Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Freshman year at Milie High

 
            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!














29 comments:

fancypants said...

I am so completely appalled that the FRG leader laughed at you!! Several choice words come to mind but I will "keep it classy" and not say them out loud.
It is good to recognize when you need help- unfortunately it tends to happen AFTER the fact, doesn't it?
I hope you get your chance at being FRG leader, you will rock it!!

Jessica said...

I can't believe your FRG leader laughed at you! That is just absurd. To be perfectly honest, this is our first deployment and I have visualized the whole notification and funeral thing (taking the flag and everything). I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only person that has visualized that. My husband and I are also going through a hard time with our marriage as well. I am hiding that from everybody in the family as well, because I think once he gets home on R&R and then redeploys it will get better. I am hoping and praying it does anyway!!

Thank you for posting this!!

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

Haha yes! I totally agree about the "after the fact" part. Sometimes its incredible to look back at certain times in our lives and think "I thought THAT was a good idea????"

That year was rougher than it should have been but I know what to watch out for now and I can when I am at my breaking point, so that's some good that came out of it.

Kathryn said...

What a great post! Don't feel bad though I have been the same way. At times I deal with panic attacks and cry a lot. But sometimes that is just how we deal with things and we just need to let it all out! Thanks for sharing, I hope this will help some other ladies out there who feel the same way! :)

Mrs. R said...

As the PL's wife and FRG co-leader, I am so sorry that happened to you. Some ladies should just never lead the FRG! Thanks for sharing so honestly. The first two tours in Iraq were absolutely awful for me as well. You are not alone in the history of panic attacks, fatalist thoughts, or fears. The best thing we can do is rely on His word and His faithfulness to us. Keep on keepin' on, Mrs. GI Joe! xoxo!

Rebekah said...

I can't believe she laughed at you! Aren't they there to help? We're AF, and I was really worried about how I would fit in and meet people, and thankfully everyone has been great.

Thanks for sharing this!

JG said...

Oy, FRG leaders. I'm the same way, I (sort of) can't wait to do it myself just so I can NOT do all the things our FRG leader has done. (Yeah, we had an FRG for training. Weird, I know.)

Thanks so much for sharing this. What a great testimony of God's faithfulness and protection of your family.

Miss L said...

This is a really great post, thank you for sharing. I am appalled at the lack of concern for a fellow milli that your FRG leader showed you. It was her job to make you feel welcome. I applaud you for wanting to have that position so that you can show them how its done! :)

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

You know, back then (and even the unaccompanied years after the Iraq year) I used to think I just got one really lousy FRG leader. But the sad thing is its now rare for me to hear a story about a GOOD FRG leader.

I think there are 2 huge problems with that system and you can bet that I'm working on a letter to send to the Pentagon and Mrs. Obama over this.

1--Commanders and all who are have a say in promotions look favorably on men who's wives are involved. That would be ok except soldiers and wives know that so wives are stepping up for that position JUST to make their soldiers look good.

2--After they step up for this reason there is NO accountability. Oh they will say that the chain of command holds them accountable but unless the leader is smuggling money or something then no, they aren't held accountable. And why is that?? Its because the leader's own husband is in her chain of command! Conflict of interest anyone?

I hear more and more stories about FRG leaders who only hold meetings at hours that her and her closest friends can be at. Or ones who hold events that are specifically catered to families with kids and the ones who don't are forgotten. Its ridiculous. There are clearly many problems with this system and they need to be fixed. The rate of depression, anxiety, and attempted/successful suicide rates among spouses give testimony to the fact that family support orgs. need to be overhauled.

And that is my soap box, ladies and gents.

L said...

Thank you for sharing this. I hope that the people who knew you during your first deployment know how strong you are and what an amazing wife you are. Both then and now. And you have only learned from the past. I hope you get to be an FRG leader one day!

Mrs R said...

Not all FRG leaders are doing it to benefit their husband's career. I married a SPC in a courthouse near Fort Drum, NY. I remember what it was like to feel completely out of the loop and not know a dang thing about the Army which is the first reason why I am FRG co-leader. I genuinely want to help out the company that my husband is a part of. Even when there is a spouse leader of the FRG, the CO and the FRSA are still technically in charge of the FRG. They are held accountable by the Battalion Commander and that is a pretty big deal. The FRG is made or broken by who chooses to be involved. So if yours stinks, be a part of the change! If your leader won't listen, talk to the FRSA or another spouse in the company.

Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

Mrs. R I wasn't saying that ALL FRG leaders do it for that reason but the sad fact is that the husband's career benefits are a huge draw. Even my own friends have said to me "Well, I guess I HAVE to do blah blah or my husband won't make _____ rank anytime soon." That's not the right attitude to go into such an important job.

The FRG is often a wife's first impression of military life. If its not the first it may be one of the strongest impressions. If she feels like she can't trust the FRG it changes how she might feel about the military as a whole and whether or not they take care of their own.

The whole hierarchy system can be frustrating here. If you complain all the way up the chain and something is done about the FRG Leader there are wives who worry that the Leader's husband will make their husband's work life hell.

I'm just saying there are big flaws if people don't feel like they can trust the most fundamental family support system. There are things we can do to make it better and more effective. Its sad when I get emails on a weekly basis from wives across the country who say things like "I've tried the FRG. I've tried to join and to get some activity and excitment but its dead. What are my non-military options for family support?"

I have though seen a group in our hometown that could have had a great FRG but the wives weren't interested in participating because they had to drive so far to where the unit was based. And again, that's something that needs remedied and there are so many possibilities.

Alia said...

my FRG leader was absolutely terrible! After several attempts to be on the mailing list and phone list I gave up, and then was appalled when she got an award at our recent ball!! disgusting! no one even kept me up to date on the homecoming ceremony, except my husband.
I'm sorry the deployment was so hard on you! everyone takes it differently and it is hard not knowing anything and watching the news is the worst!

armywife_b2010 said...

Oh boy The FRG story...

First off I would like to say that I am very sorry that she laughed in your Face, she should have made you feel welcome and helped you out. and you are right there is more and more stories of the not so great FRGs.

Brea said...

Thank you for your honesty.. I am currently going through my first deployment (my fiance's second) and it helps me to know that I'm not alone in my own situation. I don't have a supportive FRG because we're not married.. It doesn't matter that Jay and I have been together for two years. The FRG is NOT just for the spouses.. It's for the FAMILIES. Wives, fiances, girlfriends, Moms, Dads, etc. Our leaders don't seem to get that.. I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one with a bad FRG taste in my mouth!

Thanks again for sharing!

Sarah said...

Ugh, FRG. Our FRG is so messed up it's not even funny. I think the FRG was given to Joe's CC because she's the CC's wife. Nevermind that she's only been "married to the military" for 6 months, she's the CC's wife! The only FRG meetings we have are with the battalion. The only emails I get are sent out by the battalion. She works a full time job as a nurse. She doesn't need to be in charge of the FRG.

Anyway. Sometimes, I let the fear creep in too. I imagine being notified...or other things. For a while there, I think I was letting the fear control me. I'm sure it helps that I actually get to talk to Joe often.

KelleeLyn said...

Very honest post, love it. I had a similiar {although not nearly as extreme} experience with my FRG leader during my husband's deployment. We got married on R&R (didn't wanna wait any longer after getting engaged before he left) and when I told my FRG leader that I was his official POC now instead of his Mom her email back to me was literally "Ok, and you're telling me, why?"
You would make a GREAT and INSPIRING FRG leader!

Sara said...

www.wivesoffaith.org

L.C. said...

I adore you, simple and sweet :) and you are SO strong in my mind :)

Carmen said...

Oh FRG's. They wouldn't say anything to me because I was only the "girlfriend" when my husband was deployed. You are not alone in this or in the feelings you had while he was gone. I know EXACTLY how you feel and no one should be sitting here and judging you for feeling a certain way while your soldier is gone. You have every right to feel the way you felt =)

Mr. Superman & Mrs. S. said...

I can't believe she laughed! You will be an awesome FRG leader!

*~BrittDill~* said...

Thanks for such an honest post! I'm sorry your first year was so hard, but I am so glad that you turned it into something positive and you can't wait to be an FRG. My Mr and I are new to the military family, and haven't had to deal with any of this yet, really. I hope when I do go through a deployment I have an understanding and inspiring FRG like you will be!

R said...

I know nothing of FRG (except what I've seen on Army Wives ;) ha!) but I wish you'd had a better experience with your FRG leader... and what a ROUGH time you had during his deployment, I'm sorry you dealt with that, but also I'm glad you (and your relationship/marriage) are stronger for having been through it. You are AMAZING.

Also - the whole "visualizing the notification/funeral" part? ummm yeah. I do that. more than I'd like to admit. it's hard though, and I also feel like I'm preparing for the worst, so that if (God forbid) it ever happens, I won't just crumble & cease to exist. Hubs & I met when we were in kindergarten, known each other for 25 years and been together for 13.5 years... he's been in my life in one way or another for 83% of it (yes, I did just do the math)... I can't even imagine what it would be like without him in it... but I know that every night he walks out that door for a shift, there is a very real possibility that he won't be coming back... (I do not focus or dwell on this - for obvious reasons! but it's always in the back of my mind.)

anyway. you're not alone. many of us have been through a similar situation in one way or another, and I think you're soooo strong and awesome :) Keep it up girly!! XOXOXO

ThatArmyWife said...

While you may feel ashamed and embarassed by your first deployment experience, every Army wife I have ever discussed this life with has recounted a story that shares a similar theme.

I can't say that I am surprised that your FRG leader laughed at you. Not because FRG leaders are uniformly bitchy, etc...but because they are human and flawed. I would guess that her husband had also deployed at the same time and there's no telling how that stress affected her in ways that she didn't anticipate. I do firmly believe that you do FRG leaders a disservice by saying that many fill the position just to benefit their husbands career. There are probably a few out there. But the vast majority are wives just like you who have had experiences that lead them to believe they can positively contribute.

I am one of those wives that is generally perceived as being strong: I am an FRG leader, a member of our unit CARE team, a regular volunteer, an AFAP delegate, etc. Not because it benefits my soldier, not because I have it all together and want to share it, but because the Army community is MY community and I want to help make it a better place for my family, friends and I.

Roxanne Armstrong said...

J, good for you for rising above what you went through! I am very lucky that we have an awesome DEF that keeps us well informed, and we have many unit sponsored events, and multiple mailings, etc. It is appalling the way that some people behave when in a position of authority. And trust me when I tell you I have had plenty of dark and scary thoughts about what ifs. I still can't listen to "Just a Dream" by Carrie Underwood without losing it.

SHOUT OUT!! Thank you for posting the links for the November Fifth Families Association and the Purple Heart Petition, it really means alot!

Lauren said...

I am so sorry your FRG laughed at you. What a terrible example of what someone should do and be in that position.

And I thank you for your honesty. Few are as open and honest about these things. You were never, ever a bad military spouse, I'm sure of it. It may have been the worst year of your life- but who could've expected anything more of a newlywed whose husband deployed to a war zone a week later, you know?

Anyway, thank you for sharing this. It makes/will make a lot of us feel a lot better when we have a hard time with deployment, whether we are newlyweds or not.

September Love said...

You should be incredibly proud of yourself for putting your story out there, and so eloquently, too! My experience as you know is different because we are married to two completely different branches, but I can empathize with what you were going through, and when I think about what it would be like, I just shiver with amazement that you are who you are! You're so strong, and so faithful...even though I know you think you weren't...

...and all of your letters to the Obamas <3 and honest blog posts really make an impact for those in similar situations, and even those of us who still have to deal with separation and millie drama/politics, but don't necessarily have to deal with deployment in the same way. Your story reaches through to all branches of millies and even to civilian gals...that says a lot! Kudos for your post!

Beth said...

Beautifully written post. Proud of you for being so vulnerable and for truly making a difference in the place where God has put you.

Alpha Mama said...

I just found this, but I am so glad I did. Thank you =)