I was at work the other day and it was kind of slow in between customers, so I took a little time to write my feelings on some things. I do apologize for its length, but hopefully I can make it an interesting read.
Nothing can prepare you as you journey across the country as you enter military life. You leave part of you behind as a civilian once you cross over. PX's, Commissary's, FTX's, PT and 4 am alarms and 6 pm home arrivals just become everyday household vocabulary when you live the military life. Its tough. I began my journey as an Army wife May 25, 2005 when I had to prepare myself, who was pregnant with my son to be separated from my husband for 9 weeks as he embarked on his journey to become a proud soldier during basic training at Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. We were somewhat naive to what was to come. His intelligence alone could not carry him through this. His ability, strength and knowing his expectant wife was at home thinking of him and being extremely pourd of all his accomplishments carried him through the 5k and the 10k marches, the gas chamber, fire guard and the pts tests under horrendous stress and of course the hot and humid temperatures of the area. He passed it all!
Very pregnant me, my father and our friend Tippy took on the summer sun and the long stretch of road from Charleston, IL to Lawton, Oklahoma. I could finally see my husband after all these lonely 9 weeks of being apart from one another those 2 months seemed like years. The small distance to us seemed like we were worlds apart. The time we lost I often wondered if it was time we'd gain, two days together wasn't enough, but it would carry us through till I could move down to San Antonio. Little did I know, perhaps I did know, but just wasn't prepared for lonely days and lonely nights once again. I would have the company of my child and then the company of my husband on the weekends. It was very difficult to be a "single" parent. My whole life was to care the wants and needs of my child before my own. I walked a mile and a half down the road to a grocery store for diapers, wipes, formula and nursery water. I would do my grocery shopping and prepare the apartment for our guests of 5 to 12 soldier medics and welcomed them all in my home, free of charge.
They would often chip in for food, drink and just lend us money for saving them loads on hotel rooms for the weekend. They always knew they were welcome in my home if they needed a place to crash for the night. I met so many wonderful people, but didn't realize that its hard to keep friends, because keeping in touch with them all as they go to different corners of the world-- some would not be coming home again. And part of me wants to find those that entered my life and know they are doing good, but part of me just want to keep the memories that I have of them, in case they were one of the many that sacrificed it all. Friends come and go and that is the hardest of all. Which is why it is hard to make friends when you're a military spouse, you know most of them won't stay for long and you've already had to leave your civilian friends behind and that is hard enough.
Once he was done with AIT, we headed back home for a month with one final trip down to San Antonio, to load up our things and get ready for our move to Ft. Lewis, Washington where he would be stationed with his best friend Chang before their deployments to Iraq. Living in Washington while you suffer from major depressive disorder and being in denial about it was rough. Never wanting to do anything, sleeping every chance I could, going through bouts of insomnia that lasted weeks at a time, trying to care for my child. I couldn't even make a simple decision when asked. Duane would often make fun of me when I'd blank out to the simplest questions and I didn't even associate that to my depression. Making a simple decision such as where to eat or what grocery store to go was an impossible task for me at the time. I came to terms with my depression and told him I needed help. My physical pain, such as headaches, backaches, chest pain and overall joint pain that I felt each morning was hard to bear. I'd become so angry. I'd cry at a whim. I felt so alone. I felt my only purpose in this marriage was to cook and clean. I couldn't even bring myself to do that. The laundry would pile up, so would the dishes. I use to enjoy cleaning and now I didn't. I felt overwhelmed and anxious all the time. I felt like everyone expected something from me that I just wasn't able to give. I didn't care. At some point, I just stopped loving myself. I was inside somewhere, but I couldn't be found. My depression had escalated and no one, including myself could see this. I just thought everything was my fault and all the weight of the world was on my shoulders. I felt disgusting and ugly. I gained a lot of weight. I was hurting on the inside, but I had to wear a mask to cover it up. It was physically exhausting for me. And very hard to keep on at times. Especially around those I love.
It got worse during the deployment. Everyone would tell me how strong I was, but I didn't feel anything but weak. My loneliness was too hard to bear, going to bed at night was something I didn't even look forward to. My mornings became a blur. I couldn't get to the things I needed to. My best friends became the military fiances, girlfriends and other wives who have been through the same things. None else could relate. I still find it hard to relate to people who have never been a military family. One thing I have learned is, you must take responsibility for your depression and seek help. If you don't it doesn't get better with time, it only gets worse. My husband returned home very different and very unloving toward me. I wouldn't hear from him for weeks at a time. I felt unwanted and unloved. And generally overwhelmed with anxiety. What is wrong with me? Why is he like this to me? Questions that are 'still' unanswered. Things with my depression continued to escalate. If I had knew then what I know now, perhaps I would've prepared myself better for the road that is laying before us. And we may not have ended up like how we entered the military life--separated. I do not know the things he saw or the things he had to do, to keep himself alive so that he would return home to us. All I do know is he didn't return the same as the day he left us and the days that preceded those. He doesn't have any visible scars, but he didn't return home unharmed or without wounds. His wounds cannot be seen but they can be felt. And I feel them every morning when I wake up and they're still just as powerful in my dreams. And as his wife its hard to swallow and its difficult to get people to understand something that he doesn't even understand himself. He feels lost and lonely and is a complete stranger even unto himself. He looks for something more, something to give him purpose and hope and something familiar, because he now knows the world isn't the safe place he had always known it to be.