There I was, 2 days after my husband (then-fiance) deployed: on my couch. With a tub of icing. And a spoon. And The Princess Bride.
I don’t want to impress you, but I ate through that entire tub of icing in one night. Like a champ.
Yes, it was flavored with my own tears, but that’s beside the point. That tub of icing was just about the only thing I had accomplished that day.
I was a mess.
Over the next few days and weeks, I got a lot better at dealing with deployment. I had never experienced one before. I didn’t know what they were like. I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I barely “got” military life — I definitely did not know how I was going to get through it.
But I did.
You can too. (After all, you don’t have a spoon in your hand and bowl of icing in your lap, right? You’re already one step ahead of me.) And you can deal with it like a boss.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Do at least one thing for yourself every day. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long soak in the tub. Maybe it’s working out to a Richard Simmons DVD while the kids fend for themselves for 20 minutes.
Maybe it’s taking 10 minutes to drink coffee in the morning without your cell phone around.
Maybe it’s writing a letter to your partner.
Or maybe it’s just staring at a blank wall in a quiet room.
You choose what it is — I’m not going to tell you. You need to take care of yourself so that you can take care of the people who are counting on you.
No time, you say? Make time. This is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Make the time for you or ignore me at your own peril.
You don’t want to end up like Nic Cage halfway through this deployment.
2. Ask for Help
Let me say this right now: you are important. I don’t care what doors your significant other may or may not be kicking down. I don’t care if they’re protecting the President.
You are important.
Your feelings, your needs, your wants—they’re all important, too.
Don’t treat yourself like you’re a footnote in this deployment story.
Yes, your partner is faraway. Yes, deployment may be hard for him or her. And yes, you absolutely want to take care of him or her as you can. But the difficulties your partner is facing does not negate the difficulties you’re facing. It does not negate the depression or anxiety you might be experiencing. It does not negate the fact that you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 7 months and so help you God, if your child asks one more time where Dad is you’re going to sit down on the floor and cry until you can’t anymore.
So if you need help?
Ask for it.
Beg for it.
Knock on doors until you get it.
Because you are important too.
3. Find Your Cheerleader
God bless my mother. As a teacher, she’s been Mom to more kids than just my sisters and me. I didn’t know until a few years ago that she often keeps in touch with students who go off to college — especially those who may not have strong support structures at home. She’ll send them morning emails and tell them that she’s rooting for them. I’ve been on the receiving end of those morning emails, and let me tell you, they are awesome.
So, for this upcoming deployment, find a personal cheerleader of your own. It doesn’t have to be someone who emails you every day, but it does have to be someone who supports you and who gives you hope.
Who is that person for you? Find them and tell them that you need them on your team for this deployment.
4. Count Up
Ready for some serious military spouse controversy? (I kid, but I’m kind of serious, too.)
I don’t count down during deployments. I count up.
I know that everyone is in love with their countdown apps and the doughnut of misery, but hear me out. Counting up is perfect for deployments when you don’t know the length of time it will be. After all, there are few of us out there who ever get solid dates of return. Usually it’s just a general idea — maybe they’ll be back in [insert guess at a month here]?
I felt much more control over the deployment when I counted up and I felt accomplished too.
Instead of saying, “200 more days to go,” I was able to look at my calendar and celebrate:
We just crane-kicked 100 days of deployment!
5. Get a Goal (or Ten)
Deployment sucks. It does.
But it can also be a time of personal and professional growth for you. Write down a goal (or a few goals) that you’d like to accomplish by the time bae comes back. Then work toward that goal with everything you’ve got.
6. Ditch the Haters
Surround yourself with people who are positive and have good vibes. It’s hard to do that in real life, but online you can easily remove people from your newsfeed or avoid certain sites that do nothing but stress you out and throw you off your game.