People ask me all the time if I have had similar conversations about topics that constantly effect our life. Just like other times in our lives there are somethings you just shouldn't discuss with a person you just met or barely know. So here's a little more etiquette for you in regards to the world of our wounded warriors and our families.
First, you should never sit down with or walk up to and immediately begin talking about a soldiers injuries. If you do not know the family, then it is none of your business how extensive these injuries are. It's great that you care, but you asking for a roll call of what's wrong is inappropriate and is only the business of our families and our medical team. Yes we have had people ask, "Well can you still have kids?" This is their way of what they think is the polite way of asking if Chaz had a groin injury. Before you think no way, or this has only happened to Chaz and I, think again. I have talked to several people and they have had similar occurrences. Bottom line our service member was injured and is in the hospital you really don't need to know anymore than that unless you are on our healing team.
Second PTS and TBI are completely off the table for random discussion. I had a man sit down next to me once and say, "I want to talk to you about your husband's PTSD." (First I am helping a friend change that stigma and I will refer to it as PTS, because as she pointed out it is not a disorder.) But I had never met this man in my life. My husband, nor any member of my family had ever met this man before so he totally crossed the line. Do I think he meant well? Yes I do. But you should not jump into someone else's cheerios without being asked first. Of course I asked him, "Are you a medical professional?" He said that no he wasn't but he had seen Dateline (or some show along those lines) and he volunteers and tries to help others. I was intrigued. I said so you watched a show and now you are an expert. He said no, but he had learned a lot from additional research on the internet. (Oh yes, I smiled that evil grinch grin.) I then said well how many soldiers have you helped calm down after fire works have gone off or after loud noises have occurred around them? How many times have you been called out of your warm bed at 2 am because the police need you to draw the layout of your neighbors' house because the husband has flipped out and he thinks he's under attack so he has his wife and children locked up in the bathroom at gun point? Guess what his answer was, that's right, he said no. I then said if you want to help people how about you listen to them rather than sitting down and trying to jump into their personal business. I also told him, that there's a line and you just jumped over it. I also told him reading things on the internet and watching a TV show will not qualify him as a reliable authority. I said you want to help, just smile and talk about the weather or sports or anything else that is outside of our current situation. Distraction is sometimes the best medicine.
Third, if we tell you everything is great or fine, it is. You have no right to push the issue. I have had several people say, "I've seen your pictures" or "I read your blog" then it follows with "you seem like everything is ok, but is it really?" Yes I actually do want to smack these people. First who are you?! Second, why would I instantly divulge my life to you?! Third, what gives you the permission to cross over territory that is beyond personal? Fourth, would you say that to another person? If you saw pictures of another person who wasn't injured would you ask them if everything was ok?! You know the answer is no. And just so you know we are great. I am not making this up, ask the people closest to us. I can provide references if necessary. I know we are weird. I get it. Life threw us a huge curve ball and Chaz and I swung the bat and knocked it back out of the park. I know you think I couldn't do that. Or perhaps you think it is all for show. Well it's not. Come walk around with us for a day and you'll see we are legit. Chaz and I are blazing a trail down the path less taken. We are choosing to be thankful for the lives we still have together instead of focusing on and grieving for the things we have lost. To quote Joe from Family Guy, "We life ruins your legs, you make legonade."
Fourth, please do not patronize us. Please don't try to compare what we are going through to something else, unless you have been where we are. My favorite conversations usually occur when someone says, I know what your husband is going through because my cousin's friend was in a car wreck. Or I had surgery once and so I know exactly what you are talking about. Bottom line is you don't. I would never walk up to a cancer patient and tell them I know what they are dealing with. I have never told Chaz I know what you are dealing with. I have told him I know how drugs effected my body and how hard PT was on me after my knee surgery. I listen to him and the doctors, therapists and nurses and I try to educate myself and learn as much as I can. I have had soldiers and marines ask me all the time did Chaz have this drug? Did Chaz have phantom pains? I answer them as his wife and share what I witnessed, but I do not patronize them. I tell them the meds and tricks Chaz used and answer all their questions to the best of my ability. Now as for the standpoint of the support crew of a wounded warrior I can speak very confidently on that issue.
Fifth, our kids are totally none of your business. I am a very over protective mommy. Random strangers (and some family members and close friends) do not get any say in our kids. Do not tell me that I should take them to counseling. Do not tell me how I should educate or discipline them. To me this rule extends to all parents and children not just those of wounded warrior families. The only people in our lives who get unlimited say in our kids is Chaz and myself. Don't tell me what I should say to them, when I should say it or how I should say it. But for those who want to know our girls have been observed by a few child psychologists, 2 counselors, our 2 social workers and their pediatrician. All of which have signed off saying they feel our girls are great and have told us to keep up the great work. So you can see I've got this one covered.
I truly think people think that if they see you, then they think they can ask whatever they wish to ask. You are so very wrong if you think this. Please help me teach them that such personal business is within the scope of personal friends, family and medical professionals, but does not extend to random strangers. New people to the ball game just can't jump right in. Turn the tables on yourself. Would you want someone asking you those questions? If the answer is no, then you should not ask them. We have enough stress in our lives right now, we really don't need you adding to it. Seriously just thank us for our service and talk about the most recent sports game or gossip in the media. Treat us as normal as you would others. You wouldn't go to the company Christmas party and ask questions about injuries and such, so don't do it when you meet a wounded warrior family.
Dealing with the Wounded Warrior roller coaster is fun enough without your random curves thrown in. If you really want to help, just say, "Hey I am here to help you how ever I can." Please don't try to control us. Ask us. We are all still people, we are not mentally incompetent children. Think to yourself if I was in their shoes what would be a great way to help.