June 24, 2011

Deployments 101: SURVIVAL

I am writing this because there are some women I know that are facing their a new obstacle, something they haven't had to deal with.  We are in a unique position.  We are in a foreign country.  That makes it both more exiting AND a little more worrisome.  There are several steps to making a deployment easier.  Some seem painfully obvious, some maybe not so much.  Obviously each person needs to take what they need and ignore the rest, and also read with an open mind.  I am writing these, partially “tongue in cheek” but mostly from the heart.  There is some silliness thrown in just to keep it interesting but I am also keeping it real.  There will be no sugar coating just to make it easy.  I might leave out some thing but I will tell you that I have been sad etc.  Grab a glass of wine or a bar of chocolate...some cookies...maybe some popcorn...and settle down.  This is going to be long.

1.  Make sure you have a good support system of fellow Military spouses.  Your childhood best friends and your family members are awesome support but they do not understand the same way that other people that are going through or have been through a deployment will.  The friends and family that you share history with can offer support in other ways, keep them close also! Don't discount them in any way.  Try not to roll your eyes when they say that they know how you feel.  If a family member tries to compare their spouses road trip to your spouses deployment, don't shut them down mid sentence.  Maybe they have good advice on how to deal with separations.  Some of the way I handle myself was learned from my ex-Step-Father being a long haul truck driver for most of my childhood and adult life (from 7-21).  No, it's not the same.  His life was rarely in danger (though, hitting a Moose in Colorado did total his truck and he did roll it several times...not to mention HORRIBLE road rage and LA Gang encounters...but it's not the same).  I still stand by the fact that having Military spouses as a support system will help you greatly.

2.  In-Laws.  Try not to get too upset about your in-law's maybe involvement.  Parents, miss their kids…if you are a parent try to imagine how would you would feel.  Put yourself in their shoes.  I have seen this happen.  At times, the in-laws may make the deployed spouses absence be about them when you're feeling that it's more about you (and your children if you have them).  This isn't a fight you need to have.  The best answer is to ignore it.  Do not add this stress to your spouse.  Keep in mind that you love your children and you love your spouse but you don’t love your kids like you love your husband.  It’s not the same love, it's different.  Your in-laws feel the same way.  They're having strong emotions about their baby (yes, baby), fears and anxiety.  Let it go and do your best to ignore it.  Take a shot, drink a glass of wine...hang up the phone...whatever you have to do.  Make up an excuse...just get away from the situation.  But as annoying as it is, you know the truth...your nuclear family is the most important thing to stay strong for.  Don't let anything get in the way of that.

3.  Drink.  Don't over do it.  Don't develop a problem, and if you have one, get help.  There are resources.  But for the love of Pete, let loose and have a little fun.  Drink wine.  Find a beer you like! We're in Germany right now, chances are, even if you haven't found a beer you liked before...you may be able to here! The same goes for hard liquor and drinks.  Please drink responsibly.  That means make sure you never drink and drive, ever.  Taxis are a must.  If you're going to drink with a group of friends, a DD is the best cheapest way to go but if no one volunteers, TAXI.  They are abundant here.  If you're drinking at a friends house, stay in...slumber party!!! Sounds like fun to me!! Do no risk anyone's life.  Make this fun, not stupid.  This all brings me to the next segment...

4.  Do not listen to rumors.  About anyone.  But especially about yourself.  And even more importantly, about your spouse.  If you hear something, let it go...unless you can't.  If you can't, ask your spouse DIRECTLY...not someone else.  It’s important to live a clean life, above reproach, so make sure to follow the rule of accountability.  That will put any rumors to rest.  It will also help to discuss that with your spouse.  If you are planning on going out even just to restaurants or something…it’s good to have a friend with you that you trust and will be a good witness.  It’s more important if you’re going to a club or bar to have that, a group of friends is good also, friends that are honorable of course.  If someone has to come to your house to, say, work on your car, or something…a man, have a friend there.  That way no one can say, “A man was in your house!” etc.  Accountability.  It squashes rumors before they can start.  That’s if you don’t work under the - “I don’t give a - “ - about rumors, of course.  Don’t listen to rumors when it gets closer to the time of them coming back.  When you hear official dates, believe it.  Until then, don’t believe it.  And even then…don’t tell your kids until you know for sure.  Times and dates change regularly and you do not want disappointed crying kids.  You also don’t want “is it time yet? Is it time yet? Now? Now? Now?!” every 30 minutes.  It will drive you crazy and cause your anxiety to go through the roof.  I promise.

5.  Don’t be super woman.  Because you're not.  I mean most likely.  I guess Super Woman might be reading this (Hey girl, heeyyyyy!) but...well...probably not.  If you need help, ask for it.  This one I know from personal experience.  I was the "never says no" girl.  Shh, don't start that rumor {see #4}.  You need me to organize and entire Christmas in September semi-Formal before a deployment with a woman that had a Gastric Bypass the month prior? Just me and her to do the whole thing? Sure, we'll do it! You need me to watch your kids? Okay! Cut your grass? Sure! FRG treasurer, POC, CO-leader? OK! Would you like me to shine-your-shoes-wipe-your-nose-rub-your-belly also? There was more.  I did it all.  That particular deployment I hit major burn out.  (This was deployment #3...you'd think I would have learned by then...that's a not so much).  I ran myself into the ground and I hit full force.  I ignored every single rule except one I'll get to later (one you've all heard which is why I haven't even mentioned it yet).  Here comes a hard admission.  Are you ready? I wound up checking myself into a place called Lighthouse.  It was a psychiatric evaluation unit.  I have no shame in this, it's just not something I typically blast.  The reason I am is because it's important.  IF YOU NEED HELP, GET HELP.  This was a 15month deployment.  I crashed and burned in month 14.  I could not do it any more and when I hit, I hit hard.  All those people I helped? They couldn't find the time to help me at that point...and the few that could...well by the time they realized I needed help I was beyond their help.  This specific deployment saw several suicides of spouses at the post I was at.  I assume it was similar reasons, but I don't know for sure.  Again.  You are not Super Woman.  If you need a break, TAKE ONE.  If you need someone to take your kids for a couple of hours, ASK.  If you need help GET HELP! (I told you I wasn't going to hide or sugar coat things...)

6.  Go on trips! If you’re afraid to go alone, don’t.  Go in groups, car pool, caravan or go with MWR.  We have a unique and special opportunity being here.  This is an awesome time to travel and be able to experience things.  Take this time to explore!!

7.  This one is hard.  Try not to begrudge someone else for having their spouse home.  As hard as it will be, try not to make someone else feel bad that their husband is home just because yours isn’t.  Believe me, this may come up.  I have seen it...and the way that things are right now...I can see it becoming an issue.  I personally would never wish anyone's child to be without their Father.  While I'm aware that it happens and it happens daily, I would never wish it on anyone.  If my child has to be without her Father, well it sucks, but I'm glad that our friends get to have theirs home.  Plus if I have any heavy lifting done, I know who to call.  It's a hard mindset to get into.  But being Bitter Bessy never helped anyone and that kind of attitude hurts everyone, including the children but especially friendships.

8.  Don’t burn bridges but know when to be strong enough to end friendships that are toxic.  Had I followed this simple rule, my little 72hour jaunt to the nut-hut may not have happened.  Toxic friendships have no need to continue.  Everyone knows what they look like.  If you don't, watch Mean Girls.  Actually there are a lot of Hollywood movies with examples of toxic friendships.  But you all know what I'm talking about, I'm sure you can take a look around yourselves, look at some past relationships of your own.  I have a strong belief in not burning bridges.  There is no reason to destroy another human being.  You can end a friendship without destroying someone.  You don't have to tear someone down to lose contact.  Google ways to end friendships, try adding the word "etiquette"...it makes a difference.  Yes, I Googled it myself.  No, I'm not linking it.  You know why? Cause you can do it yourself.  (inside joke hehehe)

9. Try to keep things as light as possible when talking to your spouse.  As hard as it may be do not ALWAYS make things doom and gloom.  Of course tell him if things really are wrong but if things are horrible every time he calls his head will not be in the game and that could put him in danger.  If at all possible, when there are problems...try to make it more of a..."this is what happened and this is how I solved it..." kind of thing.  If that's possible.  If it's not possible, that's okay too.  That's not always possible.  Also, write emails! Lots of emails! If your kids are old enough, let them also! Even if you don't have much to say.  Anything.  The new episode of Desperate Housewives was good? Tell him.  He doesn't care? So what, he likes getting mail.  We have free APO to APO.  Write him letters.  Lots of letters.  Letters are probably better than emails, really.  Physical mail...touching things.  A little spray of perfume...Perfection!!

10.  Pick a day...once a month, once every 2 months...once a week...whatever you're comfortable with...and pamper yourself.  However you want.  Get a massage.  See a movie.  Go to dinner with your girlfriends.  Go dancing.  Get your hair done.  Get your nails done.  Get a tattoo (what, I'm the only one that sees that as pampering!?!??).  Take a really long bubble bath with candles and music.  Whatever makes you say, "Ahhhhhhhh...." and relaxes you.  Ooooh, karaoke night!! I have friends that love that.  Sidetracked.  A you day.  We do things to distract our children regularly.  Kids having an off day? To the park! Kids having a bad day? A toy will help! The kid misses Daddy? Oh let's watch a movie! Well what about Mommy?

11. Don’t watch the news.  If you can avoid it…do.  Our news access isn’t so bad because we have a very varied channel but it’s still not something I’d recommend.  I nearly drove myself crazy during OIF1.  I was glued to the TV.  As a matter of fact, I learned that 101st as a Division had orders from the news (as did most of 101st lol).  I also learned when the war started from the news.  When we declared war to begin with.  The list goes on.  All of that was at the mall, I might add.  I stopped going into the Gyro shop for their cheap diet Coke cause their TV was always on CNN and it was always in there that we found stuff out.  Bad news I tell you.

12.  Obviously, stay busy.  This one everyone will tell you.  You've heard this one so many times you could say it in your sleep.  You're probably sick of hearing it.  OIF1 my friend and I began organizing mini rallies.  Support The Troops rallies.  All over Clarksville, TN.  We stood outside the gates with signs, we posted all over AOL (yes, that's how long ago it was) and Friendster (yup, that's how long ago it was) and we would go stand outside the US Cav store or right outside the gates with whoever would show up.  Sometimes people would just pull over and stand out there with us.  Eventually we planned a major nation wide rally, Operation Yellow Ribbon.  It happened all over, across the country, and our part was in Washington DC.  That's how we stayed busy through the first deployment we went through.  Planning kept us busy through the time that we didn't know anything about what was happening, there was no contact for MONTHS.  There were no phone lines, no internet connections.  They lucky guys were sleeping in their trucks, the unlucky ones were digging holes to sleep in, then driving at very slow paces from the port to wherever their final destinations may be.  It was dangerous and painstakingly slow.  We stayed busy, alright.  But not like I did later on.

Let me end by saying, Lighthouse wasn't scary at all.  It wasn't a Girl, Interrupted or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest type of place.  It was very clean and pretty nice.  The beds were the worst part, they were about as comfortable as the Army loaner beds we got in housing here.  The food was spectacular, I was a Vegetarian at the time so I got *special food (I'm special, psh)...and I was finally diagnosed with PTSD and got the help I needed for those issues.  I have been dealing with the issues I've had with PTSD (from childhood trauma) in non- healthy ways.  Now I not only know how to say no, but I stand up for myself, not just other people (I've always been the anti-bully bully, I bully bullies lol).  I wouldn't change where I went for anything...I just wish I'd gotten there in a different manner, I guess.  It was a mostly Military facility.  There was one guy in there that was...a little scary...but he was a Vietnam Vet, homeless, and they had him in there because he had demetia and it was winter.  When he had a lucid moment he was BRILLIANT.  When he didn't...he was a tad scary.  But all the shelters were full, the aide was telling me about it.

At any rate...please direct any questions to my inbox...comments, feel free to leave anywhere :)

June 20, 2011

Schoooool and such

I haven't blogged in a while and an a lot has happened.

My Uncle and his wife had their baby last night! June 19th, 2011.  Fathers Day.  SO exciting!! He is damn beautiful and when Pete finally got the pictures up I started crying...I'm a slight emotional mess because it's only times like these that I hate being all far...on the other side of the world and all of that.  Damn Germany.  I'll get to see the baby when he's a bit bigger I guess...so that'll be fun.  That's what I tell myself anyways.

Next...Saturday we went to Berlin to see Sir Elton John preform!! An acquaintance had tickets that they couldn't use and they gave them to us.  It was very spur of the moment, Taylor had a Birthday slumber party so everything just fell into place.  We got up there about an hour and a half early and decided just to go into the venue after taking a few pictures of this really cool art/graffiti that was across from our walk.  Come to find out the art on the wall that was blocking the river was on the last main remaining 1.3km (largest remaining portion according to the stuff I can find anyways) of the Berlin Wall.  It's pretty silly that we didn't know that I guess...but like I said, we had no idea where we were, really.  I kind of had guessed that when we were in the rough area of town on our way in that we were in the former East Berlin just from the description that Micha had given me but I really didn't know...then as soon as we crossed the River Spree, things perked right back up and looked dramatically different.  It was weird.  It almost felt different.  East Berlin used to be Communist Germany (for those of you that don't know your history....or have forgotten, like I had and need a refresher) and I swear you could feel that still just sort of hanging in the air.  Once we crossed the river it felt lighter.  I swear to you.  Pictures on my FB.  The show was AMAZING.  I tried to upload the videos I took of Tiny Dancer and Benny & the Jets but it was going to take 6 hours because our net connection is slow...so maybe another day I'll have 6 hours to mess with the computer.  I'm sure I will.  So far I haven't.  I loved every single moment of the show and the entire trip.  So awesome!!!

I'm trying to figure out school now.  Some of the classes are up, the rest will be up the end of the month.  I know I'm taking English to get it out of the way and I think I'm taking Spanish.  I decided that no matter how confusing it is with my 5 years of French...it's going to be important to my career.  So I'm just going to do it.  Take 1 class every semester until I'm fluent-ish.  I had intended on taking German...but...well...ya know, Spanish will come in handy for the rest of my life and German would just come in handy for the next couple of years.  I know that sounds terrible but it's true.  I'm awful.  I'm picking up on a few German words, enough to not seem completely ignorant...so I guess that's good.  I need one more class.  I don't know what to take.  Sociology 100 would be good since I'm a Soc major...I need a Humanities class, which would be fun...I need a History based class, which I like (if they offer one, I can take a History based Humanities class and knock 'em both out, it says!).  I need to take my Math class at some point but I'd rather not right now.  I'm trying to make it one awful class at a time and plain English counts as an awful class.

Okay...back to...doing stuff I guess.  Hope everyone has a lovely Monday.