew this was a breakthrough. He was finally seeing that it's not necessarily always everybody else's fault.

We still struggle with his son's mother trying to control everything, but Tim has gotten to where nothing she says or does bothers him. It's amazing what she can do now to try to make him mad, and he laughs and says, "That's hilarious. She really thinks I'm going to believe that." Then he'll respond back to her with a text of "Ok" to let her continue thinking she is one-upping him. He used to get furious over those things, and now he just laughs. In the past, the more she did like that the madder he got. Now the more she does like that, the more embarrassed he is that he ever had any kind of relationship with her because his brain is clear enough to see what she is really doing. A huge thing happened the other day that proved his improvements to me. The reason he and his son's mother divorced was because she found someone else while he was in Iraq. He found out about it two months before coming home, so when he got home he caught her. They divorced. The guy she was seeing was married at the time, and a couple of years later he and his wife divorced. Now the two of them are married and have a new baby together. That was a sore subject for Tim for a long time. Obviously if you are overseas fighting for your country and find out that your support system back home is betraying you, it's not something that you get over quickly. Now, though, he mentions regularly how thankful he is that things happened that way. He's a Christian, and he would not have divorced her for anything other than a biblical reason. She gave him that reason... that out. He didn't realize at the time that it was best for him, but now he is extremely grateful that it happened. The other day while doing laundry we found some Razorback scrub pants in a size large. I asked him where he got them, and he said he had no clue. They have just been in his closet for a long time, and he decided to wear them the other day when he was doing some stuff around the house. I asked if he thought they had been in his closet since his divorce seven years ago. He said yes. I laughed and said, "I have a feeling I know where they came from." He got this lightbulb look on his face and started laughing. He said, "I bet they were Barrett's and he left them at my house while I was in Iraq and he was over there with her. That is hilarious!" For him to laugh at that and see the humor in it rather than getting mad was HUGE! I was SO proud of him! (He's since decided to use them as a grease rag.)

So, for current news... we had a memory lapse last night that was very frustrating to him. We try to work together, though, to limit his frustration. He has gotten to where he tells me just about everything so we are able to remember together. He had called his son, and he got no answer. He left a voicemail message, then he texted her to ask where his son was so he could get ahold of him. (He often stays with his grandma, so Tim thought he might need to call there.) About 20 minutes later he got a "Droid" on his phone notifying him of a new message. When he pulled up the phone he did not see the message icon, so he thought the phone was just acting up. I told him to check to see if she had responded. He said that she wouldn't have anything to respond to because he hadn't texted. I told him he had, and he didn't believe me. When he pulled it up to prove to me that he was right, he saw that he had texted and the "Droid" was notifying him that she had replied. He was flabbergasted. He sat there thinking intently, and no matter how hard he tried he had absolutely no recollection of texting. Luckily that was a small slip of memory, but it was very frustrating to him that he could not even slightly remember it.

Today has been awesome! He woke up feeling great, so he has been doing things around the house all day. He started by cleaning, which was a huge help! It's hard for me to keep the house clean after someone who almost never leaves. It was such a tremendous help to me! Now he's outside trying to fix a piece of the house on the deck that was allowing water into the garage. I'm curious to see if he paces himself well. That is one thing his physical therapist is trying to teach him. His pain level tomorrow and the next day will tell us if he did.

I'm going to get on to my schoolwork to try to get some finished early this week. Thank you for reading!