TBT: Our First Separation

After a fun summer filled with visiting Jeremy’s family in Wisconsin, I started my Junior year of college in September 2009.

Shortly after, Jeremy was selected to go to NDI School, which is kind of like a “promotion” in his job. It didn’t result in an increase in rank, but he was selected to go to the school which would allow him to specialize in a new MOS.

The school was 4 months long and was in Pensacola, FL…which means we were going to be separated for the first time in our relationship.

Jeremy left in the beginning of September and we spent three months apart before I went to visit him in December on my break from school (see next week’s TBT for my trip to FL!).

I didn’t handle the time apart very well.

We had just moved into our new apartment, which was about 30 minutes from where all my friends lived, by my college. At the same time, my best friend has recently gotten married and was living with her husband enjoying the honeymoon stage, aka spending a lot time with her husband and much less with her friends.  I hadn’t made any friend with any of the other military spouses in Jeremy’s unit, since we were so recently married.

I spent a lot of time alone, which resulted in a slow slide into depression.

I decided to start seeing a therapist after a few weeks.

My decision was prompted by the knowledge that Jeremy had at least three years left in the military, and I was his wife. That meant that I was going to be away from him again at some point in our marriage, probably for much longer than 4 months. I needed to be able to be okay with the separations. I needed Jeremy to know that he could leave me to do his duty to his country, and not have to worry.

It was my first experience seeing a therapist, and I had a great experience. Military One Source set up the whole thing, from finding me a local therapist to arranging the first appointment and making the payments.

I learned how to cope with the separations. I started a routine to fill my time. I took a ceramics class, started volunteering to fill my time. I went out of my comfort zone to make new friends in the military spouse community. I filled my time with things that I enjoy, which made the time go by so much faster.

I addressed my cognitive distortions that were resulting in my depressive feelings.

The techniques I learned during those three months apart prepared me for the following two deployments. I’m so glad I didn’t let myself wallow in my negative feelings, that I took action. Because separations and deployments don’t have to be all negative. Yes, there will be bad days, but they don’t have to out weight the good days.

7523_144885981818_8356871_nThe MCAS Miramar Air Show – October 2009

I always wanted to go and I didn’t let Jeremy being gone keep me from having a great time. My friend from college went with me.

“It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Just Get Stronger”

Continuing the Link-up: What we’ve learned from the unexpected (in your first year of marriage)

I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that the biggest thing I learned in our first year of marriage is how to be alone.

our first "in uniform" photo; Pensacola FL

our first “in uniform” photo; Pensacola FL

I knew Jeremy was in the military when we got married, so it wasn’t unexpected that he would have to leave for an extended period of time. But I don’t think any military wife fully expects the first separation, and I certianly didn’t expect to react that way that I did.

I had an unexpectedly hard time when Jeremy went to Florida for 5 months after we had been married for less than 6 months.

Looking back, it’s hard to imagine that I felt the way that I did. We have since survided 2 deployments and numerous trainings and other schoolings since that first separation. I am now a “seasoned” military wife, the idea of him leaving is sad, but I am no longer defeated by the thought of being alone for months on end. I do not feel unprepared or overwhelmed with anxiety and sadness at the thought of him having to go away.

My husband is (most likely) career military, so I guess there comes a point where you do get used to it. Used to being alone. Used to missing your spouse.

I remember seeing a quote once: “It doesn’t get easier, you just get strong”

Looking back at that first separation, I know that I am a stronger person now. Life has tested me, and I have grown and changed in response to those challenges (both expected and unexpected).