On being fine, or not – from an Army wife.

September 5, 2016

I am two okay, three birthday letters behind and I have lots of parenting things to write about but this, this is the most important thing I have to say right now. I don’t know who needs to hear this but listen up, in case it is you.

I’ve been an Army wife for 11 plus years. I was a soldier myself for 14 years.

I sat across from a woman I’ve known since we were in single digits and said out loud, maybe for the first time, “We will deal with the effects of this life, for the rest of our life.”

And by this life. I mean army life.1900436_10152204395611174_2907774160616467452_oC 7-101 Homecoming 2014_44

And I was surprised.

See, I just thought eventually we would be fine. Sure it’s hard now, post-deployment and reintegration, a little antsy in loud spaces and large crowds. And maybe four kids in the suburbs wasn’t quite what he was expecting because he was expecting not to live.

And slowly but surely the narratives are trickling out from soldiers a decade plus at war. 

PTSD. Depression. Suicide. People you think are okay, who let it slip that they are a little not okay.

Like an overloaded freight train on a steady downhill slope. Gathering speed, and exploding across the landscape of my soul.  We’ve got baggage for years – five deployments, 6 odd years apart, and a steady slew of high intensity, life and death decisions. There are shards of grief, loss, and all the what-would-have-beens tattooed permanently across my memories.

A year ago, he sat sinking in the oversized striped chair next to me and talked about his feelings. (A rare occasion for my stoic, military man.) After a friend committed suicide in May, we talked again. And then again in the past week when a soldier briefly under his command three years ago committed suicide.

Here’s what this Army wife knows after this year of living in the suburbs, safe and together and looking okay.10575214_10152204397276174_4996133085771554344_o

We won’t ever be fine. We will just be, living in the gray area between fine and invisibly wounded. No public meltdowns. No medical board, no obvious disfunction.

Just a moment here and there where toddlers moving slower than your average sloth tips him over an edge not there moments ago, because once upon a time, seconds = life and when you wasted them, people died.

A perpetually anxious mama, who manages her fear one day, sometimes one hour at a time.

Just the white noise of guilt, uncertainty, and the gaping hole left by the abrupt departure of high speed, high intensity, and life and death in the balance.

Now we are left with the aftermath of the crash. Where do we go from here in managing how we live the rest of our life in the gray spaces?

Chime in here: soldiers and spouses. Are you fine? Are you all the way to the other side, tilting into the dark of depression and suicide? Or just gray, shadows and shards on the inside with no visible wounds to declare….

~M.

More about Molly Huggins

I am an unrepentant extrovert with an ongoing, passionate affair with coffee, ellipses, and the written word. I write because it’s how I’m made to worship. I am a story teller, because redemption has a story to tell. And always, I want to be a story collector. So have a virtual seat at my beat-up kitchen table. Read my story. Tell me yours. Stay awhile. And P.S. ... for more about me, click on my mug in the sidebar;)

23 Comments
    1. Wow Molly thank you for that honesty. I’m obviously not a soldier but having one in the family and loving multitudes of them over this last decade and a half in this church makes me be on alert even more after reading this.

      1. Yep – you guys have a difficult job in a much different way. And so important to us!

    1. Pursue. Pursue. Pursue. I want / need to hear more.

      In the aftermath (5 days post retirement), when there are no more promises or threats of deployments, or even missions to conquer, I’m looking at the future and wondering: what life is this??? I’ve much to process and stir and sort out…

      1. I don’t know how to write more yet? This one is still writing itself … we still have much to process and stir too, friend.

    1. We live in that same gray – I shrink when I hear a loud noise or see something that I think might be a trigger. I anxiously look over at my husband and look for signs that he is not ok. And I think this will always be how it is…..and I am grateful he is alive and home and that this is the worst thing we have to deal with

      1. I always talk about grief and gratitude and the spaces between. That’s where we will always live.

    1. This resonates. I’ve been surprised this year by a “tilting” which I never saw coming after almost two decades of Army life and various deployments sprinkled throughout. This is a hard journey, but because it is unrelenting, it tricks us into thinking it’s a normal way.

    1. How my heart aches for you guys and your family. Almost 5 years now since I’ve been out and the scars remain, scraped open at times when I least expect it, when my carefully packaged and stored memories barge back in. I will pray for you and your hubby for healing that can only happen in time, with patience and love.

      1. YES. Scraped open and unpackaged. Love you, and LOVE seeing that sweet babe of yours. I am so happy for you!

    1. It’s hard to know what to say, except that I’m honored to have read your truth and I wish I could hug you. <3

      I remember the tension everyone around our cul-de-sac felt when Uncle Paul came back from deployment. In my head, it was supposed to be this amazing happy-ever-after, and I remember feeling confused because it was hard, not 100% happy.
      Love you, M.

    1. We live in a heavy military community near Fort Campbell and we hear this so often from our neighbors, “they are fine.” BUT their faces, their eyes, their behavior tells a different story. These words you write matters. I am sharing with the MANY army wives I know. ((hugs))

    1. This post moved my heart on your family’s behalf. I am praying that Jesus will comfort and heal you and your husband in the midst of the gray. And truthfully? I think your words about… “living in the gray area between fine and invisibly wounded,” describe an awful lot of broken people, military and civilian. Thanks for sharing your heart.

    1. My ex husband has been deployed three times. Our relationship ended after he became violent but I know he has wounds he wasn’t getting healing for. He is still a good man deep down, just one who’s really hurting. I wish he would of opened up about the pain he was feeling but he held it in. I lived on base for a few years and I know how it feels to be in the shoes of an army wife. We lost many friends to war, saw many families broken and the daughter of one of our friends also took her life. The base is more a family than it is a community and everyone feels the effects of each other’s pain, even when it’s silenced. I have great admiration for the service people and their families but there will always be a special place in my heart for the wives. God bless you XO

      1. Oh my heart aches for you. Thank you for sharing your story. And thanks for taking the time to read mine.

I love to hear from you!