I had my friends in Virginia who had been through deployments and knew and understood exactly what I was going through. However, I made the mistake of going home to Oklahoma during deployment instead of staying in Virginia. Now don't get me wrong, my family and friends in Oklahoma were mostly supportive and compassionate, and I was so grateful for them. However, a few friends were not as understanding about what all I had been through since moving away and the crippling effects my depression had on me. I didn't stay in touch well enough or I missed too many calls...I basically failed in their eyes. And I cried with the memories of loneliness and pain I was experiencing in my own life during the time I wasn't being involved enough in their lives. So the very first challenge during deployment was the guilt I felt for the consequences of my depression. The guilt continued all through the months apart. I couldn't function because of my depression and so I felt like I was failing everyone around me including my husband. It was one of the loneliest times in my life.
Military spouses encourage and support each other! Most of us have been through deployments and have shared the same problems, fears, loneliness, and so on...nobody outside the military community understands it like we do on the inside. However! It is a different story being a military spouse and living with clinical depression and other mental illnesses. The same words of comfort apply to all of us; "Stay strong! You'll get through this! Time will pass before you know it! I'm here for you! You're not alone! I understand what you're going through! You can talk to me!" I appreciate those words and I appreciate the support of women who are always there even if they don't know me at all. They make me feel better and they are comforting. But the dark presence of depression fights it.
Warning: strong language coming up!
I know there are people and resources available to me when my husband is away. I know what I need to do to keep depression from taking over. None of that means that I'm going to engage in what I "should" be doing. During my husband's last deployment, my depression beat me down...way way down. And when I would share my struggle via social networking, I received all the very true and compassionate messages one would expect, but they didn't help. I felt like a failure...the weakest wife of a Sailor...I thought, "My husband must be so disappointed in me." The wives were making it sound so easy, and it simply wasn't for me...I wanted to scream at them and shout, "Go ahead and keep telling me what I can do to fix this, but it's not going to help! I'm fucking depressed...I'm in the belly of the beast. If I could just get up and do the things being suggested, don't you think I fucking would!?" If any of you know what I'm talking about, then you know how hopeless you feel when you've reached that point...
There were moments of happiness, but my mental illness was winning more battles than I could handle. I saw my doctor and tried different medicines. I did as much as I could. But I did not recover. I suffered depression right up and even pass my husband's homecoming. Of course I was thrilled and elated when he was finally in my arms again! It was definitely the best feeling after almost nine months apart! But, I still had a long road of recovery ahead of me...my depression had hurt me badly.
The darkness I lived through is looming again...deployment is approaching...and I'm terrified of it...no exaggeration what so ever. The ship and ombudsman are providing checklists and resources to prepare us, but if you live with clinical depression or other mental illnesses, I strongly suggest preparing yourselves for how your illnesses may affect you during this time because it's a different kind of experience and requires additional planning. I'll be ready this time.
I'm preparing for war this go around. All I can share is what I plan on doing to avoid so much suffering this time; but each of you will have your own plans. Here's mine: See my doctor and share my fears. Make sure my medicine is the right dose and that I feel stable. Have an exercise and healthy diet in place. Stay involved with the ship's Family Readiness Group. Those are my starting points; my solid foundation. After the holidays I will then look for a job and/or start taking some classes to support my own business venture, The Ro Fo Sho Art & Photography. These actions will keep me busy. I want to visit friends, host gatherings, go out to eat, and be social. These will provide fun and happiness, but they will also be the most challenging if my depression takes too strong of a hold. If that happens, I will be honest with my friends and hope that they can help me. I will put together the most awesome care packages for my husband and send as many as I can...so I feel constantly connected...this will be my strength. My goals will be to lose weight, blog/write more, and get The Ro Fo Sho out in to the public.
Depression During Deployment Battle Plan
*Have a foundation in place.
*Work and school to keep busy.
*Fun and happiness.
*Connection and strength for my husband.
It all looks good in writing, doesn't it? I've gotta start somewhere though, right? I've gotten stronger since that first deployment...I've been through trial and error...I've been knocked down a few times and gotten back up. Y'all have probably come to realize that my fight with depression has been a tough time these last couple of months, but don't worry. I'm getting better and my feet are planted...I am aware that I need to be the strongest I can be before deployment gets here. I will be. That's the only thing I need to say...I will be...
Hugs and love, my lovelies!
Photo from Homecoming 2012 - Melinda Larson Photography