In the more-than-a-decade that we’ve been together, my husband and I have been lucky enough to experience three short-notice deployments.
When I say “short-notice” I mean from the time he got word about leaving, he was gone, out the door, and on a plane less than 48 hours later.
The reason I said we’ve been lucky is because I think I much prefer a short-notice deployment than the alternative.
What Pre-Deployment Anxiety Feels Like
The alternative means pre-deployment anxiety.
There’s too much time for thinking and overanalyzing everything. Too much time for worst case scenarios to brew, fester, and dig into your thoughts; keeping you up tossing and turning at night. Too much time being sad; too much time where silly little issues turn into big fights. Too much time where self-doubt fills the void, making you wonder not just whether you can actually do this, but how the heck you can actually do it. Too much time for sadness on all the things that happen in a year, a month, a week, a day…
And there’s way too much time for the elephant in the room to expand with all the “what-if” things that nobody dares speak of out loud.
There’s simply too much time lingering and filling the air with this black cloud hanging over your every move.
This post was written about a month before my husband deployed. He’s currently in the “sandbox,” as I refer to his home away from home.
It’s been a little while since we’ve had a looming deployment like this, and I almost forgot about all of the big feelings that come along with waiting for that dreaded report-no-later-than date to approach.
But it’s inching closer with every day and minute that pass by, and my pre-deployment anxiety is rising.
Pre-Deployment Anxiety with Kids
On top of that, we have the kids this time, and it’s the first time at least two of them will be able to partially grasp what’s going on.
They know their dad already leaves on trips for work, but they for sure can’t grasp just how long this time will be.
A year may as well be a decade to a four year old who’s a daddy’s girl through and through, or for a little boy who is just learning the ways of this big world.
These kids have really big feelings for things they can’t yet understand. And it’s hard and breaks my heart watching them try to comprehend what we’re prepping for.
All Their Bags are Packed
It usually doesn’t feel real, and that pre-deployment anxiety doesn’t typically kick in for me until their bags start appearing.
They’ll probably pack, and repack, but in the meantime, the bags just sit there and wait like a black cloud looming in the distance.
They know where they’re going. We know where they’re going. And nobody is happy about it.
The classic sandy beige and olive green bags start lining up by the door. Boots, fatigues, and extra gear sitting next to them, just waiting to go to their new home far away from our home..
They sit there as a daily reminder of what’s to come.
How I’m (really) Doing
I’ve never really been an anxious person; I know how to be level-headed, cool, calm, and collected, and I can handle tough situations. After more than a decade of doing this military spouse thing, I know how to do it.
But pre-deployment anxiety? That’s a whole other ballgame, and since this is our longest deployment yet, it’s really getting to me.
When I start thinking about doing all the things for the next year—solo parenting, with kids who (at least one of them) find satisfaction in pushing every single one of my buttons; thoughts of where my husband will be and what he’ll be doing; trying to navigate a move without my husband; settling into a new home, finding new friends, getting into new routines etc.—I start feeling suffocated to the point where I have to literally stop and focus on catching my breath.
Then, once my breath is stable I usually break down in an ugly cry.
It’s a panic attack, I’m sure, but it’s real and it sucks, and I just need the next few weeks to hurry up and move along so we can get into our new normal already.
Whether I like it or not, I set the tone in my house. When I’m mad, the kids are grumpy. When I’m sad, they’re down. When I’m in a good mood, they’re (usually) upbeat with me.
While I think it’s important to see real and raw emotion, I also want them to know that they’re safe here with me, and that we are going to be okay, even if that means we need to set aside a few minutes to have a good cry and miss Papa.
I pray that I can keep my emotions in check so they can know that we’ve got this. That even though this year will be hard, we’re going to thrive.
Just Go Already
There gets to be a point in the pre-deployment anxiety dance where we just want our spouse to leave. Don’t get me wrong: we don’t ever want them to actually go, but sometimes it’s just easier once they are away, because we can move on with life.
Once they’re out the door and on their way, it’s better for everyone.
We can have our tears and be sad for a day or two (or three), and then we pull on our big girl panties, and move on with our new routines. Because the alternative stinks like a rotten diaper.
Never Goodbye; It’s Always See Ya Later
As a military spouse, we start holding our breath from the second they turn away from us, until the instant they are literally standing in front of us again.
And it’s never goodbye. We always say, “See ya later,” until we all meet again.
Photos courtesy of Chrissy Walther Photography