I stated a while back that my family was on the last lap of our first deployment. If that was true, then we are now coming up on the last 100 meters.
(If any of you readers are runners, you know what I mean by this. It's the point where you are so exhausted and the end is so close in sight, that you give up all pacing and form and you just sprint as fast and hard as you can until you hit the finish line.)
Yep, that's how I feel. Running around this town like a crazy person, arms flailing wildly in all directions trying to get all the loose ends tied up before the big day, and a wide, silly grin on my face which reads, "We're gonna make it!"
And then this stupid thought comes into my mind..."But what if?"
All spouses think it. And truth be told, that tiny thought has been in the back of our minds since the day we kissed them goodbye and watched them walk away. It has lingered there for months and months, like a tiny shadow that haunts us when we turn off the lights and lay down our heads at night.
For the most part, I try to ignore it. I busy myself with volunteer work and plan all kinds of activities with the kids so it is not such a big deal if a day or two goes by without any communications with my solider. (I know for some of you, that time frame could be weeks. Let me just say right now, YOU are my hero!) But the beast can only stay buried for so long. Sooner or later, if I don't deal with that little "what if" rolling around in my head, it will come back to bite me in a very BIG way. (Namely, I might find myself overly-emotional and crying hysterically in front of a complete stranger who works the reception desk at the on-post clinic. Wait...Not everybody does that?!)
The fact of the matter is that I put on such a strong front for everybody all of the time, because I don't want to worry them.
My preschoolers don't know the real danger behind their father's work. If I am not strong for them, will it make them fearful?
I want my family to know that I am doing well and am capable of taking care of everything on my own. If I let on that I am sad/worried/panicked, won't that make them sad/worried/panicked in return?
I want to be someone my fellow spouses can lean on when they are hurting. Will they still want to lean on me if I have a moment of weakness?
I want complete strangers to think I am wonder woman...okay, that might just be a "me" thing!
But here comes the big kicker:
I want my husband to focus solely on his work and trust that I have everything under control. If I bring up my concerns, will he worry that I am not cut out for this gig or that things are slipping without him?
Fortunately, there is no prerequisite for becoming a mil-spouse stating that you have to put on a strong front at all times. Sometimes, we just need a moment to cry. We need a time to hang up our superhero capes and just be normal for once...or in my case, to be the sobbing weirdo at the family clinic.
Everyone deals with deployment stress (and distress) in different ways, but here are some of my suggestions.
-Make time for yourself: You juggle the kids, the house, your work, the visiting in-laws... It is good to stay busy, but you need to take a moment for yourself to decompress. For me, it's a glass of wine in the evening and a chance to blog. I also throw the kiddos into childcare for a few hours twice a week so I can go to the gym or even the grocery store by myself (ALLELUIA!) But I have a friend who shuts herself off from the world for a day, dives into a bag of chocolate, and has a movie marathon on Netflix. Whatever works for you, pencil it into your to-do list, and DO IT!
-Use the buddy system: When I am feeling discouraged or blue, I grab one of my favorite gal pals and head out for coffee, or dinner, or have her over for a glass of wine. It will do wonders for you to have one person you can spill your guts to, and who doesn't mind to listen. Don't have anyone local? I know lots of people who schedule frequent Skype dates with their sisters or a close relative when they need a pick-me-up or to blow off steam. Share your worries with someone close to you and you will always feel better for it.
-Get involved: Whether within the boundaries of a military program or not, it is always good for you to get involved in a worthy project. During this deployment, I volunteered on the steering team of my local MOPS group and am doing some work with our FRG. In both groups, I have busied myself with different and purposeful projects and have met wonderful ladies that I can laugh with and confide in. What's more, being connected with the FRG has given me pertinent details about the deployment/redeployment and is a wonderful resource for community/organizational activities outside of our battalion. (Don't knock it til you try it! And if you tried it and didn't like it? Try, try again!)
-Talk it out: For better or worse, I tell my soldier what is on my heart. It might make him worry a bit more about how I'm handling things over here, but I choose to keep the lines of communication open. If nothing else, at the end of it all he knows how much he means to me and how much he will always mean to me. But if that is a can of worms you don't want to open with your service member, there are other avenues to take. Contacting the Chaplain is always a good solution, or you could schedule an appointment to chat with a Military Family Life Counselor. (Your FRG can give you contact information for both!) Or there are several programs like "Hearts Apart" that bring together families of deployed soldiers so you can have someone to commiserate with (and partake in a bunch of free, fun activities along the way.)
Truth be told, that pesky "what if" is probably going to be there until I have my soldier back in my arms for good. But now that I've addressed the "elephant in my head," maybe I can get some semblance of shut-eye tonight. And Lord willing, the real snore-filled sleep will find me once my husband is back where he belongs.