A fish named Bari. The Betta beta.

•May 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve fought and won an extensive battle with my injuries from a car accident 12 years ago. My traumatic brain injury was one of the most difficult impairments that I’ve ever dealt with. It took years to accept the new me and find my “happy place.” It took a lot of hard work, tears and understanding.  I am very happy maintaining my new quality of life. You have only to read a few of my previous posts to see the hell that I went through to get to where I am now. I thought I had rehabilitated myself as far as I could and so I’ve been coasting through life very happy to have what was left.  Occasionally, I wished for the old me, for things to be different. But I had accepted my lot in life and was making it the best life I could. Enjoying my new normal. Appreciating every second of my second chance. Maintaining feature complete.

Feature complete:  a version of a software in an advance version, which contains all intended functionality of the final version, but is not yet final due to bugs, performance or stability issues.

I am blessed to have this amazing friend. Her name is Heidi. We met in high school and have been inseparable since. But the strange thing about us is, we keep showing up in each other’s lives, right when the other needs it the most. It  is uncanny the way it all happens. Sometimes we go a year with no connection at all. Life gets busy, other things need our attention. Then BAM! Cosmic forces, karma or the good Lord above crashes us together right when we need it. And it is never an ordinary experience. Just ask Heidi. She will smile and wink at you and giggle. I just love her with all my heart.

So here she came again. We were meeting another good high school friend for lunch. We always have fun no matter what we do but as we ate I could not help but wonder what was going to be compelling about this particular meeting.  She told me about this study she had been accepted into that was happening at the Idaho Doctors Hospital. She was accepted into a study of the effects of HBOT onTBI and PTSD and would receive 80 hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments. It all sounded very cool to me.  I had tried every treatment out there but had only read about HBOT for possible treatment for my TBI. Along with all the other therapy I was doing and not being able to work, hyperbaric oxygen treatments were just out of reach for me. Depending on the treatment center and size of the chamber, treatments run anywhere around $150 to $1500 each.  And my insurance would not cover it.

We finished our lunch, hugged goodbye till next time and I climbed in the car and sat that brochure in the seat next to me on the drive home. I thought about it all the way.  I began to hope for some relief and wondered if I could get into the study. The very next day I filled out a questionnaire online. Now, I  am hoping again. A week later I opened an email that told me I was not a candidate. In the reply was something about my lung and diaphragm injuries.  But, a few months later two things happened almost simultaneously.  First, I received a letter in the mail from a good friend. She has no idea how much I love this little sticky note. Especially the part that says “I have no idea if this would help your situation or not.”
Hyperbarics 003

Underneath the sticky note was a newspaper article with a picture of Heidi’s beautiful face. I was instantly drawn to her face and amazed at how wonderful she looked. Something about her was different, very different. Second, I received a phone call from Heidi and all I can remember about it is “Diane!!! You have to call this Jeff guy and get into this study, today. It has been amazing for me!”  So, I called this Jeff guy. After talking for an hour about HBOT, veterans, and all the disparities of health care, I had an appointment to go for testing. I also had this big huge helping of hope show up. What if this works? How would I change? How would I feel?  Would I look and feel as good as Heidi? If I only acquired half of the relief she did I would be overjoyed. But, I know my limits now, or so I thought. And I tend to be very realistic with myself so I folded up that feeling and tucked it away and tried my hardest to ignore it.

After my appointment, permission from my Pulmonologist, some testing and peek inside the chamber I was accepted. There came that hope thing again. Numb, I left to drive home. But then on a whim (I  am a little spontaneous at times) I turned my car around and stopped at Petco. Not  knowing what I was looking for I wandered the isles. But as soon as I saw him I knew he needed to come home with me. Oh, my poor husband. I have at one time or another brought home almost any animal my heart desired.  I purchased my new little guy and headed home with a fish. A beautiful blue fighter. We had a lot in common him and me.  He was a Beta. I named him Bari after Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy. He was a symbol of my hope.  A symbol of desperation. A symbol of this chance to erase some of my bugs. Dan did not roll his eyes this time.

Software in the beta phase will generally have many more bugs in it than completed software, as well as speed/performance issues and may still cause crashes or data loss.

Hyperbarics 001Hyperbarics 002

While I was waiting for my treatments to start I could not help but wonder how HBOT would help me and my injured brain. A few of my “performance” issues were pain, fatigue, lack of organization and communication skills and a significant dose of PTSD. Just a few years ago I was having panic attacks every 5 minutes. That was the hell I was talking about earlier. One of my biggest battles was fighting those panic attacks and putting time and calmness between them. It left me totally exhausted and afraid to leave the house. I began hyperbaric oxygen therapy in January of this year. I was so terrified I could barely move. With Heidi practically holding my hand and encouraging me the whole hour, I survived my first treatment. You would think that sitting in a small chamber in comfy chair breathing oxygen would be comfortable. Well, not for me and my PTSD in tow. It goes wherever I do and rears its ugly head right when I  am trying to hide it the most. I  am not so sure I would have gone if Jeff had not promised me that Heidi could go in with me. Who the heck was this guy with a huge heart that acted like he  cared anyway? I would soon find out his staff was just as excellent. And I never feel like I  am just another name on the schedule. I  do not remember much about the first treatment other than I was so nervous I felt like I peed my pants.

So, thankful for my husband’s urgings I started a journal so I would not forget what happened in the chamber, and to record the effects I hoped I would feel.  This little journal was all about me. Soon I was enchanted by the lives around me. It became about them, not me. I was with heroes of all kinds every day at the chamber. All the heroes, strangers at first, became friends. Friends similar to me. You know the kind with brain injuries and PTSD. We are comfortable around each other.  We kind of understand each other. We have a lot in common. I hear so many stories of horrible things happening to humans and how they survived them. They were maintaining their new normal. Just like me. Every day at the chamber I heard their stories. As they talked I could sense their hope, their desperation. I was not the only one hoping for relief. We all were a little desperate for anything to help us get through our days. So I un-tucked and unfolded my hope. Brought it out just to see what would happen. And soon I began to feel different. It was subtle differences at first. But treatments exhausted me. I was tired, very tired and hungry all the time.  After treatments, I would drive home, shove some food in my face and sleep. Get up, eat some more and sleep again. Then get up and head to another treatment. Once I even left the stove on high with dinner boiling in the pot and fell fast asleep. The next thing I remembered was my son telling me something was burning. Well, we went out to eat that night. Jeff reassured my being tired was normal. It means it  is working. I remember staring at him in disbelief.  But I continued. January to April consisted of driving, treatments, eating and sleeping.   At the end of March, that little whisper of change began to get louder.  I was having a conversation with a few people and I realized quite suddenly that I understood everything they said. That was  not normal for me. This was HUGE. Years earlier I had spent hours in cognitive therapy trying to gain skills to make it through conversations and respond. It was something about me that  bothers me. So, I paid very close attention the very next time I had a chance to have a conversation and sure enough, I was handling conversations better and remembering what we talked about from the beginning of the conversation to the end. And surprisingly the next time I saw them I remembered what we had talked about previously. This was new and oh so incredible. I usually avoided people and conversations like the plague. But now, I looked for a chance to talk to a friend. I started calling people I had not talked to for a while. I have a lot to make up for. For years, I was busy taking care of me. Self-care and fatigue left me too exhausted for a conversation that would only end in confusion and a big headache. So I saved my conversation time for my husband and kids mostly. So many friendships were pushed to the side. But now, I just keep calling and texting. And they do not mind. And I love it. Connecting with friends is something I have missed.

I also noticed that I was calm. Very calm.  It took me a while to recognize it. First I noticed that my shoulders were no longer hitched to my ears. They were right where they should be, relaxed with my hands by my side. I had not had many calm moments since the accident in 2002. My PTSD would not allow me many calm moments.  This calmness came to me without me putting on a fake smile, without struggling to push aside my PTSD. It just happened without me doing anything. It just showed up as a gift wrapped in ribbon.  Just for me. No more holding myself stiff as a board trying to keep it away. No more barely holding myself together.  No struggle to achieve put togetherness, just the gift of pure calm. Every morning it was there. And at night it was there too. I was in shock. It took me a couple of days to get used to it. I became desperate for the feeling not to leave, thinking it might until I talked myself into a big deep breath and to just enjoy this moment. And I  am still enjoying it. Every damn second I  am enjoying it. The calmness is still here. It just shows up every day, just like it used to, as it should. Relief from my greatest enemy and my biggest battle is in the form of a hyperbaric chamber.  I am trying to find the words to explain to you how much this means to me. Hope fulfilled. Broken pieces stitched back together. A big dose of relief. Desperation quieted. Dreams coming true.

Friday April 11th I completed 40 treatments. I tested again. Jeff showed me my results and the testing confirmed what I was feeling. I was in shock. It  is real. It  is working, really working.  That day began my thirty-day break.  I gave Jeff a big hug and drove home in a daze.  Not wanting to leave my happy place, my new friends or my chance at healing what I hate the most about me. But my hope was huge now. My hope was bigger than the fear. A balance that I tried to achieve for 12 years happened in just a few months. During my break, I began to notice other things that were different. After the accident, my brain decided that it just wasn’t going to wake up each day. Thank God there is a pill for that. Some days I just wake up on my own now, wide awake. And I stay that way all day.  Just the other day I had a huge list of errands that I just knew I would not get all the way through. I set out to do them until my usual raging headache sends me home for a much-needed nap. But before I knew it I was done, completely done with all of my errands. Usually just a trip to the grocery store is way more than this injured brain of mine can handle. But I completed all the errands and had energy for more. I was in the parking lot at the bank about to head home. Instead, I grabbed my phone to text my family the good news. Then I just sat there in the parking lot of the bank and enjoyed the moment. I did not have the usual headache that screamed at me to go home and take a nap. My head was not fuzzy with confusion. It was clear, so very clear. I could finally do errands again like a normal person. Weird, but wonderful.

Others began to notice. My son in California mentioned that he could tell from our recent phone calls that mom is more with it. This is HUGE. Jon had the worst time of all my kids when dealing with the new mom after the accident. So this is very huge. He deserves a mom that’s with it. After his phone call, I stopped everything I was doing and just enjoyed the moment with a few, maybe a lot, of happy tears and counted my blessings. Katie just clings to me recently enjoying the new mom. A teenager that likes being around her mom. Hmmmm? Maybe because she does not need to be her own mom anymore. We traded places once. Now she gets to enjoy being a kid and I get to enjoy being able to be her happier, healthier ‘with it’ mom. Shellie, my oldest daughter, has noticed changes too. She can instantly tell when I  am just too tired to listen to her on the phone. I hate being too tired to be a mom when they need me. But now, she noticed that I  am not as tired and even when I am tired I can still hear her and really listen. I get hear my children now. Hear and understand. I  am not too tired for conversations or listening to my kids. This is significant. Very huge. I never miss a chance to stop and enjoy the small things, because they are the big things. So, recently, every day I have been stopping everything and just enjoying the new me. And exploring the new me. And I like it. I  am thankful to be whom my kids need me to be when they need me. When I  am done talking to them I pick up the phone and call an old friend. You know. The one I’ve been too tired to call. Then I pick up the phone again and call another friend that I have not talked to in a while.  Dan just rolls his eyes just like when I bring home all my animal friends because nothing is getting done at home. Then the next day I wake up and start it all again. And I remember what I did the day before and where I left off with friends and family. It  has been a long 12 years. And I have a lot to make up for. So, I call my friends again. I call my kids again. I cannot get enough of this after years of avoiding conversations. I  am having a ball, a headbangers ball to be exact.

A release candidate is a beta version with potential to be a final product, which is ready to release unless significant bugs emerge. In this stage of product stabilization, all product features have been designed, coded and tested through one or more beta cycles with no known showstopper-class bug.

On May 12th I begin my last 40 treatments. I hope it goes by very slow. I want to get all the healing I can out of this. Because, it works. But for now, I  am enjoying every single day waking up and being  awake. I  am testing out my new features and finding out who I am now. I cannot say thank you enough. The staff at the healing center are heroes in my eyes. I will never forget them or what they have done for me. Nothing can stop me now. Soon, I’ll be golden. Even though my youngest daughter told me that people over 40 are not allowed to use that word. But I did. Do me a favor and just don’t tell her. But I think she will notice that her mom shines a little brighter.

The term ” release to manufacturing”, also known as “going gold”, is a term used when a software product is ready to be delivered or provided to the public for distribution.  This build may be digitally signed, allowing the end user to verify the integrity and authenticity of the software. The term does not define the delivery mechanism or volume; it only states that the quality is sufficient.

Sometimes, as I sit and watch Bari swimming around in his bowl, I swear I see him wink at me.


Software Cycle

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Feeling a little broken today

•April 17, 2014 • 3 Comments

Some days are just easier than others when it comes to putting the pieces together in a new way.

Blessing for a Broken Vessel

Do not despair,

you hold the memory

of what it was

to be whole.

It lives deep

in your bones.

It abides in your heart

that has been torn and mended

a hundred times.

It persists in your lungs 

that know the mystery 

of what it means 

to be full,

to be empty,

to be full again. 

I am not asking you

to give up your grip

on the shards you clasp

so close to you,

but to wonder

what it would be like

for those jagged edges

to meet each other

in some new pattern

that you have never imagined,

that you have never dared to dream.

 

Taken from The Painted Prayer Book. http://paintedprayerbook.com

 

March=Brain Injury Awareness Month

•April 4, 2014 • 3 Comments

March 1st brings many bittersweet feelings and memories for me. It is the anniversary of my car accident. It is also Brain Injury awareness month.

That day I posted to Facebook a blurb about the accident and how far I’ve come, how far my family has come since that day. I have had an overwhelming response to that post. In addition I had many people walk up to me and share with me their story. This all got me thinking. What I was hearing opened my eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I knew I had to change my post. Each story was unique. Yet there was one common thing that I kept hearing as they talked.  I heard their fear. A disabling fear of what they went through that has left a lasting impression with each of them. It’s PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whether it controls us or just gently reminds us in various degrees, we are each trying to mentally deal with the fear of our tragedy that has been left ingrained deep in our hearts and minds. We are terrified that it will happen again. Most of us are afraid of dying, but us survivors almost did. We experienced what none of us want too. Our deepest fears came true. A curtain was lifted and we are now on the other side. We know what can happen when our deepest fears come true. And they did. When catastrophe struck we see and hear it all. The screams, the crying, the sirens. We feel the pain. We see the blood. No matter how hard we try to close that curtain and block those memories, for some of us, the chains of PTSD stay wrapped tightly around our feet. Years later when we are healed and only pain and scars remain, the fear and anxiety never leaves us. Some days it controls us and follows us like a big black cloud. On the good days it is like a little pebble that we can hide in our pocket and maybe even forget its there. I call it the crazies. Even though it does not mean we are crazy. It does mean we are afraid. It does mean we are human. We just don’t want our worst fears to come true. Again. It means we are scared to go through life sometimes. Because we know how bad it can hurt. We all experience the crazies. No one is exempt. It affects us all to one degree or another. But we hesitate to talk about it. Why? I realized that survivors crave to be heard and understood. We connect in some deeper way. Maybe it’s the crazies that keep us linked. That secret fear we keep inside. So I’m changing my post to say what it really should. The whole story. I left out my daily struggle with PTSD. But i’m not hiding it anymore. I want you to know I struggle. Every day. But more importantly I want you to know that I succeed. Most days I win the struggle. And I want to tell you that you can win too. I embrace the crazies and love who I am now regardless of the things about me that aren’t perfect and pretty. I hope those of you that struggle can do the same, because you should. I hope there will come a day when we aren’t afraid to talk about it. PTSD is real. For me it has gotten better, but not without fighting it every single day. And not without help and not without talking about it. Now I fight it with out medicine. I am strong enough to fight it with my words and thoughts. It’s a wonderful feeling. If you are suffering, get help. And don’t give up until you do. You are worth it. Keep fighting. Besides, aren’t we all a little crazy? And that’s okay. So, let’s try this again……….

12 years ago, March 1st, 2002,my family survived a horrible car accident. It changed our lives forever. It got better!!!! I was looking through pictures trying to find the photos of the car and what I saw made me realize how much fun we have had since that day. We have lived our lives on purpose. And I thank God everyday for all the “extra’s” I’ve been given. Like watching my children grow into adults, graduations, weddings, a wonderful son-in-law, kisses from my grandson, new friends, old friends, snuggling, staying up and watching the stars all night with my man, hearing “good morning beautiful!” every single morning, travelling to Boston, Maine, Texas, California, camping in the car, hiking ALL the trails in the Sawtooth mountains from Stanley to Sun Valley (on just 1 and a 1/3 of a lung and crying and yelling when I make it to the top)…..just a few of my favorites. The list is endless. Each day is a blessing. No matter how much pain I’m in, or how much confusion or fatigue my TI causes me. It does not matter how tightly the chains of PTSD are wrapped around my mind and leave me terrified to walk out the door and live. We don’t let the crazies win. We choose to be happy and succeed. We enjoy every single day. I’m so proud of my amazing kids and how they have succeeded regardless of our struggles and for being the incredible blessings I live for. I thank God for my amazing husband who has never left my side and has been with me loving and encouraging me every single day. I wouldn’t be where I am today with out you Dan. You are my cheerleader disguised as a tough guy. Remember, No matter where you thought you would be in life today, except where you are and make it the life you want. You might not have ended up where you thought you would, but life has a way of putting you right where you should be if you let it.

Car Accident 001 (2) Car Accident 001 (4) Car Accident 001Car Accident 001 (3)

 

…….and they lived happily ever after.

•March 9, 2013 • 18 Comments

Today. 3.1.02. Was the day of the car accident eight years ago.  I am so grateful to have had eight more years with my family and friends. I received a second chance. Not many people get that. Here is the story of that day and a few days that follow. Just so you can’t say I didn’t warn you. . . . .WARNING:You may not want to read this post. (that was for Dan, mom, and my sister)

The kids had been working so hard to stop arguing. If they could try to get along for just 30  horrible days of tolerating their sibling, Dan and I had promised them a movie and dinner out.  They did it. I knew they would. Friday afternoon we all piled into the car. Shellie was 12, Jon 9, and Katie 2. We drove to the movie. Monsters Inc. We were standing in line to purchase tickets and laughing and having fun. Wow, this goal setting really works. I was so proud of my kids for treating each other better. Then, Katie farted. If you know her at all you know that it was not quiet. It was long and loud and very surprising coming from a 2-year-old. (she is her father’s daughter) then she giggled and we all started giggling. I tried to apologize to the other people in line while laughing. A lady in line smiled and said ” its fine. Its funny and she is so cute.” Soon the whole crowd was laughing. That set the mood for the whole evening. We had so much fun. After the movie we headed for pizza. Afterward we climbed into the car and Katie said “Daddy do you have your seat belt on?” he answered “yes” then it was my turn. “Mommy do you have your seat belt on?” then Shellie’s turn and then Jon’s. We all had our seat belts on and were ready to go home. Thanks Katie.

The next thing I remember was feeling like I was waking up from a very deep sleep. Confused. I didn’t want to wake up but somehow knew I needed to. I struggled to consciousness and heard myself telling Dan that I couldn’t breathe. I heard the kids start screaming. Dan tried to calm them by telling them that if I was talking then I could breathe. I slipped back into unconsciousness. The moon light was shining so bright. The kids and Dan could see the blood all over my face. A man, the one who lived on the corner with the bushes that hid oncoming cars, came and told Dan that an ambulance was on the way. He was practiced at calling the ambulance for this intersection. My sweet little kids started praying for their mommy. A lady came to Shellie’s window and told her everything will be OK. No one else ever saw or heard this woman. An Angel I think. The ambulance came and took me away. Dan and the kids rode in a another ambulance later.   My mom told me that Shellie and Jon wouldn’t even unfold their praying hands at the hospital. The doctor summoned Dan out of Shellie’s hospital room and was told to come tell me goodbye. They didn’t think I would make it through surgery. I had a closed head injury, bleeding and swelling in the brain, my right lung was collapsed, Internal bleeding, broken ribs, broken pelvis, liver and spleen lacerations, my liver went through my diaphragm and pushed my stomach and heart out of place, and the right side of my face was fractured badly.

I seized and quit living. They placed a pick line straight to my heart and brought me back to life.

I never actually saw God that night. I didn’t see a bright light either. We didn’t speak to each other, God and I. We didn’t have too. But I knew He was there because He was holding me. A thought came to me “I’m dead! I’m dead and with God.” But I want dead.

You will never convince me that there is not a God. Because I know there is. Without a doubt. If I had any doubts before in my life, they were now gone. I could feel his arms softly, yet very strongly cradling me and I also felt an incredible warmth on my right side. I found out later that is where my injuries were. All I felt was love, warmth, and healing flowing from Him.  I suddenly knew then what had happened. My whole family was in a car accident. I also knew I was going to be OK. God told me, without words. Just knowing. It was the most incredible and beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life. I will never, ever forget it. He let go and sent me back.

I wanted to wake up but I couldn’t. I just had to ask of my family was ok. If Shellie was OK. She was sitting right behind me in the car. Where is Dan? My son Jon? My baby Katie? Where were they? Are they alive? Come on! Wake up! I have to know if they are OK! What about Where are they? I need to know if they made it. If something has happened to them then I don’t want to wake up. I’m so frustrated but can do nothing about it. I can’t talk, or anything else. I can’t even feel my body. Damn! Sleeping again. Just darkness.

Later, I struggle again to wake up. This sleep is so deep. I want to ask somebody, anybody, if my family is OK. I can’t. I can’t wake up enough to ask. I can’t see and I can’t talk. Just trying to think  when I wake up is too much. Enough. Time is up. Exhausted. Consumed by darkness again.

My lip hurts. I struggle to wake up. All I see is black.  I am trying to tell somebody about the pain. I can’t talk. I can’t move.  I realize slowly, that the loud wheezing noise I hear is the ventilator that is breathing for me. A large tube is stuck in my mouth and down my throat. The reason I can’t talk. It’s pushing air into my lungs, raising my chest, then lowering it.  Strange mechanical motion. Gross. Where the tube goes into my mouth it is pinching my lip. I can feel with my tongue that my lip is folded over with tape. It really hurts. With all my other injuries that hurt, this one sticks out the most right now. Maybe because its unnecessary. It makes me very mad. I sense somebody, my sister, is in the room with me. The room I can’t see. I can’t see her either. Somehow I get her attention. She knows I need something. I don’t know how but she understands and puts a pencil and paper in my hand. Bless her! I scribble, as good as I can in the dark.  “Fix my lip damn it!”Guess what? The nurse quickly fixed my lip. Then I am sucked into deepness again.

The only thing I hang onto is God. Because he held me. And I know it will be OK. Because he told me.

I am hearing a voice ask me if I know what day it is. I don’t know. I have no idea. I tell the voice, “no”. The voice asks me what time it is. I don’t know that either. The voice asks me the year. That one I know. It’s a nurse I decide, even though I am still in the dark. Why can’t I see?  The nurse asks me if I know what happened. I do. I have had a lot of time to think about it. I know what happened. I just don’t know how bad I am hurt or even if I can walk or not, or if there are pieces missing or not working I am only in and out of this darkness. I try to fight it but it comes anyway. Pulling me again into the deepest sleep. I sink into the darkness again.

Somehow I figure out that my dad is holding my hand. He is crying. I wake up enough to tell him that I am going to be OK. I know I’m going to be OK, because God told me. So I want to tell him. So he won’t worry and will stop crying. Then that damn dark consuming sleep comes again.

I wake up and I’m upright. Someone is holding onto me and encouraging me to take one more step. I had no idea I had already taken one. My feet feel so heavy. I tell them to move but they won’t listen. Finally I take one more step. Then they help me to bed. OK, I can walk. Thank God. I can also see a little bit. It’s fuzzy, kind of dream-like, but I saw the floor when I was walking. Because I couldn’t hold up my head.

I am awake! I open my eyes. So awake! I can see! It’s Wednesday. The accident was on Friday. I look around and I see I’m in a hospital room, then I see Dan. Oh Dan! He’s alive! I’m so happy. I call him. He comes to me. He is afraid to touch me. I am so relieved he is OK. I though he was dead. He’s not. I was wondering where he was. He was with me. He never left me. He was beside me the whole time. He wouldn’t leave even when the nurses told him too. He slept on the floor by my hospital bed. We talk a little about what happened. I don’t really want to know. Not ready yet. The kids are OK. That’s enough. Darkness swallows me again.

Awake again. I begin checking my self out. Am I all here? Does everything work? I am swollen every where. I can’t move. Pain consumes me. I have tubes sticking out of me and some are full of blood. I have huge black bruises everywhere. My face feels swollen. My head throbbes. I reach up to touch it. Blood and glass fall from my hair. I am afraid to look in the mirror. But I do. Is that me?

Visitors come and go and so do I. In and out of that damn darkness. My room is so full of flowers that the nurse tells me she can smell them clear down the hall. She has never seen so many flowers for one person before. That makes me feel better.

I find out that everybody is OK. At least we will be. We have a long road ahead of us. But we will make it. All the pieces are still here.

At the end of Monsters Inc., the movie we saw the night of the accident, Sulley is very sad because he misses his little friend “Boo” and wants to see her. The door to get to her and see her has been shredded. Sulley’s best friend Mike gathered all the pieces and tried to glue it back together again. But it was missing one single piece. So the door wouldn’t work. Mike gave the door to Sulley and sadly told him he tried but “It won’t work with out all the pieces” But Sulley had found and saved a piece of the door to remember Boo with. He pulled it out of his pocket and placed it where it belonged and the door worked! He got to visit Boo whenever he wanted. He was able to be with her as she grew to an adult.

And so……. we lived…….. happily ever after.

Complaint box

•December 6, 2011 • 4 Comments

Have you seen the complaint box? I really need it. I have a whole stack of complaints I want to write down and shove thru the slot in the top of the box.

Yes, I’m complaining today. Alot. A whole bunch. Guess what? I’m human and sometimes I have a pity party.  Oh well. Thats ok. I’ll get over it.

I’ll loudly profess that sometimes I hate this second chance I’ve been given and wish I would have just died that night. I’m tired of waking up with nasea. It’s been particularly bad yesterday and today. I feel like I could throw up any second. I’m tired, but for the past few nights I only shake and toss and turn till I finally fall asleep. I’m tired of stuggling to plan out my day, instead I want it to be easy like it was, before the accident. I’m exhausted by thinking thru things that only used to take half of the energy it did before. I’m so sick of every damn breath being a struggle and causing pain into my neck and what’s left of my right lung. I’m tired of my side vibrantly radiatingng pain every second of the day, never getting better but often getting worse and cramping and burning. I hate having to battle anxiety and reminding myself to just enjoy the ride. I fear the frequent headaches. I hate, really hate having to stop whatever I’m doing to take a meditative break so my brain can rest and I can get thru my day.

Things used to come easy to me. I never even thought about breathing before. I suggest you be thankful for what you have, before it’s gone. Because it sucks when it is.

Just for today, I want to be normal. I want all the bad stuff to disappear and life to go back to the way it was. But, that would be keeping my thoughts and hopes in the past. That would not be good. I need to always look forward to tomorow. Besides, what IS normal anyway, and have you ever met ANYONE who is?

I guess I won’t be winning an award for a positive, unfailing attitude today. So what. I don’t care. I’ll settle for the crying, snotty nosed, feeling sorry for myself award. I’m taking a break from positive thinking today. Life is real and lots of the time life is hard. That’s reality. I can deal with that…….right after my pity party is over. Just give me an hour our two to get my frustrations out and cry. Yes, I do happen to be crying, I’m crying so hard right now I can hardly see through my tears to type. But thats ok. Thats my life. And the beauty that comes out of all this pain is that by this afternoon, I will put that damn smile back on my face and go on. Just like we all have to, want to, need to. Because even though that little voice in the back of my mind says to give up, I never, never, never will. And if I won’t give up, then you sure as hell shouldn’t either. I don’t ever want to miss out on the beautiful things in life, the simple things that make me smile.

It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to get frustrated, it’s ok to rest for a while, it’s ok to have a pitty party too. But it’s not ok to give up, so I won’t. Ready? Here I go. I’ll wipe away those tears, put that smile back on my face and keep on going.

Fishy truck ride

•November 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m so excited to go on our fishing trip. I’m even looking forward to the 6 hour drive(I’m lying). I absolutely love to fish (the truth). Plus, my husband and youngest daughter are going and my dad will be there too. It’s near a place where he and I have spent alot of time. Dad with his grandparents and parents and when it was my turn, me with my grandparents. But of course, the location is a secret. Aren’t all good fishing spots a secret?

I’ve been trying to focus on the positive things about this trip for a couple of weeks. Today’s the day and I am absolutely making this into the most wonderful trip on earth and telling myself how safely we will arrive and that nothing bad will happen while we are there and we will all arrive back home safely. These are the things I say to myself to convince my fears to take a hike. Sometimes I actually yell at them. Call it crazy, psycho, neurotic, weird, whatever. I have lots of names for it. But the most important one is fear, anxiety, broken neuron pathways and PTSD. It all starts as soon as we plan a trip. This little voice in the back of my head whispers “if you get in a vehicle, you’re gonna die.”. I gently push the voice and ugly thought away. As leaving day approaches the voice gets louder. “IF YOU GET IN A VEHICLE YOU ARE GONNA DIE!” Oh Lord, here we go again. I’m not so gentle at telling it to leave. I yell back. “GET THE F#*$ OUT OF MY HEAD!” Sound a little crazy? It’s not, it’s actually strategy. Healthy, no pill, cognitive talk to get people like me thru the day. So begins the tiring battle of wrestling my PTSD and trying to just enjoy the ride.

Ever since the accident, when I get into a vehicle, or plan to get in a vehicle I have flashbacks and become terrified of getting in another car crash. Very normal for somebody who has been thru a traumatic experience of any kind. We tend to relive the experience over and over. My blinders have been removed and I know exactly what can happen to a human body and brain when you crash. I have the scars and daily struggle with a TBI as constant daily reminders. Those things will never let me forget, or be completely relaxed in a vehicle for an entire trip.

My mind says, I’m going to die, my heart says I just want to have fun and enjoy the trip. But vehicle rides, or in my case truck rides, because I don’t drive a car, and never, I repeat, never will, turn into a fun park rollercoaster ride. It’s the PTSD working overtime. Plus add in the broken neuron pathway between my eye and my brain that tells my brain the direction I’m going. When I am in motion the signal gets mixed up and it makes me feel like I’m constantly sliding to the right, out of control, even when I am going straight and often when I am completely still. I have spent hours on dizzying exercises, only to be sick all day, trying to retrain my brain and build a new neuron pathway around the broken one. I’ve logged even more hours on the positive talk. It’s been worth every minute. Because it works. Most of the time. Until I’m tired or get spooked by a car pulling in front of us or some dumb move by another driver like texting while driving,  or just that silly broken neuron pathway wanting to play tricks on me. Then I’m back to panick mode and the roller coaster feeling is right behind it.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit the chaos of what goes on when our family heads down the road. I should record it for U Tube and I would make millions. Then maybe we could laugh at it someday.  It goes something like this; Dan is driving on the freeway, going 75-79 mph, because I won’t let him go any faster. Me, I’m riding along just fine. Until, all of a sudden the neuron pathway screws up, I jump while at the same time completely sucking all the available oxygen out of the truck. (In my mind we are flying off the road to our doom again)Thru tears and a full-fledged anxiety/panick attack I try to catch my breath and ask Dan to “PLEEEEEEAAASSSSSSEEE slow down!” You know, to like 10 mph. Of course Dan stays calm thru out this whole explosion going on in the seat next to him and quickly rolls down a window to replenish the oxygen level to normal. (I’m lying again) Actually, he yells, “Diane! You scared the SH!$$ out of me!” Of course I did, and I know it, along with everyone else in the vehicle. Then I sheepishly say I’m sorry even though I really can’t help it. But sometimes, no matter what I do, relaxation techniques, positive talk, and sometimes earplugs and a hood over my head, it happens anyway, it’s just the way I am now. I used to cry and be ashamed at the whole scenario until I found out about the broken neuron pathway and PTSD. Finally we all understand why I do it. Now I embrace it. So now, Dan, after he composes himself  reassures me and tells me I’m ok. Katie reminds me to breathe and as soon as we can we try to laugh and keep me distracted. Anything but sedating me or drinking a couple of shots of Jack Daniels before I climb aboard. And the journey continues.

So now, along with the packing and preparations I add a heavy dose of rest and positive mental talk. I really could die at any moment. Any of us could.  But I’m going to try my best to have a whole bunch of fun before I do. I refuse to stay home too scared to leave the house. I have a lot of living to do and I am going to enjoy every minute of this second chance I’ve been given. As I climb aboard my big safe truck/roller coaster ride, I smile, take a deep breath and hang on for the ride. (or…..raise my hands into the air, close my eyes and scream till it’s over!) Wish me luck! We’re headed to where the big fish are.

Veteran’s Day

•November 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

  This is a patch that goes on an Army uniform. Once on my husband’s uniform 21 years ago. It’s an 8th Infantry Division patch. He was in the 12th Engineer Battalion that helped make up the 8th Infantry Division. His best memories are of this time of service in Germany. Echo Hard was their name. I love to listen to the stories and see the look on his face as he remembers the times. The men were really close, like brothers. Reading their posts on Facebook this morning told me that they still have that special bond years later. They still keep in touch and will never forget each other.

It took me a long time to understand why a soldier would want to risk his life for low pay, possible injury and maybe death, not to mention little recognition and support after his service from his country and government. I have seen what war does to the minds and bodies of the men and women who serve, and I don’t like it at all. But thanks to my husband, who helped me, I get it. I understand. So I want to say a special thanks to all of you in “Echo Hard”. And a big thank you to all our Veteran’s today. We appreciate all you have and continue to do for us. You won’t be forgotten.

All soldiers return from service, wartime or not,  affected by their experience and/or injuries. Some you can see and some you can’t. A RAND Corporation study Invisible Wounds of War states that there are  400,000 total brain injuries sustained by soldiers serving in Iraq and  Afghanistan.  And more every day. Find out about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how it affects our Vets in these videos from U tube, Coming Home (Part 1) and Coming Home (Part 2).  This music video, PTSD by SGT DUNSON says alot about the realities of dealing with PTSD after a soldier returns home. Watch it, you will see. There are soooooooo many stories, I had a hard time picking a few good ones for you. So when you see a vet , thank them, and know what you cannot see.

Get involved and see how you can help. Find your Local Veteran’s Affairs Department here. Find your local State Representative and ask him about the bills in-house that are changing health care for vets. And tell them our soldiers need MORE than they are getting now. But most of all, be knowledgeable and understanding of our vets and all they go thru.

I thank God everyday for keeping my soldier whole. Love you Dan! And yes, I love you too ECHO HARD!!! Keep in touch boys. and Thank you!

 
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