Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pre-War Snapshot vs. Post-War Snapshot

I've been in an online reading group where a handful of wounded warrior wives all read the book Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell and Kelly K. Orr, PhD, ABPP and then met by video chat each week to discuss that week's reading and the impact on us and our family.

In Chapter 6, Marshele poses one particular reflection question that I felt would be beneficial for me to post here with my answers. She asks: "In your mind's eye, place a snapshot of your pre-war family/marriage beside a snapshot of your post-war family/marriage. Compare the two images for a moment. Now describe the differences you see in the two snapshots (facial expressions, body language, background or setting, lighting, sounds, colors, activity). Give as much detail as you can.

I thought about this and immediately saw our family in the kitchen at the old house in Willamina. Dean smiling, the boys recounting some funny story (having their typical dueling conversation), me smiling as I await the punchline to this story that I already heard. I would reach out and just touch Dean without any thought as an expression of my closeness to him. I would interject some mom-ism like "ok, ok, don't go off on a tangent, tell him what happened next" and Jeremiah would likely jump in on top of my last words and say "oh ya, oh ya.....". We could all just talk, stacking our thoughts on the trail of another's thoughts. The noise was like a typical high-energy family.

Another snapshot is of our family outside in the summer having to do some yard maintaining. Dean LOVED being outside and working on his yard even though there was more there than one person could really handle in the few hours a week he could spend on it. I had such bad allergies that I would only come out for a short burst of time with a snack or just to see how everyone was doing. Dean would be working his behind off, sweating, and having some massive pile of debris as a testament to what he'd accomplished so far, the boys would be off in another corner with their little piles while they'd also have some kind of mess as a testament to the bickering that they'd been shoveling all afternoon. Dean would go from the stern step-dad yelling at those boys to pick up the sticks and rocks in the yard so he could mow it to the loving husband when he'd see my face while I brought out sandwiches. He'd smile and give me a "Hi you see all the work I've been doing, doesn't it look good"? We'd talk while the boys would throw things at each other in the background. Just good old chaos that was ok because we had a busy, high-energy family.

Now the snapshots look the same from day to day. There is no energy, everything is quiet, controlled, and as still as I can make it. Every person or action can only happen one at a time. Dean can't take energy faster than snail's pace. When I talk to Dean it has to be something important and no one else can make noise. If I can't keep little Dean quiet for the minute I'm talking, Dean will grab his head in pain and go upstairs. Most days we live with Dean upstairs and I am lonely. I get sick of having to do everything, be everything for everyone, hold up our slower spinning plates while I hop on one foot. In our old snapshots, in the background of our lives, both Dean and I were holding up our plates (football practice, school activities, family outings, Church on Sundays, the running of the home, the plans for the immediate future, planning long-term goals, etc). I loved being his partner. Now I hold them all and it's difficult and lonely. Thankfully we only have one munchkin at home now, but even with that I try to not schedule too much in our lives. I can't be away from home much and have to be able to cancel things on a moment's notice if Dean's having a bad day and shouldn't be left alone. I can only really make tentative plans for everything. There is very little touching in our current snapshot and very little smiling or laughing. The house is kept dark which goes just perfectly with our life right now :(


  1. I will keep you in my prayers, it sounds like you are still struggling with the adjustments of post TBI life. One piece of advice I was given after my husband's brain injury was to accept the new husband I have and get to know him, rather than waiting for my old husband to come back. That really helped me make the adjustment. I know this is a very long and hard process, but I pray that you can find the small joys in each day.

  2. First, I will gladly accept prayers! :) I have heard that advice before somewhere and is exactly what I need to do (accept my new husband and get to know him). And you're right, it's a very long and hard process. Some days are better than others, some days he gives me more to work with than others, some days he's in our bed most of the day. I definitely do find the small joys in each day. If I wrote about those too I think my blog would be a LOT I try to focus my writings on helping people understand what it's like to live with this "invisible injury" in the home. Our journey has been riddled with people from the military, the VA, and even our family & friends who think that because Dean "looks fine" that he's not that bad. I have gotten many snide comments about not doing anything all day, collecting a paycheck while I sit on my butt, and how lucky I am that my kids get "free college". So my own personal mission is to expose our daily struggles and show what we've lost. I know that if I were surrounded by support and love my blog would be quite different! I hope reading about our struggles isn't discouraging to you as that would never be my intent, but I do want you to know that we have a LOT to be thankful for and praise God for his blessings everyday! :) Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. Karen-

    I came across your blog while researching TBI and can honestly say it brought me to tears. My boyfriend suffered a TBI 3 weeks ago during a training exercise and it has flipped our world upside down. Reading your blog made me feel like I wasnt alone for the first time.
    I am also a CNA, so I spend all of my time caring for others both at home and at work. I commend you for your strength and dedication- I know how exhausting it is, and how easy it is to suffer from burnout.

    I would love to talk to you more about your experiences without posting everything here. If you have an email address I could reach you at, that would be fantastic.
    You and your family are in my prayers.


    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your boyfriend. I'm glad my blog was helpful for you. You can definitely email me or friend me on facebook.

  4. Karen,
    I know what you mean about wanting others to understand what it's really like. I'm glad to know that things aren't bad all the time :)