Vulnerable 

Exposed. Unguarded. Out on a limb.

Naked.

These words don’t conjur the most positive images. But I would pose to you that this is exactly where God does his best work.

(Youversion bible app)
When we are humbled enough to accept all he has to offer, when we let him break down our walls and stop pushing him away because of our self-imposed need to present a perfect self to him, that’s when he can use us.

In our brokenness, in our frailty, in our weakness.

This video is my brave Army guy’s testimony at our church. 

This video took courage. Mr. Wonderful is the guy I’ve been writing about for some time now. My sweet, strong army guy has suffered terribly for years from PTSD, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, even drug abuse.

But. God.

God saved us so he could use our pain for his purposes: to bring light and hope and saving grace and salvation to anyone who is still in that dark and broken place. We still have hard days but we will count them all as joy, becuse we have been snatched back from death’s door.

If you are having trouble with the darkness of mental illness, depression, PTSD, anxiety or anything else that has you feeling like you just can’t go on, please reach out. We will be your people if you don’t have any. I’m also leaving the national suicide hotline numbers in this post so you can reach out. 

YOU DO NOT FIGHT ALONE!

There is still a purpose for you, so please don’t give up. There is still a plan for your life. Even good and beauty can come from pain if you allow them to be used. Let my family stand before you as living proof-

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

If you’re a veteran: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬

©Meredith Shafer 2017. Connect with us: Facebook (@meredithshaferauthor), Instagram (@mypinkchampagnelife), Twitter (@mypinkchamplife) and meredithshafer.com

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We went to the VA today.  

 (Photo cred beachbrights.blogspot.com)

That’s when we found out our doc moved. Across town.

Then the doctor said a cardio referral for Mr. Wonderful will take up to two months unless we run here and call there and double back, turn around, sit down.

All this to say I can’t stop worrying about Mr. Wonderful just yet. He keeps having the seizure-like episodes and then had some actual heart pains and the neuro guy said he needs to see a cardiologist immediately.

Which will be two months from now if we play within the system. Frustration and honestly, straight up fear washed over me. 

And then. 

 (photo cred allieseidel.com)

I remembered the grace God has offered me. For free. How my good Father has already provided the answer I seek, the resting place I crave. The timing we need. I recall the scandalous grace and the way He has already saved my family.

You see, I have had an extra 891 days with my husband because of God’s scandalous grace. I have had 891 extra days of smiles and hugs and good mornings and prayers and dinner times and memories since that day in 2013 when I found Mr. Wonderful in the kids’ treehouse writing goodbye notes. 

Every day since has been a gift.

Even the hard days.

Even the days where we fight or fuss or learn something new about PTSD or slug it out with the VA. Even when we have more month than money or more kids than time or more pantry than food.

Every day–all 891 of them–have been a blessing from my Father in heaven, a record of his unfailing, unrelenting, scandalous grace.

And I am grateful. 

 (photo cred the WoW Style)

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5 Things I Wish You Knew About Life with PTSD

Going through a staggering amount of paperwork and learning curves and medical interventions has kept us pretty busy over the last two years. At one crucial point, I was just trying to keep my soldier alive. And since I was pretty new to this game, I didn’t know how to talk about it for awhile.

But now that we’re a little farther down the road, there are some truths I’d like to share with you about what our life actually looks like on a day to day basis. Since we are no longer in survival mode, I feel that now is a good time to pass on a few things I have learned in this journey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and since I can only speak about this experience through the lens of a caregiver, know there’s much, much more to this story. 

 But for now, here are a few things I wish that everyone knew about us:

1. We are a family dealing with mental illness so we probably don’t always fit into your idea of what a family looks like. Or sounds like. Or behaves like. So please don’t judge us by our bad days or our good days. Neither is entirely accurate.

On our best days we appear relatively normal, albeit a little louder and more colorful than most. We have some introverts, extroverts, flamboyant ones, shy kids and some ADHD and panic attacks sprinkled throughout. 

On our worst days we have tears, meltdowns and struggles that you probably can’t understand. Please know that we are truly doing our best but if we react to a situation in a bizarre or inappropriate (to you) way, your judgment is going to be less than helpful. Stares or comments other than “Is there anything I can do to help?” aren’t encouraged.

Sometimes we are struggling so hard to keep it together as a family that we can’t be bothered with your idea of decorum. We are simply trying to survive. 

 2. One of the worst things you can do is negate our journey by saying something insensitive and demeaning. For instance, someone actually said the words, “He looks ok to me.” He might. In that moment. But what that person didn’t realize was that Mr. Wonderful hadn’t been out of our house for two weeks. And had fought through three panic attacks to get out the door. 

Sometimes he might forget that he already had this conversation because his short term memory is shot. Or he might fly into a rage at those insensitive words because. You. Just. Don’t. Know.

Don’t judge our struggle based on what you can observe in a moment. 

3. Our idea of a good day and a bad day is radically different than yours. A good day for us is no meltdowns, few panic attacks, and a decent wake up where Mr. Wonderful is able to get his bearings relatively early in the day. Maybe he feels good enough to get a workout, a shower and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment in. This is a good, good day.

A bad day is, well, it’s not something I can put into words yet. I’m still working on it and I may have to get back to you on this one.

4. You might perceive us as flaky if we’ve had to bail out on you. Last minute. Again. We have the best of intentions. We want to be at your birthday party or graduation or celebration. Sometimes we just can’t. 

Sometimes we’re actually on our way out the door but then Mr. Wonderful can’t leave the house. Or we start the day well but it progresses in the wrong direction. Or I know Mr. Wonderful will be ok without me but I’m just not up to getting the whole traveling circus out the door by myself. To friends and family, please understand our absence doesn’t mean we don’t love and honor you–we just may not be able to love and honor you in person.

5. We are doing the best we can. From the outside that may not look good enough. And sometimes it’s not. We try super hard. Every day. But even hard work can’t always get us where we need to be. That’s why one of the things we tell ourselves over and over is to give ourselves a break. And share some grace. And we try to be grateful for every good moment, every silver lining. 

Because we’ve walked the edge between life and death, we now want to celebrate every good thing we can. Life  isn’t a guarantee, and we aren’t promised tomorrow. These are now things we know for sure. 

We no longer take life for granted. Or good days. Or breathing or remembering or functioning. Crazy may be our new normal but we embrace our crazy. We embrace our new normal. And we embrace each other. 

The most important thing I can tell you about life with PTSD is that without our faith and each other we would have nothing. But with it, we still have everything we need. 

 (Photo credits Meredith Shafer) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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National Suicide Awareness Month

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

You’ve probably guessed that today’s post isn’t going to be a light-hearted romp with my traveling circus. I’ve been avoiding this topic all of September because September is a rough month around this Casa.

There are a lot of triggers: 9/11, anniversary of Mr. Wonderful’s start date in the military, the anniversary of the day I almost lost him. 

The older I get, the more I realize that if people share their realness and their pain, it can often shine light into someone else’s pain. Help them know they aren’t alone. Guide them to a sliver of hope that this circumstance or season is temporary and it too shall pass.

2013 is a year that I wish had never happened. The short version is that my sweet Mr. Wonderful was on about year twelve of undiagnosed PTSD–way past the time where things begin to unravel. First the undoing was unnoticeable. Then it became unmanageable. Then it became untenable. To the point I knew in my heart that if I didn’t do something, the unthinkable was coming.

The details are still too hard to write about so I’m not going to yet. I’m actually trying to work up the courage to put this full story in my next book but it’s slow going, reliving certain minutes.

What I’m going to tell you today is that you, yes, you who somehow stumbled onto the blog of a woman with a bunch of kids who’s married to a retired military dude that you have nothing in common with, you were meant to be here today reading these words.

You were meant to know that someone else has been exactly where you are: in a dark so black and thick that you can’t breathe, much less see. You were meant to read these words and realize that this darkness that you can’t seem to find your way out of has enveloped others before you. You need to know that there is a way out of that darkness that doesn’t involve removing yourself from this world.

You are necessary here. 

Without you to finish your work, there will be a you-sized hole in the universe that can never be filled by anyone else. I know you can’t see this right now. I know you can’t imagine anything but pain and heartache so deep that you just need it to stop. But if you’ll give the world a chance I promise you things can get better. They may not be better all at once-this may take some patience on your part and I know you probably don’t have any.

But please, stay

As an Army wife, I’ve been through scenarios other families may not be able to fathom. I haven’t even been through all of the typical Army wife life because I came on the scene later. But one thing about all military spouses is that we do what needs to be done. We’ll take care of it so our spouse can do his or her job of protecting this country. 

You hear all kinds of phrases and jargon in this military life. One of my faves is “I’ve got your six.” That means basically, I’ve got your back; I’ll help you and watch out for you and do my best to protect you.

My spouse had this country’s six. He helped keep us safe after 9/11 and our family’s still footing the bill for that freedom. And now I have his six. It’s the least I can do for a man who has made some sacrifices for us all.

Let someone have your six. If you are not okay today, it’s okay. But you can’t do this alone. Reach out your hand and grab onto the lifeline: make a call to the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or a friend. Or a pastor or trusted confidant. Or your mom. Whoever you think will listen.

There are approximately 22 veterans who take their lives every day because there is an absence of hope. But for the grace of God, that was nearly us. For those of you who worry about or notice something is off or different about your veteran or family member or friend, don’t wait to speak up! 

Ask: are you ok?

Maybe you won’t know what to do. That’s ok too. Some things need to be handled by professional people who are trained for this sort of thing. But you can ask the most important question–are you ok?–giving them a lifeline of hope. And then together you can seek help.

Just do something.

Having someone’s six sometimes means doing something for someone who just can’t do it right now. Having someone’s six may mean getting out of your comfort zone even if you don’t know what to do. Having someone’s six can save someone’s life.

Babe, I got your six.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

National PTSD Awareness Day

 I know there’s lots of stuff going on in the world today, and I’m afraid PTSD Awareness Day will be lost in all the news and noise. PTSD is our world 365 days a year, not just today. That’s the case for so many. Just wanted to share, encourage, and say you’re not alone!

If you need help:  

(Photo credit celebrating freedom) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!

 

PTSD Awareness Month

June is PTSD Awareness Month and though we live it 365 days a year, I realize that unless you know someone with this “disorder” you may not know very much about it.

I’m going to try my best to explain in bits and pieces throughout the month what my family goes through on a daily basis; I can only tell our story though. PTSD (I loathe the D for “disorder”-it’s actually a very normal response to trauma and we need to stop making people feel bad about this) is different for each person. 

In our case, Mr. Wonderful came back with his souvenir from fighting in the OEF wartime theater. That’s Operation Enduring Freedom. This means he saw bad things he doesn’t like to talk about, has a certain amount of survivor’s guilt for coming back when some of his buddies didn’t, and had to flail about on his own with no treatment for nearly thirteen years.

PTSD has taken on different forms at various times in our family:

-disconnection and lack of empathy

-rage and misplaced anger

-agoraphobia

-extreme depression 

-isolation

-suicidal thoughts and tendencies

This is just the tip of the PTSD iceberg. There is no cure, no one medicine, nothing that will permanently end Mr. Wonderful’s suffering. 

But we press on. And we press in. To our faith and each other. We work on managing the symptoms as best we can. We attend doctors appointments, do therapy, and try to instill healthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices in ourselves and our kids.

We fall down. We get back up. We try to use gratitude a lot: it’s hard for negativity to exist when you’re being glad about something. And we know what works (mostly) and what doesn’t. 

Our journey over the last three years, especially before we got the PTSD diagnosis, has not been easy.

But we have been learning how to celebrate in the midst of the storm, to throw up our hands and dance in the rain and wait for the promised rainbow.

(Photo credit Heathershelpers.org) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!

Sharing Your Story

Everywhere I turn there is something about PTSD today. Good information, good people sharing hard things. I have to admit this makes me a little weepy. It makes me feel things.

I’m usually all about feeling things and as a generous oversharer I am no stranger to telling our story with emotion. However, this new chapter of our story, the one about PTSD, is the hardest to tell. Maybe because we’re still on the journey. Maybe because we barely survived parts of it. Maybe because for awhile, I couldn’t find the strength to talk about it; I was using all of my strength just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other to try and protect our babies from seeing behind the curtain.

This story of hurt and shame and pain and worry and fear must be handled delicately. I have to parse out bits and pieces as I can. My dear Mr. Wonderful served our country and came home with PTSD, or The Mad Cow as we call it. And to be respectful of where he is in his healing, and where I am in mine, I must dance around and through the darkest days we’ve faced as a couple.

Our story hasn’t been woven into completion yet; therefore, you’re only going to get the parts I am able to talk about right now. I hope as you read this and my future pieces on PTSD, that you keep foremost in your mind that we are working hard for healing, that Mr. Wonderful doesn’t deserve anything other than praise for his bravery and efforts and that this is all really hard.

Please go easy on us.

Being open and vulnerable in a concrete way like writing things down and sharing them is terrifying when you have some seriously deep wounds. Writing alone is like the picking of scabs. But the more we tell our story, the closer we come to healing. And maybe the more hope we can give someone who has yet to find their way out of that dark place.

I’m not sure how much I can talk about yet. Let’s just say 2013 was the year everything went to hell in a hand basket. I was pregnant with our fourth child and Mr. Wonderful was slowly losing his grip on his, at the time, undiagnosed PTSD. And then he lost his grip all together. 

Watching a loved one self destruct right before your eyes is both surreal and excruciating. Time slows down, each moment taking up the space a week occupies when you’re trying to keep a loved one alive. As for my part of our story, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I was just trying to stay pregnant, trying to keep my kids fed and doing my best to make sure Mr. Wonderful didn’t kill himself or someone else.

He became so unrecognizable to me during that time that it felt like I was living with a sad, numb, angry, scary and unpredictable stranger. 

The PTSD gave him such terrible nightmares that he didn’t want to sleep. So he would drink to be able to sleep. He would drink to function. He would drink to forget. The on-base doctor prescribed pills for anxiety and depression but mixing the pills with the alcohol became a near fatal recipe. Which led to a near fatal suicide attempt. Someday I will write more in depth about these things. But for now, I’ve picked at these scabs to the point of bleeding again and it’s just too much.

We have come a long way by the grace of God. In one minute, my life could’ve been so different. And I am happy to say that we’re not where we used to be. We’re not finished with this journey but we’re moving forward and on the mend. And I’m grateful for every day I get to wake up next to Mr. Wonderful and see my kids and my little miracle baby. And I know that somehow, in some way, our story is going to bring someone hope in their darkest hour.

Gratitude, trust, prayer, faith-our family wouldn’t be possible without all of this. Thank you for reading this, and if you know someone who may be suffering from PTSD, please share this and the suicide hotline number below. Tell them not to give up. And don’t you give up on them either because there is always hope. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

1-800-273-8255 (America’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline)

Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015