Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reaching Out

When was the last time you reached out and asked for help? Maybe you needed emotional support or needed physical help getting something done, but you just couldn't bring yourself to do it. What's holding you back from receiving the support that you need to move forward? Caregivers are not exclusive to needing support. Anyone who is grieving, dealing with tragedy, going through divorce, financial crisis or other difficult situations often need support, but may find it hard to do so. Why is that?

 I think back to the first week of my husband's injury and recall the physical and emotional turmoil we were in. Our lives had been turned upside down. We were both dealing with his injury, both visible and invisible, but the way we each dealt with it was completely different. I remember sitting in front of the computer typing various phrases into  Google's search box. I was hoping to find some sort of support system that would let me know I wasn't alone, but the term "caregiver" didn't even cross my mind. How could it when I only knew myself as his wife? In our location, there were no support groups for military spouses of injured soldiers. I asked many times at the VA and the response was a blank look along with the answer "no." I understood that my husband was their focus, but I needed help as well. How could I be there for him when I was falling apart? I attempted to put on a strong front, acting as if I had everything figured out, but on the inside I was screaming at the top of my lungs for help and acknowledgement. I desperately needed to connect with anyone who could serve as a mentor. I needed someone that had been through it and could help me navigate what I now call a "scavenger hunt." I was barely treading water trying to keep some resemblance of our "old" life intact, which was unrealistic, because I didn't have the tools to accomplish that.

What makes it so difficult to reach out for help when we need it? Maybe it's our pride, needing to be in control,  not wanting to be judged, shame, not knowing where to seek help or simply feeling that no one else could possibly understand what we're going through. Sometimes we're in denial. As one caregiver said, "...my husband and I have it all figured out and we're coping. I was totally lying to myself." Maybe we look at other people's lives and think, "How can I ask for help when they have so much on their plate? I don't want to burden anyone." Maybe we're afraid that if we do get help then we'll have to expose the reality of what's really going on in our lives and that makes us fearful and vulnerable.

Of the times that people offered help, and probably had good intentions, more often than not they didn't follow through. We'd get our hopes up only to find that they weren't reliable and when that happens enough times you lose faith in people and simply don't ask anymore. You decide that it's easier to rely on yourself instead of others. Often times, people do not "get it" and can we really expect them to when they aren't with us 24/7? For many of us, when we're out in public we may look fine, but what's going on at home is another scenario altogether. We're good at keeping the collateral damage under cover. Another caregiver said,"There are not so many people to reach out to. You have to feel that you can trust them. I'm not sure I know how to accept help, it's been so long since I really had any. I almost never share my true feelings about our situation, because I don't think they can handle it."

It's obvious that reaching out for help can be difficult, but we have to realize that it's healthy to do so. Yes, people may let us down on occasion, but I have found more often than not that when I opened up and reached out to others, that in turn I made a connection and found support. I just had to learn what resources were available and reliable. It's been 6 years since Aaron's injury and I'll be honest in saying that I sometimes still struggle with this, because I'm a work in progress! However, what I've realized is that everything I've been through has given me compassion and the tools to help others. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. My hope is that by reading my words today that you'll find the strength to reach out and know that you're not alone.

Here are a few amazing organizations available for support:


Resource lists:


Helpful books:

"Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home: Hope and Healing for Families..." author Waddell and Orr
"When War Comes Home" authors-Adsit, Adsit and Waddell
"Combat Trauma Healing Manual" author Addsit, Rev. Chris
"Bread Crumbs on Purpose" author Fulkerson, Sandy