Every month should be women’s health month. Our health should always be prioritized and celebrated. As military spouses, that can be quite a difficult task.
I will be the first to admit that it took me way too long to come around to this way of thinking. It took my own health crisis to understand its importance, but I also learned another invaluable lesson as well—the healing powers of getting vulnerable about my struggles. Not only did I suffer for years, but I suffered in silence so no one would know what I was dealing with. I just assumed I was the only one.
The only one who couldn’t have a second baby.
The only one having miscarriage after miscarriage.
The only one dealing with crippling anxiety and panic attacks.
The only one suffering from chronic pain.
The only one battling bouts of depression that left me unable to get off the couch.
The only one whose hormones were completely out of control.
The only one paralyzed by fear every minute of the day.
I believed everyone else had it all together and I was the only broken one. I felt the need to uphold this image of the strong and capable military spouse. The one who dealt with deployments, single parenting, everything breaking during a TDY, cross country moves, you name it . . . like it wasn’t a big deal. The one who smiled every time a civilian friend said, “I don’t know how you do it all!”
Because that’s what we do, right? We get it done. We handle the hard stuff while our spouses serve and protect. It’s in the (unwritten) handbook.
But is it at the cost of our health? Often, it is. And that can manifest in many different ways—physical ailments, mental health issues, and emotional instability. Sometimes those health issues can be seen by others, but sometimes they are invisible. And regardless of whether they are seen or unseen, obvious or not, I think it’s time we speak up, get honest, and understand the value for our health in vulnerability.
I speak from experience when I tell you that incredible healing takes place when you stop hiding it from everyone.
As I mentioned above, I went through some very dark years while trying to have a second child. I had seven miscarriages in a five-year period, and all those other ailments tagged along to make it extra traumatic. I spent every ounce of energy I had hiding it from everyone and trying to keep up this facade that I thought was necessary. It wasn’t until my second baby’s first birthday (yep, I was blessed with another healthy baby!) that I decided to break down those walls and speak up about my mental and physical health issues. I sat down at my computer and poured my heart out (into what I now realize was a blog post for my future wellness business), heart pounding in my ears, hands shaking . . . and I posted it on my private Facebook account.
Everything changed. The real healing began.
Not only did I feel this huge weight lifted from my shoulders, but I realized I had been lying to myself all this time. People came out of the woodwork to tell me they had been through many of the same things. It turns out that everyone is struggling, and once I spoke my truth it was as if it gave others the freedom to do the same. Our challenges may not look exactly the same, but we as military spouses all understand the unique challenges that come with our lifestyle. We really do have a special bond.
I want to leave you with some things to keep in mind when you battle with that, “I need to pretend I’ve got everything together” mentality.
1. No one is crushing it. Do not get caught up with the idea that you need to have it all together or that everyone but you has it all together. It’s a big fat lie.
2. It’s okay to say no. Military life, family life, work life . . . they are all filled with a lot of events and activities. Sometimes saying no for the sake of your health is not only good but necessary. We all know our society celebrates the busy and encourages us to wear it as a badge of honor. But in reality, that lifestyle is contributing to many modern-day health issues.
3. But don’t say no to everything. When we struggle, we tend to isolate ourselves and hide from everyone and everything. And that can be really detrimental to our health. Community is extremely important for military spouses since we are often separated from our loved ones, and finding your community wherever you are is a really healthy thing.
4. Be honest and speak up when you are battling. Now you don’t have to make a public Facebook post detailing every little thing, but seek out people and/or a community that supports and understands. Thanks to this age of technology, we really can find everything from Facebook groups to community groups dedicated to so many issues. Struggling with infertility? Do your children have food allergies? Is your spouse deployed for the year? Trust me when I tell you there are others who are dealing with the same stuff and need you just as much as you need them.
5. Pay attention to the military spouses in your community. Sometimes we are in the trenches so much with our own issues that we don’t have anything to give to others. And that’s okay. But there are also other times when perhaps we are doing pretty good or in a place where we can pour into another, and that’s when we can be a support for others who need it. Sometimes the smallest thoughts or actions can have a huge impact. Delivering dinner, inviting someone to coffee, dropping a card in the mail, or just a quick text letting someone know you’re thinking of them are all significant.
6. Know that your struggles may someday be used for good. Now if someone had told me this when I was crying on the floor of my closet after yet another miscarriage, I would have wanted to punch them in the face. But now I get it. After all my challenges, I now have an entire wellness business because of all those years of struggle. None of that would have happened without that health crisis, and it’s amazing to see the beautiful things that continue to come from those incredibly dark years. So just file that away for later.
Amanda is a Texas born and raised girl (or middle aged woman) living in Alaska. Her husband is a pilot in the Air Force, and he is currently stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson in Anchorage where they are raising their two boys. Aside from the mom and wife gig, Amanda is a Pilates Master Trainer, Nutritional Therapy Consultant, and Director with Beautycounter. She is also the founder of My Well Balanced Life, where she helps busy women establish well-balanced lives of their own through real food, healthy movement, and safer products.