I have to preface this with a couple of links and a disclaimer. First of all if you are curious at all as to what my military experience amounted to before G.I. Joe, then read this. And if you want to read the full account of our wedding, here it is.
This post has been a long time coming and I’m super nervous to have it finally up. I don’t really love the fact that family, friends, and real-life acquaintances will be seeing this. I am honest to God certain that some people are going to roll there eyes and say “Get over it girl! Your life was never this bad. You’re just over-dramatic as always.” But, oh well. I spent the entire first 3 years of my military marriage hiding how I felt and thought because I was scared about what other people would say. An Army Wife is supposed to be Wonder Woman. When I didn’t live up to that I was embarrassed. I write this now so that maybe another wife out there will read it and will feel not so alone or freakish for having similar emotions.
The day I dropped G.I. Joe off at the Armory to deploy we had only been married for a week. The buses pulled away into the mist and I approached our FRG leader. She was the XO’s wife and had about 15-20 years of experience on me. I explained that I was PFC G.I. Joe’s new bride and that I was struggling already. I asked to be put on the newsletter mailing list and to find out when the meetings would be. At that point she looked at me and laughed. Thus Freshman Year at Milie High began.
The first few months were what I expected. I went through the motions at school and had an extreme love affair with my cell phone. My heart just wasn’t in my studies at the time so my grades slipped early on. Then he called with news that neither of us wanted. R-and-R straws were drawn and he got the short one. He would be the first to get leave, which meant we’d have more than 9 months apart afterwards. I withdrew from school because spending that much time out of class would devastate my once-perfect-now-struggling GPA.
From the start I developed a very unhealthy mindset. I just knew I wasn’t the one who needed people’s help or prayers. When the subject would come up I’d insist people just pray for G.I. Joe’s safety and I would tell God myself that He better put all his focus on my husband who was in heavy combat all the time. I was determined to show people I could handle this on my own. I wanted to prove it to the Army, to G.I. Joe, to God and to all the people who said I shouldn’t have married him before he left.
After that horrendous 2nd goodbye my outlook went from bad to worse. I had panic attacks on a nightly basis, was too depressed to hang out with friends and for months I clung to this crazy idea that I was pregnant and would have a piece of G.I. Joe with me always. My body started to physically hurt and feel tired. After countless negative pregnancy tests, I finally had to be tested for mono. (I never realized how similar those two things are!)
All this time I was hiding some seriously dark thoughts from my family and from G.I. Joe. I had no clue what to say to him so I started only sending cards and care packages instead of letters. I hated the idea of him finding out what was going on in my head. I didn't want him worrying about me but I had become so hopeless that I was just sure he wasn’t coming home alive. It didn’t help matters that I only heard from him once a month or that reports were released with the official number of soldiers killed in Iraq each week. It was normal for me to visualize being "notified." And multiple times a week I was envisioning sitting at his funeral. I felt like if I thought about that stuff and braced for it, then it wouldn’t catch me completely off guard. Like, I could prepare myself for that somehow.
I was in school to get a degree in theology at the time and its embarrassing how little faith I had. But one baby step at a time I drifted away from God and let Satan hold my thoughts. I didn't feel like I was even living anymore because I was consumed with fear and death. Towards the end of the deployment I just got angry with everything. I was angry at God for walking away from me, even though it was really the other way around. I was angry at the Army for the FRG. Mostly I was mad at myself because I had been told that military wives shouldn’t cry that much since it makes their service members worry. I am very blessed that I lived with my parents throughout this. They hadn’t been a military family so it was hard for them to understand what I was going through. But they were always there. I hid as much as I could from them, but like families they can see through what no one else can.
I wish that I would have gotten outside help. The FRG was out of the question but I could have gone to a therapist outside of the military. I put myself through so much more pain than the deployment was doing on its own. My panic attacks came everyday and if you ran into me out of the house I would be shaking like a lief at any given moment. The effects from that lasted through the deployment. At the homecoming ceremony I had a panic attack and went to throw up in the bathroom. (Yeah I usually leave that little beauty out when I tell those stories) It took G.I. Joe being home for over a year before my body felt normal and healthy again.
Wives often come to me and ask for advice on deployments so I have a huge list of things for them. Its a “I did this, so do the opposite” kind of list. Really the only 2 things I can say that I’m proud of that year are this: 1-We survived. The newborn marriage of a couple of teenagers was strong enough to make it. 2-I did not once violate my wedding vows by cheating on G.I. Joe. When temptations came I didn’t even consider it for a second. Now that is something I don’t feel bad for bragging about!
So there you have it. There is the whole painful truth about how I clearly don’t have it all together. But one thing’s for certain…I’m am waiting on pins and needles for my chance to be FRG leader so that none of my milies ever get laughed at!