Saturday, October 13, 2012

Candid excerpts from my journals.

Being the wife of a wounded warrior, I've been through more sorrow and hopelessness than I care to recall. However, my journals from that time reflect just that. Five and a half years later, I'm a stronger, more resilient, compassionate and determined woman. I know this based on reading my more recent journals. For those of you that journal, I believe this post will resonate with you and for those that don't I hope it will encourage you to start. If you've taken a hiatus, I hope you'll return to it.

I've been writing in journals off and on since the age of 7. You can see from the photo above that my journals range from my first orange one on the left to the ever popular lock version (very secure I might add) to Twin Little Stars, to Hello Kitty (the original, not the newer hip version), to Holly Hobby to the new improved adult, floral fabric versions. My journals have changed with me. They serve as a reminder of who I was, where I've been and how much I have changed in age and hopefully wisdom. Sometimes I take time to read through them and I think to myself, "What a mess I was" or "Wow, I've come a long way emotionally" or worst case, "I can't believe that I thought that." There's no denying the cold hard facts of my handwriting on the pages.

Journaling helps me clear my mind, organize my thoughts and put my feelings into words, with then allows me to express those feelings if and when I'm willing. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me and when my husband asks, "What's wrong?" and I say, "Nothing",  it's truly because I can't even begin to express what I'm feeling. My mind is going 100 mph and all the thoughts and emotions are swirling inside. I need time to process and sort through those emotions so that I don't say something irreversible. I've done that in the past and I've learned the hard way the words can hurt and can't be taken back once they spill out of my mouth.

For laughs, here's a glimpse from my first journal in 1977. It's all about friends, love and fashion.

March 11th  "Today went to Carolyn's house and Carolyn got in trouble and I had to go home."
Sept 5th  "Dear Diary. Libby got some gouchos, real short and dark brown."
October 19th  "Today Rudy asked me if I wanted to go to the carnival & I'm going to say yes."

Now we're moving into the 1981 locked version, which means I was revealing deep secrets!

April 22nd "After school I laid in the sun for 3 hours and got a tan." This was pre-wrinkle days!!!
Oct 22nd  "Got my hair permed today...turned out good. Now I can put it in clips and not have it hang."
Dec 21st  "Went to Pier 39 with my girl scout troop. Bought gifts for mom, dad and grandpa."

Now that I have your attention, I'm going to move into the later years involving my husband's injury, which took place Feb 2007. When my husband was paralyzed, I could barely bring myself to journal. The one thing that had always brought me peace was now elusive and intimidating. I was dealing with so much tragedy, hurt, confusion and fear that for the first time in my life I could barely put my thoughts on paper. It took a year for me to start writing consistently again. What I figured out later, after much self analysis was that I wasn't ready to put my thoughts and feelings on paper, because that made everything that was happening real. I was in denial and deeply lost. To give you an idea of what my emotional state was, here's one of the few entries I made:

Feb 13th (6 days post injury) "This is a nightmare I can't wake up from and  I don't understand how this happened...Even with all his pain, Aaron is worried about me eating, but I feel sick to my stomach. I look at him and see him hurting and I know he's scared, but trying to be strong. I feel anxious and my hands are shaky. Will he be medically boarded? Will we have to buy a car that is wheelchair accessible? What about life as we know it? Cuddling, intimacy, physical activities we used to enjoy together-biking walking, weight lifting. Do I stay in Augusta while he's at the VA or commute back and forth to Savannah? Where do I stay? How will my working be affected by his needs physically & emotionally? I'm angry and scared and  feel out of my element. I thrive on organization and planning, but I don't even know where to begin...I wish I had family here to support me, because even though Aaron's friends are around, I feel alone. I just want to lay beside Aaron and cry, but I have to be strong for both of us, because his path will be so much harder."

Aug 6, 2007 (6 months post injury) "I'm angry that Aaron is paralyzed. I'm angry that we bought a 2 story house and Aaron can't get upstairs. I'm angry that we can't sleep in the same room due to his muscle spasms. I'm angry that we had to build a ramp on the house that costs $4000. I'm angry that the Army hasn't taken proper care of him: financially and medically. I'm angry that we won't know how long the Army retirement process will take. I'm angry that Aaron is in constant pain and  I can't help him. I'm angry that there's medical equipment all over the house. I'm angry that Aaron can't help with house maintenance and yard work. I'm angry that his paralysis has turned our lives upside down."

Feb 25, 2009 "I have a sadness and anger about our life that always lingers under the surface. I don't know that I'm coping with it as much as just accepting that I'll always feel cheated out of our future and dreams."

March 19, 2010 "When I think back over the past 3 years, I'm amazed by how much turmoil has been in our lives, some of it self-inflicted, but most of it out of our control. I'm so glad that I journaled through all of it, because it's so easy to let it all get distorted. When I start reflecting back and questioning events and timelines, I can pull out a journal and get an accurate picture."

April 12, 2011 " I have all these emotions running through me all the time. I have to believe there is a purpose for all this hurt and growing going on between us."

Feb 17, 2012 "I went on a Wounded Warrior Wives retreat and the experience was so healing. It's been 5 years since Aaron's injury, but obviously life is still challenging and we're still healing. I was able to connect with 30 other women that could understand my journey. In the past, if I did share my experiences, people would have empathy, but in no way were they able to 'get it'. In our sessions we talked about the bigger picture that would come from all this pain and now I know part of what I want to accomplish. I don't want other woman to go through this process alone and it's clear that things haven't changed much since Aaron retired...While at the retreat I met Marshele Waddell. We talked about me telling my story when I'm ready. She helped me to realize that my story is not a sad one, but one of inspiration. I never looked at it that way. Then while journaling earlier I realized that I have forgiven so many things from the past..."

Now that you have read this post, you should know that I've never before shared writings from my journals with anyone, which includes my husband. I keep all 28 of them in a big, plastic crate at the top of my closet. There's a part of me that still feels vulnerable if someone was to read all my journal thoughts, because I fear being judged. By reading through them I've come to realize that I've gone through a lot, survived it and I'm coming out on the other side a better woman because of it. I hope that by reading this post today you can relate to my writings and know that whatever you feel is valid. Not one person is going through your exact situation, so there's no shame in writing your true feelings, because they are yours and yours alone. Take a chance and write. It doesn't have to be a fancy journal. Grab a notebook if that's what you have handy. No one is spell checking it, so write whatever comes to mind. There's no grading involved!

Final thought- A mentor that I met at the wounded warrior wives retreat, DiAnna S, posed the question, "What do you hide from others? If you do, why? If you chose not to hide, what would happen? " I think I answered those questions inadvertently today. What I hope will happen from sharing these journal writings is to help at least one other person know that they're not alone. If I accomplished that then feeling vulnerable was worth it.