#CharlieMike, grief, guilt, Loss, survivors guilt, Uncategorized

Guilt is Destructive

The guilt is consuming me today. It’s overwhelming. I feel like I could have, and should have done more, I feel like I should have known this was coming. He didn’t feel good, and I left anyways. I feel like I did this. Did I cause too much stress? I am a difficult person, I am needy, and I put a lot of pressure on myself and others to be more, and do more, to push the limits. I’ve always put that on him, I’ve always pushed him. Was there more I could have done? I don’t know, I’ll never know, I mean, I do know, I know my own brain is playing with my mind and heart, and there was nothing I could have done, he was surrounded by the most capable people, and they couldn’t even do anything. They tried, so hard. I don’t know that I could have been here anyways, I don’t know where I would be if I were there and couldn’t save him. Ultimately, I couldn’t save him, but physically being here and being unable to save him, I feel like would have crushed me more. I am trying to draw on my own strength. I know it’s there because I’ve been able to find perspective in hard times my whole life, granted, things have never ever been THIS hard, but nonetheless, at the time, what I thought I was dealing with was the hardest thing I’ve ever dealt with, and yet, hear I am. I feel like looking back, so many things foreshadowed this, that sounds absolutely nuts, but my whole married life, has been documented, in many ways, my own thoughts and words, written for me to see, our story, captured by so many. We always seemed to grab the attention of someone, we’ve always had so much favor. It’s overwhelming and powerful at the same time. I have all this to look back on, all of this to revisit, my own strength and his to draw upon. My blogs, our documentary, news stories, random pictures that people took, random stories shared about him, all of it. There is a bigger purpose, there always has been, but it’s really hard to see right now, it was then too, but now I know what that purpose was, so it kind of smacks me in the face when I’m down. Flipping through old blogs this morning, I found this, it was referencing a scene (notice I said scene, like I live in a movie or something, must be a lifetime movie, honestly, I want my 2 hours back,) at our kitchen table where Nate was having trouble with a school assignment, it was not the work that was challenging, it was simply copying something from the screen to the paper, as I sat there with a kid in my lap, eating, with my phone, and doing my homework; I was multitasking and he couldn’t, something I took for granted.

“I learned two very important lessons just  sitting there last night. 1.) Determination.  He kept trying no matter how frustrated he got, no matter how many times he didn’t get it right, he was going to sit there until he got it right. If he needed to take a break for a few minutes and come back to it, he did, but he never gave up. 2.) Appreciate a little more. In this life we tend to say don’t take things for granted, but most times we mean family, friends, life in general, we never really take the time to think about the small things. Appreciate EVERYTHING, even if it is a simple thing like the ability to do math, or copy from a notepad to a computer. Appreciate that you can hear, that you can see, that you can hold a pencil. Appreciate that you can run, and jump, and swim. Everyone has an amazing skill set, use it, perfect it, and never take it for granted. Things could change in an instant, and you will wish you had.” 

Things did change, again, and in an instant, again, and here I am. Trying to find the strength, trying to find the perspective in all THIS, that I did in all THAT. 

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#CharlieMike, grief, Loss, Single Parent, Vulnerability, Words to Live By

It’s not Okay!

May will be month 5 without him. I feel like I’m finally starting to slow down.  Things are finally starting to settle, and yet, i’m drowning. Seemingly worse than before. I had tasks daily for months, phone calls that had to be made, paperwork to be  sorted, appointments to go to, and now, now that its mostly all settled, I don’t know what to do. Honestly it hurts worse.

Everyone is ready for me to rise up, and become the person I was before, to stop letting it consume me, and just live my life.  Honestly, I don’t know that it will ever happen like that. I don’t know that there will ever be days that I don’t think of him and cry. I don’t know if there will be  days where I don’t want to leave home, or days where I can’t be home. This is a marathon for me.  This isn’t “over.”

Adjusting to being an only parent has been the hardest transition for me. I was so blessed in the person that my husband was as a husband and a father. I took a lot for granted, just little things that you don’t always think about like holding my hand while driving, or bringing me water in the morning. Things that you don’t always realize are happening until they are gone.

I have really really good days, but sometimes, it’s almost like those days make the bad days worse. I have a lot to work through still. The kids and I are rebuilding our whole life. Our life and our hearts literally shattered that day, and we will probably search for the pieces forever. So, if you see us out, and we are having fun, don’t assume that the next day will look the same because it doesn’t. Don’t assume that 15 minutes later I’ll still be ok, because sometimes, I’m just NOT okay, and thats ok. I wrote a piece years ago dealing with my life after Nate was injured, and I’m finding a lot of similarities. I said,

“Sometimes, I think I just need to talk. There are days I bring up my husband being injured in conversations about Tupperware. I think I do that because I want someone to ask, I want to tell someone. To cry, to laugh, just to get it all out. I want people to ask if I am okay so I can say…… NO, I am NOT okay.”

I have a lot of guilt because I really struggled during that time, I was lost, I was alone, I was angry.  Granted, I feel like we came out on the other side, but even in that article I questioned whether it was all worth it.

“Was it all worth the price so many of us have paid? As selfish as it sounds, sometimes I think it might have been easier if he didn’t come home at all.”

Looking back, I see it now.  It was worth it.  He was supposed to die on January 13, 2007. He didn’t. I got 10 more beautiful years with him.

This is NOT okay, it never will be. I’m NOT okay either, and thats Okay. it’s okay to not be okay. IMG_0229-1bw

 

 

Uncategorized

32 Without You

I am on day 3 of being 32, and all the things I thought I would be are no longer. I never expected this, I couldn’t have ever imagined this, I wouldn’t wish this on the worst person I know. Some days are productive, but exhausting, and then I can’t sleep, my brain is foggy, and my emotions are in overdrive. Some days are not productive, somedays I can’t pull myself out of the hurt. Some days I have to sit in it to know it’s real. I never know from minute to minute how I am going to feel, and I can’t do any more than right now. I don’t interact the same way I used to, in fact I’m choosing not to interact as much as I used to, its easier than letting people know how much I really hurt. Spend too much time with someone they begin to figure you out and you can’t pretend, and then they want to to talk about it, and I don’t. There isn’t much to talk about. Nate died, it’s what it is, and now I just have to figure out where to go from here, and no one can do that for me. I spent my entire adult life with him, I literally grew up in his arms, and now I’m alone. That changes everything. My daily routine, my kids, finances, social life, work life, there is not any one thing that this did not change. It’s hard to try to figure out what you want when up until 3 months ago, you had it all, and this isn’t something you can just make happen again. The life we built is gone too, it will never look the same. How do you begin to sort this out, where do I begin?IMG_0168-1bw

 

 

 

 

#CharlieMike, Faith, grief, Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

Trigger Warning: Suicide

I guess, now that things have settled some, I should take some time to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been asked, friends have been asked, it’s been said in front of a large crowd, there is this quiet buzz kind of going around. The topic no one wants to talk about, but everyone wants to talk about. Cryptic messages, slight side eye looks that come with phrases like, “Did he….was it….was he one of the 22? ” No one ever wants to outright ask, Did he what? Was it what? Did he kill himself? Was it suicide? No, the answer is NO, my husband did NOT take his own life. Does this mean that I won’t continue doing the work I do in the space of Veteran Suicide Awareness and Prevention, absolutely not. This is a cause that has been important to me for a very long time, and will continue to be, let me take you down a rabbit hole really quick…

I wrote this in 2011,

I wanted to write you a letter, but I don’t even know your name, I didn’t take the time to get to know you, to know your story, to feel your pain. There is no way I could have known. The closest thing to Military I ever knew was the ex Army guy who drank with my Dad, oh and there was a Marine I messed around with the summer before my senior year. In my naive teenage brain, they certainly were not hurting, or maybe they were. Looking back they certainly were. They were trying to burry they hurt.Is that what you were trying to do? Soldiers are supposed to be strong, I thought I was strong,I was doing my job, but you, I thought you weren’t. I didn’t know. I thought you were so stupid, so ignorant, what could ever be so bad that you had to take your own life. If it sounds like i’m making excuses for myself, I am. I think about you all the time. I can’t get you out of my head. Your half smile, your eyes and the way they closed so peacefully,your smell, that god awful stench that is forever imbedded in my nose. The way your barracks room was left in perfect order, nothing out of place. Did you do that on purpose, or is that just how you were, I want to know, I want to know you. Its cold here today, when it gets too cold and my feet start to change color I think of you, you looked cold the way the blood pooled in your feet. Where were your friends that night did they care? Maybe they didn’t know, or maybe they ran at the first sign of shit hitting the fan. That’s what people do I guess, we run, run from our problems, from our fears, we run as far and as fast as we can never looking back. Now, now… I get it. I get that you tried to run and no matter where you went or what you did these images, these thoughts, the guilt, it haunted you, it chased you down until you couldn’t run no more; until the light at the end of the tunnel, the sacrifice of the very breath you breathe was the ONLY way out. This is me… running, from you, trying to escape the image, the guilt I feel for not even knowing your name, for not taking one minute out of my life to TRY and understand what several combat tours did to you, for jumping to conclusions about your selfish motives.The images, the the thoughts, the smells, they never left did they? I saw a picture today of a young cowboy, reminded me of you, he was rounding the corner of an old brick building, light behind him and darkness up ahead, I can’t stop looking at it, not for a second.His clothes, the way he wrapped his bandana around his neck just like you did, like it was comfortable, you probably did it all the time too, but this time would be different, THIS time it was a tool to cover the weapon that ultimately took your life. Anytime I see those cords I choke a little bit, I don’t keep them in my house, I can’t. Life…and Death for that matter are crazy, every moment preparing you a little more for the next, this moment being the start of a journey I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. I think you may have saved my marriage, that moment of self realization that occurred within me, that moment I realized that it could be me, it could be anyone, that moment was my saving grace. I owe that moment to you.

This cause, will always be important to me, but this is NOT Nate’s story. Nate fought hard, were there moments where he questioned his purpose, I won’t lie to you and say no, we had our moments, there were times I thought he was going to be come THAT statistic, but he didn’t. He became another one.

I’ll dive deeper into this brain stuff in another post, but for now, this needs to be said.

My husband  did NOT commit suicide, he died of heart failure. His heart failed due to hypertensive heart failure, directly linked to his brain injury. He lacked the ability to regulate his blood pressure even on extensive medication, he was hospitalized several times in the last year for low blood pressure, for insanely high blood pressure, and for uncontrolled fluctuations. No matter what medication they put him on, they couldn’t fix the damage to the brain that controlled this. It was only a matter of time. We knew this, sort of, we didn’t have a number of days, but we always knew it was a possibility. He chose to love deeply, live like it mattered, and live every day in a meaningful way. Now all that is left to do is for me to fight at least as hard as he did. Helmuth(5of227)

Uncategorized

Sacrifice

Easter was Nate’s favorite. Never have I met a man that was more deeply rooted in his faith than my husband. He was always so grateful for the gift that Jesus is to us, and for the sacrifice made on our behalf. There was never a day that he did not remind me or our children to remember that, to really remember that, and to live like it mattered. We were given something no one can ever take from us, to live like that isn’t huge is not okay, and he made sure we knew that, not just in his words, but in his actions.

The word sacrifice is used a ton in the military community, and in our lives, and while there is a lot of sacrifice made, my husband made sure we knew that it paled in comparison to the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I have a hard time with that, its so big, and I can’t imagine what that had to feel like, what it felt like for God, the love He has for us, its unimaginable. We send our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, our children to war, and that is a sacrifice, long hours, days, months, years apart, and that is a sacrifice, lives are lost and that is a sacrifice, but to send your son to sacrifice for all of us messy people, I just can’t.even. begin to imagine.

But, He knew, He knew the plan, and he still does. He knew the plan then for Jesus, and He knows the plan now for me and my life, and that is what gives me strength.That is what keeps me waking up every single morning. Every morning I wake to a brand new day, to a day that is full of new grace, and mercies that are un-ending. A day where my sins are still forgiven and no matter how big they feel, He is on my side.

I was going to run away this weekend and not participate in Easter, I didn’t want the Hurt. I wanted to pretend like none of this happened, but it did, and the sacrifice Jesus made happened, and I am selfish for even thinking that I should avoid it, when in reality it is the very thing I should cling to. Helmuth(5of227)

Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3)

#CharlieMike, Community Service, Faith, grief, Loss, Shaken, Vulnerability

What’s best for three.

About a thousand times, I have heard, “Just do what is best for you and the kids,” Or “you have to do what feels right.” Does that mean what I think is best,  or what you think is best, which definition and whose opinion are we basing this off of? Is it what feels right to me, or to you, and when? Because we all know, I am currently a minute by minute kind of person, I have to be. Sometimes, things are really good, and other times I crumble, and there truly is no rhyme or reason to it.

You begin to second guess yourself when you have a thousand opinions in your ears, a thousand people who think they know what is best. I am grateful for those who truly know me, and who truly knew my husband beyond small glimpses of things. You see, there was a lot people didn’t know about us, about our life, and about my husband. He struggled way more than most of you know, but we kept it within the confines of our 4 walls, and those closest to us, because he truly wanted what was best for us, and that for him was to be a provider, and to be strong, to lead us to Jesus, and to put aside his own struggles for the three of us. He never wanted the attention to be on him, not for a second.

I often wonder what many would have said to him, if they knew how much he struggled on a daily basis, if they knew how much pain he was in daily, if they knew he fought to do basic human things, and yet he was the first to work, and the last to leave every single day. He worked alongside me in the community despite his pain and struggles, he supported the kids whole heartedly at all of their activities, even beauty pageants, he was an amazing pageant Dad! He painted an image, he paved a path, he made his life what he wanted it to be despite struggles. More importantly, despite the opinions of others, Nate did what Nate wanted to do. We were told in 2008, he would never hold a job, that he would never have the mental capacity to complete school, that we needed to accept that he served honorably, and now it was time for him to rest. That wasn’t what was best for him, or us, so we fought it.

Almost 10 years later, Nate had the life he fought for, he graduated from UF and fulfilled his dream of becoming a Gator, he had one of the highest GPA’s in his class, and was excelling in his career. He still was in the same position health wise that he was 10 years earlier, and in retrospect, even worse. If we listened to everyone’s opinions then, where do you think we would be? The move to Florida for Nate to go to school was the best decision we ever made, and the judgement was laid on thick for that one. We literally sold everything we owned to take a chance, for him to make his life what he wanted it to be. In his eyes, this is what he fought in Iraq for, for the freedom to choose, for the freedom to make life what he wanted it to be,  for the freedom to do what is best for three. MM_0175-1.jpg

 

Faith, grief, Hero Missions, Shaken, Truck, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

Spoiler Alert; This wasn’t supposed to happen.

I’m not good at talking, I can’t find the words to say when we sit face to face, probably because I’ll crumble, maybe I fear the reaction, maybe I fear judgement, I don’t know, but I can write. I can write because I can spew, no reactions, and then, I can walk away and be done with it. There is so much of this that can’t be fixed, nothing that anyone can do or say can fix this. I have to work through it on my own. Im angry, everything hurts, everything. Just breathing somedays hurts because I can’t understand why it had to be him and not me. We talked about this, we talked about how I thought he would be stronger than me, and he could live without me, but I could never live without him, and yet, here I am without him. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Simple everyday things were not supposed to feel like this.

The list of things I currently hate includes, but is not limited to;

Restaurants we have been at together

Restaurants we have never been at together

Driving his truck

Not driving his truck

Having his things in the house

Not having his things in the house

Living in the house

Thinking about NOT living in the house

The fact that he is soooooo loved

How prepared he was for this

Sleeping

Not Sleeping

Not being able to have stupid arguments

The fact that we EVER had stupid arguments

Hearing songs that remind me of him, or special moments

Bonfires

The VA

Putting things in JUST my name

Kids activities, this week Dads and doughnuts, we avoided it.

Math- that was his deal, and I am not smart enough to help my kids.

Going to Church

Not Going to Church

Meeting People who will never know him

Working

Not Working

Hanging out with couples without him

Traveling

Not Traveling

Leaving my kids for even 5 minutes

Not being able to leave my kids

Being far from my siblings

The list is not all inclusive, but that should give you an idea of the plethora of emotions I go through on a daily basis just trying to get through every day tasks.

The one thing though, that I hate more than anything else in the whole world right now is the fact that he knew the real me, the me I am so good at hiding, the me that is not as well put together as you all see. He held that together because when I fell apart he picked me up, he he was my punching bag, my voice of reason, my everything. I keep people at arms distance so I don’t have to let them in, I’m really good at that, always have been, I let him in, and now I’m here, without him, and I don’t know which way is up.

 

Spoiler Alert; this happened, we are here, and now I’m stuck.

 

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Uncategorized

Who am I without you?

Two months, two whole months I have lived, or not, without you. It feels like forever, and it feels like yesterday all at the same time. I still don’t understand how we got here. So many things, so many pieces of this journey that looking back, I feel like prepared me for this, and yet I still feel so lost. I can’t see my future anymore, and that is terrifying. We had big plans for our life, together, and now I just exist. I am doing the best I can to stay true to the things we wanted for this year, and for our future, but I’m dropping balls right and left, I’m not functioning well. You are everything to me, Nate, and now you’re gone.

So many feelings bring me back to the first time I really had to be away from you, the first time I had to say goodbye, stepping into the unknown, feeling so alone, you so far away, and me here. A certain helplessness that overcame me, and at the same time just knowing I had to keep going.  It feels so similar. Except, I got you back. Then, I feel like I lost you, we got lost, and we fought so hard to get to where we are, were, in the last couple years. This was everything we wanted. We were building our new life and it was perfect, and now, now you are gone. Now what? Where do I go, what do I do. Who am I without you, Nate? 38

grief, Loss, Uncategorized, Vulnerability

Tearing Down Walls

I started blogging years ago, as an outlet, some place I could go to word vomit, someplace I could put things and share them, or not. It was more about the physical process of typing the words, getting them out of me and to somewhere. Eventually though, I felt like I ran out of things to say there, so I stopped. In the last few months, I began to feel like I needed that outlet again, but I didn’t feel like what I needed to say was worthy of being read by my friends, family, strangers. Today, I went back and read some of those old posts, and in attempts to share more of our story with you, I am going to share some of them.

This one brought me to my knees this morning, this one…was written by Nate, and I told him that he should write something, so that others could see the other side, so it didn’t seem like this was just about me. He said he didn’t think his words were good enough, HE felt unworthy of sharing his words, and I encouraged him, that even if they helped one other person that it IS worth it, it is ALWAYS worth it. I’m really good at offering up advice and not taking my own.

Lots of things stood out, and I am grateful.

Tearing Down Walls

“Hello, most of you who follow this blog know a decent amount about me. I am the other half or in some cases more like the one quarter compared to Kristle’s three quarters. I would venture to say that a large majority of you have a spouse who is like me and needs at times to be coaxed like an adult child or lead by a leash to get things done and done right, or just you simply decide to do it yourself. For some of us warriors, I guess is the word to call us, it takes a lot of swallowing pride to watch this. I speak for myself here but I believe that I had been a strong, confident and mostly successful soldier and person before my injuries and ailments. I always felt like the best was the only success and that I was always strong enough to do it all, not only perfectly but also with out help. Now skip forward a little to my time after I had returned home from Iraq, early 2008, and on my way into a Warrior Transition Battalion(WTB).

All I wanted was to beat this diagnoses of TBI and PTSD (among other less significant injuries), but it seemed the harder I tried the worse I got. So I reached a point in my life where I had to come to terms with the idea that what I knew best and where I wanted to be was ending, I was medically retired. While this was an honor in some ways to be given the rights and benefits of a soldier who committed their life for 20 or more years to our country, I truly was sad, disappointed and ultimately depressed. The good though in all this was Kristle and our family. I would never have to leave them again to go fight a war, I could be their to help raise them, to watch them grow and be involved in their lives. Boy did I not see the bright flashing signs telling me to get help or things will be worse. Now, I could argue that I did go through “therapy” of many sorts and was on a slew of medicines, 17 or more at one point, so I should be doing good. I also decided I could fix my problems at least on the outside by just saying “I wont be like that anymore” or saying “I changed, look at how good I am”. EHHHH EHEH! In the voice of some crazy sketch comedian on one of those shows…… I truly hadn’t changed nor fixed things at. In fact I had built a pretty thick wall around me that no one could see past or feel my pains issues or burdens, accept of course the one person who I cared most about. That wall was paper thin to her. I still tried to hide behind it but she could feel the pains and see the shadows. No I was not hiding it from her, I was simply denying it. Denying it to the point that it has shredded our marriage, or trust and her personal sanity.

Denial is a powerful thing. While I was busy trying to be perfect and hide from failure, Kristle has been left following behind me picking up the damages. Denying herself along the way, dropping her life so that I could pretend to be Nate.  Until enough was enough. I always swore I would do anything to get better, or help my family or be “normal”. That is anything but what would put me out of my comfort zone; deep intense therapy, in-patient therapy etc. What a croc of bologna, I did just enough to get by, put on just a enough of a front to keep people happy. When inside I was dying, and I was only hurting myself and my family more and more. I guess where I’m going is that us “warriors” try and maintain this perfect, prepared and tough exterior at all costs. But is it worth it? Warriors even wives would you sacrifice the very thing you want to protect and love for the pride of appearing perfect or together? Would you accept, I mean truly accept, the help that is out there to help you cope in a healthy way so that the you that your loved ones need can really be there? Can you give up the pride, break down and say HELP! PLEASE HELP! So those of you closest or that know how to help can help. I know now finally after four years of hiding that this is what I must do.

It is not easy for you or even anyone around you, but it is necessary. Learning when to say enough, learning to accept success even if it’s less than perfect, learning to accept the gifts that your loved ones give to you by their personal sacrifices daily.  I know that’s what I want. I want to be able walk into a busy place and handle my fears, to learn how to communicate effectively when I need a break or just expressing myself with out anger or rage, to learn how to treat my wife so she knows I love her everyday not just the good ones, I want to follow through with my life plans, to pave a path for my son and daughter to follow and be proud of, I want to be the real me for me. I want to learn to be Me so everyone knows who I really am, not just what I what them to see. True change has been a long time coming, trust will be a structure built again with my wife once again, not just patched long enough to stay dry.

Some times breaking down to your most raw vulnerable state is the best, maybe even the only way to begin to build yourself back up. That is where I am finally, fours years later, one badly damaged marriage and family later, one extremely hurt and burdened woman still holding it together.”

Nate