Holiday Ping Pong

The holidays are over.  My family has all left.  Overall, we had a wonderful time.  We played hours of Taboo.  The dog is here, lounging on his pillow all day and wanting to play all night.  My house feels like a pit.  Not bad for a first holiday in my own home.

On the pre-deployment front, I’m like a ping pong ball.  There are times I feel ready.  I’m certainly not excited, but I can see aspects that aren’t as suck-filled as others.  I will be able to eat peas without DH’s face getting all scrunched in disgust.  The tv will stay on a channel longer than 30 seconds.  My bedroom won’t be carpeted with a layer of dirty gym clothes.  I feel ready to be the sole driver (at least around post) for the next year.  I’m looking forward to time to start the many craft project I have stored up.  I want to spend hours at the library and watch French movies without bargaining.  I don’t know exactly if they could be called perks, but they are all I’ve got.

On the other hand, I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat.  Everything feels overwhelming, rushed, and scary.  I’m terrified of being alone all day every day.  Without a hint of a job opportunity in sight, my days feel long and confined to the house.  I feel like if DH leaves he’s never going to come home at all.  Saying goodbye means never seeing him again.  I know better, but my absolutist view of the world, it’s either one or the other, all or nothing, makes everything skewed.

The good news is that I have started the process to finding a therapist.  I made some calls and have a tentative lady in mind.  The holidays are slowing the process down a bit, but I’m excited about starting therapy again.  From our short phone call, she seems nice.  I’m proud of myself for taking the first step.  I did my research and called all on my own.  Seeing a therapist under Tricare is going to be interesting.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be many issues.  I have a good feeling about the whole thing and am really, really anxious to meet her.

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Mr. Deployment, You Play Dirty

Everyone else is sending out fuzzy holiday wishes, but unfortunately I’m going to have to pass.  Mr. Deployment has ruined my Christmas.  DH got orders two days ago to meet up with his deployed unit very, very soon.  Right after the New Year, he’s leaving for two weeks to train up and then he’s gone.

We knew this was coming.  We’ve been preparing and discussing and doing all those pre-deployment things while we were moving in.  We actually got more time than we thought we would together.  I just don’t see why the Army feels like it has to do this now.  What was the point of giving us dates so close to Christmas?  Why couldn’t it wait until Monday?  Because now this stupid deployment has upstaged my family arriving and the gift giving and the food eating.  My new house and new furniture are old, boringness at this point.  Instead we’re busy with all the phone calls that have to be made to everyone letting them know.  The packing list has already arrived in my kitchen and gear has crept out of the basement.  Lists of more gear have been started.  Arrangements for DH’s parents to come in for the departure have already begun.  Where is my Christmas?!

I want to punch Mr. Deployment in the face.  I hate him for stealing my husband away.  I want to be angry, kicking and screaming about how unfair this is.  DH’s head is full of packing lists right now (rightly so, but it’s still crappy), so there’s no room for letting me through a tantrum.  I’m supposed to switch into self-reliant mode I guess.  I just want to get comfort when I’m scared and lonely.  Maybe a year from now when he’s home…if he’s home.  I feel like I just did this.  This apart thing just ended.  Aren’t I supposed to get the together time now?

Ugh, what a horrible way to feel during the holidays.  I was so looking forward to having my family see my new home.  Now I just want them all to leave.  Super Rad has been here for over a week now.  It’s been so great having him around, but I can tell he’s bored to tears.  We’re not even two years apart, but the age difference feels huge this time.  DH and I can spend all day with errands and house stuff and feel like we’ve accomplished so much.  We were giddy when our furniture got delivered last Friday.  Super Rad is bored unless he’s going to bars and hitting on girls.  Grocery shopping isn’t even a necessity on his list yet.  I’m not big on entertaining, so he’s been sitting here twiddling his thumbs.

My parents got here yesterday.  They brought my dog, which is good timing since it looks like we’re going to be on our own soon.  I’ve been getting the house dogified, and he seems to be getting comfortable in his new digs.  When DH unwraps his gift, I’ll post pictures of my handsome battle buddy.  Oh, and the house!  My parents are appropriately impressed with my house, so I’m happy.  It finally feels like a home with all the furniture they brought and the new stuff.  We’re cozy and perfect…and then Mr. Deployment goes and effs it all up.  Fan-flippin-tastic.

Marriage, Mental Illness, and Reintegration

The Department of Defense recently released the results of a study that concluded that soldiers are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms at increasing rates and that suicide rates are also on the rise.  While the study stopped short at concluding that these two issues are related, it is easy to see the correlation.  Recognizing a growing problem, the military has taken steps to better its treatment of mental health among its work force by partnering with the National Institute of Mental Health as well as creating an option for soldiers to self-assess mental health concerns several times a year.  It is far from a perfect solution, but it is a start.

Mental illness is a serious problem for returning soldiers that is complicated by a multitude of family, occupational, and personal factors.  The desire to reintegrate into civilian and family life as quickly as possible takes precedent over soldiers’ mental struggles.  The military has been slow to create resources to help, and the afflicted soldiers themselves are often reluctant to come forward.

It is equally as difficult for military spouses to deal with and appropriately help their ailing soldiers.  Although they are physically present, mentally ill soldiers are not the functioning person they appear to be.  It places a unique strain on military marriages that is rarely addressed.  OPSEC (operations security) prevents many details from the deployment from being discussed, which is highly detrimental to someone needing help.  It also creates a barrier between spouses that makes supporting a mentally ill spouse difficult.

Military spouses prepare themselves for the possibility that their soldier comes home physically injured, and medical resources are pointed out, but the silent struggle of PTSD and mental illness is not as readily supported.  A better job needs to be done to educate those left at home about the warning signs, techniques, and trained professionals that can help.  Awareness needs to be raised that marriages can suffer from the effects of war even after soldiers return home.  Joint counseling is one option to increase communication and understanding among couples while they readjust to the demand of life together again.

Life is complicated even further for DH and I because I suffer from mental illness too.  It’s hard for me to be understanding sometimes when I’m battling my own demons.  I have trouble finding a place of my own to voice my feelings, so putting them to the side really hurts.  I worry about DH coming home and having two people who feel isolated and alone in the same house.  Who will make the effort to come to the middle and communicate when both of us are withdrawing into ourselves?

Protecting My Own

For a very, very brief time I contemplated and tried being a reporter for the Examiner.  It’s an online site for local news on all sorts of stuff.  It sounds like a really cool opportunity to write about stuff I like.  I got placed as the Fort X Military Marriage Examiner.  Alright.  Sounds great.  I’m so on board.

I write my first couple articles, and it’s a little harder than I thought.  It’s newsy articles, so no first person.  I’m not really used to writing like that about the military,  but I gave it a go.  My problem came when my “manager” started reviewing my articles.  What the heck does he know about my situation?  What can he contribute about being a military spouse or how the military affects a marriage?  I got fiercely protective of my fellow military spouses and our lifestyle.  We’re a select group of people, and outsiders aren’t always welcome.

Long story short, I gave it up.  This blog is a better venue for me to share my opinions, feelings, and news on that topic than an online newspaper.  I’m too close to the issue right now to write impartially.  Perhaps I’ll try it again on a different topic because although I know military marriages, I can’t dispassionately separate raw emotion from fact right now.  It was a good idea gone bad.

Basking In The Suds

The washer and dryer DH and I bought over a month ago got delivered today.  I’m over the moon in love with them.  They’re probably the bestest thing I have ever bought.  No more storing dirty clothes up for two weeks to take to the laundromat.  Sigh… my Christmas was made today thanks to the wonderful men from Sears.

Now I have to get used to going down into the creepy basement all the time.  Ahh, the things we do for love.

Local Culture

I’ve lived a lot of places, and I always try to learn about if not assimilate into the local culture.  I think for military families, being seen as an outsider is really high up on the list of horrible things.  We know that to some extent we’re always going to be outsiders.  We move a lot.  We have a lot of weird military habits that don’t usually fit in.  But we do try and appear to be as local as possible, and for the most part, we’re pretty good at it.  I don’t want to brag, but I’ve seen if not lived in so many different cultures that I can usually pick out what region a person is from no matter where in the world it is.  I know what you’re thinking…super power?  Maybe.

My new community, however, has some really weird idiosyncracies.  People here are super impatient.  They are so impatient that many people won’t wait for red lights.  They get tired of waiting for the light to change and just go.  I’m flabbergasted.  Doesn’t this seem weird since I’m in the South where life moves a little slower?  And of all things, traffic laws seem like a biggie to follow.  You’re putting everyone else at that intersection at risk when you do that.  They don’t even run it a little after it’s turned from yellow.  They do it after they’ve been sitting at a red light for a few minutes and then decide to go before  it turns to green.  How odd.  It’s so prevalent that it’s included in the post safety briefing.  I think this is one custom that I’m going to be avoiding.

My Stuff

DH and I’s last house (not counting the hotel room during his training) was a one bedroom apartment.  It would be a stretch to call it 600 square feet.  It had one closet in the living room, one bathroom in the kitchen, and one bedroom with no windows or heat vents.  We lived an hour from Canada.  The heat vents were critical.  I had four different piece of linoleum and bright orange countertops in the kitchen.  We lived above the pharmacy, and the view from our living room was of the Chinese restaurant in town.  Clearly, we weren’t living in style, but the little place was ours.  It was the first place we got together after we got married, and we could afford it all on our own.  I’ll always think of it fondly because we both did a lot of learning in that little home.

The place was so snug, though, that we needed very little furniture.  We knew we were going to be entering military life soon, so we opted for cheap, semi-disposable pieces rather than decent furniture that we couldn’t get into the little place anyway.  The result was that DH and I are closing in on anniversary #3, and we don’t have much “stuff.”  This house is so empty.  We had to do a lot of our big, just-married purchasing now, and we don’t really have the funds to fully furnish a house this size.  We got the basics, but many things will have to wait.  We’re fine with this, but it does feel like our home is more than a little bare.

Coincidentally, my parents are downsizing right now.  They’re moving into a condo to reduce their yard responsibilities and to be able to travel more before they’re oldies.  They want to get rid of some things and (bless them) are willing to haul it all down to us when they come at Christmas.  We’re acquiring a grill, living room chair, dresser, bookcase, lawn mower, fake Christmas tree, and dog among other things.

This is a huge help to us and our budget because we don’t have to buy so many things right now but our home feels more lived in.  I’m worried that our home is going to feel hodge-podged though.  I want it to feel like it’s all meant to be in our home and not picked up from a garage sale.  Some things need serious painting, but I want to paint a few other things anyway.  I also worry that DH won’t feel like it’s his stuff.  I’m kind of looking forward to having some comforting furniture around me.  Some of these pieces have moved with me since I was a tiny kid.  When it’s the only consistency you have, seeing the same bookcase or dining room hutch no matter where you live means a lot.  These things don’t hold the same feelings for DH though.  I don’t want him to look at them and see my parents’ home.  I want him to see our home.

Do men even care, or are these just worries of a crazy woman?  I’m just thankful that we’re collecting furniture for our home cheaply, and that this stuff can continue being used by someone who loves it.

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