“We like to tell people we met in a psych unit. We were both working there at the time. He’s been in the National Guard for nine years, and his unit deploys every five. I spent a month in Zambia awhile back and I remember thinking about the importance of embracing the culture. I’ve approached military life the same way. It has its own culture, and it’s much easier to understand if you jump in with both feet viewing it that way. We’ve been married almost a year now and he just left for an eleven month deployment.
“The day of deployment, I dropped him off at the tiniest airport. About three minutes into our trip there we both started tearing up. We said our goodbyes and I booked it out of the airport. A friend rode with me in the car on the way back, and I cried a lot.
“When I got home, I found he had hidden 20 Post-it notes around the apartment. A friend came over the night he left to watch a movie, and slowly I found my new normal. It’s still hard, crawling into bed by yourself each night, not being able to talk when you want to.
“One thing people might not think about is how hard the anticipation of deployment is – at least as difficult as the deployment itself. The time leading up to it is so hard, but I’ve learned more about myself in the last few months than I have in the last several years. We’re all praised to be independent and not need help, and no one wants to feel dependent or needy. But you learn a new level of vulnerable, and what that really means. You learn the importance of regular self-care, and prioritizing it like you would a doctor’s appointment. You learn that it’s not a weakness but a strength to be able to ask for help. And I know that when this deployment is over, I will have an incredible sense of accomplishment.”