I live in a small town an hour outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. I help take care of my husband, Randall, who is a disabled veteran. He served 22 years with the Army National Guard. He is also a Medically retired first responder of 18 years. We have been married for 30 years and have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.
In 2006, after a 1 ½ year deployment to Iraq, I started to notice changes in him. When I reached out to others for help during that time, I was always shut down due to him being in the National Guard. It was hard to find help back then for my husband. The PTSD affected his employment as a first responder as well as our family.
Peer support is so important! I went 12 years without even knowing there were support groups out there for the caregiver. I felt like I didn’t belong since I didn’t have the official title of caregiver through the VA. Although, I was still giving my time and energy, taking off work, not getting enough sleep to take care of him. I didn’t understand the military system. Please speak up. You may think you have little to offer someone. What I would have given 10 years ago for someone to say, "Hey, you’re going to be ok through this." We need to support each other. Being a caregiver to a veteran and/or first responder puts a lot on you. I have had to raise 6 children mostly by myself. I have gone to sporting events, band concerts, dance recitals, and even our own children’s weddings by myself. I can cry and become bitter or I can keep my chin up and take one day, one step at a time, and just hope that tomorrow is a new day. Having the support of a few good friends, family, and now the caregiver community has helped to bring a new light of hope into my much-needed crazy world.
Being in this group has helped me to see, and to understand, that I am not alone, like I felt for so long. Being chosen for the Caregiver Mental Health and Restorative Weekend and getting to meet other people going through what I was and finding out I was not alone was so amazing! I came back with so many new tools to use in my life. Some things we don't always want to think of but is a must, like funeral planning, to know how to present ourselves for a job interview in 30 seconds or less, and even breathing exercises, and a trip to Curves. The group was small, which I am grateful for because it gave me a safe place to be myself. It was a weekend about the caregiver and what we have to bring to the table. Most of us there found it hard to look at ourselves and rediscover who we really are, especially when we have put so much of our life on hold for our vets. We had amazing ladies there that were Vets themselves, who told of their husband’s services, and not of themselves, but when their stories came out, they were amazing, and inspiring. We had personalities that ranged from quiet as a mouse to "over the top and owned it", and they were all amazing in their own way!!! I felt a connection to each of them. They inspired me, lifted me up, and helped me to know, I AM NOT ALONE IN THIS JOURNEY OF CAREGIVING!
Thank you Rondalene for sharing your words of wisdom with us! We are so
blessed to have you in our tribe!