Doug and I met while we were stationed in Germany in 1990, we were both serving in the Army. After less than a year we broke up, and through a series of events ended up back together twelve years later. We dated long distance for three years and married in 2003. Even though I had served in the military, I was in a different role now: military spouse.
Being an Army wife has many highlights, but certainly doesn’t come easy. The packers and the move, picking the right house in the right school district, where is the closest grocery store or mall, a new doctor, a hairdresser; we do this routine every three to four years. More importantly, you have to make new friends and relationships, it’s the beauty of traveling juxtaposed with starting over. I’d always been very gregarious so I’d never contemplated the seclusion and detachment I would experience.
When we moved to Georgia, we knew Doug would be deploying soon, but I was excited to start a new career in real estate and that would allow me to make friends through fellow Realtors and clients. We had neighbors that became like family, and while Doug was gone, we’d meal shared almost every night, watch Jeopardy and they became my support system. That relationship was my family and friends condensed into one package. The solid friendships I had made in Georgia were what got me through the rough patches, and let me know I wasn’t alone.
When we moved to Texas, we knew that Doug was going to deploy within a month of arriving there as well. I was studying for my Texas real estate license and found myself not following a pattern of meeting people, whether through work or church. With Doug gone two of the four years at Fort Hood, I was growing more solitary. I had my realtor’s license but I rarely worked; I was miserable selling real estate and often thought of a career change. Looking back, I was struggling to find happiness. I didn’t have many friends, my son was acting out and trying my patience daily, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and dying, and I was so unhappy.
I sought therapy, but I sat in the room and fluffed my way through each session, touching the surface but never really sharing how or why I was hurting. I think I just longed for a friend to listen to me. When my sister passed away, I flew to California for the service and delivered her eulogy. I put on a happy face like everything was fine, that was so far from the truth. I pushed down the anger and emptiness that I felt more everyday. No matter what happened at home when Doug was deployed, I would minimize the truth, or not even tell him. That wasn’t from a deceitful place, just that I always felt he had enough on his plate. Why should I add more stress to what he dealt with on a daily basis? I never shared how hurt I was by his families lack of communication, how much the loss of my sister was affecting me, or how my sons rebellious actions were breaking my heart everyday. I felt more withdrawn.
Doug came home, life carried on, but there was still so much tension. In 2011 when I’d overdosed, I’d had enough! I didn’t care who was hurt by my death, what unanswered questions were left behind; I just wanted to die! After taking the sleeping pills, I could feel death coming, I was leaving my body on the floor that night. I had expected to die, not to continue living a life trapped within myself for almost three more years. That night I was so aware of my husbands love for me, in the first hours by the pain and sadness in his eyes as he sat next to me in the ER, and with every day he has continued to love me since I overdosed. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and there is truth to that in my life.
After leaving Texas we went to Kansas for a year, an although I met people, I’d spent so much time drinking to hide my pain, I wasn’t a friend to anyone. I was just existing.
When we moved to Hawaii, I was still drinking too much and caring too little. In addition, I was sick and in and out of the hospital for months. I was isolated at home without a job or friends. It wasn’t until I met other military spouses that I realized just how destitute and longing for companionship I was, and I slowly began to open my heart to friendship again. A wonderful aspect of a military life is making friends all over the globe; we eventually move on, we may not be at the same duty station, but those friendships can last a lifetime. The relationships I’m making in Hawaii are helping me heal and grow every day. Making connections is paramount, they leave an impression on us as we learn and grow from one another. Our goal should, and typically is to support and lift each other up. We’re all on a different journey, but we have a similar path, and when they cross, we can make lasting friendships.
Strength of character isn’t always about how much you can handle before you break, it’s also about how much you can handle after you’ve broken”-Robert Tew