Monday, December 15, 2008

Letter to a Navy Girl

I wrote this in a message board post a few months ago and thought I'd archive it here. It's interesting to see the difference between the two post (the first one having been written during my deployment experience, the second a year and a half afterwards). Hopefully, this will help someone's journey be a little bit easier!

First of all... Know that my thoughts are with you! This is a huge thing, so the anxiety and other emotions you are experiencing are normal and understandable!

My deployment with my husband was a little different, since he was on a carrier the whole time and only gone for 8 months. But my best friend is going through a 15 month deployment with the Army right now and I see a lot of parallels between her experience and mine.

First... know that the closer it gets to his deployment the harder it will be! I know that’s not very encouraging, but sometimes just knowing what to expect helps. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting in arguments in the weeks before he leaves. Sometimes being angry is easier than being sad. But try to identify what is going on and combat the tendency to substitute feelings. I’ve heard of a lot of girls who’s guy goes off while they are angry and it’s no good!

Second... once he leaves, the first few weeks will be the hardest! But take comfort in knowing that it WILL get easier! Try to make as many plans as possible for the day he leaves and the following days. My girlfriend was at the base for 10 hours the day he left because they kept pushing back the leave time. She said she really wishes that they would have established a length of time for her to be there. If he wasn’t gone by then, she wishes he had walked her to the car and let her go on and leave. She said it was excruciating! We had made plans for me to come down and be with her that first night. She said that really helped.

Surround yourself with military folks if you can. Civilians (as much as they love us and want to be there for us) often times just do not know what to do or say. It’s almost like death; no one wants to say anything. Another military person will know that you may want to cry or you may not want to think about it at all.

Make as many plans for those first few weeks, and especially the weekend (or whatever your usual days off are) as possible. The last thing you want to do is find yourself with nothing to do because believe me you will end up sitting around being depressed and that won’t make anything better.

Routines help soooo much! Stay busy! Take up a new hobby; find a volunteer opportunity, or a second job. Try your best to see this as time to take care of you and do the things you might not have time to do with your guy there all the time.

And most importantly, during this phase, know that simply getting up every morning, putting one foot in front of the other all day long, and making it through the day is an accomplishment in and of itself, and be ready to celebrate that!

Third... expect there to come a time when your routine becomes a rut! I saw it in my deployment and in my friends. At some point all the things you put in place to try and keep one foot in front of the other starts to become a burden instead of a help! When this happens be ready to change up your routine. At this point, you may also realize that you don’t need the routine as much as you did before.

Fourth... once you get through the rut stage, expect to hit the groove! This seems to be the time around half way or so when you stop simply "surviving" and you start to "thrive" in the situation! You become more confident in yourself, as well as your ability to survive through this tough time!

Fifth... as homecoming gets closer and closer, expect things to get hard again. It’s kind of like running a long race or hiking a long trail. Knowing that the end is in sight actually makes it harder to wait! But when you get to this stage you are almost there. Throw yourself into deciding what to wear to homecoming, making plans with your guy for after homecoming and such and so forth!

Just in general... Know that you will have bad days throughout! I found that the harder I fought the bad days the stronger they became. If I would find a quite, safe place, sit back, take a deep breath and let the worry, anxiety, loneliness, wash over me, that it would often times simply pass right through and I could get on with my day.

Some tips I found helpful: create rituals around the passing of time. I had a standing dinner out with my girlfriends the first of every month to celebrate making it through another month.

My desk drawer at work looked like a cross between a Hallmark store and a post office. It was full of note cards and envelopes and stamps and such. Every time I felt like it, I wrote him a note. My husband said that every single time they got a mail plane, he got something.

I decided not to count down at the beginning, that only made me feel worse. I only counted up until half way and then I started counting down.

Be very careful watching the news. It’s easy to get freaked out. I use to shoo people away from my desk when they started talked about stuff like that.

Be very careful of the rumors that will start to fly around! Don’t believe anything until a high up person says it! You’ll go crazy if you believe every rumor that flies around.

But most importantly, know that this too shall pass! Not only the deployment but the bad days and the hard times. Try to see this time as a time to invest in you and not just a time to "get through". And you’ll be surprised how much stronger you and your relationship can be through these hard times!

Good luck honey!


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