Is it Deployment or Depression?


Your husband deploys. You find yourself worrying about him, where he is, and what he is doing. Your body aches from the sleepless nights. You feel drained and find yourself being snippy with your children, friends, family, or co-workers. You mind is constantly going to stay on task. For many of us, we read this and think, “Oh, she’s talking about the cycles of deployment!” But, really these are also signs of anxiety and depression.

There are studies that suggest women experience depression & anxiety up to twice as often as men. Hormonal factors may contribute to the increase rate of depression; such as menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy, miscarriages, postpartum period, pre-menopause, and menopause. Women may also face unique stressors such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and aging parents. What is surprising to me is that this study is talking about your every day civilian woman. If you read through it again and think of the wife you know that had her last child while her husband was deployed, or the one who is raising four children under the age of 6 on her own, it takes on new meaning. We go through these “moments” while dealing with deployments, PCSing, and just every day military life. If a woman with out those factors is at risk, just think where that puts us.
I am disappointed with the military for not putting more information
out about this subject. There are resources, but it isn’t talked
about as much as it should be. Wives should be getting this
information before every deployment. Period. Our husbands get briefed
on it, heck they hold training’s on it. The wives don’t go through
Boot Camp. We don’t get screened for depression. Very rarely is
anyone looking for signs. People just write it off as, “Oh, her
husband is deployed/deploying”. Somehow we were over looked. I can’t
tell you how many times I have seen a fellow wife battling with
depression or anxiety. It is heart breaking and scary. And a lot of
the fault is our own. We have created this unrealistic idea of a
Super Wife. This would be the wife that is always happy, upbeat,
perfectly dressed, maintains a gym issued body, her kids are polite
and always clean, she works, volunteers, and has time to host tea
socials at her perfectly clean and organized home.  Many of us
don’t admit that we have a problem. We all think that we should be
able to handle this. What we are doing to ourselves and the
example we are setting for the new wife watching all of us is sad. We are
thrown into a life that was made for our husbands, not us. Granted,
the Military is trying to be more “family friendly”, but let’s face it,
if we want things to change, we have to be proactive. And the first
thing we need to do is take care of ourselves. No one is going to
come to your home and evaluate your performance and look for symptoms
and you are defiantly not going to receive a counseling chit from
anyone. We can’t compare ourselves to our active duty spouse. Their
issues and situations that they have to deal with are sometimes far
from our reality. But, that doesn’t mean that we are not faced with
our own challenges and hardships.

Our biggest obstacle is being a single parent or for those who don’t
have children, the feeling of being single again. Yes, we know that
we are married and have that special someone somewhere, but that whole
absence makes the heart grow fonder stuff is not so often true. I
don’t even know where my husband IS!? I can’t call him, see him,
write him, and most of the times not even an email. That alone is a
reason to have “issues”. Throw in finances, making major decisions
like buying a home or car, and Murphy’s Law and we all need counseling.

Yes, counseling. It is something that we need to start thinking of
differently. Just because you are feeling depressed, doesn’t mean that
you need medication to fix the problem. Some times just talking to the
right person can get you back on track. You need to think of it as
life maintenance, not a last resort on your way into divorce court.
It is covered by Tricare and is something that I feel everyone should
do when faced with Deployments. There are family therapists that can
not only help you and your husband, but be there for you when your
husband is deployed. Also, our children are in need of this too.
Again, there wasn’t a hand book given to my husband in boot camp or to
me when we arrived at our first command on how to help our children in
this life style. They deserve a safe place, where they can say
anything and everything that maybe they don’t want to say in front of
Mom and Dad. I know many families that do this together. And I have
always seen wonderful thing come of it. These are also the couples
that have been married for 15+ and you can tell they love each other
and are truly happy. Some of you reading this are relating, but still
won’t take the leap and talk to someone. So, I did some research and
found a website that can help you decide if you are suffering from
depression, anxiety, or something else. It is a free mental health
assessment at http://www.militarymentalhealth.org.
It is for Active Duty, DOD, and family members. I hope that if you
take the assessment, you will follow through with the results.

Something that we can all do to avoid stress, anxiety, and depression
is to learn to ask for help. I say “learn” because we all stink at
it. I don’t know any military wife that is good at it. If you are, I
want you to email me, because I want to meet you. Again, the Super
Wife Flag is blowing in the wind. We seem to think we have to do it
all, that it’s the norm and if we can’t, we are a lousy military
wife. But, the opposite is true. We are stronger together. None of
us alone are as strong as we are when we work together. Our
friendships are so amazing and special; why not act on what we offer.
We all offer to help one another, so why is it so hard to ask? I
personally would rather eat dirt than to ask for help, but I’m
trying. I urge everyone that reads this to start talking about
it. Ask your command or FRG to have someone speak on the topics. Use
the Fleet and Family Support Center and Chaplain. I’ve received many
emails about “deployment blues” and next week I will be answering
those questions and talking in detail about the problems we face and
how to handle the holidays when your husband is deployed.

Questions, comments, topics you’d like discussed? Email Me: marieangela@mac.com

11 thoughts on “Is it Deployment or Depression?

  1. I recently moved to Fort Riley with my husband. I have only been living here for 3 months when my Husband deployed to Africa. I have no family or friends here. I have tried reaching out to the FRG and whatever the hell else programs they have for spouses and families and never got a response back and it was very discouraging for me. It’s going to be 6 months since my husband deployed and I’ve been going through this all on my own. With a little help from my family back home but still I feel as though each day I lose more of my will to do even the simplest of things. It’s really lonely. I always hear about these support groups but so far even the wives I met on post seemed cold and stand off ish. I feel as though I truly am the only one going through this truly alone.

  2. Marie, thank you for this post. I knew before I married my Husband it would be hard to be a military Wife, even seeing his ship the first time made me cry (I knew it would be a love/hate relationship thing I guess haha) I try so hard to find the positives of what he does. Our first deployment is coming up shortly and I find myself having terrible anxiety and depression that can be overwhelming and hard to talk about, I try so hard to keep busy/strong/and the ‘perfect Wife’ …it’s hard to find the right words to explain to him what I am feeling. I have friends at home and no close friends where we live so it makes it even harder to communicate when my feeling are new and never really spoken. It makes it hard to remember who I am, and the whole perfect Wife plays in that as well…thank you for reminding me not to be so hard on myself and that it is okay and I am not alone. I am definitely one to never ask for help for anything, but thinking I should pursue it. Taking the assessment.Thank you for the resources, honesty, courage and truth!

  3. Thank you so much for this post!

    I am not a military wife, but have been a military girlfriend for five years. When going through our second deployment last year, I was taking a ton of school hours and working full time to keep myself busy. I would have anxiety attacks multiple times a week and tried to hide everything. I felt my problems were petty and that I shouldn’t be so depressed and weak. My boyfriend could tell something was wrong but I just kept saying I was tired/exhausted from my busy schedule. One day, my attack snuck up on me and I couldn’t hide it anymore. My mom took me to the doctor and I was prescribed Xanax. I felt like I had failed everyone, especially my boyfriend. Once I got everything out and he knew about what was going on, he was incredibly supportive. I’ve learned now that it’s much better to cry out for help and get better, rather than suffer in silence.

    Thank you for your posts! They’re so very helpful and supportive!

  4. Thank you for a very well worded and honest post – also dont forget about either the MFLC – they are there 7 days a week top help and be the sounding board with complete confidence. They will meet with you anywhere on or off post but not in quarters. Also your chaplain’s office on post (for where the Main Base or Post Chaplain’s have their offices and some religious events are held – REC) is another excellent resource for couseling as they have licensed therapists along with fully trained Chaplains on staff to help you thru and this is totally free and does not go on your Tri-care. They can suggest medications and then typically your PCM can actually prescribe them if you do not want a ‘papertrail’ regarding seeking counseling help. I know there should not be a negative on getting help from a therapist but sometimes, in some units, there are some very ‘old-school’ (if the Military had wanted you to have a wife they would have ISSUED you one!) types, who have somehow found out about Tri-care paid visits and have used them against the AD military member. THis is so wrong but unfortunately can happen – therefore when ever I have a spouse come to me and I see the symptoms of someone needing help, I suggest either the MFLC or the REC for therapy help initally, unless they are with a very forward thinking unit. Just recently we saw a family be denied a PCS to a really cool location beacuse the wife had sought counseling (almost 2 yrs ago for a few visits) ‘off-post’ thru Tricare. The new duty station personel told her they just didn’t think she should PCS there as off post help was harder to come by, she argued back with evidence she was fine and all had worked out but to no avail. Then his orders were recinded – potentially costing him a really great leadership opportunity for his career – she investigated further and found out had she sought help outside of Tri-Care there would have been no record and no info of her needing to see anyone other than her assigned PCM and they would have been cleared to PCS. How tragic that in this day and age you still need to be guarded and careful as it may still affect the AD member’s career path. But until attitudes are truly changed there will always be those few who see anything other than self-reliance as a sign of weakness and use it against you.
    Thank Goodness for you Marie and your willingness to remind everyone to seek help and to know it’s okay. And most importantly – with help you will be okay. Thank You

  5. Rebecca~What a lucky woman you are to have a husband that saw you were in need during a time he was more than distracted. This could have gone an entirely different path. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I know for a fact someone will read this, relate and make a phone call. All because you shared a piece of yourself. You are obviously a strong and WONDERFUL woman!! I am so happy everything worked out for you! Thank you for this amazing comment! 🙂

  6. I battled with some depression myself and it’s hard. My husband was on one of the many work-ups before deployment when our 2nd daughter was born and after a few weeks I found myself not wanting to get out of bed, clean the house, or even hold my new baby (except for feeding her). So my husband came home early for work one day and found me laying on our bed crying (for no reason) and he called and made me an appointment for the next day with my DR. and then called and talked to his head of command and they him to next couple of days to help get his house in order (it was a Wednesday when this all happened). So the next day my Husband took me to the DR. and I was given the help I was in need of. It didn’t help that this all happened 6mn before his first deployment and I was scared to be alone and worried about him. So we arranged for me to move back to my parents house for his deployment since my oldest wasn’t in school yet and because i was having a hard time with my depression. The DR. had to change my prescription 4 times to get something that would work for me. This all happened almost 4 years ago, and I’m glad to say that I am done battling depression I was taken completely off my meds almost 2 years ago and I feel great. I know that I have a high risk of repeating it but now I know the signs and symptoms and know to seek help so I don’t fall into a hole again. Thank you for putting information out there for other who may be going through the same kind of thing. You are a truly wonderful person!

  7. Maurine, thank you so much for your honesty and comment. I know this will help other spouses. There is definitely an oversight in care for military spouses. Stress and Anxiety can lead to so many more serious issues. Thank you for speaking out and reassuring others they are not alone. I’m so happy to hear you are doing better. 🙂

  8. Thanks for the post. My husband is gone frequently, he isn’t technically deployed, but TAD off and on from 6-9 months a year. So, I don’t get all of the support stuff that goes into deployments. Last year the anxiety caught up with me and I was pretty much useless to my kids so I went in to get some help. The first family practice doc. that I saw to get the referral told me to “suck it up” but still gave me the referral. Once I did finally get to the appointment at mental health the therapist was very helpful. I still have anxiety occasionally, but I am much better at handling it.

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