- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I don’t think I can take another day of this deployment. This has been my husband’s third deployment in four years. He’s been gone for 10 months this time and is supposed to return in late August or early September. Now we are hearing rumors they could be extended for another two months or perhaps sent straight to Afghanistan instead of coming home first.

My friends in Fort Hood say this is what happened to their husbands. What if it happens to my husband’s brigade? I think I literally would crack. I’m just ready for this to be over and done. I am tired of this deployment and all of the stressors that have come with it. Do you have any suggestions to help me keep going? I really don’t want to fall apart. — Deployment Blues

Dear Blues,

The hardest period of deployment is the last two months. For some reason, this also is the time when rumors will start and spread like wildfire. I’m sure, in part, it’s because of the anxiety of the reunion. Time seems to have slowed down, you are all worn out, and at this point, you’re only concerned with their departure and arrival dates.

Keep in mind that these dates may change a few times before they become solid. When the dates do change, it doesn’t have to mean they are going to another location.

Deployments are tough — I know firsthand — and they can produce a lot of fear and anxiety. However, you can’t allow yourself to become engaged with rumors. At this point, revisit what has carried you through this deployment so far — family, friends, faith, etc.

When my husband was deployed, his return date changed many times. I said to myself I would wait a lifetime as long as he returned safe and unharmed. There are so many service members who don’t return home alive, so if your husband is safe, you are blessed.

Keep doing what has helped you through thus far, and show patience. You can make it!

Dear Ms. Vicki,

How can we wives tell when our husbands need counseling when they get home from Iraq, and what are the major signs? I feel like my husband eventually will need the help. Some men don’t want the help, especially being an infantry soldier. — A Military Wife

Dear Wife,

You are absolutely correct. Many men do not reach out for help, particularly those who serve in combat units. However, I have seen an increase in the number of soldiers reaching out for help in the form of individual, group and family counseling. Many military hospitals are doing a great job with implementing family-centered care.

First off, don’t jump the gun or become riddled with fear of the unknown, but it is good to be concerned and to be educated about combat stress and post-traumatic stress. Redeployment will be an adjustment for both of you. Reintegration will not take place overnight. Some symptoms will be normal given the situation.

When my husband returned, he did not sleep through the night and sometimes he appeared to be jumpy and easily startled. However, he had been sleeping only about four hours a night when he was downrange and often he wasn’t in a bed. He was adjusting to life at home.

If you see these symptoms, seek professional help immediately: continued sleeping difficulty, nightmares, anxiety, depression and increased agitation. There are other symptoms as well. Some may never occur, and many surface after the first 90 to 100 days.

I think we are doing a good job as a country of erasing the stigma against those who seek mental health services. Many servicemen and women of all ranks are receiving services at this time. They are not weak, and they are not losers. To the contrary, seeking help makes them winners. Thanks for writing and being concerned about your husband. I hope this helps. Continue to take care of yourself.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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