A fresh start, a new beginning, an investment.
As a caregiver we invest so much of ourselves into our loved ones that we often forget to invest in our own needs, health, hopes and dreams. There are trying times with little respite where we feel like we are living one minute, one day, one surgery at a time. From that despair grows great strength and resiliency. I am not the same person. We are not the same couple, nor are we the same family before our inpatient adventures began. We are actually better than ever before, even with the challenges of recovery. We were given the opportunity to be put through life’s toughest tests and triumph.
At some point, and I am not sure when or where in his recovery I had stopped investing in me, my career, and my health. I had to leave my job to take care of him. This is a reality that so many caregivers face. I went from putting on a business suit every day, traveling and writing reports, to tracking appointment schedules, going to the hospital and juggling medications. I had lost such a big part of me through his recovery that I needed to recover from too. His doctors just kept talking about establishing a sense of normalcy. What was this normalcy they kept talking about? For me, it was learning to balance being a working professional, mom and caregiver.
I began to seek out other caregivers who were working too. How did they do it? How did they find jobs? How did they handle the challenges of caring for their wounded, ill or injured too? I found there were a number of resources for military spouses and caregivers to find jobs. The Military Spouse Employment Partnership offered a host of job opportunities that would allow me to telework and be at home giving me flexibility as a caregiver and a mom. Hiring our Heroes, an initiative through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered assistance to wounded veterans and their caregivers (not just spouses). Their job fairs offered me more than just tables of employers to talk to, but help with my resume as well. I still remember how excited and nervous I was at my interview. I was elated when I was offered the job. I had finally reached one of my “recovery” milestones.
My new beginning started with a new job where I could work from home, the hospital or anywhere our lives may take us. I felt invested in. I felt like me again. Our new beginning as a family came a few months later after retirement from active duty and leaving Walter Reed. We got a fresh start in the civilian world, resilient, independent, working from home and ready to take on the world together. There are still trying days and more milestones to come, but we made the right investments to see us through.