Sunday, June 5, 2011

Gonna get Real, Yo

I'm going to go ahead and warn you that this post could be seen as kind of whiny. And for that, I preemptively apologize.  I really have been wanting to get these feelings out on "paper" for awhile and I think/hope this will help. 

(Note: I struggle with being really honest about my anxiety and depression on my blog, so if it's something that bores you to tears, I apologize for that as well)

I woke up this morning and sobbed for a good 10 minutes, cuddling my beast and chewing on my lip (anxious tic).  I'm not even sure why I was crying so hard and frankly, I wasn't too sure why when it was actually happening.  All I knew was I was hurting and scared and for some reason it was really intense.

I think I finally figured out why it's so hard for me to leave Rob.

When Rob was in Iraq, I went through what is (apparently) called "anticipatory grief." I remember sleeping in his bed after his parents asked me to stay over, tossing and turning and clutching at my chest.  I sat up and realized that I was behaving as though he had died, and was contemplating life without him.  I researched it online and found that it's quite common among military spouses, and knowing that made it a lot easier to continue dealing with those moments.

Thing is, I don't think I actually ever dealt with it.  Aside from those few moments of clarity, I never considered the danger he was in though I had plenty of extremely obvious clues (the FRG finally stopped letting us know about brigade casualties because of the effect it had on spouse morale, for one).  I think my brain protected me from worrying because, to put it mildly, I am pretty damn neurotic. If I had fully embraced the danger my husband was in, I'm pretty sure I would've been committed.* I was in college and studying abroad; I had no choice but to shut down part of my brain in order to keep functioning.

After Rob came home, and I finally heard the stories and saw a few pictures, it hit me with full force just what my husband had dealt with on a daily basis those 13 months.  I immediately felt horrible for burdening him with my petty requests for validation, my whining about life in Russia and Beloit, and my jokes at his expense (though I dare say he appreciated the last one).  We watched the movie "Restrepo" together and it was cemented in my mind.

I began to retroactively worry. Pretty talented, no?

I began obsessively reading the blogs of widows and widowers. It seemed to me that I could feel their pain through their anguished words, in some sort of secondary way.  I hugged my husband even tighter than before, worried obsessively if he didn't answer his phone, and imagined his funeral in my head during long car rides.  In other words, I once again became that girl who, in those few moments of clarity during an incredibly shit-tastic deployment, feared losing the most important person in her life with all she was.

So back to me leaving.  I've noticed that each time I leave for a project, which is pretty frequent, I have the same sort of nostalgic thoughts...things like "I remember when we used to go to the field with Cypress," not stopping to think that we had just gone to the field the previous day and would most likely go again when I came home. In 3 days' time. On days like today, when he's in a location at which I can't reach him, I feel even he's on 10 days of patrol again with no access to phone, internet, or email. 

I had never considered that I would still be dealing with the pain 3 years after he came home.  Rob even told me that I have more baggage from the Army days than he does, and frankly, he's totally right. 

This realization has helped me to recognize that I need to be better at focusing on the here and now rather than some imaginary future. I'm hoping that now that I have a context for it I can work on fixing it, and maybe not bursting into random bouts of crying before traveling to a project.

I also hope that I have scared away readers by talking about all of this (worrying powers, activate!).

Okay, I feel better but also whiny, so I want to say again: I understand that there are military wives going through a lot more stressful situations than I am currently...and I understand that military widows (and widows/widowers in general) go through something that I cannot even begin to fathom. I just wanted to share my experiences.  :)

*If I ever do get committed, I hope I get to go to that one in Shutter Island and share a cell block with Leonardo di Caprio.


  1. Wow! So honest, my brother just joined the army and allthough I have always been thankful for those who fight for our freedom it is at a whole new level now. I love my little brother but thinking about my husband being deployed is even worse (that sounds so mean, it was not ment like it sounds :). I have a huge respect for all those spouses who stay home while their loved one is away. What strength that must take!

  2. Sooo not to totally take over your post or anything..and I mean what I'm about to say in the nicest way but you are SO LUCKY that Rob made it home from Iraq to you. I wish I could be you. Losing Jed was the worst thing I have ever been through in my life because it's one of those things that you never think could happen to you. Cherish Rob and don't get so down on yourself. He's in a much safer place now.

    If I hadn't of gone through all those things I wouldn't be Nate. I worry about him all the time that something is going to happen to him. I worry every day about being apart from him for a few months. But I can't dwell on thinking about bad things that could happen. Cherish today and live for tomorrow :)

    I love you girl! Chin up!

  3. I am blown away by your honesty. We're all in this thing called life together, and have a lot more in common than we all think in that we are creatures that FEEL, we all hurt, we all cry, we all laugh and smile! I've always thought that when humans can join together on that fact and face that things aren't always buttercups and rainbows is when things are TRULY beautiful. You have support, even if we don't first-hand know what it feels like. Keep being patient and kind to yourself, girl! <3

  4. I'm sorry you have been in pain! I think it is good for you to talk about it even if it is just blogging about is therapeutic and can definitely be helpful for you! And I would say you are not boring your readers! I do agree with looking to the future and trying to stay positive! I'm sure it was so hard though! Keep your chin up!

    Ashley Sloan
    Check out my giveaway if you'd like :) Win a Zephyr hat of your choice for your husband!

  5. I'm so sorry you've been dealing with this :( But I can understand it. Back with my ex, I used to imagine what it would be like to lose him and it was really tough to think about getting that phone call or living without him (well, you the time things were it doesn't matter at all lol). It's such a hard life to be involved in, but you are a STRONG woman and you made it through that! I'm glad that you found other women who went through the same thing, though, because it proves that you're not alone. There are others who know your pain, and others who actually know the true pain of losing someone that you could talk to.

    I don't think it's wrong to "whine" about that--this is YOUR blog, YOUR opinions, YOUR thoughts. Obviously there are people who are in worse situations, but that shouldn't make you feel bad for posting this or even feeling like this. Everyone is different and everyone has their own pain. But it's good that you know what this is so that you can cope with it better! You are awesome, you can get past this!

    BTW, I passed along an award to you :)

  6. I think it's pretty common for a spouse to feel more anxiety than their soldier. For one thing, they are trained for what they are doing. For another, imagination can be much worse than reality. I used to joke that I got the PTSD FOR my husband. I had nightmares and paranoia when he was gone and even after he got back.

    The thing is, it can become a conditioned response. Like Pavlov's dogs, I guess. When T got back from Iraq and started going back to drill things got tough. Everytime the uniform came out, I would start a fight just to ease my own separation anxiety. I think I still do that to this day - four years and another deployment later.

    It's not easy, girl, but you aren't crazy. You're actually quite normal. Sorry to break it to you. ;)

    (I almost said "drop that bomb" but decided it was inappropriate for the context!)

  7. I love honest, real, raw posts like this. Never having dealt with this situation myself, I can't say I understand or I was in your shoes. I can't say anything like I can relate or the best advice I ever received on how to deal with it.

    What I can say is that the first step to dealing with any sort of anxiety is to stop apologizing for it. I was diagnosed with GAD and took it SO hard at first. Over time, I accepted it. I accepted the times I would get anxious or depressed at times over things that didn't need a second thought. And once I did that, I realized I could fix it. I could take the steps necessary to move on and move forward. Doesn't mean it went away. Just means that it's easier to deal with now.

    If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm here! :]

  8. I agree with Holly's last paragraph, above! I don't really know what else to say but this was a brilliantly honest post <3

  9. Such a great post :) It isn't whine, it is good to express yourself and your feelings. I am your 70th follower! YAY!

  10. Great post! I have to say, that after living with PTSD for three years on my own, therapy saved my life! It's not the right route for everyone, but I couldn't deal with it on my own and it was beginning to put a strain on my relationship. Six years later (from the original event that caused my PTSD) I would consider myself completely recovered. Makes me wish I had seen a therapist sooner!

  11. I'm so sorry that you have to experience these worries. Anxiety just isn't fun, Man, that's a huge understatement!

    I also think it's great that you feel comfortable enough to share your thoughts here. Even if you have to communicate the same ideas over and over, it's important to let it out. And for the record, you don't sound whiney:) xx

  12. first off, i applaud you for your honesty. it sounds like you've been through some really rough times. though i've never been in your shoes, since my boyfriend has never been in the military or even gone for long periods of time, i can imagine how horrible you've felt.
    i think that blogging openly like this is healthy and a positive thing for you. i definitely don't think you sounds whiny, and i hope to see more of these open, honest posts from you!

  13. I definitely don't know what it could possibly be like to be in your shoes as a spouse of someone in the military, but I do want to commend you for the beautifully honest post. Anxiety can be awful. I agree with what others have said about how helpful it is to recognize and accept exactly what we're dealing with. When my sister was dying of cancer I started having horrific anxiety and stressing out about things that had absolutely nothing to do with her at all. Like really small, ridiculous things. I finally realized that I was displacing my stress onto things that I had control over because the thought of my sister dying from an incurable disease was literally too much for my brain to take. Once I recognized this though, dealing with it became a little tiny bit easier.

    Best of luck to you Caitlin. And in my opinion, you didn't sound whiny in the least!

  14. Honestly, I can't even fathom what you went through/what you're now going through... but I can tell you that it doesn't come across as whiny at all. Although I do have a strong urge to give you a bear hug now.

    & high five for figuring out what's been getting you down! Sounds like you're definitely healing, now it's time for heeeaping doses of patience and self-compassion. You're doing an awesome job.


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