I feel like if a veteran is an amputee or bedridden, it’s easy for people to understand what a caregiver might do, but when the injuries are hidden they have no idea… I find strength in the difficulty because I know how much my husband loves and appreciates me.
If you are caring for your spouse/significant other, how did you meet?
We met on an online dating site. I tease him that he hooked me with the “I was injured in Iraq” line in his profile. What kind of American wouldn’t respond to a disabled veteran?
Do you have any hobbies, particularly any that may relate to your caregiving?
My husband and I love traveling and camping. It’s a nice break from the monotony of our usual routine of going to his appointments and watching television at home. We especially love camping during fireworks season. We can escape the stress fireworks cause by going out in nature.
Can you describe a milestone or a moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?
One of my favorite things is meeting a new caregiver and hearing her say there is no support for veterans’ wives in our area and then being able to introduce her into the amazing support system we’ve built here. Last year, I created a beautiful brochure listing all our local veteran and caregiver resources. Seeing the relief and happiness in her eyes made me feel empowered. I’ve been able to plan and carry out local caregivers retreats and other activities that have helped these women to see they aren’t alone.
When I met my husband, Kenny, he’d been home from Iraq for six years. I met him around the time he suffered his first full psychotic break. He is living with all the symptoms of a schizophrenic, along with bipolar disorder, paranoia, major anxiety, panic attacks, chronic depression and combat PTSD symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks. He thinks of suicide and death daily. He talks to himself and his voices regularly. He has memory issues and lacks the ability to problem solve or handle stress. More often than not, his thinking and processing is like that of a child. He lacks the ability to fully comprehend his illness.
In my role as a Dole Caregiver Fellow, I hope to help people realize that not all PTSD looks the same. I hope to help bring awareness to what caregivers are and what we do. I hope to shine a light on why caregivers are such an important part of a disabled veterans care as well as help bring resources to caregivers and help them to recognize that they aren’t alone!