Second Chances

Three years ago this very day life as I knew it ended.

All of the hopes and dreams I had for my family came crashing down in our kids’ treehouse, of all places. It was in that treehouse, lovingly constructed from scraps of both lumber and time by Mr. Wonderful, that I found my soul mate right before he was about to take his own life.

You see, life had gotten so bad for him that suicide seemed like the only way to make his pain go away. 

The drinking hadn’t done it. 

The prescriptions and doctors on base hadn’t done it. 

His family hadn’t done it.

He soldiered on so well that I didn’t realize how badly he was hurting until it was almost too late. Minutes were the difference in our case-the difference between our story being about second chances and it being about what life is like as a military widow raising four kids all by myself. The difference between my kids knowing their dad and wondering what he was like.(photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

When I found Mr. Wonderful with a half drunk bottle of vodka writing his goodbye notes, all I knew to do was beg God to save him. To save us. 

I hadn’t even seen the loaded shotgun yet.

I just knew from climbing my very pregnant belly up to that second-story treehouse and feeling the sadness and pain radiate off of him that we were fighting for time.

That treehouse was meant to be our end. Instead, somehow God used it to start something brand new for us, to give us a chance at a second chance. Miraculously our ending was re-written at the last possible minute. We got a second act by the grace of God. 

It’s surely a miracle that the very pregnant girl was able to get the drunk, suicidal 6’6″ 330 pound soldier who was more than twice her size out of the treehouse, onto solid ground and into treatment.

It’s surely a miracle that Mr. Wonderful was sent to a treatment for a few months that would help save his life, restore his mind, begin his sobriety.

It’s surely a miracle that we have had 1,095 bonus days, second chances, extra time.

And though it hasn’t been an easy road over the last three years, I am grateful for every one of those 1,095 days. I count myself blessed despite the PTSD diagnoses, the caregiving, the crushing blows, the doctor’s appointments, the setbacks, the fights with the VA, and the new normal we find ourselves in. Even the worst days in the last three years have been a blessing, because they have been the second chance I couldn’t imagine from my viewpoint in that treehouse.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Twenty-two military a day take their lives. If more if us speak up, tell the story with no shame, maybe we can break this stigma against mental illness and invisible wounds. Maybe we can convince hurting people to ask for help. Maybe we can reach out to those around us.


Ask someone if they’re ok. Care about people. Walk through this world with more kindness and less judgment. 

You could be the difference in someone’s story-


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┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2016.

For more info about our story, to check about speaking engagements or to find me on social media, connect with me at www.meredithshafer.com.

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) ┬ęCopyright 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) ┬ęCopyright 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