How I am making it through a deployment

I have been quiet about the fact that my husband is deployed to Afghanistan online. This is to protect his safety and mine (see OPSEC in the glossary). But as the deployment winds down (countdown is in double digits!!) I want to share what it was like for me.

Me with my “Flat James” as I like to call him, which I got made so James could be at his brother’s wedding this year. This is us on our one year anniversary. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hall)

First of all deployment is no fun. I know that it’s my husband’s job to go, but wow, no fun. I really miss him. Every. Single. Day. And you just have to learn to deal with it.

While there are things that you can do to prepare while he’s gone, get powers or attorney and set a budget, there is nothing to prepare you for the absence. And even after almost 4 years of long distance dating, 9 months without seeing someone is a whole new game. We talk frequently online, phone calls occur semi-frequently depending on how busy he is, and Skype has been rare (partly due to poor Internet connection). I get beyond excited whenever he calls or is online, it just makes me so happy to hear from him. You can’t just call Afghanistan when you want to talk, so those 15-30 minutes every few days are amazing.

Being our first deployment I had no idea what to expect. I talked to people who had been through it before and I took some of their advice: I took the day off the day after he left to basically be sad, eat ice cream, have a pity party, etc. I took that time on purpose to have time to really process what was going on before moving forward. I knew he was going to leave for months, but saying goodbye, hugging and kissing him one last time, is difficult. I don’t have words to describe it. I can tell you that I can see that embrace and goodbye like it was yesterday. But afterwards I went home and ate dinner, eventually slept, spent the next day watching Saved by the Bell on Netflix, just took a me day, because I knew that after that I needed to live life as close to normal as I could, because you can’t sit on your butt for 9 months. This may sound silly, but some people truly think that as a spouse you’re going to sit around and wait. Sure my phone is always on and I worry more, but the idea that life stops, and can stop, is just false.

I had someone tell me, “You’re holding up well…I’ve seen people fall apart.” One, I don’t think they’ve seen people fall apart, this person is a lot of talk. But while I have had my moments of sadness over the last few months, the idea of falling apart or giving up wasn’t an option for me, or anyone I know. What would happen if you stop eating? What if you don’t pay attention to your bills? As a spouse of a deployed soldier, a lot falls on your shoulders. You also hear often as a spouse that staying afloat is important for the morale of your loved one. And I’d say that’s true. Sure I ask my husband his advice on the car and our budget but the fact that I’m taking care of it helps him stay focused on his job. For him, that makes his life a bit easier. And on the bad days? I vent to him. I tell him how much I miss him. He misses me too, but each day is a day closer to being back together.

Yeah I know, totally cheesy, but I tend to be an optimist. Negativity would not have helped me get through each day. But, have I had days where I just couldn’t get out of bed? Yep. Most definitely. I partly attribute this to my inability to fall asleep at night, that moment in the day when my mind wanders to anything and everything. It happens when our unit lost Soldiers, or friends were badly injured. But after those bad days, I remind myself that we’re a day closer, that I’ve been doing this and can keep doing this. I attend memorial services to pay tribute to the men we lost. I follow the amazing and inspiring progress of the wounded warriors. I know that I need to keep on moving forward, just like they are.

But hands down, going to bed is the worst part of my day. I miss having someone in the bed next to me, especially now that it’s cold, seriously, I need my bed warmer back! Just kidding…kinda. I get sucked into HGTV far too easily (I mean you signed up for Property Brothers, of course you’re getting a renovation project, really? K I’ll stop before I go too far…). Or if it’s been awhile since I talked to my husband I will stay up just to see if he gets online.

Despite all of it though, the number one thing that got me through deployment were the amazing friends I’ve made out here in Washington, from work to our FRG to the Spouses Club, I have a great support network. We call each other to check in or have dinner nights so we don’t have to cook for one. Coffee dates and taco bus lunches are a delicious and great way to relax. We have a trivia group that kicks some butt at a local bar. We introduced a friend to the wonderful world of vegetables (seriously). We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, births, and milestones together. Seriously, without them I really would have been on my couch for nine months (but in all seriousness, I love my couch).

So as it all wraps up all I can think about is how excited I am to say hello and welcome home to my husband, and how much I can’t wait to relax and go on a vacation with him. How it’ll be nice to cook for someone else, and not have leftovers for weeks. To have some help around the house, and my bed warmer. It’ll be a transition to coordinate our schedules and lives and reconnect, but it’s just another milestone in our life.

How did you survive a deployment of your loved one? Any tips for the other families and spouses going through one right now?

8 responses to “How I am making it through a deployment

  1. This is very touching. I’m currently in Afghanistan (as a contractor not a hero) and I’ll keep an eye out for your husband and I’ll be praying he comes home very well and very soon.

  2. I survived by writing lots of letters–anywhere from 2-5 a day. We were lucky and got to talk at least once a day–usually more. He was in Iraq and had a cell phone, so I was even able to call him to wake him up in the mornings. It kept us both sane, I think .

    I also carried around a flat hubby (mine wasn’t as big) to family events. I think the extended family thought I had lost my mind… So glad to hear it’s almost over for you!

  3. So proud of you, Jess! Also, we need to reschedule that taco bus date!! šŸ™‚

  4. Hey Jessica,

    I definitely know what it is like to sit online and wait for the hubby to get online…but just wanted to check…you know if you go back in time and use AIM then James can send a text directly to your phone (waking you up if your ring tone is loud enough). You might have already known this and just meant you wait online because you miss him and found waiting helpful for that, but I know this feature helped me.

  5. Thank you for this blog post. My husband just left for a 9-month deployment to Afghan as well and this is our first deployment since we’ve been together. It’s been hard but your post inspires me. Thank you.

  6. We’re about a month into ours. It’s hard. I hate going to bed alone. I’ve been staying up later than usual. We do chat online once or twice a day so that helps. I do wish we talked on the phone more, but don’t want to press him too much. He has very limited personal time. I’ve recently decided to stay away from negative people and situations, which in my case is unit-related gatherings including FRG because of all the drama. I’ve got a local church family for support. I keep busy, but I’m finding being “too busy” is not healthy for me. I get overwhelmed quickly if too much piles on. It’s important for me to moniter my emotions, how I’m doing constantly. If I need to cry, I need to cry. Some days are great, and I feel so on top of things, and the next moment (due to insenstive comments from fellow Army wives) or just missing my husband so much, I’m down again.
    One day at a time. God will give me the strength.

  7. I am very new to being an Army wife and not connected at all to any other Army wives or support groups because I live 45 minutes from post and am living in our hometown. He happened to be able to get stationed here. This is definitely a challenging experience. We have a phenomenal connection and have survived the difficulties of being in a long distance relationship until we could ultimately be together but this beyond anything that we endured before. I knew it would be tough but it has hit me harder than I imagined. As soon as I think I have it together, I fall apart over the tiniest of things. And, I am just getting started on a 9 month deployment. It is promising to read that someone else endure and survived. Although I know deep down this will be the case for me in the end. I will survive but it sure is painful. It has been easy with us so far away from post to treat his job just like a job but it is much more than that. I think it is hitting what I really signed up for.

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