There it is. That's how writing started and the blog got updated. A simple enough Facebook post that blew up with encouraging feedback from friends, family, pastors, teachers, and a Captain friend in the Army who replied all the way from Iraq. John and I had talked about me writing our story over the years and I'd never taken it to heart. I didn't have the time or the energy.
For the last couple years, just the routine of life seemed to suck every ounce of anything out of me. At times I thought I could sympathize with single moms. At other times, I secretly thought the life of a single mom must be easier than what I have to endure daily. I would see families with disabled children and my heart would go out to them. I could relate. Often, I said we were like the 80 year old home-bound elderly couple that couldn't even get out to go to church. It was a struggle to keep the house clean. It was a struggle to make sure the bills were paid and the kids were where they needed to be. It was a fight to keep calm and tackle what inevitably had to be done every day. I couldn't get the grass cut. I was so desperate that there were days I couldn't even run to Wal-Mart to get toilet paper. I had let myself take the seat on the back burner.
I'd make sure the boys hair was cut at least a few times a year and make sure their immunization records were in order; yet, I'd always put off doing for myself. When I felt bad, I'd suck it up as much as I could. For several years, I didn't allow myself time to go to the doctor, even though I, myself, had chronic conditions that needed treatment. When my hair needed cutting between my annual visit to the salon, I'd simply pull it back. When I ran out of makeup, I'd just forget about it for a few months or a year.
Sometimes there would be enough energy at the end of the day to get the kids' pajamas on after a bath, brush their teeth, read a story, say prayers with them and put them nicely to bed. That's how life's supposed to be, right? Rarely, would that happen without a glitch around our house. Often the boys wouldn't want to put on PJs because they'd say, "I want to sleep in my underwear, like Dad." I would let them. They would not want to potty. They would want something to eat. They would cry, avoiding bedtime crying like the best, "I can't go to sleep!" Just the routine of bedtime exhausted me by thinking about it. Exhausted, I'd likely fall asleep with my clothes on not even bothering with bed clothes.
Often my Mom or sister might be around and they would help tremendously with the chores of the house and the boys. My family has been our saving grace. Mom spends a few nights a week with us and her father, our Papa has taken the boys more than I will ever be able to count or thank him for.
Last year after John started going further downhill, I even went so far as to pull the boys, then ages 2 and 4, out of the church preschool program simply because there was not enough of me to go around. I cried. I was surprised at this. I thought quitting preschool would be easy and I rarely cried or showed much emotion. Yet, walking out of the preschool that last day after just the first week of classes, I was about as emotionally tore up as I can recall.
On the surface my reasoning was that even though it was only a few days a week for a few hours, I was uncertain if I would have to rush John to the Emergency Room and be stuck with no one to get them or take them back the next day. I was afraid that I'd come home and he'd be on the floor again. I didn't know if John would be oriented enough that I felt safe leaving him at home just long enough to drive the three miles to the Church and back when it was time for pick up or drop off.
Looking back now, tears in my eyes, this was my heart breaking. Those tears were for me. They were for my sick husband. They were for my kids. My tears that day and the emotions I was choking back represented my fears that PTSD and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) were winning with their grip so tightly wrapped around my family's neck that we were suffocating. It was destroying the ability for us to have any semblance of a "normal" life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and TBI have become known as the "invisible wounds of war." If you take a close look at our family, these two are not invisible. They are very apparent in very real ways. They've dictated how we live. They've demanded that we be certain ways. We avoid certain things, while we engage in others. PTSD and TBI have tried to conquer our lives, our time, our emotions, and our mind sets. Now that we are more aware and more open, we are fighting back. I refuse to let these two very real and visible issues conquer John, myself, and our family.