Sharing Me

Emotion always has its roots in the unconscious and manifests itself in the body.

~Irene Claremont de Castillejo

Homecoming is so close I can feel it breathing on my neck! It’s been so long since I have seen my husband’s face, hair, skin, hands, – everything. Although he was home for a short time before getting redeployed it felt more like an R&R than his homecoming. We didn’t even get to enjoy a ‘honeymoon’ stage with the holidays, moving, our oldest going to a new school, and then the re-deployment. Even though we did the whole homecoming thing not too long ago I still find myself feeling the same reservations – specifically on touch.

As much as I dream about running into my husband’s arms to hold on for dear life, kissing him until we can’t any more, and having our bodies feel close again, I can’t remove myself from wondering if my space will feel violated? As well as how can it be violated if that space has been untouched because of a separation I have been longing to end?

As a military wife you learn to adapt and mold into whatever you need to be for any and every situation. Living months without any sensual, loving touch was difficult to get accustomed to at first but after time goes by its like you become comfortable with solitude and being untouched is as normal as waking up every morning.

Most people don’t allow just ‘anyone’ to touch you. I for one am no big ‘hugger’ – until I create an emotion for you. When we are out in public, to most people, it would be completely uncomfortable to have a stranger go up to you and put his/her hand on your shoulder as you converse. (I would probably be a bit scared too) Now if I know you this person (as an acquaintance per say) it might still be a little uncomfortable but more in the realm of okay. And thus, if I ‘know you – know you’ (in the sense that I have factual feelings for you) I would not only be okay with your hand on my shoulder but would expect more.

Children, for example, are the most honest and truthful individuals on earth – just because it’s all they know to be (a good thing, I say).  Most toddlers do not freely go to strangers unless they sense trust and an emotional connection. If you force them, they most likely will cry, kick, and scream. Conversely, if you take your time building that emotional bond, the toddler will slowly move towards you at their own pace and in the most genuine way ever.

So, here I am, feeling like a toddler faced with a stranger – and that stranger is touch. I know I love my husband and I trust him and have an emotional connection – but his touch is a stranger to my body. His touch needs to start over. His touch needs to work on a bond. His touch needs to earn my emotional connection. I expect it to not take too long but initially sharing me is going to be easier said than done.

Since the initial deployment my emotions have gone through shock, trauma, and recovery and all along the means used as the primary expression for these feelings – touch – has been suppressed.  I too need to retrain my mind and body to allow touch to be reintegrated into my life again. Touch – be it a hug, holding hands, a kiss, or a stroke on the face – is essential in a marriage and any loving relationship for that matter. So although, I am feeling a bit anxious about touch – I do recognize that I would fail at my love if I don’t walk into confronting this, even if it is a slow process, in the end it will be success.

Now I’m not quite sure how common this feeling is amongst most military wives but I wanted to be authentic about what is in my tumultuous thoughts and possibly in the other less outspoken military wives. And no – I’m not saying I plan on avoiding my husband’s touch like the plague. We will have our picture perfect – almost poster type homecoming moment, it’s after that moment has passed that worries me.

The human body is not an instrument to be used, but a realm of one’s being
to be experienced, explored, enriched and, thereby, educated.
–   Thomas Hanna

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Semper Waiting

A military wife knows more than anyone what it feels like to wait and wait and wait. We wait for deployments, we wait for homecomings, we wait on official word, we wait on getting leave, we wait for orders, we wait on emails, we wait on phone calls, well  (you get what I mean) we are simply – Semper Waiting Spouses.

Since my last blog post, I finally got an official homecoming date for the husband (woohoo!) after waiting over 2 long gruesome and lonesome months. But even with a visible date in the near future I still find myself waiting! Waiting for it to hit me that this is not just another rumor, waiting to hear more details, waiting for the ACTUAL day to come, and waiting to hear what’s next!

All in all, it makes for a good recipe for ANXIETY. Have you ever been at the commissary or Target and gone to the checkout lane and thought to yourself you chose the ‘wrong-slower’ lane or got that ‘the other line always moves faster’ feeling? As you stand there and ponder these thoughts in your mind your anxiety begins to rise and thus the ‘wait’ becomes intolerable. Well, for me – I feel like at times living to military life I’m doing nothing more than waiting on-line – the wrong , slow line.

Anxiety is simply the way we react to stress. Some handle it better than others and some can’t handle it at all. Anxiety is a feeling of fear, apprehension, worry, and nervousness. Most times anxiety is justified with a cause (such as the anticipation of our spouse going or coming home from deployment), but even with a reason it may come from creating out of proportion expectations to what normally may happen in the real situation. (Please read more at the National Institute of Mental Health)

Anxiety is part of life (even toddlers experience it) and it’s a very common denominator in military spouses. Explained waiting under any circumstance (at the airport, doctor’s office, and a restaurant) can be anxiety-inducing so you have to expect that waiting for your life to move forward is even double the anxiety!

Even though I am a Licensed Psychotherapist, I am no way immune to falling under the spell of anxiety over waiting. I have found myself blowing into brown paper bags and clenching my blouse as though pulling forward would allow my lungs to take a deep breath. I find myself exhausted but then can’t allow myself to sleep because of my mind is continuously thinking about all the possibilities. There are days my emotions (good and bad) are high – where I cry uncontrollably, laugh like I never have before, have lonesome bottomless-pit feelings, and have wonderful happy proud independent moments. Then there are days that I am completely emotion-less. I turn into a robotic zombie going through out my daily to-do with minimal conversations, facial expressions, and (clearly) emotion. Of course the latter is of more concern and when I recognize I am walking down hill a dark path I quickly attempt to do some damage control.

 Anxiety already runs in my family and having my husband in the military only intensifies my likelihood of being anxiety-laden. Having my background in clinical social work does, however, provide me with the ability to identify red flags even within myself (at least to a certain degree). What helps me the most to get through my anxiety-driven moments about waiting is mainly changing my thought process about the situation. Basically, confronting my fears – and as a military spouse that fear for me is: Phobia of the unknown.

Although I like change – its ‘good or exciting’ change I prefer! It is the fear of what may happen that leads to worrying, loneliness, and nervousness. I find myself at times laying alone in bed and thinking of all the negative possibilities but neither of them with an actual reason to put my mind into this whirlwind of thought. I will spend countless hours crying about what may happen, about the unfortunate stories I read or hear about, and weighing out how likely it can happen to us. But having anxiety about the unknown becomes simply redundant once I take a step back and reflect on the dent I am creating within my emotional stability because it is simply what it is – unknown!

Why should I allow my anxiety to take over about ‘possibilities’? There is a chance of the outcome being great and wonderful just as much as sad and frightening. Telling myself this when I feel choked by anxiety helps me get over the unnecessary fret. Now, I’m not saying it is easy – there are many days I just want to sulk in my worry and find optimism nauseating. But its good practice to take care of my emotional health – not only for me, but for my family too.

For many (including myself at times), eliminating anxiety of waiting completely can be an unattainable task (and depending on the severity – professional help may be required). And so, what I make as my weekly emotional health goal is to maintain a Manageable Waiting Level by creating an environment that promotes positive outlets and support to get through the difficult and challenging times of living the military life.

Here are some of my personal guidelines to conquer Semper Waiting:

 

1 – Eliminate all the Debbie-Downers in your life!

Or at least minimize the amount of involvement they have when it comes to you coping with your situation. Negativity is contagious – if that’s all you hear at some point it will be ALL you think and that is far from being emotionally healthy.

 

2 – Join a support group.

Even if it’s a virtual one! I have found my greatest support from a group of wives that created a group on FB, not knowing one another, to get through this deployment – I truly don’t know what I would have done without them on my most ‘down’ days.

 

3 – Keep busy by starting something new.

There are so many things I have on my bucket list and what a great time to start while the husband is away. During our first deployment I finally got going on ‘writing’ – it has truly been refreshing. I know of some other wives who started working out too – I say that’s two times more beneficial!

 

4 – Believing in something spiritually greater than you to help you.

For me, it is turning to God. This is probably the tool I use the most. In my most challenging moments I find it so soothing to know that  my Lord will always provide and will give me the strength I need to get through everything and in the end – no matter what happens – all things happen to bring me closer to Him.

 

5 –Communicate as frequently as possible with your spouse.

Although this may vary when our spouses are on deployment or out training – I find it important to still have a conversation about what I am feeling or felt even if the moment has passed. Just hearing my husband tell me everything will be okay or (specifically) reassure me that the military provides him with the knowledge and training he needs to survive in most situations is very comforting and reassuring.

 

6 – Talk, talk, and talk.

 Moving from place to place and leaving friends behind can make it very easy for military spouses to become introverts. For me, talking to family, friends, and other military spouses feels like the boulder that’s been on my chest has been lifted. The power of speak is often underestimated but when given a try to results are usually very uplifting.

 

7 – Have a routine.

Although most of my days are repetitive – that very structure allows my day to flow at a faster rate. I know what to expect, what’s coming next, and when it’s over. Also, having a schedule just for the purpose of nixing it is also very revitalizing!

 

8 – Laughter is the best medicine.

There is loads of research out there that describe how laughing does your body good. Some nights I keep myself up by watching comedians, like Mollie Gross and George Lopez (My two favorites!), on Youtube and now (thanks to my good friend and military spouse) looking at Jenny the Military Spouse comics. In the end I always find myself asking – why don’t I do this more often?

 

9 – Me time!

There is nothing wrong with giving yourself a break every now and then. Our mind, body, and emotions need breaks too. At first I felt guilty putting my toddler in hourly care just because I needed a moment (or two) for me. Most of the time I do nothing more than sit at the library, have a coffee (one I can truly enjoy), or run an errand alone. Not so grand for most people but it gives me the opportunity to take a deep breath before getting back into reality. Burning out can not only be devastating for a single person but it can also affect a family entirely and so, I don’t only do it for me but for my family too.

 

10 – Look in the mirror.

When I feel like my anxiety in waiting is getting beneath my skin I turn to the mirror to ask myself what I am worrying about —- > the unknown?!?! Doing this allows me to recognize that in my worrying and possibly giving anxiety an opportunity to take over will do nothing to change the outcome, be it good or bad. All I can do is trust God’s plan, trust my husband is equipped to be ‘safe’ and trust that no matter what happens….this too shall pass.

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight. 

~Benjamin Franklin

If you are suffering from anxiety, please see DISCLAIMER tab on the top of the page.

Wordless Wednesday…A Little Pink in a World of Camo

Today a very young Military wife along with her newborn baby girl will be putting to rest the man who was is her everything.

I have followed Mrs. P’s blog, A Little Pink in a World of Camo, for some time now. I love her honesty, humor, and cuteness –> her posts are always great to read. Last Wednesday, however, I found myself crying and my heart breaking for someone I never met but felt I knew. Mrs. P wrote about how her life turned upside down in a matter of seconds. On Sunday, March 14th, 2010, her husband, a USMC Cpl, died while on operations in Afghanistan. Her strength to come back to her blog and write about it already makes her a thousand times stronger than I.

As Military wives, this is our greatest fear: That our beloved doesn’t come home ‘safe’  – but when I come across something like this it becomes such a reality that it scares me even more. My heart and prayers go out to Mrs. P and her family. I pray that she continue to find strength and comfort in her wonderful memories that will live on with her forever.

This is just another reminder to truly embrace life and never take it for granted. Cherish every moment because we ultimately will never know God’s plan (nor understand it). I know I for sure took for granted the little bit of days I had my husband home before he re-deployed with no warning. We could have shared more emotions, exchanged more hugs and kisses, and just stared at each other –> but instead we chose to go back into our familial ‘roles’, chaotically setup house, and independently do our own thing only because I fell into thinking I was in a safety net of my husband being home. Now, although my situation is completely incomparable to what Mrs. P has experienced and is experiencing, it’s just that it has made me take a step back to reflect my life – our life.

Mrs. P, you are an amazing woman and yes! you will ALWAYS be a Marine Wife. God’s love and ((hugs)) to you.

Rest in Peace Cpl Jonathan Daniel Porto

 

YOU KNOW YOU’RE ON DEPLOYMENT WHEN…

I know there have been many postings like this, but with my desire to get out of my emotional deep end with this surprise and still indefinite deployment I decided to try and bring some humor to get through it all.

So here is my version of “You Know You’re On Deployment When…”

 And please….feel free to add you’re humorous moments as well

1 – Since the beginning I have never been more aware of time then now. I don’t know which is worse -> Mondays because it starts so early or Fridays because it seems like it will never end.

2 – It’s amazing how I can feel so empty inside yet when I get on my scale in the mornings the numbers just keep going up!

3 – My face has been chosen as the official sign for “PROCEED WITH CAUTION”.

4 – I hope the Husband is home soon: There more time that passes the more I am starting to look like an inside-out Ugg boot.

5 – I am as holy and pure as Mother Teresa (need I say more?)

6 – Finally learned to stop praying for ‘patience’. I figured out that the only way God gives it to you is through experience! (I think I am good for two lifetimes now)

7 – Meal times have changed (and change daily with no warning) Times currently are as followed: Breakfast 10:37am, Lunch 2:49pm, Dinner 4:03pm.

8 – Self-medicating from a wide variety of snacks is mandated between each meal (even if only one marshmallow or chip -> but normalcy is considered four to six).

9 – (Going with food) Breakfast must be finished off with a piece of chocolate, so I can smile all day.

10 – Since no one is watching…cooking dinner now includes pretending to be on a cooking show with a wannabe British accent.

11 – With the hubby not around to help: A clean house is only 5 feet tall….I hope to not have any tall visitors soon because I have no idea what’s above me!

12 – Getting out of bed is more difficult than ever. At times I hear voices telling me to get out of bed and go lay on the couch. (This must be how Joan of Arc felt)

13 – I have perfected playing the Invisible Violin -> I mostly play it when I hear how people ‘miss’ their significant others while they are at work (You know, those 9-5 work places I keep hearing exist).

14 – The best part about ‘drinking’ alone is winking at myself across the breakfast bar…depending on my mood I will sometimes even give me a ‘shimmy’ back (It’s only the polite thing to do).

15 – If you say “HI” be prepared to engage in conversation for a minimum of 20 minutes. (I’ve got a lot to say and my usual audience is under the age of 7 and have the attention span of goldfish)

16 – Cyber-stalking can now be officially added to my Resume. Not only does it make time go by faster but it helps me feel better about myself and situation because there are seriously some way more disturbed and stranger people out there. Photo-editor and online scrapbook-er can also be added.  (My deepest apologies to all my friends who have to look at all my glittery/framed/sepia/soft focused/ and overall Picnik-ed out versions of my photos)

17 – A perfect vacation while the hubby is on deployment for me is going into a coma, waking up with the husband home, the house clean, the kids bathed, and it’s my birthday.

18 – A pregnant woman with the blues has nothing on me. I bet you $5 I will end up crying first before the entire “Full House” theme song can finish.

19 – I’ve become such an insomniac that when I fall asleep, I dream I am awake.

20 – In addition to the million things on my ‘To-Do List’, the husband has been added. (Yea, I said that)

21 – Money well spent is paying for hourly care for my toddler so I can sit at the library. When dealing with deployment and single parenting – silence has no price!

22 – I constantly imagine what I would tell our President and his wife about military families and concerns if ever face to face….I sometimes even practice in the mirror.

23 – Rainy/gloomy days on the weekend no longer bother me. It feels good to know that thousands of others now feel just as crabby (and maybe lonely) as I do. I say: Equality = Success!

24 – A hot date is now down the aisles of the grocery store. It’s the only place I go with a reason to ‘get ready’ and use ‘mascara’ – and yea, the butter and cheese totally melt as I walk by.

25 – I have attained the pain threshold of Super Woman. Since the hubby is the only one that can sympathize and baby a grown woman crying over stitches – you kinda learn to just say, “Of course this would happen now” and smile. 🙂

~ Hope I at least made you smile ~

🙂

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. 

 ~Kurt Vonnegut

My Letter Featured in the Marine Corps Times

 Last week I found myself even more frustrated that our country is more informed about the Earthquakes than the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan –> affecting our country, citizens, and military directly. Most people can tell you how many deaths resulted from the earthquakes but are completely unaware of how many casualties have occurred within our military since January (79 by the way, according to iCasualties). I don’t mean to disregard or minimize what has happened, however I don’t agree with our Military being so involved when there are bigger issues that need to be dealt with regarding our country. I wrote a Letter to the Marine Corps Times stating my opinion and it is now featured in this weeks (March 8th, 2010) edition.

You can click the title for the direct link to the letter, but here is what it says:

END QUAKE RELIEF NOW

At what point did our US Military become the world’s first aid kit?

It is truly sad and devastating what has happened in Haiti and Chile. Two countries in less than two months that have been hit by destructive earthquakes which have left millions of people displaced and homeless and thousands dead.

However, I do not understand President Obama’s decision to send out our military to Haiti with such force and for this long. With the most recent earthquake in Chile, our President promised to send out our troops if we are needed – but how long can our country do this for?

Our military already is stretched thin with the current events happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. There just aren’t enough of them to go around. 

Troops with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors on the amphibious ship Bataan, one of the first ships to arrive in the wake of the earthquake, had only been home for some weeks from a seven month deployment prior to receiving 24 hour notice to deploy again. Those Marines and Sailors are also still out there with no return date in sight.  Not only is this strenuous on our service members, but also to their families as well.

Our country has agencies, such as the American Red Cross, that are funded and prepared to assist in these kinds of natural disasters. Our military should not be obligated to take upon the task of humanitarian relief for extensive periods of time. I can very well see how this deployment can be a noble and dignified one, but it is not enough to justify a mission so costly, both monetarily and physically, on a military that already is having difficulty sustaining the current tempo of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. They have a larger role to play and a truly more important one that relates directly to our country’s citizens, safety, and freedom.

Of course that is the edited version. This is my entire original letter:

END QUAKE RELIEF NOW

At what point did our military become the world’s first aid kit?

It is truly sad and devastating what has happened in Haiti and Chile. Two countries in less than two months that have been hit by destructive earthquakes which have left millions of people displaced and homeless and thousands dead.

However, I do not understand President Obama’s decision to send out our military to Haiti with such force and for this long. Neither was I surprised with the most recent earthquake in Chile that our President promised to send out our troops if we are needed – but how long can our country do this for?

Our military is already stretched thin with the current events happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. There just aren’t enough of them to go around.  The Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors on the USS Bataan, one of the first ships to arrive in the wake of the earthquake, had only been home for some weeks from a seven month deployment prior to receiving 24 hour notice to deploy again. Those Marines and Sailors are also still out there with no return date in sight.  Not only is this strenuous on our military but to their families as well.

It is understandable to send out our military to assist in security and stabilization but it has to come to a point we need to say “you welcome and goodbye”. It is well over 40 days now that Haiti has a military presence even though the earthquake has faded from news headlines and just about all the media that was out there reporting, blogging, and tweeting daily have returned home as well. I find it difficult to swallow that we can be in another country so long but when Katrina hit New Orleans– our military, the USS Bataan specifically, was given orders to pull out after only spending 19 days providing humanitarian relief.

It is time we get the military home and back to focusing on issues that affect our country directly. Our military along with their families have been on a consistent deployment cycle for a couple years and now is not the time to take upon unnecessary duties.

Our country has agencies, such as the American Red Cross, that are funded and prepared to assist in these kinds of natural disasters. Our military should not be obligated to take upon the task of humanitarian relief for extensive periods of time. I can very well see how this deployment can be a ‘noble’ and ‘dignified’ one but even so it is not enough to justify a mission so costly, both monetarily and physically, on a military that already is having difficulty sustaining the current tempo of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The bottom line is they have a larger role to play and a truly more important one that relates directly to our country’s citizens, safety, and freedom.