Monday, May 16, 2011

I Never Want You to be Alone...

I've warned you already, in retroactive Reserves blogging, I blog in the wrong order. This one comes to you from mid-deployment. I saw a tweet from an Army Wife today asking about what you miss most when your husband is deployed. Honestly, the tweet made me think about how helpful her posts and questions probably are, and how I could help others to not feel the way I felt.

I felt alone. The only other military spouse I had any relationship with during this tour was my boss. Her husband was deployed at the same time as my fiance, in roughly the same area. Though you would think this would give me a battle buddy, and while we can talk to each other as friends, she is still my boss. And whether she was hiding things from me because of that or not, she seemed to have it all together. My mom was several states and a plane ride away. And for much of the tour, my fiance and I were still just boyfriend and girlfriend.

I imagine my position is similar in many ways to that of a young wife, only recently arrived to her new installation when her husband is deployed. Except that she is surrounded by other young wives, and I hope and pray they would reach out to her. To that young wife, to the girlfriend or fiance, to the significant other of a Reservist, who is now far away from her family and friends, to anyone who simply thinks they do not have a battle buddy...

You are NOT alone.

Heck, if you feel like messaging me, I'll be your battle buddy.

Deployment #2 found me a plane ride away from my mom, at a recently started job, in an extremely expensive city, with roommates I was not close to, and without any close friends. Admittedly, I've never been close to girls, or had many close friends (probably due to the aforementioned tendency to speak my mind and be a b*tch), but I realized I had no one to talk to, confide in, or vent to.

The stress alone of going through the worry, the sleepless nights, and simply missing him can get to anyone and make you crazy. I found myself strangely grateful for 15-hour days during a work event. I went through stretches of time, 3 weeks in a stretch usually, where I didn't sleep, and if I did, I regularly woke up throughout the night. Occasionally, I could talk to my boss in abstract ways. We bought care package items for each other's loved one. We would talk in certain moments about certain things. We asked how the other's love one was, and we understood the sudden phone calls, late mornings, and need to miss a meeting because he suddenly popped up on chat or Skype. And those times helped. I am eternally grateful for that. But she was still my boss, and I still couldn't quite tell her the things that mattered.

The worst moments came midway through the tour. I didn't know, and at the time he didn't tell me, but my fiance suffered TBI when an IED exploded next to his vehicle. For those of you who don't know, TBI varies greatly in severity, ranging from a concussion to debilitating brain damage. Even on the mild end of the spectrum it can cause memory loss, migraines, mood swings, depression, irritability, ringing in the ears and more. In the armored vehicles of the military, the blast waves echo and bounce, attacking the brain from all angles.

At the same time, my roommate decided to move out, giving me approximately 2.5 weeks warning, while I was working on a major work event. I was about to be shouldered with double the rent, and had no availability to meet with people. The fiance and I prefer to share. I hate the people who say, "Don't tell him things. Don't stress him out." Actually, tell him what he wants to hear. Every person has their own rules and preferences in a deployment. In ours, if I didn't tell him things he would worry more.

But as bad as this moment was, as scared as I was, it was about to get worse. When we talked and I confided my panic, he exploded. He went off on me about the stress, and how his life was being planned for him since he would need to move in with me and help pay my rent. In my worst stress, my rock didn't just go away, it jumped up and beat me repeatedly.      I can't explain that day to you. I can tell you that I drank the strongest vodka tonic ever and cried for hours. I went to bed at 5. And somehow, I dragged myself out of bed and off to work because I had a giant work event to plan.  He apologized by email, which I wasn't willing to read the first two times I looked at it. He sent flowers. And I think he blew up again (don't quote me on this, the bad moments have been locked away somewhere in my mind).

I don't blame him. Once he came home on leave and told me what had happened, we both were able to understand that it was the TBI talking, not him. But in the moment, you don't know you'll be able to move on months later. You don't have a reason. And really, I partially blamed myself and partially blamed nothing. Just wondered how I was going to survive.

While I'm being honest, I truly believe moments like that, and the alone feeling lead me to being depressed during the second half of his deployment. I prayed a lot, and I made it through. Toward the end, I found a few other resources. One, Sealed Strength, pairs women with a loved one deployed with pen pals. Those cards were a godsend. I found other communities online, and people on twitter. While I couldn't always be 100% open, I could vent portions of what I was feeling, and I could feel connected.

If you're out there and you're feeling alone, scared, confused...  anything, please know you are NOT alone. I don't want you to feel how I felt. I don't want you to have that heartbreaking moment and not have anyone to reach out to. Unfortunately, things and feelings like this are normal, and even the woman who looks like she has it all together is probably feeling the same stress, heartache, emptiness.

I truly invite you to message me if you want. I promise to answer, to listen, to be there. And if that's not it, I hope that at least I can help someone just by being honest. I'm tired of the infighting, I'm tired of the divisions between branch, rank, specialty. WE ALL love our military member. WE ALL have massive challenges in deployment, different and the same. And we should never be alone.

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