I've just returned from a life-changing three-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia. I was humbled and inspired by the “Tiger” Women I met during my travels, and have so many insights to share from my conversations with them! Many Westerners cling to the outdated stereotype of the Asian woman as quiet, meek, and retiring. Most of the women I met were respectful and soft-spoken, but absolutely none of them struck me as meek or weak. They were wise, determined, clever, and proud of their rich heritage. Here's what they taught me as I made my way through their amazing country.
While researching my book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, I spoke with dozens of partners to combat-injured veterans about their challenges, triumphs, and tragedies. As you might imagine, their stories were incredibly moving and eye-opening. I am forever grateful to these brave women for their candor, for sharing the hard truths of their lives with all who would listen. And from them I learned that there are a few things that only spouses of wounded warriors can truly comprehend.
As so many of the women I interviewed for Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife told me, living with a combat-injured veteran frequently means living in the shadow of post-traumatic stress (PTS). Vivid nightmares and terrifying mid-day flashbacks are the most well-known symptoms, but many wives also spoke of violent mood swings, quick tempers, jumpiness, and depression. Family members often feel confused and helpless, unsure how to best support their beloved wounded warrior. PTS aftershocks can be especially hard for the children of wounded veterans, since kids from toddlers to teens may feel unsafe and unsure around their suffering parent, never knowing what reaction to expect. With that in mind, here are a few tools that the spouses and children of wounded warriors can utilize as they adjust to life with a PTS-sufferer:
Our culture tends to praise survivors. We preach serious respect for people who can live through trauma, loss, or catastrophe, and rightly so. But few of us make the important distinction between living through something and bouncing back from it. A person can live through horrific events, but come out the other side forever scarred and ill-equipped to move on. Think of our valiant veterans who return from combat steeped in post-traumatic stress, altered and traumatized by what they've seen and experienced. Those with the coping skills to process intense grief or relentless fear are more likely to truly get over their painful pasts and live fulfilling lives. Luckily, there are ways to build those skills even if you don't have them in abundance naturally! Here are five expert-endorsed ways to build your internal resilience:
The winter holidays are coming up fast – can you believe it?! And that means many of us are bracing for one of the most joyous and stressful times of year. This is especially true for those of you who are caregivers. Gift-buying and the associated financial strain, family gatherings with their trying dynamics, and coordinating multiple schedules around dozens of events is even more taxing if most of your energy goes toward helping an ill or injured loved-one. When your role within your family is that of a caregiver, ordinary stress is automatically doubled. Reducing stress is tricky because each of us does it differently. There's no one-method-fits-all way to ease tension or minimize worry. But there are also a variety of techniques and ideas for de-stressing that aren't widely known and may appeal to some of you who are grappling with a heavy load. So with that in mind, here are some easy, effective ways to lessen your anxiety and tension as a caregiver.
Women have long been labeled as the “weaker sex,” and are constantly battling against this laughable stereotype. Naturally, our weakness is determined in comparison to men's apparent strength, which has somehow become the only yardstick for measuring perseverance and power. But strength is much more than heaving heavy objects or crushing corporate competition. If we expand our definition of strength, we quickly discover that women are as strong—if not stronger—than their male counterparts. Here are five feats of strength that women perform on the regular:
Remember back in 2013 when former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted the ban on women in frontline combat positions? It made major headlines and seemed like a huge breakthrough, right? But what we forgot back then—and tend to forget ongoing—is that women have ALWAYS played a major role in wars, combat, and military service. Ancient warrior women from cultures the world over fought alongside men. Celtic warriors like Boudicca and Grace O’Malley, along with more well-known historic figures including Helen of Troy, Joan of Arc, Lysistrata, and Cleopatra were all instrumental in planning and executing wars on behalf of their home nations. Here in America, however, women were relegated to non-combat roles from the Revolutionary War right up until 2013. So it makes sense that we'd be surprised when they were finally welcomed back to the front lines. And since women warriors are still overlooked much of the time, here are some fascinating facts about how women have contributed to—and been affected by—military service over the decades:
We're less than a month away from Veteran's Day, which means that our brave servicemen and women are getting slightly more attention, affection, and praise from the general public than usual. And that's a good thing. The people who fight in our armed forces are everyday heroes. They deserve to be honored for their sacrifices and acknowledged for their courage, especially if they've returned from combat with life-altering wounds. Know who else deserves our admiration and applause? The spouses of our wounded veterans. Many Americans will only think about military servicepeople on the holidays that honor them, or when news footage of war-torn countries flashes by. But how often do we think about the wives, husbands, and families that support our injured fighters? Not often enough. And when we do, we may land upon one of these common misconceptions:
You might be surprised to hear that, "Everything happens for a reason," doesn't actually help people coping with loss.