I have this very vivid, picture-perfect memory from childhood. I was in third or four grade and watching Oprah. They were covering heart disease and ways to combat plaque build up. I should have gotten super bored, flipped to Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and forgotten about it. That’s what most normal 8-year-olds would have done.
Instead, I spent the better part of the next year worrying about my heart, convinced that I would have an impending heart attack. Another year, I worried about rabid squirrels. When I got older, I worried about gun violence in my school. I convinced myself one Christmas Eve church service that my dad had died when I saw him sitting in the empty balcony rather than down with my mom… you know, because ghosts sit in balconies. I guess.
I had an overactive imagination and a terribly obsessive, anxiety laden personality. Who am I kidding? I still do. Some things never change.
If worrying were a sport, I would be a gold medalist. We’re talking a Michael Phelps level champion. (Now, If only I could eat a 13,000 calorie diet like a real Olympic champion. THAT would be awesome. )
Before I start dreaming of pizza and creme brulee, let me regroup: I’m a worrier. And it only got worse as a military girlfriend, and then fiance, and then wife.
But I’m not alone. I know I’m not because when I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, suddenly, approximately no fewere than a bajillion of my milspouse friends told me that they had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or have nearly crippling stress.
It’s honestly no wonder.
(And I’ll let you know right now, if you’re reading this just to roll your eyes, the article is not for you. Back away. Back away slowly.) But if you know the heart-pounding fear of a communications blackout, or if the pit of your stomach roils when you think about how much your career is suffering, this is for you.
We worry about identity theft. And it’s not just our credit cards that we worry about. We worry about someone seeing a picture of our husbands or wives in uniform and using them for some whacked out scam. We worry about someone going on Tinder or Match.com and impersonating our spouses. We worry about someone posting our private information online for the world to see and do with it what they will.
We worry about having a career. Some of us were just beginning to think about what we wanted to be and what course of study we wanted to take when married. Some of us already had successful careers. For the vast majority of spouses, our career is something we constantly worry about. PCS after PCS, deployment after deployment, we begin to feel beaten down. We begin to believe that careers aren’t possible. We begin to settle. Or give up.
We worry about money. Yeah, I know, people in the military have it made in the shade, right? After all, our housing is paid for. Food is paid for. Health care is paid for. What else could we possibly need? And it’s true; the basics are covered. The problem is, the average military salary is great for one person or even two. But it’s really hard to live on if you have a family or if you have student loan debts. It’s really hard if the military spouse is under- or unemployed. I’m not complaining; many people have it worse. But you wanted to know what military spouses worry about. So there it is.
We worry about perceptions. In the age social media, there is an ongoing flood of criticism. The worst part? It often comes from our own community. It comes from the people who take photos on the sly at the base gym and then publicly ridicule the overweight woman who dared to use the treadmill. It comes from the people who complain about the woman with four children at the Commisssary who couldn’t move out of the way immediately. It comes from people who are convinced all military spouses are cheaters and tag chasers and gold diggers. It comes from the Facebook groups and hashtags and Twitter accounts that perpetuate misogynistic stereotypes over and over and over again.
We worry about loneliness. So many military spouses work from home or are stay-at-home parents– after all, we are the stable one, the one that keeps everything going, the one who keeps the family on an even keel during deployments and separations and weird schedules. Most of us live far from our families and friends. We miss our them. We really do. And it’s hard starting over every PCS.
We worry about being different. In most communities, there are beliefs and similarities that bring people together for a common cause. It happens in the military community all the time. People who are drawn to the way of life, the beliefs, the ideals… we all end up being clustered together. Even within the military, different branches seem to have different kinds of people who flock to those particular kinds of rates. So what happens if you’re not like the other people in the military community? We worry about that too. With every PCS. With every new FRG group. With every new, potential friend, we wonder if we’ll be good enough. If we’ll be spouse-y enough. If we’ll go to the right church or have the right amount of kids or have a career that isn’t too intimidating without looking too dumb. You get it. Even for those of us who are fine with being different and unique, frustrations still pop up. Of course they do.
We worry about the effect of the military lifestyle on our families. How much damage are we doing to our kids with our nomadic life? Do our aging grandparents understand why we’re gone so often? What do our empty seats at the Christmas dinner table do to the rest of the people we love? Is the relationship with our spouse weakening during deployment and separations?
We worry about our spouses. Sure, the worry might be what we “signed up” for, but we still do it. And it feels just as awful. We worry about them when they’re on deployment. We worry about them every time the news reports a base gate being rammed by a car. Every time a base shuts down because someone popped really loud plastic shipping material or there was a rumor about about a bomb. Every time they have to train in bad weather or poor visibility. We worry when they walk into buildings or wear their uniform when they drive home. We worry when they’re dispatched for humanitarian or emergency reasons. We just worry. Because there are so many variables and so many worst-case scenarios and we can’t do anything about it except wait.
Maybe you’re nodding your head.
I can’t make the worries and fears go away; they’re just part of the territory. But I can tell you that you’re not alone. And you’re not crazy. That’s one of the reasons that I wrote The Modern Military Spouse along with two other military spouse bloggers, Lauren and JD. We had the same concerns when we were new spouses and we couldn’t find a book that actually spoke to us.
So we’ve written one ourselves. It covers the stuff that no one gave us good answers on: how to have a career and love someone in the military, how to budget, how to have a real, truly awesome relationship with someone who belongs to the military. The list goes on.
I’d love if you could check it out. There’s more information here. It’s been a labor of love for almost a year because we know that there are military spouses and significant others who feel alone or who need some support.
We were those spouses too. And we want to make sure that no one is alone with their worries again.