- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dear Ms. Vicki,

The holiday season is approaching and I’m already feeling lonely. My husband is deployed and won’t return until late February. I just don’t think I will be able to get through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day without him. This will be the first time we have been apart in our entire 10 years of marriage.

I often regret that my husband joined the Army. We needed the steady income as jobs are scarce in Montana where we live. I appreciate that we have a roof over our heads, food on our table and health care. However, it’s just not worth it because he is not here with us. This is no way to live a married life.

I am trying to be strong for our children and I try to keep them encouraged, but this is just too hard. I don’t believe in medication, but I think I would like for my doctor to give me something to help me. If I’m not depressed, I know I will be soon.

I’m trying to make it through to the finish line, but it just seems like it is getting harder and harder. I will accept any words of advice or encouragement you would like to give. — Upcoming Holiday Blues

Dear Holiday,

You are right, you are almost at the finish line and you have done a good job so far. I will be the first to admit that deployments and long separations are tough. In my husband’s last deployment, he left in September, so my first 90 days were during the holidays, too.

I immediately established a wellness plan to help me get through them. First, I solicited help from my sons, other family members and friends. I told them this would be a tough time for me emotionally. I told them how they could help, and believe it or not, while this meant I needed phone calls, e-mails, cards, etc., it also meant that I needed some time alone.

Second, I planned a road trip with my sons. I also worked outside of my home, volunteered in the community, and was very active in my sons’ activities. It was difficult, but it worked. The next thing I knew, it was mid-January.

This holiday season, I think you should try to do what is comfortable and normal for you. However, let’s be honest; some of those things will bring a flood of memories because they’re what you did as a couple. So I think you should monitor your feelings of depression and discuss them with your doctor. I’m not a medical doctor so I won’t try to give you advice on whether to take medication for depression; please discuss this with your physician.

I think having holiday blues is normal, but if you are experiencing a change in appetite, weight gain or loss, fatigue or a lack of energy, sleeping too much or too little, these are all symptoms of depression, not just the blues.

I wish you well, and please keep in touch and let me know how you are progressing.

Reader response to an earlier letter.

“On My Way to Canada” is upset about her husband’s latest deployment. It may help “Canada” to know that there are a lot of people who truly appreciate what her husband is doing and the personal sacrifice that she is making. The media, Hollywood and some politicians who demean the military and its members do not speak for the majority. We are grateful for those who stand up to defend our country as well as those who, though they never leave our shores, make a sacrifice of no less magnitude. — Ernie Dryer

Vicki Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three, has been counseling service members and their families for 15 years. Contact her at [email protected]

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