Why is it that when things are going well in my head I hold my breath, waiting for the drop? That feeling when you suddenly plummet with no warning and your stomach turns inside out? I bared my soul to begin this process – this journey from dismay to strength. I quelled my righteousness and made amends to my husband and friend – surely all is right.
And yet as I sit here, each breath echoed in my ears, I wonder if it’s depression that is reaching out wanting to ensnare me again. Mad that I have escaped and continue to beat it down. And I realize, rather it’s not depression but hope. Hope that scares me to death. Hope that makes me sit here on the edge of my mind, waiting for the fall.
I have lived with depression for so long. Long before I could even name it, I knew there was something different about me. My longing for release; my loneliness; my self-isolation; my erratic behavior filled with highs and lows. When someone has depression – when someone is depressed, it is so easy to point to outside events that cause it. Oh, she’s depressed because she was molested as a child; oh, she’s depressed because she was abused in a relationship; oh, she’s depressed because it runs in her family. These are no joking matters but not altogether the sole reasons for depression. It’s hard to explain, but I need to try. Writing helps me make sense of myself and my hope is maybe for other military spouses too.
It is so easy to fall into depression. Depression is a blanket that soothes a scared soul. It’s consistent when other emotions are not. Hate and self-loathing are constants; love is not. Hope is not. There are degrees of love and that can be scary for those who crave it so desperately. The hope to belong; the hope to be needed. I see this hope in every mother’s hand that touches her child in a loving manner; in every woman’s eyes that look adoringly into her husband’s eyes as he leaves or returns from deployment. When I let myself hope, I am almost always snappy and curt with my husband. If I cause the hurt, then I retain control, right? When I hope, I am not in control because I cannot control others – I CAN ONLY CONTROL MYSELF.
Depression does not make you a bad person. Depression means that a person has the ability to manifest deep, penetrating emotions so much so that everyday life and tasks are impacted. Depression is not bad. Depression means that someone has lost their way and must be found again. Those experiencing depression are not bad. Admitting depression is the first step towards strength and anyone – ANYONE – who beats you down for you having admitted depression is wrong! To break the chains of depression you to need to not only allow in hope but you need to allow the sting from being denied – you need to allow hurt – you need to allow shame – you need to allow all the emotions you attempt to escape by sinking into depression. To make amends with my husband and friend, I had to first feel the shame of my behaviors. I could no longer hide behind the cloak of righteousness.
I grew up with an enlisted Marine dad. He was gone a lot. I remember some parts of living on a base but not a lot. I never travelled as a military brat. My transition to the civilian world in my teens was hardly difficult and mostly without trials. Twenty or some years later I find myself reentering the military world, but this time the transition from civilian to this microscopic and crowded life is filled with highs and lows. In the civilian world I was able to get lost; to lose myself in the unknown faces I passed in city after city. But here on this base, I see repeating faces. Faces and names I see and hear again and again. I realize my actions do matter here. My reactions matter. Here – I am not alone in my depression anymore. I am finding the Army family that I read about. I am finding as I put down my wall of depression that there are other spouses just like me; there are other spouses with self-doubts – battling depression just as I am.
And I want these spouses to know that there is such a thing as being Army Stupid – that was me a year ago. Army Strong is so much more than just the tag line on a t-shirt. Army Strong is Family Strong. When you are sad; when you find yourself depressed because your husband is deployed – you are expecting your first child alone – you are lost on a new base, crying – Army Strong is being able to say, “I need help.” It’s not running from your hurt and sadness like I did, locking everyone and all of the emotions out except hate. Army Strong is feeling each and every emotion as it comes; letting the hurt flow out of you and welcoming others in to heal you. I am beginning to find my Army Strong.
–So as I was contemplating this post, I kept thinking of the song, “Me and you and a dog named Boo” by Lobo. If you have never heard it – go look it up online! It’s a catchy tune and one that reminds me of overcoming depression. Will power made that old car go.
I remember to this day
The bright red Georgia clay
And how it stuck to the tires
After the summer rain
Will power made that old car go
A woman’s mind told me that so
Oh how I wish
We were back on the road again.
~ This chapter of my life began December 19, 2011, on the day I married my husband, Craig C. Smith, an active duty soldier with 29 years of serving in the Army under his belt at that time. Three years later I jokingly and naïvely announced my official title of “Army Wife” on Facebook when I received a used copy of “The Army Wife Handbook” by Ann Crossley and Carol A. Keller only to be told by one of Craig’s longtime friends that apparently I married Craig for his social security check. I am so glad that was cleared up for me! I thought I had married Craig because I love him. Even though I can seem tough, I am an extremely kind-hearted and introverted person. Comments like the social security check really hurt even though I am may seem otherwise. I have forever been told that I think outside-of-the-box and it’s helped me on many occasions, this being one. As a child, mother and wife I have been molded to be a caretaker. 3 ½ years of marriage and a rocky introduction into Army life, I have found my purpose; to take care of others. To use my creativity and empathy to share experiences, encourage others to share experiences; to knock down some walls or at the very least, to pick at the cracks. Thank you for taking this journey with me to find and share my voice. I hope to help others find theirs.
Join Jennifer Smith over the next six weeks as she shares her personal journey, “Learning as I Go”. This is the third installment in her series.