This last deployment I realized I was invisible. Servicemembers sit through trainings and briefings on the signs and symptoms of depression they need to be aware of so they can help themselves and their battle buddies before it is too late.
Spouses get the briefs at pre-deployment and reintegration meetings so that we can do our part in getting soldiers help. But what about spouses? Who watches us for signs that we are in trouble?
No one was aware I was struggling during the last deployment. I was deep into FRG and helping at the unit so I was constantly in front of those who are trained to see the warning signs. They never did see those signs in me — because I am a spouse. Why would they even think to look twice?
I was invisible to so many people right in front of me. But to one other spouse I was not invisible. She saw me. And for that I am eternally grateful.
She saw me (from 400miles away) and that made all the difference in the world. While being strong and stubborn is usually an asset as a military spouse it was a weakness for me this time.
I tried to overcome it myself and just kept sinking deeper. I quit all my FRG jobs and pulled away from everyone and everything. I was just trying to keep functioning so I could take care of my kids — never mind that I wasn’t sleeping or taking care of myself. This spouse refused to let me give up and eventually convinced me to get help.
To the inventors of anti-depressants: I owe you my sanity. My kids are grateful to have mommy back on track. While others may have other paths to recovery the only thing I am ashamed of is that I waited to long to stand up and fight for myself.
That spouse was my battle buddy and together we worked to help each other pull though. But what happens to the spouse who doesn’t have a battle buddy? What happens to the ones who are ashamed to ask for help?
As spouses, we cannot always rely on our units for help during a deployment because their focus is understandably downrange. We need to reach out to each other so that the struggling spouse is not left behind.
I am constantly amazed by just how many spouses I see who think they have to fight alone. I know so many who think that asking for help or taking medication is shameful and to be avoided. It is not and it never should be a sign of failure to ask for help. We tell our soldiers that constantly but we need to start telling our spouses, too.
This is the lifestyle we have chosen and it is wonderful a lot of the time. It is ok to struggle sometimes. It is OK to feel sad or angry or any number of emotions when the going get rough. It is also OK to stand up and fight back(we are military spouses after all).
The only way anyone will ever see the struggle is if you let them. I chose to stop being invisible and to get the help I needed. If nothing else maybe my story will help someone take that first step to reaching out.
Maybe it is one of your friends struggling and this is your chance to reach out and pull them up. Either way take a few minutes to think about the stigma we put on ourselves as spouses. We stand beside our service members now it is time we stand by each other, too.
Liz DelGesso is an Army spouse currently stationed at Fort Campbell. She and her husband have two kids and a zoo full of animals.
Why Didn’t You Tell Me is a weekly feature that gives our readers a space to tell their own story. If you have a story for us, please submit using the contact button above. All stories must be original and unpublished.