Today. It’s 12:17 A.M. And today is the day I get to see my husband for the first time in 2 1/2 months. TODAY. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes it was gut-wrenchingly hard. And other times, it’s almost as if he was right there with me. I can’t believe 10 1/2 weeks passed so quickly. I can’t believe everything that has happened over the course of just a couple months. This wasn’t the life I chose. I told myself and told him millions of times that the military lifestyle was not one I was willing to live. I prayed against it and deeply struggled with his yearning for this career path. I didn’t choose this, but that does not mean I will put any less effort into it. I don’t easily let others take the reins of my life. But after four years, I finally did. It took me four years to trust, love, and open up enough to face my biggest fear. It took him four years to break those walls and lasso the fears that no one else could penetrate in 22 years. So, he chose it for me, and I could not love him more for it. Everyday I have found myself adapting healthier coping strategies and absolutely blossoming under the pressure of separation. I spent my existence terrified of this life. He spent four years trying to convince me of its highlights. I was paralyzed with fear for what this meant for our relationship and my mental health, but he knew me. He knew I would excel at this life. He knew I would overcome anything thrown at us without so much as a flinch. The financial responsibility – I got it. The emotionally-taxing decisions to be made – I’ve made them. He knew my capabilities better than I did. He knew the pressure on a military wife would only inspire me to succeed. He knew me better than I knew myself, and it took four years for me to realize this and relinquish the control onto which I so unhealthy grasped. And so I’m feeling thankful today. Undoubtedly, I am one very lucky lady. I am grateful that I have a partner that sees my potential when I’m blinded by mental blockades. Today, I get to see my husband, and I can’t wait for him to explore the newly-acquired depths of maturity, responsibility, and selfless love I now possess. I love you, C. 💕
Good afternoon, sunshynes! Today, it has been laid on my heart (and mind) to talk about mental healthcare. By the way, Happy Fourth of July! It is INDEPENDENCE DAY here in the United States. It has been a long 242 years since the USA was declared independent from Great Britain. Now, for some reason, Independence Day has led me to want to write on the state of mental health care in the US. Now I was blessed to be born in the grand ol’ state of Oklahoma – land of the most fireworks injuries and highest incarceration rate for women!!! Oh, and probably the land of the worst mental healthcare in the civilized world!!!! (That is not a fact; just throwing that opinion out there.)
What would possess someone to want to be a mental healthcare worker in Oklahoma – the state that makes deep cuts to the mental healthcare budget any chance it gets?? Honestly, I couldn’t give you a logical reason as to why I decided this was for me. I can’t even tell you how many times I have lied awake at night, wondering if I would have to uproot my family to find decent work in my chosen field. I can’t tell you how many times I have cursed myself for my calling. I’ve scraped every inch of my mind trying to find the reason behind my drive toward a life devoted to mental health advocacy. But it’s kind of like similar to my college degrees: what possessed me to get degrees in English and psychology? Literally, what demon entered my soul and convinced me to get degrees in not one, but TWO, of the lowest paying, highest rate of unemployment, and most disregarded fields by the Oklahoma government? Ain’t that swell? I can counsel people and correct their grammar – all while living in a cardboard box down by the river.
Disclaimer: Please don’t point out typos or whatever to me. Most of them are purposeful. Some are just because I don’t care. It’s nice to sit down and write informal articles for the first time in my life. I could recite my entire Advanced Grammar textbook aloud. It is absolutely mesmerizing to actually be able to talk in second person. I cannot even tell you how much easier my life is. Dr. Bruce, if you read this, just know that I am very aware that I should be using dashes instead of hyphens in all those places, but this website doesn’t accept the keyboard shortcut for a dash. I could probably type it into Microsoft Word and copy and paste every time I needed a dash, but we both know I use way too many dashes for that to even be a viable option.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, America, land of the free and home of literally awful healthcare policy. I want to tell you a story. . . About two years ago, I was in my Intro to Counseling class, and we were discussing how difficult it is to find help for an endangered patient. My professor (also a practicing counselor) was telling us the basics about a patient of hers. She was a minor with suicidal ideation and had admitted to the counselor that she was going to attempt to commit suicide. Side note: When a counselor, police officer, teacher, etc., has reason to suspect that a person is an immediate danger to themselves or others, they have to report it. That person is then supposed to be committed for evaluation for 72 (?) hours. So, my professor had a CHILD telling her she wanted to kill herself and she could not find a bed for this girl anywhere in Oklahoma. It took about four days to finally get this girl a bed in a mental facility to be evaluation, and that facility was about six hours away in Texas. Not only did this child’s parents and my professor have to play the role that our state psychiatrists should be playing, but they also had to drive out-of-state to get their child the help she needed.
Now that is outrageous. Here are some more outrageous facts (2017 State of Mental Health in America – Access to Care Data):
- Seventeen percent of adults with a diagnosed mental health disorder are still uninsured in the US.
- About 56 percent of adults with mental illness received no past year treatment in the United States, and, for those that did seek treatment, 1/5th continued to report unmet treatment needs.
- About 58% of Oklahomans with a mental illness received no treatment in 2017. That is over half. Almost 6/10 times, a mentally-ill Oklahoman went completely untreated by a mental health professional. More often than not, Oklahomans go untreated. We aren’t even good enough to get this number below half??
- Only 16% of children with Major Depressive Disorder received consistent treatment in Oklahoma!!!
- Oh, and Oklahoma has the highest prevalence of children that lack mental healthcare.
SO, I’m not sure why I want to be a counselor in a state that CLEARLY does not value the mental health of its constituents, but I do. I want it more than anything. I want to be that counselor that makes a difference in the lives of others – the counselor that overemphasizes self-love and healthy relationships. I want to help others, but this is what counselors are up against. Vote them out. Vote out the individuals that believe mental healthcare is the first budget cut to make. I’m going to provide the best in mental healthcare, but I genuinely hope I don’t have to do it out of a cardboard box. I genuinely hope that my clients, especially children, don’t have to be moved six hours away to be given the help they deserve. But, hey, Happy Independence Day.
I’ve been trying to find a way to express or even document all the problems I’ve had over the years with OCD. OCD is as special type of disorder. One that has caused me tremendous pain in my life. My thoughts are really scattered. I’m unsure of how to write what I’m feeling – of how OCD has made me feel. It’s a lot of years to cover. Ten years old is when I feel that my OCD wholly manifested. I do not know exactly what age I began to exhibit symptoms, but I do know that it was full blown by age ten. My mother can definitely attest to that. Ten was a year of confusion and anxiety. I wish I could remember my compulsions during my younger years. I wish I had been diagnosed earlier so I would have had time to better organize my long list of compulsions. I wish that we would have known there was a name for what I suffered from. Very few people, even twelve years later, know the extent of my battle with OCD, if they even know of it at all. An SSRI + a serotonin agonist and exposure therapy works well for me. I learned of Albert Ellis over the years and his work with irrational beliefs. Counseling myself and exposing those irrational beliefs is a hobby I’ve become quite good at over the years. But I wish I would’ve have known in sooner. I wish that OCD wasn’t so misunderstood that I was misdiagnosed for years with generalized anxiety. I wish I would’ve known I wasn’t a sinner for the thoughts I had. This post is a huge step for me. And honestly it’s just rambling. But it feels good. It’s almost an unexplainable purge of emotions and worries that have been built up inside for so long. If you met me today, you would never know I have well-managed OCD. My college professors don’t know. Even after four entire years of our lives intertwixt. Albeit, some may have some suspicion that something was wrong, but I don’t think there is a person that has met me in the past 6 years that could tell you I have OCD, besides my husband. He knows from little leftover fragments here and there and from childhood memories. But the thing about OCD is that it’s still inside me. It’s my brain. My brain that has too much or too little of this or that. My brain that works in such a specific way that even medication can’t change it. It makes it easier and less anxiety-provoking to deal with the thoughts & compulsions, but it does not change the way I think. I wish I could construct an exhaustive list of all the repetitive thoughts I’ve ever had. There have been times of some relief. I am aware that my OCD is exacerbated by stress, extremely emotional situations, and not being in control. Control is a huge one. Not being able to control an extremely stressful and emotional situation + my OCD = a very very bad outcome. An outcome that I don’t believe medication could even prevent. So I’ll live my life as best I can. I’ll live it in the most stress-free demeanor. My personality has shifted over the past four or so years. A patience level gifted from God and an incredible ability to remain calm are the two main markers of my present self. My 16-17 year old self had about 1/10 of the patience and relaxation I have now. But this personality change was a necessary evolution. Survival of the mentally fittest. I evolved to a personality that could better tolerate the workings of my brain. It occurred over the course of years, but it really did the trick. I gain more patience with each passing day. I actively try to evolve into a person that has a greater ability to relax and deal with stressors. In the name of full disclosure, I bet you guys are wanting to know what it’s like inside the brain of an OCD sufferer. Let me show you. Car rides seemed to do it for me something extra in my younger days. I still have extreme issues when it comes to car rides where I am not driving. But, for some reason or another, car rides caused me to exhibit some of my most memorable compulsions. I couldn’t talk, listen to the radio, even enjoy the scenery because I was busy counting car lengths. Normal enough? The car lengths had to coincide exactly with the sections of fence. I would tell myself “oh if you get to 100 then you can stop.” But I had to start over every time a car length did not perfectly line up with a section of fence. I never got to 100. Cars doing it some more for me during this same time frame. I had a specific rhythm I had to tap with my feet repeatedly for the entire length of time we were in the car. I was so focused on tapping this rhythm perfectly that I eventually would tap it without even realizing. This compulsion ruined band for me. I couldn’t ever keep the true beat without regressing into my rhythm. I had to shut the sliding door to my grandparents’ van without touching anything but the handle. My body or any other object couldn’t brush any part of the door or I would have to shut it again. This compulsion was a complex one. It has a few more parts to it. If I managed to shut the door within the standards mentioned above, I still had to buckle my seatbelt and have the door shut within 7 seconds. Or I had to do it again. I can’t tell you how many van doors I’ve slid open and closed. The worst part of these compulsions is the irrational belief that went with them: “I have to do it like this or God doesn’t love me.” I was raised extremely religious, and I felt that this was the ultimate sin. In fact, I was so ashamed by this that this blog is actually the first time I’ve ever admitted to it. To anyone. Ever. Because it’s completely irrational and WE ARE SO AWARE THAT OUR THOUGHTS AND COMPULSIONS ARE IRRATIONAL. Please don’t feel the need to tell me that these thoughts are outrageous. I know. But the synapses in my brain just can’t carry that information to the place it needs to be. Medication helps. But it is an everyday struggle against who I am. Against the chemistry in my control center. I wish I could remember more battles I’ve had over the years, but I can’t. I want this to be a post that I can update with recalled memories or new compulsions when they inevitably appear. Excuse my messy thoughts, my brain is broken.
This post is from my experience with having a spouse in basic training; however, that does not mean that this post is solely for milsos. We will all face loneliness at one point or another, whether it stems from a break up, relocation, death, or falsely perceived loneliness stemming from mental illness. I have experienced loneliness from all these items. But, at present, I am not lonely. My husband is at basic, but I do not feel “loneliness.”
Being alone has pros and cons. We can’t always equate “being alone” with melancholy and exile. There’s a very fine line of social interaction that we walk every single day. Maybe your walk is straying a little to the right or left – that is okay. There are so many different ways to think about loneliness. Let’s explore:
During my undergraduate career, I took a class literally titled “Loneliness.” It was an upper-division elective for my psychology degree. It was on a Saturday in the middle of summer. It happened to be my birthday. And nothing against Mr. R – he was super rad with his disco music and oral cancer candy – but I don’t think that human loneliness can be fully explicated during one Saturday from 8-4:30. We learned that loneliness can be the cause for so many mental health issues. We demonized loneliness until an impartial view of “being alone” was impossible. Addiction? They’re lonely. Depression? They’re lonely. But I really think that being alone needs to be starkly separated from the feeling of loneliness. The linguistic roots of the words are the same, but our evolved human brains have complexified (that’s not a word) to a much more intricate level than just linguistic associations.
Being alone has value in self-care. And not “assigned value” by society; it actually has inherent value all by itself. Being alone – and learning to delve into the self exploration that this breaks open – that is an acquired trait. That is a learned trait. Actually soaking up all the usefulness of being alone is not something that will ever be accomplished in a day, but it is also something that can never be accomplished without you. You, in all of your naked and vulnerable states, are the sole key part to making the most of being alone. You.
Being alone serves so many purposes. It is not a proponent of addiction or depression; misunderstanding the role of being alone is the proponent of mental illness. I want you to know that there is a huge variety of benefits you can obtain from being alone: self-exploration, uncovering passions, solving problems, etc… Counseling is my passion. The urge to assist others with their problems came out of one of the loneliest times in my life. Now I can look back at tell you that all that time I spent feeling miserably lonely, I was undeniably confused about what was happening in my future life path. I could not fully comprehend what all the mechanisms that were working and gears that were turning in tandem until many years later. I spent a lot of time as a teenager feeling utterly abandoned because of some (un?)fortunate circumstances. I overcame those. During that time, I could not see the innerworkings of my personal passions becoming solidified. But I see it now.
It took me quite a few years to get back to a completely healthy place. When I am alone, I am not lonely. My husband is gone, but I am not lonely. My grandmother has passed away, but I am not lonely. My mother-in-law was taken much to soon, but I am not lonely. I have simply reached a portion of my individual journey where great happenings are bubbling up inside me. I have just reached a stretch of my life where C & I have emotionally united goals that we are striving toward. I have reached a point in my life where my grandmother & I are separately working toward our goal of creating a legacy. My mother-in-law & I are still, undeniably, working together on our united goal of C’s well being. I am not lonely. You are not lonely. What shared goals are you still working toward? What activities do you feel help you get in tune with yourself? Why do you think we demonize being alone?
Good morning sunshynes! If you have a soldier in training (SIT) then THIS is one of many posts created just for you. You could be anywhere across the loved one spectrum – a spouse, mother, father, significant other, or even a friend – and this article would still be written for you, specifically, in mind. I am here to enlighten you about just how special you are and how crucial of a role you play in your SIT’s success. Separation is indescribably difficult, but it is genuinely just a game of “divide, yet conquer.” The age old phrase – tweaked ever so slightly – and given new, more relevant meaning. In case it is too difficult for you to see this separation as a “divide and conquer” scenario – where both you and your SIT are separate players with their own objectives and game plans – let’s try a different viewpoint: “divide, yet conquer.” While “divide and conquer” implies that the separation of you two is necessary to your success, “divide, yet conquer” implies the separation is an obstacle or barrier between you and your loved one that you will undoubtedly rise above and conquer. In spite of, not because of, this separation, you and your SIT’s united goals, dreams, and relationship will continue to be realized. The separation is not a necessary component to the reaching of your goals – that would allow it to have too much power. The separation is an obstacle, in spite of which, you and your SIT will succeed. You both will have your time to “shyne” because of the time, effort, and love you have devoted to one another, not because of the “mystical” powers of separation. “Separation makes the heart grow fonder” is an age old hoax. A hardy combination of devotion, shared viewpoints and goals, unconditional love, and effort, in every situation, is what makes the heart grow fonder. Isn’t it a much better feeling to overcome together rather than to believe a separate arrival is necessary?
With that being said, self-care is immensely important to the success of the relationship. It has been heartbreaking at times to have my husband gone. I will never once utter the phrase, “Separation makes the heart grow fonder,” because that is not what has gotten C and I to where we are today. A devotion to us, an emphasis on we, and a plan for our future has helped us to arrive at our current destination. Together, we have overcome so many unfortunate happenings in our young life: the sudden death of a parent at age 17, a hard battle with mental illness, financial hardship, and family struggles. But I am here to say that I am still strong, we are still strong, in spite of these hardships, not because of them. I refuse to give power to inanimate obstacles. I refuse to give us less credit than we have earned. I refuse to believe that any hardship has led us to accomplish any of our goals. I will hold fast to the knowledge that him and I have built this love; him and I have mortared the bricks, dug the moat, and fastened the drawbridge to our castle, in spite of these obstacles. You are still strong; they are still strong. The construction of a healthy and deeply meaningful relationship with your SIT can never be accomplished by just you or just them. Together, you are a united front that must accomplish all of this together. Do not give up; do not feel alone. Do not feel that the job you are doing at home is somehow less important. It should be difficult to question your worth when you finally understand that you are united in success.