Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top 7 for TBI/PTSD and Doing the Next Thing

So, the fact is,  I still do not know a thing.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings, and I don’t know what God is doing.
But, I do know He is and He is always faithful.
And so, following wise advice from someone I really admire, Elisabeth Elliot, I am just going to “Do the next thing”.
For me, doing the next thing sometimes means more laundry, or going over that division concept one more time, or listening to a favorite picture book for the hundredth time, or calling that doctor or that person in billing again, or organizing medicines and appointments, or, sometimes, writing another blog post.
So, today, I write.
Today I will be sharing the top seven things that have helped my hubby and I as we have journeyed this path of life-after-war and chronic illness that has been part of our lives since his return home. I am writing about these things not to endorse a certain product or activity, but just from honest experience and success.  I share in hopes it might be helpful to someone else. I also know, however, that every family dynamic is different. Not one of these things (besides number 7!) may work for you. But don’t be discouraged. 
Keep looking. 
Sometimes it is the smallest change that makes the biggest difference.

 #1. Localized Chalkboard/Whiteboard.
            We post our chalkboard in our kitchen at a location we each pass by everyday. I can write reminders, grocery lists, upcoming appointments, words of encouragement or a simple smiley face :). On his really sick days, I keep track of meds needed/given, temperature etc., --anything I won’t be able to remember after two or three days of busy life and the inevitable exhaustion that follows. Really, it is a blank slate (ha! Literally) and it works to keep us both on track with what is happening without constant nagging or taking up brain space for the less important things.
#2. Centralized Calendar.
            We actually have two calendars. One is an old fashioned, hang-on-the-wall paper calendar. I really like THIS one. It has separate columns for each family member and I can clip a clothespin with an arrow drawn on it to point to each day. This is hanging in a place we pass by first thing in the morning and last thing at night. This particular calendar is helpful because it helps by focusing only on day by day and a person by person schedule. My hubby can look and see, quickly, what day it is and what his schedule is right away without wading through the kids and my schedule.
            Our second calendar is the electronic calendar on our phones. We share an account so I can post something and he can see it immediately-even when we aren’t together. If something comes up in his schedule he can post it in the calendar right away (this took a LONG time to become a habit. Patience was key here to make this successful!) and then, even if he forgets to tell me about it (which usually happens) I can see it on the calendar. I loved Cozi, because of its ability to go from phone to tablet and computer and the fact it has many other amazing tools! But hubby liked the simplicity of our basic phone app calendar. So, since this tool only works if it is being used, we switched to the more simple app.
            I could go on and on (and ON!) about how this simple change has transformed our lives, but anyone who understands the complexities of TBI and memory troubles and juggling schedules riddled with doctor appointments and soccer and violin practice will understand-this process was a life changer.
#3. Our Tempur-Pedic Mattress.
            Okay. Before you roll your eyes at the cost involved with this, know that I was right there with you. This was something that was NEVER in our budget to afford except for a small miracle. Our old mattress was dead. D.E.A.D. And we had to buy a new mattress. We decided, because of this miracle, we would make an investment. We thought “who knows how long it would be until we could buy another mattress?”. So we made the plunge. And I am not exaggerating when I say that for the first two years, I literally hugged my bed every time I crawled onto it. It is that comfortable. And, four years later, it STILL is. (I just quit hugging it because, after two years, I was being "a little too dramatic" according the rest of my family.)
            The reason this is on my Top Seven List is not just for it’s comfort, but also for it’s practicality for a family with a PTSD and TBI vet.  There are so many reasons sleep is hard for a veteran with PTSD. This, naturally, makes it hard for whoever is sleeping next to them. The Tempur-Pedic doesn’t move around like a normal mattress. So, every time my hubby would move, wake up startled, or get out of bed in the middle of the night, I wasn’t as disturbed by his movement. With that same idea, once he was finally able to get to sleep, I didn't have to worry about waking him up every time I was summoned out of bed in the middle of the night by a hungry baby. Sleep is key for a lot of things to function right and this bed has helped with some of our sleep challenges for sure.
#4. GPS unit for the car.
            Most of the doctor appointments my hubby goes to are two hours or more away from our home. I don’t know how I ever arrived to any destination before GPS was invented. Actually, I do-- my hubby is very directionally-abled and he can keep track of turns and twists in a cityscape in ways that amaze me. But, when he is really sick, or he is in a doctor’s appointment for hours at a time, I am left to my own directionally challenged behavior. Before GPS, I was always experiencing one of these things: being stuck in a parking lot waiting for him on days when kids and length of appointments prevented me from attending with him or afraid to venture away from the hospital grounds for fear of getting lost forever, or I was a nervous wreak trying to make it home while he was sick in the car next to me and unable to give me turn by turn directions. Not one of these is a pleasant option. GPS enabled me to explore and discover that Target was just a hop skip and a jump away from one of our most frequently visited locations (I think I might have heard angels singing on that day), and it helped me get home the right way every time (without taking four wrong exits first. )
#5. Medicine Lists with quick tear off options & Telephone List
            Having a complete and updated meds list is important. It keeps us organized with dosage and refills. It also is essential in an emergency. It is really difficult, during an emergency, to try and write neatly, to try and remember each and every medicine and dosage etc. I have learned (the hard way) that I work best having this all prepared and ready to go just in case. I have a printed sheet that lists important phone numbers, including poison control and the refill line and prompt directions. I also list here each medicine that he takes and the dosage and frequency. At the bottom of this page I make a small cut just far enough across to enable me to tear it off quickly if I need to pass it off to an EMT or doctor. You can find an example of what I am talking about HERE.
Next to where I post this list, I also have a list of current doctors, nurses, and various other contacts. He has doctors in multiple cities and locations, so I list their names, their department (neuro, primary care, etc) and their location along with their phone or email. Yes, I store all of this in my phone, too. But having a written list that categorizes the doctors by what they take care of helps me keep things organized in my mind. Also, in the event that my phone dies, I have a list of numbers that are like gold to me. I would hate to have to go back to only using the main 800 number, following prompt after prompt, only to get thrown back where I started ten minutes ago.
#6. Our Dogs
            Really, I can’t say enough about how our dogs have helped our family. Dogs have a way of doing this. I will say, though, some who know me well will know that I also struggle with this area of our life. I love our dogs and the physical and emotional support they offer our family. I am not in love with, however, the incessant shedding, the dirt, the barking, the drooling, the scooping of their yard. Dogs are work. So, although they are an invaluable part of our family and this list, they are not for everyone. On some days, they aren’t even for me.
            Dogs can sense things about people that we would only know if we were told. Our dogs are very good with this. On days where my hubby has a hard day, the dogs know and can be found following him everywhere or sitting nearly on top of him. With the recent increase in what we think are localized seizures, our one dog is sensitive to them and has even been known to sleep on top of my hubby while it is happening. There are so many ways the dogs have been helpful, I just had to list them here.
#7. Prayer & Gratitude
            I believe gratitude is life changing no matter who you are. I thought I was a grateful person until about this time in my life when I discovered I had so much more to be thankful for than I ever imagined.  Now, I am more purposeful about it and it is vital. Every time I get stuck thinking about all the “I don’t haves” or “I wish things were different” , I find myself very discontent and bitter. Thinking about what isn’t doesn’t change things; it just hardens my heart. When I think about all that IS, all that I do have, all that is gifted to me daily starting with the very breath I have, well, then, I find I am very, very blessed indeed, no matter what my circumstances are like.
          Prayer changes things. Not always our situation, but definitely our hearts. Prayer connects people, too. Prayer allows us to connect with others who may not be able to understand our situation, but together we can bring our situation to the God Who does know .  Taking time to pray, individually, and separately, and how God has used these prayers, this is what has kept our family together during our hardest times. Prayer is what has led us to discover and/or enabled us to have every other item on this list. I listed it last not because of unimportance, but precisely because it is the most important. If you leave this post with anything in your mind, please leave with this: Pray.
Never give up.
Trust that God has heard your prayers even if everything is pointing the opposite direction.
And then, Do The Next Thing and wait for God to do His thing.



Do the Next Thing
As quoted by Elisabeth Elliot

From an old English parsonage down by the sea
There came in the twilight a message for me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring, 
Like a low inspiration: DO THE NEXT THING.

May a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING.

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command,
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener, 
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor.
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing!
Then as He beckons thee, DO THE NEXT THING.
(Source Unknown)  







Do The Next Thing