When it comes to what I can do and what I can handle during deployments, I seem to go through several phases.
Phase One: I’ve got this!
Of course there are more than a few days of sadness and cookie eating but then I pull myself together and face the months to come. I plan trips and projects and activities to keep us all busy. I continue with all the commitments we have in place and even add a few more.
Why not? Paul’s is gone. All that time I spend with him is now freed up to do other things right?
I miss Paul, especially on the weekends but I am energized and I’m facing the deployment like a champ! I work hard and play hard and every minute is full and Man! I get so much done! This phase lasts about 4-6 months, overlapping a bit with Phase Two.
Phase Two: Survival Mode
During the first part of Phase Two I am still trying to juggle all of our Phase One activities but I’m getting really tired. I mean exhausted tired. I mean my feet are heavy, everything is hard, warming up leftovers in the microwave is too many steps, tired. Most of the time I am just trying to get through the day and make it to bedtime.
Every morning, I mechanically face our day and I methodically check things off my list as we accomplish them. If, however, anything goes wrong or something unplanned is added, it is almost impossible for me to adjust and I completely melt down. I get angry and sad and feel like I’m letting down everyone around me, especially my kids.
I can’t do everything right, and then my view of things gets skewed so I feel like I can’t do anything right.
This brings me to the second part of Phase Two, depression. I find it hard to get out of bed. Nothing sounds good to eat. There is nothing to look forward to. Everything feels like a chore, even things I normally enjoy. I see nothing but the long months stretched out ahead of me like eternity. And I can’t find any good anywhere. I just want Paul home, period.
I feel isolated and completely alone. Minutes feel like hours, hours feel like days. This part just sucks.
Then something magical happens; I start telling people no. First with embarrassment and a feeling of failure and then with a feeling of empowerment and control. Who am I trying to impress anyway? I start making my life easier. I pare back our activities to the absolute minimum. Instead of signing up for the next sports/drama/music season, we take a season off. I stop volunteering at school and at church. We spend a lot of time in front of screens. A lot of time. The kids stop having friends over regularly. Sleepovers are not even considered.
Phase Three: The Light at the End of the Tunnel or Let’s Do This!
Although there is some overlap with Phase Two, Phase Three happens almost overnight. All of a sudden, I can see the end. I am counting in weeks instead of months, and then days instead of weeks. I am thinking of the goals I made when Paul left and the time feels short. I have to abandon some goals but work hard to finish the others. I feel energized again and happy. I am full of hope and excitement and I’m looking forward to our family being reunited and finding our new normal.
I don’t take anything else on and I feel brilliant that I’ve simplified so well. As I plan our time and commitments in the coming months, I am also considering the time when Paul will be home and more of my attention and focus will be needed here inside these four walls.
Phase Four: He’s Coming Home!
This phase is the shortest but also the most emotionally complex. I will write more about this as we get closer.
*Spoiler: It will end with something like this.
I just hit Phase Three and I’m feeling good. I’m ready to face the holidays and the changes that are coming up in our family. Things are good, well except that my sewing machine is broken but even that I can deal with. We may get through this yet.