We’ve made it __ days through deployment. Honestly, I have no idea how many days it’s been. I don’t like to think about it. I probably mentioned this before in a previous post. I see other MILSOs posting their status updates about being another month down, another 100 days down, etc. etc. And I think, “Yay!” to myself, but I don’t think much of it beyond that.
But, that is what I want to write about tonight…other MILSOs, and our individual response for coping through deployment.
This by no means is meant as a criticism, but instead, a sort of self-reflection, and hopefully, also a comfort for other MILSOs to know that how YOU cope, it’s OK. (Probably…mostly…most likely…)
Let me explain…
With today’s access to social networking, and perhaps with some MILSOs actually physically networking and having a strong community of other MILSOs and family members that they routinely get together with or talk with, it’s easy to sit back and see how everyone else is coping with deployment, with the hard stuff. Sometimes, we might look at our selves and compare…sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that may not be so good.
For example, let’s say you’re having a rough time. The past few days you can’t seem to get out of your own way, you worry way more than you had over the past few months, and you just can’t figure it out. No amount of crying, ice cream, or reminiscing can get you out of your funk. Meanwhile, you see other MILSOs getting through their days seemingly just fine. You might think, “What’s wrong with you?” to yourself, regarding you, as you think you should be that emotionally balanced all of the time. You compare yourself and may feel inferior for feeling the way you do, that you SHOULD be strong, that you SHOULD just “suck it up, Buttercup,” and be able to smile through it all, all of the time. What are you doing wrong in your coping that they seem to have gotten right? You might wonder if something is wrong with those who appear to be fine while you’re not. What are they up to that you wouldn’t approve of? Does the emotional roller coaster and how many times you ride the highs and lows reflect how much you love your significant other more than they love theirs?
Or, the opposite. You see other MILSOs having a hard time emotionally, but you’re sailing through day-in and day-out just fine. You miss your spouse or loved one, you love them just like always, but you’re just not breaking down like the world expects you to. You wonder that something might be off with you – society has this expectation that you’re supposed to be sad all or most of the time, because no one else can seem to fathom how you do it, why you chose to love someone who deploys for long periods at a time as they say they couldn’t do it. And you think to yourself again, or you may even TELL them, “I didn’t CHOOSE to love this person, I just love him/her unconditionally,” that you are committed to each other regardless. And you’re amazed yet again at what you are able to do when you have no other choice…or rather, when he or she is what you want, and this is the life that comes with them. But you know, somewhere in your emotions, that your emotional roller coaster isn’t going to coast on the plateau forever, and eventually you’ll hit those hills.
Coping through deployment isn’t a competition, first and foremost. How well you do compared to how well or poorly others do, how many times you’ve cried compared to others…it doesn’t mean anything. We all cope how we cope. We all have good days, and we all have bad days. Fortunately, hopefully, they don’t always coincide with other members of the community that you are close with, so that we can pick each other up or comfort each other when we need it.
Typically, I am a glass-half-full kind of person. In spite of my “resting bitch face,” I do smile a lot. I like to laugh, and I find a reason for it every day. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss my husband. [Double negatives sometimes confuse me…simply put, I miss my husband every day.] I still love him just as much in his absence. Most days I’m OK; you wouldn’t guess by looking at me or talking to me that my husband might be deployed. It’s not something I wear on my sleeve, so to say. I’m terribly at poker, but that is my poker face. Internally, sometimes my stomach is in knots when I haven’t heard from him, or when I know I won’t hear from him for a while but I don’t know when the next time will be. Distractions keep me going. If I sit around and think about his absence all of the time, my glass would be empty, and I probably wouldn’t smile. That’s part of how I cope – I have priorities, things to do, things to distract me, and things to “keep me busy.” I make the rules, though, I don’t let expectations of others define my life during this time. And neither should you.
Everyone seems to have an opinion, and that’s OK, but take it as that – it’s just an opinion. Either accept it and use it, or just move on and let others blow smoke. And everyone, regardless of our confidence, from time to time will compare ourselves to others. When you do this, because you will, don’t think in terms of “right” and “wrong.” Don’t judge. If you’re looking for better ways for coping personally, and you’re comparing as a means of getting some advise, really think about what will work for you, what do you need. If you’re craving some time to get out of your head, get involved and be social. Volunteer, join a class, get to the gym and work out (physical exhausting yourself through your emotions is wonderful). If you are working, that is a great way to focus on something else for a few hours a day. If you are not working, consider a per Diem or part time job if you don’t want to or don’t need to work full time. (I know, this might be easier said that done for a lot of areas in the country still in terms of securing employment.) Pick up hobbies and try new things. Even if it’s just coloring (they have a lot of great adult coloring books out now, not that there is anything wrong with the ones for kids), reading, learning a new language, binge watching some shows or movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu…
The bottom line is, as long as you are not doing anything illegal and dangerous, or immoral, how you cope is how you cope. Just make sure that you are coping.