HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – Marriage in any aspect can be difficult at times, but being a military spouse can add even more stress than you anticipate. You could be a civilian that married into the military, or you could be a military member yourself married to another military member. In either situation, nobody wants to hear that their loved one just got tasked to deploy overseas to an unannounced location with the world the way it is. So what comes next? How do you handle the news?
I remember the day like it was yesterday. My husband and I were meeting some friends at a local base event in early September of last year. We were walking, speaking with friends when we ran into a group of firefighters. This being my husband’s squadron, I thought nothing of it, just more friends to talk to. Then it happened, my husband’s chief pulled him aside, and they immediately started talking business when I was just close enough to hear. “So we’re sending you out next April.” My first reaction: sending him where? Then it hit me… the rumors were true. Deployment.
As a military member myself, this shouldn’t be such a shock to me. We all have to be ready to go at any time. I still couldn’t believe that it was even a possibility. We were a newly married couple, still learning about each other, and he was leaving. That wasn’t even the worst part. Finding out that he was leaving in April and it was September only meant one thing: more time to wait, anticipate and worry. My husband had already been on a deployment, and didn’t think twice about the news. “Just part of the job” he would say. I, however, was fairly new to the military and had never had a deployment experience, let alone with a loved one. How was I supposed to handle these next six months?
Time kept going faster and faster, and my mind followed suit. Thoughts and ideas shot through my mind. Maybe it’ll get canceled? Maybe they won’t need my husband? The anticipation was driving me crazy, and I started to doubt. Doubt that I could live here on my own, with no family, no close friends. Could I handle all financial needs, take care of vehicles, and even juggle my job being a new young airman? I worried about things that I had no control over, and I worried all the time. The anxiety started to affect my mental health.
Anxiety was something I had never dealt with before. It was a small issue that I turned into a massive problem. Small things that most people would shrug off would be an emotional mess for me. Anytime someone said the word deployment, my heart dropped, and I felt as though I could vomit. It didn’t take long before my husband started to notice. He tried to reassure me that it would be over before I knew it and I just needed to learn how to be independent and secure with being on my own. My husband was used to it being just him. Coming from England then Afghanistan, he was no stranger to being so independent. I tried to understand his mindset, but I come from a big family, and I was used to having someone around at all times. As time went on, I tried harder and harder to be stronger, but anxiety was winning.
As the months went by the anxiety grew stronger, and I was becoming a different person. I tried multiple approaches to channel the stress. I saw a doctor and mental health providers, but no matter how much I went, I was still just this mess of unwanted emotions. I wanted him with me at all times. I wanted to spend every living moment I had with him. He’s been my rock, my best friend, my support system in this new lifestyle, how did I know I could live without him for seven months? I didn’t know, and that was the fear fueling my emotions.
March was over and I still wasn’t ready. I’d been so crazy the last few months that it was no wonder my husband was ready to go. I kept praying, kept hoping, kept anticipating that last night we were going to have together. And then it came.
I cried more that last night than I have in my entire life. It was happening, he was leaving. I didn’t sleep that night, just laid there next to him as he slept, as morning came way too fast. I got up in silence, I got dressed and we put his bags in the car. I pulled up to the fire station, and we unloaded his things. The rest of his team started to come in, and I knew that moment all the anxiety I had been building up was coming. Goodbye. As he walked me to my car I didn’t even have words, just tears that streamed down my face. We hugged and kissed, and he reassured me it’ll be over before I knew it. At that point I was numb and could only shake my head. I kissed him one more time and drove home without him.
I walked into my apartment, and I knew that apartment was going to be empty for the next seven months. I tried to sleep, but I was woken by my phone. It was my husband, calling to ask me how I was doing, and to say he was about to start his transit. I sucked it up and told him to be safe. We hung up the phone and I cried again, this time harder than before. Then reality hit, and what shocked me the most, all the anxiety up to that point had released. I had nothing left to fear. He was gone. Now comes the real test: how do I live these next several months?