Friday, September 25, 2015

The Art of Saying "No" as a Caregiver

By Jennifer MacKinday

I gave up. Okay, maybe I didn’t give up. But I definitely gave in. Over time, as it became clear that caregiving was to be a prominent part of my life, I gave in to the notion that personal goals weren’t as important as my commitments to others. Because our family had benefited so greatly by the help of others during the most crucial times of healing and recovery, I also felt called to help other military families and their caregivers overcome their obstacles.

As a caregiver, I excel. I am organized, I do plenty of research, and I am tirelessly committed to making sure my brother gets the care he needs and deserves. Modeling the care and concern I’ve received from other military caregivers over the years, I found myself applying that same passion and dedication to anyone who asked me for help. Soon, I found myself successful at being a caregiver and an advocate. However, that success came my way at a price.

We sometimes joke at my house about the ‘Sweat Pants Years’. Don’t let the catchy phrase fool you; the sweat pants years were by no means leisurely. Those are the years in my life when I paid little attention to myself. Instead, my days were spent volunteering, advocating for military families on a number of platforms, and freely giving of my time to families in crisis. I wore sweats almost all of the time because I was either on the go or on my computer-fashion was of little concern.

I became crazy busy with more obligations than you can imagine. I did it all to myself and I loved being active and busy, but my workload began snowballing. Soon, I was overwhelmed with social media messages, emails, phone calls, and text messages, many from people I had never even met. It became physically impossible for me to respond to them all. I wasn’t purposefully ignoring them, but I honestly received over 200 communications every day. Soon, tremendous feelings of guilt set in when someone would mention that they tried to reach me but didn’t hear back.

All the while, I was denying myself and those closest to me the most valuable resource I have to offer: me. It wasn’t until my doctor pointed out, while lecturing me about my increasing blood pressure and lack of self-care, that people-pleasing tendencies create stress and inefficient production cycles. Right there in the exam room she said, “Repeat after me. No.”

I laughed, and she shook her finger. “I mean it. If you keep giving and don’t start saying no, your health will be in real trouble. What kind of caregiver will you be then?”

Ouch. Those words stung. I left the office with blood pressure medication, a list of breathing exercises to practice, and a note from the doctor that read “NO.” When I got home, I made a list of all the roles in my life that demand my time: wife, work, military caregiver, military mom, elderly dog owner, military advocate, Boy Scout leader, and community volunteer. Overriding all those important roles was the role I was allowing to take over my life: The role of people-pleaser. It was time for some tough decisions about all the commitments in my life.

For many caregivers, the most important work of our lives is compassionately caring for others, and we don't say ‘NO’ often enough. With our ever-connected lives, it’s incredibly easy to people-please 24/7, anytime and anywhere. Ding. Ring. Beep. Buzz. We’ve conditioned ourselves to react to any and every alert.

Saying ‘NO’ isn’t easy at first, but with practice you can do it. By taking the reins of your time you will not only help preserve your most valuable resource, you’ll also grow personally and professionally. You’ll become less stressed, have more time and saying ‘YES’ to a project or activity will be fun!

Here are four simple ways that you can say ‘NO’.
1. “I can’t. I have other obligations right now.”
2. “If I had the time, Id love to do this, but now isn’t a good time for me.”
3. “I’ll keep this in mind, but it doesn’t fit with my schedule now.”
4. “No, I cant.”

Go ahead practice them. Record yourself saying these phrases. Then play the recording back, a few times. Practice makes perfect. These answers let the requestor know your plate is full. They are simple and direct. They don’t need any explanation, either. I guarantee youll be surprised when the response to your newfound empowerment isnt as bad as what you imagined.

Learning to say "NO" is getting easier for me. I have more time for myself, work and the things that are most important in my life. I’ve learned that I can say “NO” and not feel guilty or let someone else down. And I’ve also reminded myself that the most important part of being a great caregiver is taking care of myself. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Suicide Prevention Month: Ask a Question, Save a Life

By Vicki Lane

As National Suicide Prevention Month winds down, Hope For The Warriors® would like to leave you with a veteran’s story that we hope will remind you how important it is to turn awareness into a shared responsibility to prevent yet another veteran suicide—not just during the month of September, but year round.

A female veteran came to Hope For The Warriors® for assistance while she was recovering at a military medical center for an attempted suicide. A Clinical Team Member from Hope For The Warriors® was assigned to assist during her continued recovery and transition. As a medic deployed to Afghanistan she experienced unspeakable tragedies—many involving children—and had difficulty putting those experiences and memories behind her. She began feeling she did not deserve to have children since she couldn’t protect the children she saw in Afghanistan. The veteran shared with the team member that her family had fallen apart while she was suffering from the effects of her combat experiences. 

This veteran began to push her family away, feeling they would be better off without her.  She shared that she became angry, impatient, withdrawn, and unable to sleep. What put her “over the edge,” however, was when she officially found out she was to be medically discharged due to her severe PTSD. Although she was receiving treatment for her symptoms and recognized she could not continue to perform her duties, she was nonetheless devastated when the decision was final. She shared that she never had any stability in her life until she joined the military. She also said that she’d been very successful in the military, quickly gained rank, and had planned to make military service a career. She had finally found a place she felt complete, safe, and successful—and she was losing all of that.

So she decided she couldn’t go back to a life without the stability and support she had found in the military. She shared that she was already in the process of divorcing her husband and had sent her children to stay with extended family members in another state. She made plans to die by an overdose of sleeping medications she’d saved up over the previous months. She felt alone, that no one cared, and that she, and everyone around her, would be better off if she were gone. When asked if she told anyone of her plans, she said she really didn’t speak to anyone, that she had withdrawn from her family, friends, and co-workers. When asked if she would have shared her suicide plans with someone if they had asked her if she was thinking of suicide, she paused, considered the question, and quietly answered that she very well may have because it would have meant someone cared.

But no one asked and she attempted suicide two months prior to her estimated discharge date. Fortunately, she had second thoughts after she took the medication, sharing that her children’s faces flashed before her eyes, and she called 911. The paramedics arrived in time to save her life, although she suffered serious injuries from the overdose.  

Happy to be alive and anxious to reunite with her children, this veteran is now attending intensive outpatient treatment for PTSD and is scheduled to attend an intensive inpatient program later this fall. She plans to begin nursing school in the near future, hopeful that nursing will bring her the same sense of success and belonging she found as a medic in the military.

As she shared, she may not have attempted suicide if someone had noticed the changes and cared enough to ask if she was considering suicide. We ask that you help Hope For The Warriors® bring awareness to suicide by joining our efforts to fight the stigma, provide support, and continue education on the needs of our service members, veterans, and military families.

For Suicide Prevention Week and beyond, Hope For The Warriors® understands the importance of our shared responsibility to turn awareness into action. To honor the 22 veterans who die by suicide each day, we encourage you to make a $22 donation to collectively impact the lives of veterans who need our help. Also consider a recurring monthly donation to support military families throughout the year.

As always, thank you for joining in our mission to restore self, family, and HOPE.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Team Hope For The Warriors Newsletter: September

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. As part of this movement, Hope For The Warriors® is dedicated to raising awareness to suicide within the military population. And with that awareness is our shared responsibility to reach out to veterans in need.

According to the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, more than 1,300 active duty service members died by suicide from 2006 to 2010. And studies estimate that 8,000 veterans die by suicide each year, or approximately 22 each day. 

For Suicide Prevention Month and beyond, Hope For The Warriors® understands the importance of our shared responsibility to turn awareness into action. To honor the 22 veterans who die by suicide each day, we encourage you to make a $22 donation to collectively impact those who need our help. Also consider a recurring monthly donation to support service members throughout the year.

Thank you for joining us in our mission to restore self, family, and hope for years to come.

Team Schedule:

Fall is upon us and many exciting Team Hope For The Warriors® races are fast approaching. Below is a list of the upcoming events:
  • October 11, 2015 – Army Ten Miler*
  • October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon 10K
  • October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon*
  • November 1, 2015 – TCS NYC Marathon Register

*Handcycle friendly race

Fundraising Tip:

Ask your most trusted and dedicated supporters, either family or friends, to share your fundraising information on their social media pages. This will allow your fundraising page to be seen by another group of potential supporters through different friend circles. 

Training Tip:

As you head out on a long run before the Marine Corps Marathon or in your general training read this Active article for some helpful tips on how to have a successful run:

Team Member Corner: John Germain

John running in the 10th Annual Run For The Warriors® in Jacksonville, NC

Team Hope For The Warriors® member, John Germain, is an avid runner and mega-marathoner. He ran his first marathon at the 4th Marine Corps Marathon in 1979. Since then, he has finished 15 Marine Corps Marathons, completed a marathon in all 50 states, and is preparing for his 100th marathon, which will be the 40th Marine Corps Marathon on October 25, 2015. John will commemorate this event by wearing bib number 100 while running with Team Hope For The Warriors.

John became a recruit in the Marine Corps in 1978. His career has lasted over 30 years and he is currently the II Marine Expeditionary Force Operations Officer in the G-4 Logistics Department at Camp Lejeune, NC. He first connected with Hope For The Warriors® over ten years ago when he became the first volunteer at the 1st Annual Jacksonville Run For The Warriors®.

Hope For The Warriors® congratulates John on his amazing accomplishments and is honored that he has chosen to run his 100th Marathon on Team Hope For The Warriors®.

Program Information:

Secrets of Manhattan Scavenger Hunt:
Hope For The Warriors® invites you to our “Secrets of Manhattan Scavenger Hunt” fundraiser on Saturday, October 3. We’ll meet at Grand Central, and then take off on a race around Midtown. There will be a Score Tally After Party near the finish line with drinks and apps specials…and of course, prizes!

Find out more information and/or register here:

Team Gear:
As a member of our Team, you can save 10% on all online store items. As you train, be sure to proudly wear the Hope For The Warriors® logo so that people know the reason for your hard work. Visit and use the discount code TEAMH4W.

Charity Navigator:
For the fourth year in a row, Hope For The Warriors® has received a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. This exceptional rating, achieved by only 8% of the nonprofits they evaluate, highlights Hope For The Warriors® financial responsibility to the service members, military families, and families of the fallen we support. Team members can continue to ask people to donate towards fundraising goals with confidence! We invite you to view their latest evaluation of our efforts on the Charity Navigator website.

A Warrior’s Wish®:
This year, Hope For The Warriors® will grant 11 wishes to support service members, veterans, and military families. The nature of these Wishes will vary in scope from business, fitness, financial, and outdoor-related. The enrichment process will continue long after the Wish is granted to promote stability within the lives of these heroes and their families. As the Wishes are granted we will share the stories in the upcoming newsletters. Learn more about A Warriors Wish®

For more information please contact Steve Barto at

Rock ‘n’ Roll Series:
The Rock ‘n’ Roll race series has teamed up with everydayhero as their official fundraising platform. You can now run in any Rock ‘n’ Roll event and raise funds for Hope For The Warriors! Beginning March 1st, every race participant will be asked if they want to fundraise on behalf of their favorite cause during the race registration process. When you register and are asked to choose your charity, pick Hope For The Warriors® and you will automatically be given a Rock ‘n’ Roll everydayhero fundraising page!  

Run For The Warriors®:
Registration is now open for the following Run For The Warriors® events:
  • 5th Annual Harmon Meadow Run For The Warriors® Register
  • 2nd Annual DMV Run For The Warriors® Register
  • ASA Sponsored Run For The Warriors® Register
  • 8th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors® Register

For the complete list of races visit

Representing the Team:

Be sure to shoot us an email with your race schedule and where you will be wearing your Team jersey. Each time you wear your jersey, you help our mission to restore self, family, and hope. Feel free to share photos and special stories too!

Important Links For Social Media:

Twitter When you tweet be sure to use #TeamH4W