I debated putting this into my blog for a long time, and I thought long and hard about it. Not because I worry about what others will think of me, but I worried it might reflect poorly on my husband, even though it really shouldn’t, because he, himself, has nothing to do with it.
Ever since January 14, 2009, the day AFTER my husband got on a plane to leave for BCT, I’ve had sporadic panic attacks. I’ve always been an anxious person, one who never truly relaxes, but I’ve never had a panic or anxiety attack before. But the first time I had one that day, I was sitting at my desk at work. I don’t even remember what was on my mind at the time – probably work. But nothing that would cause me to experience high levels of anxiety. But all of a sudden, breathing became more difficult, like my chest was heavy. I felt like I was disconnecting from my body, but at the same time, consumed by one thought (which I don’t remember), and at the same time experiencing an immense feeling of deja vu. And if you’ve ever experienced low blood pressure when you stand up too quickly, and your head and vision get fuzzy…it was like that, too. I’d have these episodes two to three times a month, sometimes twice in the same week, ever since January of 2009.
Finally, after dealing with them for better than a year, I decided that I should seek some therapy to help me deal with my stress and anxiety – all circulating around my husband being in the military and deploying – so that I could hopefully decrease the attacks, and stop having physical symptoms altogether. Ideally.
So, I sought help from therapy on Post. I cried at my first two sessions, because it was so overwhelming to be able to discuss, deeply, my fears and stress about my husband deploying. And it all has to do with my fear of him not returning. I am scared to death that the love of my life will not survive. I didn’t know how to talk about this to anyone. Other Army Wives, I felt like I shouldn’t bring up a subject we all dread, presumably all of our worst fears. It wasn’t easy to talk to my parents about, because they have their fears, and would try to tell me to stop thinking like that, it’s not going to happen, and so on. I couldn’t address it. [I love you, Mum and Dad, and I don’t blame you for not being able to talk about it]. And I didn’t want to talk to my husband about it, because I didn’t want him to worry and stress more than he is already regarding deployment. So I let it all out, and broke down. We set up an appointment the same week for my husband and I both to come in and discuss some of what’s been going on in regards to my stress and worries. My husband even volunteered to come in with me if I ever wanted or needed him to before I went to the first appointment.
So, with my husband at my second appointment with me, I was able to talk to him about what I’ve been going through, and what was going through my mind. He understood, said he couldn’t guarantee what would happen because it is what it is, but that he was going to do everything he could to come home alive. And it was good for me to be able to talk about it with him, and get his response.
I had another appointment after, in which we discussed some tactics for coping with anxiety attacks when they happen. Although, admittedly, I never remember to DO these exercises until the attack is waning. But, when I feel the anxiety attack starting, I’m supposed to find 5 things around me to focus on seeing, then touching, and hearing. To try to activate my senses and stay in the moment, try to convince myself there is no threat, and that I am OK. Because that’s what my attacks are, they are like dissociative moments, trying to escape a threat that is looming, but isn’t there.
After being able to unload my biggest “threat”, and being able to communicate better with my husband, it seemed like my anxiety diminished a little – the attacks became less frequent. Until recently.
After having a day that I completely broke down, then it seemed like I had stress-induced eczema, I thought that I should make one more appointment to talk and help deal with my anxiety. Especially since deployment is getting so much closer. So, I went in today. I was able to discuss my issues, get some feedback, and learn a breathing technique from my new therapist, to help and handle anxiety naturally. I am to, a couple of times every day, not JUST when I am experiencing a panic attack, sit with my feet planted on the floor, and have my hands palm-up on my lap, and take a deep breath in, imagining a light is filling my head. I hold the breath for a couple of seconds, then exhale through my mouth, imagining the light pushing down through my body, pushing all the anxiety and negative energy out my feet and into the floor. I like my new therapist, she is good at what she does, she knows a lot, and she also utilizes the natural balance of energy and elements in her therapy. She also recommended sage and lavender, as they promote positive energy and help cleanse.
But my biggest reason for wanting to share this, is because I want it to be an OK notion for military spouses who are having a difficult time dealing with military life, deployment, or what have you, to know that it is OK to reach out to a therapist to help you handle your anxiety. I do not feel ashamed for seeking a therapist at all. I feel more empowered for receiving the help I did, and better than I have one more resource for support.
Our soldiers, et al, are trained and conditioned in getting ready for their mission. That’s why a lot of them will shut down emotionally before they deploy. It’s how they are dealing with leaving, with being separated, and going someplace they wouldn’t necessarily want to go to do a job they don’t want to do. But us spouses do not get the same conditioning and training for deployment that they do. I feel like, unless we SEEK the help, we’re the forgotten ranks. FRG’s may help, and some may have some exercises or meetings set up to better prepare you for the reality of deployment, what to expect, and what you’ll experience, but not all of them do. Most of the time, we’re left to deal with a husband who is detaching, and having to explain it to the children. There are no classes on how to be a Military Wife. We just experience it and do the best we can with what we have. But just know, if you feel like you have nothing, if you just need to talk, even to someone who’s on the outside, there is always therapy.
I don’t want to sound like I’m pushing therapy…because I’m not. But for the spouses who consider it, or think it would be a good idea, but for one reason or another do not get the help, I want to reinforce for them that it is OK. As someone who doesn’t seek or ask for help often in my life, I am glad that I asked for and received this.