By Leann Turner
I’m going to be very real for a minute, well more than a minute. I’m supposed to be writing a research paper right now, because a year ago I decided to make a big life change. I was sad, depressed and felt hopeless, and I decided to return to school and get a master’s degree.
This paper I’m supposed to be writing right now, the class is about teaching us how to write research papers. To learn to research the professor wanted us to research something that was close to us and durable in 10 weeks. So how about my life as a military spouse.
How perfect. Let’s do a paper about stresses as a military spouse. Well, I was told by the professor this was too vague, I didn’t have enough time in 10 weeks to research this and it needed to be more specific. So I changed my paper to “Understanding Parenting Among Army Wives,” at my specific duty station. Along the way, I decided the best way to get input was to place a survey on a Facebook group at my current duty station. I got an astounding 96 Army Wives/mothers to respond in 48 hours.
Two of the questions I asked, I left opened ended, because I had my assumptions, but I didn’t want to put my words and stresses on to others. One question was “What stresses do you encounter as a ‘Parent’?” the other was “What other stresses do you have as a ‘Military spouse’?”
As I sat for hours reading over so many answers, I had tears in my eyes and sometimes a bit of laughter at the women’s candor, but one overwhelming thing hit me. 93% of these women felt the same way as I did. So remember when I said a year ago I decided to go back to school and change my life? Here’s the getting real part: it was because I hit rock bottom. My husband was gone, overseas, not on a deployment, but in the middle of a PCS that he had chosen to do. He didn’t need to, but he says he did it to reset his dwell time. Maybe that’s the truth the way he sees it, but to me he left me, he left his family and yet again his career came first before us, before me.
I spent each day being strong for my kids and putting on a happy face, making sure they were fed, bathed and had finished their homework, but inside I was dying. Each night after I tucked them in, then sat on the couch crying, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours. Feeling just absolutely alone and unwanted. I fell into such a hole; I even gave my husband a “Dear John” text. I couldn’t take it anymore: this life, this separation, the army always coming first, the being so far from family, the having to try to make new friends, the judgement from others telling me that I knew what I was getting into when I married a military man…
I knew I had to do something and after the struggle for months to find a therapist, (because we all know how seamlessly helpful our healthcare system is) I did finally find a therapist and we talked and talked…you get it. I was sad, lonely, depressed, full of anxiety and I had hit the bottom of my rope. I needed to pull myself back up. She made many suggestions, but I always had an excuse. Like why I didn’t pursue school again, well my husband didn’t want me to, it cost too much, he didn’t have a degree, I didn’t need another, etc. She reminded me it’s my life too, and I need to do what will make me happy and worry about myself. So I applied for school, didn’t tell my husband. I had really low self esteem going on from being so lonely and unwanted, I figured I wouldn’t even get accepted, so why start a fight, especially when at the time I had wanted a divorce as well (not suggesting you go behind your spouse’s back…)
And now look here I am procrastinating (I like to tell my newest friend and neighbor it’s productive procrastination) on writing my research paper about “Understanding Army Wives as Parents,” so I did it, I was accepted!
I only was able to survey 96 of you, but there was an overwhelming theme I saw. Loneliness, feeling isolated, lack of time for self-care or your mental health, being a solo parent, anxieties from being worried about your kids well-being, your spouses well-being, giving up your careers for his or hers, lack of support, lack of family being nearby, anxiety about far away family being ill, anger about spouses command, lack of communication, lack of schedule, the inconsistencies of our life, moving, being homeless during a PCS, horrible housing, the list goes on… I read about judgment from others, peers and outsiders of the military community, anxiety about spouse’s PTSD and more loneliness, isolation, lack of support, lack of friends, hard to make friends, constantly losing friends. Money, lots of stresses about money, getting household tasks completed, and trying to “do it all alone.”
I want everyone of those 96 people I surveyed and every other military spouse out there to know, I’M HERE. I want you to all know you are not all alone. I want you all to know I feel the same way as you do. I feel lonely, isolated, I want friends, I want a husband that is home, I want to feel validated, I want to feel accepted and not judged, I want to have a nice house and good medical care, I want my kids to have a good education and not worry about when daddy will be home, I want a career, I want consistency in my life and to be near my family as my parents age. And I want you all to know that I even have proof from a survey that me and you, we’re not the only ones that feel this way. So even though my research paper only shows a small percent of the military spouse population, I’m going to try to get it published and hopefully that small piece brings a bit of realization to the world that we all feel forgotten, that we are here too, we aren’t just “dependents” we are our own strong people, but sometimes we all need a bit of help.
It’s okay to feel alone and frustrated, but know a lot of us feel the same, so you’re not alone and there is help, please search for it and fight for you!