The Wellness Spotlight Series highlights military spouses and their real world health and wellness journeys in a Facebook Live series. Below is an excerpt of Caresse’s feature.
Caresse is a military spouse, momma of two and registered nurse. She embraces adventure and doing outdoor activities. As an ambivalent introvert she enjoys socializing but truly thrives in deep meaningful conversations. She values seizing the moment, pursing personal growth, loving others, and uprising to thrive through life’s challenges.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILITARY SPOUSE.
My journey as a military spouse began at nineteen years old. My husband and I met in San Diego when he moved to Camp Pendleton after graduating boot camp at Perris Island. Together we are a mix of East Coast and West Coast culture. I quickly learned what it meant to balance a life as a military, temporary solo parent, and career-focused spouse. I owe my success through this lifestyle to the support of framily (friends who’ve become family) and strong will.
If you are a health or wellness expert, tell us about it and how it has impacted your wellness journey.
I have always focused on holistic health. Our humanity is built on four sections; mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Each intermingles with each other, and when one part is impacted its likely so is another. As a registered nurse, I focus on the health and wellbeing of those in need of rehabilitation. While I cannot heal the body, I can facilitate a healthy environment for the body to do so. In the same way exercise breaks down our muscles, intentional thoughts, feelings and beliefs can break down old weak dis-serving habits. It is not the exercise that builds muscle, its the rest afterwards that facilitates the broken fibers to become stronger than before. Often, I care for patients who are in pain physically, which leads to despair mentally, and breaks them emotionally and can lead to a collapse in their spirit. Most often it is due to believing the lie that the pain is permanent. This can resonate in our personal lives also.
When something breaks us it is easy to believe the temporary pain is permanent. When we aren’t meeting our physical goals, marital goals, parenting goals, or career goals we can feel like failures and allow defeat to enter our hearts. It takes intentional actions to break away from the unhealthy thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and rebuild on healthier ones. It also takes consistency and coaching. I practice this first hand and it has brought me a better healthier marriage, made me a calmer parent, and allowed my mindset to stay focused on what matters most especially when mourning the loss of normalcy in the military lifestyle. I facilitate a healthy environment for myself by doing activities that bring me joy, keeping my thoughts on truth, and allowing myself to feel in the moment and connect with others.
Have you experienced any extreme lows since becoming a military spouse? How did you overcome it?
I became a wife and mom at a young age. When I was 20, I was a full-time student, and a full-time new solo parent with a deployed husband in Iraq. Our marriage has taken a toll throughout his career. Although at the time we didn’t think it did, looking back we see more clearly. I’ve dealt with feelings of bitterness, confusion, and betrayal. I have felt alone in my marriage, or powerless to change the way that it was. The lowest part of my military spouse role was when my husband and I talked of separation. Neither of us wanted it but unresolved pain from the past rolled from one deployment into the next and two years later we felt defeated and hopeless. Mentally, I was in despair. Emotionally, I was in deep pain and heartache. I didn’t know how to end the pain and I started to believe the only way to end the pain was to end the relationship. However, for the first time I was allowing myself to feel the feelings in the moment and that was a step in the right direction.
Ironically, I overcame my loneliness by opening up to people I trusted. Something I never did before. I also overcame a small piece of my powerlessness by acknowledging the only person I can control is me. And I knew I needed to make choices that led to my own personal growth and health. Together, we overcame our pain and disconnection by going through intensive heart surgery. We attended a four-day marriage retreat with eight hours of daily therapy. It. Was. Brutal. And it was exactly what we needed to get to the root source of our pain and feelings. Just like exercise breaks down the muscles, talking about pain and trauma from our childhoods broke down our walls mentally and emotionally. We we able to see each other broken and human. We acknowledged all the pain that entered our lives as kids and during our marriage that we never truly dealt with in our relationship, because we never had the time, or we didn’t dig deep enough. We rebuilt our mindsets on stronger foundations, making our thoughts healthier, connecting to our grit.
When have you felt your healthiest (mental and/or physical)?
Consequently, I feel I am the healthiest in mind, body, heart, and soul now than I have ever been before. Building and maintaining healthy habits takes time, dedication, grace, and grit. It’s easy to regress back into old comfortable habits, but they won’t produce health in your life. I have learned many truths in my military spouse journey. One: You must fight for your marriage. Two: Avoiding uncomfortable conversations avoids personal growth. Three: You are never alone. Sharing my story has brought me closer and deeper in my relationships with my military spouse friends. I am no long silent nor numb to life’s experiences. I am mentally grounded to what I value and have let go of people and things that do not serve me or my marriage/family.
What is one personal habit that contributes to your success?
When we are enjoying something we never want it to end. When we are in pain from something we want it to cease immediately. A habit I have learned to apply is to embrace both pain and enjoyment equally. A person who had surgery wants to escape physical pain and sleep all day. A healthcare provider knows that working through the pain and doing the exercises will make them stronger than they were before. Likewise, a person with unresolved trauma or pain doesn’t want to think about such things. A therapist knows acknowledging and working through the pain, feelings the feels will make you stronger than you were before.
Sometimes we must break ourselves down purposefully to build ourselves up better than we were. I have learned that I don’t have to believe everything I think or feel. I can accept it but that doesn’t make it true. Sometimes we feel, think or act out of fear. I have learned to acknowledge my thoughts, feelings, and intentions and analyze them to see if it is fear or faith talking.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FORM OF SELF-CARE?
I love to escape reality in the ocean. As a person with ADD my thoughts are ever going. However swimming, diving, surfing, and kayaking in the ocean allows my thoughts to turn down and my soul to rejuvenate.
IF YOU COULD SHARE A HEALTH AND WELLNESS RESOURCE WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
The Relationship Resource. This resource is how my husband and I received the support for our marriage.
IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE BOOK AND/OR PODCAST TO MILITARY SPOUSES, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I personally enjoy reading Brene’ Brown books. My most recent read was “Dare to Lead”. And I am biased but I’d of course recommend my podcast “Voluntold” which talks about real life military spouse stories.
Caresse is a California girl, military spouse, momma of two, and registered nurse. She embraces adventure and doing outdoor activities. In her free time, she escapes to the ocean for “salt water therapy.” Surfing, diving, and paddle boarding are a few of her faves. As an ambivalent introvert she enjoys socializing but truly thrives in deep meaningful conversations. Her values focus on seizing the moment, pursing personal growth, loving others, and uprising to thrive through life’s challenges.