I had someone tell me once how they always wanted to marry a military man because it was romantic and glamourous. I suppose movies and images like this one play into such notions. Heck, I had those notions at one time, too. However, the military lifestyle is anything but glamourous. Sure, you get to move to all kinds of places...and if you're in the Army, you get the armpit of Texas known as Fort Hood or maybe a lesser known hell that is known as Ft. Sill. Or even the middle of Kansas at Ft. Riley. The really lucky ones get great places like Ft. Drum, NY or Ft. Polk, LA. <---that last sentence was sarcasm just in case you couldn't pick it up in typed format. ;-P
Anyhow, while being a military spouse does have perks such as "free" healthcare, we all know you get what you pay for. Free is Tricare Prime and you have to be seen at the local military treatment facility (MTF), you don't get to choose your doc and even if you do, you'll see them maybe once out 5 visits. There is no continuity of care. Therefore, we chose to be on Standard where we can choose to see our own civilian providers, however, ours is out of network so we pay the full visit up front and take whatever Tricare reimburses. It's more expensive but worth it to have a good doctor that actually knows who we are and our health histories.
My husband's career has also allowed me the benefit of being a stay at home mom. Most days, I am glad that I have been able to be here for the kids, but it wasn't really a choice. He works all hours when he is stateside, is gone for training and schools for weeks or months at a time, and then there are the wonderful year long deployments. So anytime the kids get sick, school is cancelled or closed, etc., I am the one who has to call-in or leave work to be with them. Same with doctor's, dentists, etc. To those who have been a single mom, they may say there's daycare or back up providers. Sure, if I were in my hometown, I have a whole network of people to lean on. But I don't have that luxury.
When Hubster deployed in October of 2008, we had been here over 6 months. I had a job lined up before we got here. I was working full time, Munchkin was in school and gymnastics. You'd think with all that, in that amount of time I would have had at least one friend when he left, someone I could count on. But I didn't. I have NEVER felt so alone as I did when he deployed. I was 12 hours from the nearest family and 6 from the nearest friend.
I went to work every day, Monster to the daycare next door and Munchkin to school. I'd come home from work, get the kids and cook dinner and clean the house. Weekends were spent catching up on all the cleaning that didn't get done during the week. I was tired from working all week and just wanted to veg and hang with my kids and couldn't... because as soon as I cleaned one room, they'd trash it as I worked on another. It was a vicious cycle. There was no one I could call to ask to watch them so that I could maybe spend a morning cleaning and enjoying the rest of the time with them. I felt like I was always yelling at my kids and I just couldn't keep up with being a full time nurse, full time mom, full time dad and keep up with the house and yard.
Then there was Monster. At the time Hubster left, he wasn't even two yet. A week after Hubster left, I decided to try a Silverado hood ornament on my little Grand Prix. Needless to say, it was a bit large and I nearly totalled my car. Which resulted in me having to drive Hubster's truck for over a month while my car was being repaired. Not a big deal, right? It was a big deal because Monster was freaking out that Daddy was gone and associated Hubster's truck with Daddy. Therefore anytime we went anywhere he would throw a fit when we got home because Daddy wasn't there and would try to tie himself in with seatbelts. It was like his way of saying he wasn't getting out of the truck without Daddy.
Munchkin also started getting sick a lot. It seemed weekly I was getting phone calls from school. My baby girl, only 7 at the time, was suffering migraines. Luckily she hasn't had any of those since last school year, but at the time they were frequent and she was miserable.
With all this, I was quickly sinking into a pretty dark place. I cried all the time and at really inappropriate times. I just couldn't cope. I had felt it coming on before Hubster left, so I had already made an appointment to see someone. By the time I got into see someone, I was definitely in a full fledged depression. I knew I was in a full fledged depression, but talking didn't help. They didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. And to top it off, I was kicking myself in the ass because this wasn't my first deployment. Hell, my first deployment, I had only ben there 2 months, knew absolutely no-one and handled with a fair amount of ease. So there was no way I should be feeling the way I was...I had been here six months, had a job, etc. I did this before with less...WTH was my problem?
My problem is a chemical imbalance. I've battled depression for years but meds never worked so what was the point in taking them? This time talking wasn't helping. But I knew I needed help. My dear friend received what I'm sure to her was quite a frightening call from me one night. I was at the end of my rope, feeling isolated and hopeless, overwhelmed and frustrated. I was in a place where I was seriously afraid I'd be the crazy woman everyone heard about on the news who offed her kids and then herself...think Nicole Kidman's character in "The Others". Yes, it was that bad.
Thankfully, my job was supportive and sent me to see someone as well and that person finally got me in to see a psychiatrist who could give me something. That something was Cymbalta. Cymbalta was seriously my life saver. I am thankful every day for that little pill. It's honestly the only time that I've ever been on an anti-depressant that I could actually tell it was doing what it was supposed to. I am so thankful for that little green and blue capsule that when I started looking into Lap-Band I asked if I'd be able to continue taking it....because if they had said no, I'd rather be fat than feel like I did then.
So, I finished out another month or so at that job. I knew something had to give at that point and it was the only thing that could. I still had to be mom. I still had to be dad. I still had a house to maintain. So, I began babysitting so I still had some income. It allowed me to be home with the kids and maintain the house without the pressure of the 9-5 in a place I dreaded going to daily.
In that time, I also made a friend and I thank God every day for her. She played a huge part in my coming out my depression, too. I finally had someone to call when I just couldn't take it anymore. I had someone who actually "got" what I was going through because she's been there too. I am going to miss her when I leave here, but we will always be friends and hopefully the Army will manage to station us together again sometime, somewhere! If not, we'll still find a way to get together!
That summer, I went back to school. 13 credit hours in 8 weeks...yep and started a new job! However, I had a sweet high school student that was as close to a live in nanny as you could get without her actually living here. That helped quite a bit. I took a part-time job working third shift on the weekends at a nursing home. I continued with that until I had surgery...at which time I was on weight restrictions up until last week due to the hiatal hernia repair.
Hubby came home in Sept 2009. You'd think all is hunky dory when they come home. But it's not. It's a huge adjustment for everyone. When you get used to it just being you and the kids, you develop your own routines, your own rituals and doing everything alone. It takes time to learn to let them back in and do things. Although I was glad to turn over trash and lawn duties! But the kids, while glad to have Daddy home, still go to Mommy about everything. At the end of a deployment, I just want to leave the kids with Daddy and disappear for awhile all. by. myself. Just to give him a taste of what it's like to be everything to everyone all. the. time.
After the re-integration period, the life still isn't glamourous. Hubster would often leave at 5:00 in the morning and not be home til 8:00pm or later. There were times Munchkin asked if Daddy was at a training in another state because he'd be gone before they got up and not home til after they were in bed. Weekends were about the only time we could count on spending any time with him. When we plan dinners or Munchkin has something going on at school, we plan on going with just the three of us. We tell Hubster and if he makes it, he makes it but we don't count on it. We're used to the fact he's never there. He wasn't there for my pinning ceremony when I graduated nursing school. He missed our first anniversary and our fifth. He's missed many birthdays and other holidays, including Christmases. He's missed talent shows, parades the kids were in, school performances, etc.
So there you have it, just a glimpse into the life of one army wife. So while the notion may be it's a glamourous lifestyle, I see it more as challenging. The bright side is that with every challenge comes a reward, even if that reward is as simple as finally conquering the depression beast, or making a new life long friend. It's the rewards that make the challenge worth pursuing.