- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband has been deployed many times - probably eight times since 2003. He has missed the birth of both of our children, and I have been raising our children alone and without family. (I’m on the East Coast, and my family is on the West Coast.)

Before each deployment, I attend all of the family-support sessions, as I think I will learn something new or maybe I will be able to help someone else with the information I’ve learned. I really try to reach out to others for support and try to help others as much as I can. Before each deployment, I say, “I can make it, I can make it.” I’m like the HOORAH Marine wife.

With this latest deployment, I did great for the first month, but something has happened to me, Ms. Vicki. I can barely get out of bed. I can’t eat or sleep, and I’m crying all of the time. Could something be wrong with me? I feel like I’m letting my husband and everyone else down for not taking this deployment like a trooper. What do you think I should do? Should I tell someone I’m having problems, too?

-Trouble on the East Coast

Dear East Coast,

Much happens to us emotionally during each phase of deployment. During the first phase, we are establishing ourselves and trying to get used to the fact that our loved one is deployed; we are accepting our new roles and positions within our families. Many report finding a new sense of independence as we embark upon new duties that we never handled before. In contrast, we can also hit a “crash and burn” emotionally. In other words, everything can hit us all at once, and our minds and bodies become tired and worn out. This is a normal reaction.

From your report, with every deployment, you gear up and get ready to go just like a Marine. You are trying to get into a mind-set to help you endure deployment; again, this is normal. It appears that you have been doing all of the right things - you have built a support group, you help other spouses in your community, and you try to learn and educate yourself about deployments by attending support meetings, et cetera. Now the eight deployments are taking their toll on you.

You cannot be ashamed to discuss your symptoms with a medical professional. You are not weak for asking for help. You are still a trooper. You will not be letting your husband down in any way, OK? Think of it this way: When you board a plane, the flight attendants give the safety rules. What do they say about the oxygen masks? They advise you to put your mask on first, before you try to help someone else. Your situation is the same. You have to help yourself first so that you can be of service to others.

I won’t try to diagnose your symptoms, but it does appear to be a mild to moderate level of depression. I will tell you that it is imperative that you make an appointment to see your primary care physician immediately. Simply call the appointment line for your hospital. Please don’t suffer in silence. Your doctor wants to help.

Reader response to the wife who found photos and videos from her husband’s first marriage in a closet:

  • When I read the letter [from Confused and Hurt Newlywed] in New York.
  • My husband not only had kept that stuff from their wedding, but when he was deployed to Bosnia, I checked his e-mail and found they were still keeping in touch. I immediately took the “wedding box” out to the grill and torched it.

    Then later that year, he had a problem making an insurance-policy payment, so I went to pay it at the office outside the main gate. They asked me who I was, and I told the nice lady I was his wife. She informed me of an addendum to the policy that said: “husband deployed to Bosnia, wife in New York state.” Ms. Vicki, we are stationed in Georgia. The lady handed me a phone book and asked if I needed any help securing the services of a divorce lawyer.

    I e-mailed my husband and told him he should be glad he was deployed because if he had been home, I would probably be in the Liberty County jail for murder. He called me back about 45 seconds after I hit “send.”

    I decided to get counseling and wait until he got back before I made any moves. We had been married less than a year at that time. It wasn’t easy, but we’ve been married eight years now.

    I hope that letter writer realizes she is not alone in having this type of situation. I think you gave her great advice except I would have told her to take care of the wedding stuff. I had asked my husband to do it before he deployed and he did not; I just couldn’t stand that stuff being in the same house as mine after I found out they were still e-mailing. - Toni, an avid Ms. Vicki reader

  • Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Her column, Dear Ms. Vicki, runs in The Washington Times Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]
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