For the Young Military Spouse Feeling Lonely During the Holidays
I often receive messages from spouses, some asking for advice, some just wanting to introduce themselves. Recently, I received the email below. This one hit home with me because I can relate to her loneliness and struggle with mental illness. My heart truly went out to her. With her permission, I’ve included her email and my response.
Hi, I don’t know if this is okay or not, but I saw your blog and a post that said you have depression and PTSD. I read other spouse blogs but yours was the first one I read that was like not fake happy, and I like that. I like the good advice in the articles too so thought I’d ask if you can help me. Basically I’m falling apart. I have depression too diagnosed about 2 years ago. I’m 22 just got married and my husband is deployed. I’m a mess. We moved on post right before he left and moved away from family and my family doesn’t even approve of us being married so they’re no help and tell me I knew what I was getting into getting married young and to a soldier. I’m really sad and I feel like I’m all alone. I feel like everyone is all happy and has their shit together and I’m just a weak crybaby who can’t deal. My husband tries to help but he’s so far away and I feel like I’m bugging him even though he says I’m not and I just don’t know what to do. How do you deal with all this especially at Christmastime? Thanks for listening.
Fair warning: This is going to be a LONG response so bear with me. First of all, thank you for sharing with me. What you’re feeling is totally normal and does NOT by any means, make you a weak crybaby. We all need a shoulder to lean on now and then and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. I won’t say “I know exactly how you feel” but I certainly can relate to what you’re going through. Separations and deployments just plain suck. I can’t tell you how to cope with everything, because what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but I can offer some suggestions.
I’ve heard spouses say they hid their problems from their spouse while they were away as to not worry or distract them, but I am not one of those spouses. Granted, I don’t unload all my issues on my husband and expect him to solve them, but I do share what I’m thinking and feeling and ask him to do the same. We work through our individual problems together as a team. We don’t always find a solution, but simply talking about it is a great consolation. In communicating freely, it strengthens our understanding and appreciation of one another. The great thing about marriage is that you don’t both have to be strong at the same time. You can take turns being strong for each other when one of you is feeling fragile.
As for your family saying you knew what you were getting into by marrying a solider, I’ve heard the same annoying remark. I used to get pissed when someone said it, but then I realized they had no idea what military life entailed. The military lifestyle is unpredictable, so them thinking you knew what was in store for you is just an ignorant assumption. Wasting energy arguing about it is not worth your time nor is it worth risking your relationship over. Honestly, in that case, just choose your battles.
If you can connect with other military spouses, that is probably your best bet. It’s great to talk about your situation with other spouses who are going through or who have gone through similar experiences. If you’re not keen on the FRG (they sometimes get a bad rap), reach out to other spouses in your husband’s unit apart from the FRG, introduce yourself to neighbors, or see if your post has a spouse’s page on Facebook. I should add that you shouldn’t limit yourself to military spouses when it comes to social interaction, but in this case, it would be beneficial because they can relate to your current situation. If you’re struggling to find support locally, there are a lot of military support pages on Facebook too. Just ask and I’ll direct you to them.
If you’re a socially awkward, anxious basket case like moi, it takes A LOT of effort to put yourself out there, but it’s worth it. I’m still working on being more outgoing, and it is a slooow process but I’m really proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself. In doing so, I’ve actually met some really amazing people!
If you’re on medication for your depression, make sure you’re consistent with dosing. Don’t skip days or doses because it can lead to crazy withdrawal symptoms and make you feel even worse. Trust me, it’s not pleasant!
As for how I deal personally, aside from talking to my husband and writing, I advocate having a mental health day. Pre-baby, I would have a day (or weekend) where I had a guilt-free pity party, complete with bouts of ugly crying, stuffing my face with my favorite comfort food and binging Grey’s Anatomy. Now, post-baby, I have a lot less me time during the day, but I make it a point to find time to myself even if it’s in small increments, like when he is napping. I don’t have my shit together all the time and quite frankly, sometimes I just need to cry. If you need to take a mental health day (or weekend) by all means cuddle up to that Ben and Jerry’s (or whatever your comfort food of choice is), mold your ass to the couch and binge Netflix. And like I’ve written in the past, it’s okay to not be okay. Everyone has their off days. Just know that the tide will turn and if all else fails, you can always talk to me.