This article is for you, the military spouse, who is so worried about the upcoming deployment that you do not enjoy time with your spouse before she deploys.
This is for you the military member concerned about where you will PCS next and not enjoying your current assignment.
This is for you the parent anxious about whether the new school will be a good fit for your child.
I understand the insomnia, the racing thoughts, and that feel in the pit of your stomach. This article is about how I learned to conquer my anxiety and learned to live in the moment. Writing something so personal is hard for me but I do it in hopes of helping even one person.
I have always had an anxious personality but managed just fine for about 34 years. So when my anxiety started to become overwhelming I was determined to not let it beat me. I have a background in Psychology and tried all the cognitive behavioral techniques I knew.
First I tried the cognitive technique of following my anxious thoughts to their conclusion.The theory behind this is that anxiety usually causes people to imagine worst case scenarios where reality is more forgiving. This works except when your reality follows your worst fears.
I never expected that my husband would actually deploy leaving me alone with one toddler just diagnosed with autism days beforehand and a baby diagnosed with failure to thrive. It was my worst fear, but it came true. When my fears that my younger son would also have special needs were confirmed, it also confirmed that following my anxious thoughts through to the worst case just seemed like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I promptly tossed that anxiety busting approach to the side.
Next up on my journey to minimize my anxiety, I tried the behavioral approach of adding exercise.
I went to yoga and focused on breathing and tried to quiet my mind. I tried adding a hobby to quiet my mind. I tried to give myself a time limit and only allowed myself to worry during that time. I tried talking to friends and my husband. I did therapy with my children and talked to a social worker. I tried meditation. It worked, enough to keep me going, but not so well as to leave me fully present. I would then find myself wracked with guilt for not fully living in the moment….and that guilt would lead back to my anxiety.
Then Science Kid was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and I fell down the rabbit hole of self-blame. We were preparing to PCS for a year long school at base we had been stationed before, a base I strongly disliked. For 6 months, I struggled with nightly insomnia and waking for the day at 2am. We arrived at the new base, and it became clear my worst fears about the local schools were being realized.
I had no more fight in me.
There was only one option left that I had not tried.
My husband did not want me to turn to medication, and as most military families, I wanted desperately to avoid that option. Out of options, I went to my PCM and described what had been going on. She wrote me a script and I felt like a failure.
A few weeks in, it was if the vice grip on my heart had been loosened. I was still me and still prone to worry and periods of heart racing, but I had energy again to employ my behavioral techniques of exercise. I could focus and make a plan on how to handle a problem instead of feeling like it was an insurmountable obstacle. It was like my mind and body needed a reset. I had been through a difficult 3 years and had exhausted all my coping mechanisms.
The medication provided that reset.
Gone is the guilt I used to feel for not enjoying every single moment of parenting.Some days I embrace the now and feel completely at peace. Some days I am off or Science kid and/or Word Boy are having a rough day, and I pray for bedtime. I am no long paralyzed by guilt about those days. They happen and you move on.
I still worry about the future; it is part of who I am and cannot be taken out of personality. It no longer consumes me. I do not worry what the day will bring, but take it as it comes. I am not sure if the journey made me appreciate the times where I can live in the moment, but it sure feels that way.
If you are in the midst of a rough patch and need someone to talk to know that you have options. MilitaryOneSource provides non-medical counseling and resources to help you through the rough patches in life. Visit Military OneSource or call 800-342-9647 for more information.