What To Do if the “Coping with Deployment” articles aren’t helping you cope

So I have these moments…  a handful a week actually, where the deployment is just kicking my butt and I am at my wits end and the fit that whichever girl just threw plus the pile of laundry which is ever-present and never gets smaller makes me want to cry, and the cereal that I swept off the floor two times already today is crunching under my feet again, and I’m tired to death of eggo waffles, and I just miss my husband.

In these handfuls of moments I go looking for others to commiserate with me. I look for articles about coping with deployments.

And I read a few.

And I get mad.

Because they all say, “Stop crying in your cheerios!  It’s not like you’re the only one!  Go do something to better the world!  Go to school!  Build a house!  Run a marathon, dagummit! And whatever you do, STAY BUSY!  In fact, go ahead and exhaust yourself!  You are a NAVY wife!  Stop being pathetic!”

And really, they just don’t make me feel much better.

So I’m writing my own post, darn it.

Val’s version of What to do if the going is getting hard in a deployment and the “Coping” articles just aren’t cutting it.

1)  It’s ok if you don’t feel happy and perky all the time or if you don’t feel like conquering the world to fill the vast void of emptiness that you feel in the missing of your deployed service member.  It’s ok too if you don’t want to read articles that make you feel like you’re a sissy if after a month or two of deployment you still have moments of just plain ole wanting to be done.  In those moments, my best advice is this:  Find someone who will tell it like it is.  Find someone who will flat-out say it.  Just go ahead and find someone who will just plain say, “Deployments STINK!  Like rotten awful eggs!  They are awful!  They aren’t fun!  Even if they make you stronger they don’t feel good!”  Maybe I’m the only one, but sometimes I just flat out need someone to commiserate with me and ‘get it.’  I don’t mean constant sympathy clucking.  But sometimes I don’t want to be around positive girls with big girl panties and ample boot straps all the time.  Sometimes I just need to say what I feel and know that that’s ok and understood too.  Which I guess translates into:  Find people who speak your deployment language.  

2)  Keep your routines if/when it feels good.  Abandon them if/when it doesn’t.  It’s ok if your convictions about that change daily.  All the other articles say that you must not only regiment yourself to your normal routine, but you should actually add to it so that your brain is so exhausted from spinning into all these other projects you won’t actually register that missing your deployment service member feels like you are bleeding out of an open wound.  I see value in routine.  I do.  I also know that after about 2 weeks of trying to rehabilitate myself and stick to any routine religiously, I get ticked off at the structure and kick it to smithereens.  So to that I say, even if you’re two months in and you feel like crap and don’t want to wake up and get dressed or brush your teeth or make your bed one day…  Well  DON’T!  If you want to eat breakfast for dinner for three weeks in a row, go ahead!  If you have kids, you have to keep them clothed and fed and safe.  You have to take care of the necessities.  In my opinion there is wiggle room on all the rest.

3)  I know you are trying your hardest not to be mopey all the time, but I say–It’s your deployment and you can cry if you want to.  Paying careful attention for signs of depression, if you have a day or an hour or a week where you feel mopey, you have MY permission at least to Mope.  Come over to my house.  I keep a supply of Cheerios just for crying into.

4)  Don’t read things that make you feel guilty.  If you are doing a deployment and continue to wake up in the morning, face the day, go to sleep, and wake up again, over and over and over again, you have something to feel proud about.  You ARE  achieving something great in my opinion.  If you WANT to train for a marathon or learn Spanish or crochet 2 bazillion afghan’s for unfortunate Chihuahuas.  Then do it.  But, in my opinion, surviving these darned things is hard enough without being told that I have to focus all my energy into some grand achievement to make myself feel better or to show the world that I accomplished something when all is said and done.  Piloting me and three emotionally variable little girls to the end of this thing WILL BE A MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT.  I promise you.

5)  Communicate with your service member in whatever way works for you  both.  I hate the articles that say “Don’t EVER tell them that the car broke down and the kids are sick, and you’re so tired your eyes are starting to bug out of your head because it will make them feel angry and guilty.”  I try to never, ever communicate the hard stuff in a way that says, “Why aren’t you here you dorkfish?  I’m so mad at you for abandoning me!”  But do I tell my husband, “This is hard.  I’m tired.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do this another day.”  Yes.  Yes.  I do.  It gives him a chance to say, “Honey.  I love you.  I believe in you.  And you can do this.”  And most times, that’s what I really, really need.  If you don’t function like that and that works for you great.  My husband knows enough to worry more when I don’t  talk about the hard stuff because that means it’s gathering on my innards and I will soon be on the road to implosion.

6)  K.I.S.S.  Keep It Simple Stupid.  Will you stay busier if you make a four-course meal for you and your kids every night?  Sure!  Would there be less time to feel mopey about missing your loved one if you put the kids in activities 24-7 and schlep them around constantly?  Maybe.  For me…  a gal who is not as high energy as some, it’s just a recipe for burn out.  And the last thing I need on top of deployment angst that is kicking my butt is burn out too.  So…  pick one activity for the kids to be in and go with it.  Find meals that are easy to put together, or resort to Eggo Waffles like we do.  Send the kids outside to play when it’s warm.  You don’t always have to concoct elaborate experiences for the betterment of all of you.    Don’t panic about extra screen time when it’s not warm.  Staying busy constantly works for some of us.  For others, we have to simplify.

7)  Find something that you love to do.  That you really, really love to do and do it every day.  Find something that you love to do with your kids.  That you really, really love to do with them and do it every day.  For us it’s been reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  I get caught up in the story.  They get caught up in the story.  They get snuggles.  They also get sleepy.  Note:  If this falls into a routine as in #2 and it starts to tick you off, it’s ok to divert from the course as needed.

8)  Hug your kids (if you have them) when things feel especially yucky.  Hugging pets I suppose would work too.  Unless you have Iguanas.  Abigail knows just what to do when Mommy says, “Do you know what Mommy needs, right now?”  Today I scooped little Lainey up and held her tight and she wrapped her little baby arms right around me and for a few seconds, all was right with the world.

9)  Relax your expectations.  Give yourself grace.  If your laundry hasn’t been done in a week because you have a broken boob (ahem…  did I mention I have mastitis again?) and every time you try to clean you have to corral a kid and you get tired of picking up and vacuuming and doing dishes with a 14 month old on your arm, tell yourself that you are doing something just by continuing to go on even when you aren’t sure you can anymore.  Some people get through deployments placidly and make it look like it’s just another version of normal life for them (and sometimes that is true).  Others of us have our moments.  Lots and lots of moments.  That doesn’t mean we won’t make it to the other side.

10)  Write your own post about How to Cope when the Deployment is Kicking your Tuckus.  Do it your way.  We all do this differently and so much of the advice out there seems standardized to me.  I’m not saying it’s not good advice.  What I am saying is that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.  There’s more than one way to be a military wife.  There’s more than one way to cope when the going gets rough.  And my rough doesn’t look like your rough so sometimes my coping doesn’t look like your coping.  Write your post.  I’ll read it.  I might not do it like you do, but I’ll cheer you on if that’s how you need to do things.

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6 thoughts on “What To Do if the “Coping with Deployment” articles aren’t helping you cope

  1. Val very well written and straight from the heart. Thinking of you tonight and hoping that the girls are giving you lots of snuggles.

  2. Things I love about this post:
    1. Eggo waffles. I prefer blueberry, but cinnamon toast are yummy, too.
    2. A supply of Cheerios for “just in case”. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
    3. Charity work for unfortunate Chihuahuas. Kudos, my friend; this is a seriously under-appreciated population with, I’m sure, very real struggles. *sniff*
    4. Dorkfish. Seriously. I’ll have to remember that one for our next argument. It’s greatness.
    5. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Love him.
    6. Iguana hugs. Or not.
    7. The real, raw, beautifully honest heart behind it. You rock, Val.
    😉

  3. I agree with you Val: “Piloting me and three emotionally variable little girls to the end of this thing WILL BE A MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT.” May I add that what you are doing currently and your writing is FABULOUS! Hugs (if that is okay) to you!

  4. I really struggled with feeling like I was no good when I read those how-to-handle-deployment posts that were very upbeat and “don’t feel sorry for yourself.” I think you’re right. There’s room for acknowledging that this is *hard*. Also: I’ll never understand how anyone with kids thinks you might need to invent things to keep yourself busy. . . .

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