Em

There are people and experiences in your life that are more impactful that others. Not sure why that is, or what causes it, it just is. Em was one of those people to me. Way back when I first retired I saw a post on a nonprofit that offered pen pals, I signed up and within a few days I received notification that I was paired with a Pen Pal! I was so excited that I wrote her that day. We never exchanged emails or phone numbers early on. We just learned about each other from our letters. We wrote each other once or twice a month, some times it was less because life makes us live it. Through the years we shared, encouraged and were fast friends. We finally shared some on social media but not much. Mostly it was to say ‘look what happened today’ because we wanted to enjoy our letters to each other.

I would print out photos of things I was doing, people and cats in my life lol and she would do the same. I learned of how amazingly talented she is with her welding, she made welded art pieces. This girl had a knack at making costumes or her own clothes as well. I kept telling her I wanted to sew more. I would send her beaded crafts, necklaces and earrings or bracelets. She loved wearing them and told me once that they fit a skirt she just made. Her talent and joy in it motivated me to keep my own crafting going.

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She was so young and had such a brightness to her. Of course there was also the sadness and pains. See, Em’s hubby was a Veteran who was battling PTSD. She worried for him, hated how he had changed but loved him so much. That much was clear in our back and forth communication.  I knew what he was going through to a certain extent, I was battling my own PTSD demons. So we shared that with each other too. I loved how free she was, how fierce she lived! Damn it to hell if I admired her love and hate of it all.  Look at her all beauty and FIERCE!

 

She was kind and smiled, had fun and had her own adventures even when others didn’t agree lol. I remember her sending me post cards of places she and Curt went even when they shouldn’t have. They just wanted that adventure.

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I only had her in my life for a bit over 3 years. It wasn’t enough, but the impact she made was huge. At that time during our back and forth letters, I didn’t see it. Maybe didn’t really pay attention to it, I don’t know but I knew it was there.

As time went on we would reach out on social media, a quick check in with each other because our letters had gotten sporadic. We weren’t losing touch we just didn’t write as much. Things were getting rough for her and her life she felt was getting harder. Mine was just busy and chaotic but we just had to be sure we each knew we were there for each other.

The afternoon of  December 4, 2015 she told me that her husband was missing. They had been trying to find him but couldn’t. I wasn’t sure what to do, I remember checking flights to her area and trying to figure out how I could get there. Traveling for me was not easy, but I wanted to be there for her to help somehow. Later that evening, she messaged that he had been found, sadly he had taken his own life. That was the last time I heard from her.

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The next day, I was waiting to hear from Em. I knew she was with family and with friends to begin the process of taking care of Curt. It wasn’t a surprise that I didn’t hear from her.  Just happened to be going through some military pages when I stumbled upon a post about Curt, as I read on it said that they just found out his wife lost her battle. I was floored. My heart was broken, shattered and I was just done. I remember walking into our gym where my husband was working out and didn’t say anything. Just stood there because speaking those words made it more real. He had his headphones on in full beast mode lol so he didn’t notice me standing there. Honestly I have no idea how long I stood there crying and unable to get his attention. He finally saw me and I still couldn’t say it. He knew what happened the day before, he is my shield in the battle against PTSD so I share with him many things. He just held me and I was finally able to say what happened. I think I just shut down after because the following days are a blur.

I didn’t know who to contact, didn’t know where to call to get information or anything. I was just lost. There I was going thought the military social media sites to see about a phone number, email address something. There was a go fund me set up and I emailed that person but never heard back.

A few days later I got a phone call, it was Em’s sister Ashley. She called to tell me about Em, about Curt. It meant the world to me that they reached out, to want me to know that Em cared about me. Here I was hearing this from her sister, I should have been the one providing comfort in her loss. I failed. No matter what you say or what anyone says, I failed Em and Curt. She wasn’t just my pen pal, was not just a friend. She was more to me and I hate myself for not doing more.

I cannot tell you why Em’s death hurt so much, I have lost many people in my life. Yet losing Em was a breaking point in my life. So many questions as to why I was doing what I was doing if I failed the one person I never thought I could let down. The one person who didn’t ask for loving a Veteran battling his own demons but she loved him madly.

How can I tell people that I am here to help them when I couldn’t help my own damn friend? Can I honestly say that I am doing anyone any good? Oh these and many other questions came into my head over and over and over.

This doesn’t get easier, time does not heal everything. I think of her and Curt every single day. As I sit here at my desk typing away I see her gifts to me. Every night I go to sleep and every day I wake up I see her post cards. She is EVERYWHERE in my home and in my life, but she isn’t here anymore.

I have stolen some of Em’s moments in time, moments of laughter and joys. Moments that are heartwarming and make me laugh. Then there is that moment the memory of losing her hits and it is tragic. Y’all I cannot tell you why she has such an impact, I cannot even begin to explain it all but she has and she always will.

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Maybe I am just a pen pal, who was lucky enough to be paired with her. A total stranger who is a nobody to many. Whatever the reason I know this means something.

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Hidden Battles

When I share my story, the first diagnosis I share is PTSD. Not that I am putting other diagnosis of items I deal with aside, but that is the one that has caused the most damage. It ended my military career, which at the time was the end of the world. When the PTSD diagnosis was given in 2010 a lot happened that just made it all worse. I lost my troops, was told it was too much for someone with my issues to handle. Little did the leadership know that my troops were what made it possible for me to come to work and function. They just worried what a PTSD person would do, they assumed I would fail my mission and my troops. Instead, my leadership failed me.

That is why PTSD is the first issue I say I am dealing with, but there are others. One diagnosis has been left off when I do get into other issues. Lupus. Yes y’all I was diagnosed with Lupus after 5 years of it being tossed around. This was before the PTSD diagnosis, before the Fibromyalgia diagnosis. This was way back before many of my medical issues became so bad.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus mostly known as SLE but commonly just called Lupus was first diagnosed in 2007 before my second tour to Iraq. It was placed on the back burner until tour was over. I wasn’t having major symptomatic issues so we figured we could deal with it when I got back. There were issues that came up that had me going to the medical folks for some relief but nothing that kept me from doing my job. Once that tour was over and I was home in mid 2008, we started to tackle how to treat the major issues that were presenting themselves. For the rest of the year we were good, symptoms were in check and I was ready for another tour when it came time.

For the rest of my career we were able to maintain control of the Lupus and it was never an issue. Glad to know why I was having issues with my body so we could tackle issues as they came around. We only had to deal with flare ups from time to time.

If I listed every medical diagnosis for everyone to know about, there would have to be a page just for that. Seriously y’all its a long list. I don’t talk much about the Lupus as the symptoms mirror many of those for Fibromyalgia. That does not mean that I ignore it which is why I bring it up now.

Here are some of the symptoms that someone may experience. They are so similar to the RA and Fibro that I have. Which is why it was misdiagnosed for so long.
Pain areas: in the muscles
Pain circumstances: can occur while breathing
Pain types: can be sharp in the chest
Whole body: anemia, fatigue, or fever
Mouth: dryness or ulcers
Skin: red rashes or scaly rashes
Hair: hair loss or loss of scalp hair
Also common: anxiety, blood in urine, clinical depression, face rash, flare, headache, joint stiffness, raynaud’s syndrome, sensitivity to light, swelling, water retention, or weight loss.

When you are dealing with Autoimmune Diseases it is important that you get every symptom checked for a proper diagnosis. For me it was important because I wanted to be sure I could still deploy.  As I said earlier, the PTSD is what ended my career and caused more disruption to my life than the others. It was when things went bad that all medical issues became overwhelming.

Keepsakes

I love reading or hearing people tell me about their family relationships or how they grew up. While many of us had rocky childhoods, those who share part of their family have some amazing memories.

My childhood wasn’t great, there are some bright spots in there and I hold onto those memories as best as I can. That is all I have though, memories. Mementos are non existent. Yet the memory of me wishing for them as a child is there. How I wanted a hope chest or keepsake box to hold all of my dreams and trinkets. In all the books I would read the characters had them and I would picture them all in my mind.

I could put notes and found items in there, with a little keepsake note so that I can always remember that item or event. Over the years I would be able to look through all the amazing items collected over the years and just reminisce.

This is something that never happened and then when I was old enough to buy things for myself, it became something that just faded with so many other hopes and dreams.

Today I went to visit my friend Etelka, it’s her birthday and she came by to invite me over. She just lives a few houses down at the end of the loop. I am not feeling well but I wanted to give her a gift I made for her and so off I went. We visited for a while, laughing and chatting. She was making some foods for her family that will be coming by this evening. As I was getting ready to leave she asked if I wanted this box, maybe I could use it for my sewing. You know me, never one to pass up a sewing item lol. As she showed the box to me I just fell in love with it.

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Once I got home and got to cleaning it up, I remembered my little dream of having a keepsake box or hope chest. Going through the cleaning and selecting the fabric for the tops, I told my husband what I wanted to use it for. It brought back all the memories of when I was a child, wanting something like this. While it is too small for a hope chest, a keepsake box is what I intend it to be. All the amazing gifts and trinkets I get from friends and adopted family will now have a home. I can sift through the amazing gifts and feel the love. Maybe when I am older and have more grandchildren I can sit there with them as we go through the box. A tradition I have always pictured others having, going through keepsake boxes with family.

This little box has been cleaned up and new fabric has been put on the top. It is ready for me to start putting in my gifts, my little notes and trinkets I get. I know that this is something that I will hold onto for as long as I live. I even have a small red toolbox that replaced one that was taken from me so many years ago that will be the first item inside. Thank you for that Ms Vicki.

I am no longer a child holding on to memories or hoping to mend broken relationships. I am a woman building my own memories and creating traditions for my children and their children to keep going.

Here is the new keepsake box for me to start filling up. Thank you Etelka!

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Scatter Kindness

My family and I frequent the big box stores for house supplies and groceries like many families do. One that is close to our home and we can get to in a few minutes. I like to go do shopping after the school traffic has cleared but before other people decide to venture out.

This trip out was no different. I got myself ready and off I went to get the normal family supplies that tend to run out all too often. As I parked I noticed a homeless man sitting off a bit from the exit. He is a regular in this area and so I figured I would get him something while shopping. Stopped and spoke with him for a few before venturing in, asking what he wanted and needed. He said “If they have something hot, that would be great.” It is a brisk 59 degrees outside so I could understand that. So off I went to do my shopping and stopping at the deli for a hot breakfast sandwich for him.

As I stepped out, I heard before I saw someone yelling at the homeless man. Telling him to get a job so he wouldn’t have to beg, stop bothering people, blah blah blah. Oh that just pisses me off! WHY must you be an angry, mean and hurtful person? The homeless person was not at the doors, he was off to the sides. He didn’t go bothering people going into the store, if they looked at him then he would talk. Most people ignored him.

Homeless people are PEOPLE. You have no idea what brought them to their current situation. NO idea what happened in their lives. Maybe they want to work but have no address so no one gives them a chance.  Whatever the circumstances, they do not deserve to be treated poorly.

Now there was a police car and the police man was in the car just a few feet away from the homeless man. Think that maybe if there was a problem that the cops would have asked him to leave? I do. What made this horrible man start yelling at the homeless man? It takes so much effort to be ugly, rude and disrespectful. It takes nothing to be kind and caring. Yet the rude man made it a point to walk towards the homeless man and be mean. He made it a point to yell at him, why not go talk to the cop? Or to the employees of the store? I made sure to tell him exactly that, as I put myself between him and the homeless man.

I handed the homeless man some hot sandwiches, drink and snacks. Putting my back to the rude guy. Telling him what was in the bag and wishing him a good day. Then I turned around to again face the rude man. I told him that the time it took for him to be an asshat, he could have just walked into the store, done his shopping and left. Yet, he chose to veer away from the entrance and be disrespectful to someone. I may have used some not so nice words as I told him to just leave this gentleman alone. Made sure the angry guy left before I again said my farewell to the homeless man. Then I walked with my cart of supplies to my car.

It makes me angry. Do you think the mean man woke up pissed off? I do. He was mad, rather than wake up grateful for another day. Rather than enjoy the nice fall morning and another day on this earth.

I hate bullies, and I know hate is a strong word but its true. People who want always make someone feel less, that is what is wrong with us in this country. People wake up ready to cause chaos and mayhem, while others wake up thankful and grateful.

These issues cannot be fixed from a large scale because it all starts with you, with me. If I wake up upset, pissed off and angry then that is how my interaction with people will be. Yet, if I wake up with a more positive attitude then the interaction with people I come into contact with is going to reflect that.

How we go out into the world, will be reflected in how the world treats us. We are mirrors of our feelings, if that makes sense. If you treat someone cruel, they will be cruel back.  Greet someone with a smile and they smile back. How easy is that?

I am so mad and sad. I know this homeless man, know his name and part of his story. Just like I know the many others in that area who I give items to from the trunk of my car when I am out. I don’t write that to get the ‘Yay Me’ acknowledgement. Just some background.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Plain and simple. Treat them the way you want your loved ones to be treated. What if that was someone you know? What if the homeless man decided to believe the crap the mean man told him? URGH it is so frustrating!!!!

Be kind, be respectful and just help others.

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Skin sensitivity

One thing i have found with my battle with Fibromyalgia is that nothing prepares you for living with it. Symptoms manifest differently for everyone, over the past few months the skin sensitivity has become increasingly worse.

There was already some issues with clothing and I had made those adjustments. Any clothing with large seams or heavy seams, pants that binds around the waist and anything that pushes on the shoulders or back will hurt to wear.  Sadly that is most clothing!! Undergarments are especially tough.

This type of sensitivity is called Allodynia and can sometimes be described as a burning sensation. This is due to the malfunction of nerves and they become aggravated and register the sensations as pain. There are medications that you can take that will help alleviate some of the symptoms but also help those nerves settle down and ease some of the pains.

When I am not having to go out into the world you will generally find me with my hair in a bun high on my head to keep hair from touching my neck, a wide strapped tank top and yoga pants. These types of clothing do not hurt as much. The yoga pants are high waisted because my waist is super sensitive. I do not wear regular bras but wear sports bras that have wide straps and back, panties are almost always a no-go. I know not a topic you want to hear but come on, someone needs this information. I needed it and did not find anyone willing to share. Button up pants are almost always a problem for me, due to my pudginess lol the belt area is always hurting my waist.

If I am going to be out at events or something like that I will wear compression garments. Not to hold in the bulges but to spread the pressure around most of my body and not cause more pains than I am already feeling.

Wearing shoes is another problem for me as well. Doc said I needed to wear shoes to help with the foot and leg pains but wearing socks and shoes really hurts worse than the foot and leg pains. So I do not wear them as often as advised. It is a balancing act, try to find a way to not cause more pains to  yourself so that you can continue to live your life. This is what I do to live mine.

If you are ever in my home you will see lots of pillows and throw blankets all over the place. That is my fault, some fabrics just hurt to sit on. Having different blanket and pillow textures help me relax. What doesn’t hurt me today could be hurting tomorrow. Same goes for covers on the bed, there are times I have to sleep on top of covers because it just hurts too much.

Any extra touching of the skin hurts, even hugs or any rubbing. I get asked why I don’t get massages for the muscle pains and well imagine your body on fire while someone massaging those burns. It is PAINFUL and not worth the trouble. I have tried.

This topic can go on and on and on and on lol but let me just say that everyday I have to go through a few tops and bottoms to find the one that is less painful. There is this kimono jacket that I got years ago that was my go to cover, now it hurts too much. I love that thing. My clothes are the same shirt and pants in various colors because that is the ONE item that feels good on my skin. It is a tough issue to have, even harder to live with. If you know anyone with skin sensitivity please do not assume they are being distant if they don’t hug you or wear that sweater you bought them for Christmas. It could be painful, that’s all.

This isn’t just about clothing either, we could have sensitivity to light and temperature changes. There are days I love my heat pad, other days I want to kill it. Showers are especially tough, do not get me started on that!

I get tired having to go through various articles of clothing because of this. Tired of having to go find something new because my old clothing doesn’t feel as good as before.3

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Spread kindness

Some days I miss reading news in the newspapers, really do. During the current day and age most printed news is no longer NEW since you can read articles online as soon as they are published. The reason I miss reading the paper is the commentary by those on social media about those articles or photos being share.

Why is it that a photo or article showing kindness has to have so much negative and hatred? Can we not even enjoy the reason for someone sharing? It is very bothersome to me that so many are willing to jump online and just spread hatred or negativity.

So many of us want to show kindness, spread the love and give smiles in any way we can, it is something I choose to do everyday. Yet others choose the complete opposite.

Anyone with a keyboard can easily diminish the good that people want to do.  They can sit in the comfort of their homes while those of us trying to do more for others are out there making a different. The negativity these keyboard warriors as my kids call them can break a person and their giving spirit. It is hard enough as it is to do good without being criticize and now if you share it, the negative people can cause you more trouble than anyone can imagine.

You are probably reading this wondering why I am writing about it, well it is because while I was sharing some patriotic heartwarming posts yesterday I was reported for inappropriate messages on social media. As a matter of fact I am still locked out of some of those accounts.

What were the offensive messages?? Taps being played at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. WHAT?!?!  The other flagged post was about me helping an elderly homeless couple. Apparently, I offended someone by sharing. For a single person nonprofit, it hurts my reach to be blocked. How can I communicate with the people who I want to help though PTSD and suicide? Each morning I can spend a good couple hours online with Veterans & their loved ones communicating with them. Checking on them and letting them know how much they matter.

It use to be that if you didn’t want to read something you just skipped it, use to be that if you didn’t care about helping others you just didn’t do it. Now you can practically shut someone down and hurt them by flagging their posts and page.

Spread kindness, stop the spreading of hatred and negativity.  We have enough of that already why continue to spread that around? So many feel as if good people are rare, it is not true!!! There are so many doing great things but are being held back by those who flag and report them as inappropriate.

What is it that they fear? How can sharing good stories or kindness be something that makes you afraid? Why are you attempting to stop the love?

These things frustrate me but it will not stop me, it merely becomes more fuel for me to use in my mission to help others.

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PTSD Friendly Salon

I wish there were PTSD/anxiety friendly salons. It’s been over five years since I have had a mani/pedi and a few years since I have had a haircut.  Don’t think people truly understand how hard it is for some PTSDers to do this. I want my hair cut, it needs it badly. My hands and feet need some love too lol.
Self care is hard for me and many others. Most salons feel like I am in a fishbowl. Being watched by so many because it’s just so open.  Throw in the fact that those places in my safe zone are all fishbowl type places.  There has to be a way for someone as messed up as me can get things done.

This is what I posted yesterday on my social media sites. Many others did not realize that this was an issue. It really is. Not everyone is comfortable outside of their safe zones yet we thrive within it. I have made contact with some places to see about coming in before they open or a time they are not too busy, but many are asking for the price of service to accommodate me. That is not something I can afford.

I am sure there are other people out there with the same issues, maybe not medically but the issue of finding self care locations that are able to accommodate the uniqueness of what we each have going on.

If you are in the business of hair and nails, let people know you are willing to work with them. Maybe put that on your social media sites. Thankfully I was given a name of someone who will be able to get me seen and taken care of. I hope to see her within the next few weeks, gotta wait til the VA pays me lol but I am so thankful to know there is someone there willing to work with me.

Thank you so much to my social media followers for the suggestions and comments. I would not be as far along as I am without each of your help.

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