When we take care of ourselves first, we are so much more effective at helping our husbands. Caring for us is easily forgotten; but it is essential! It is not selfish, but it is scary.
How has life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
Family and friends have distanced themselves from us. Physically, for the most part, he looks healthy; however, when they truly experience him they do not like what they see. I have isolated myself because he does not like being in public. When we do leave the house, it is logistics, logistics, logistics. I think more than anything, my heart has changed – it is bigger, softer, and stronger. I have noticed that I care more about people and life than before.
Can you describe a milestone or moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?
Andrew is terrified of crowds – as many Veterans are – but watching him make the conscious decision to ignore that and baptize our son was the happiest moment in my caregiving journey. He was mouthing to himself, “I can do this, It is just me and Andy. It is just me and Andy. It is just me and Andy.”
What is the most difficult thing about your daily routine?
The unknown – there are days when emotionally, Andrew is fine, but others it is extremely difficult. When he is agitated, anxious, depressed, or simply unhappy he takes it out on the ones that love him most.
My husband Andrew was a cavalry scout in the United States Army. During his last deployment, he was involved in an enemy ambush and sustained multiple injuries. These injuries – both visible and invisible – have changed the way our family operates on a day-to-day basis. We label things, we have the sequences of household tasks posted, and we have a huge calendar with the schedule of each day. Though I am his primary caregiver, I must give major credit to our three children: Andy, McKenna, and Chloie. Each of them encompass what it means to love without limits. They encourage him when he feels he has no fight left in him.
In my role as a Dole Caregiver Fellow, I hope to bring little heroes like mine to the forefront – because they deserve a voice, too. They were innocent in their parent’s decisions to marry a Service Member or go to war and that is what we all need to understand. However, they struggle just as we do when it comes to navigating issues such as PTSD or the effects of a TBI.