As deployments wind down and homecomings start approaching it begins to feel like a mad dash to the finish. All of a sudden, the uncompleted projects you started at the beginning of the deployment or the ones you’ve been meaning to start, now have a tangible deadline. There are homecoming dresses to find, signs to buy or make, then hang, the house to be cleaned, the list goes on.
As the day grows closer, the well wishes of others seems to increase and I can’t even begin to count how many people who exclaimed; “That’s so great! You must be so excited!” upon hearing of my husband’s imminent return. I couldn’t help but feel confused by this exclamation. I think I’m excited, but at the same time I’m not sure. I found that at the culmination of both deployments when I was supposed to be overcome with joy and excitement, I felt instead numb and stoic.
I tried my very best to be emotional and excited, especially when my husband would call and express how anxious he was to get home. Unfortunately I had to try to explain to him that even though I was thrilled at the prospect of his return, I was short on emotional reactions in regard to his deployment. At first I felt very alone in these feelings. At the end of our first deployment, I recall standing in the reception area watching the buses pull in convinced that he wouldn’t find me. I’d lost a lot of weight that deployment and had kept my progress a secret in order to surprise him, not thinking that I may have changed so much that my husband wouldn’t recognize his wife.
I stood watching the sea of unmoving cammies, unconvinced that my husband would actually be hugging me momentarily. Meanwhile my two best friends who had accompanied me were jumping up and down and crying with excitement for me. I recall looking at them and being grateful that at least someone was able to express emotion over my husband’s return. It wasn’t until I turned and saw him making his way through the crowd that I began to regain my sense of feeling. As soon as he took me into his arms I realized that I had spent the last nine months half alive, and that he was my missing piece.
My emotions didn’t return to me all at once and we both struggled with that at first. I had to explain to him that I had spent the last nine months keeping everything in, being strong for him, bottling up worries and fears so that I didn’t burden him with anything. During the course of the deployment, I had kept so busy with school, work and focusing on being his support system that I had simply forgotten how to feel. We worked through it, and I found my feelings again, and then he deployed again.
So here I am, at the end of another deployment and I’ve noticed a pattern. When others fall apart, break down, or just need a shoulder, I put my own feelings aside and help them carry their burdens. This has served me well as a mentor to other wives in the battalion but now I’ve realized it’s something I am always trying to improve upon in myself. The first deployment I thought I was strange and alone in my numbness, but when I mentioned it in one of my personal blogs I was surprised by the amount of feedback I received from other wives who felt the same way.
Turns out those of us who put our emotions on hold are not alone, we all are desensitized together. This realization helped me to better explain myself and prepare my husband for my own emotional journey after his return. This year as I cleaned the house, finished my deployment projects, and hung my sign. I was not concerned by the lack of excitement quelling inside of me. I instead appreciated the fact that at least I’m consistent and have friends who aren’t afraid to cry in my honor.
I can say that I had an easier time believing that he actually was coming home at the culmination of this deployment, and my emotions were quicker to return. As I got ready for his arrival I could feel something building inside of me, but I kept it tightly bottled until that very last moment of solitude when I saw him making his way through the crowd for a second time. I didn’t cry, no instead I smiled wider and wider until the smile could no longer be contained and it became a laugh: pure excited laughter. My husband returned home safely and at last I was made whole again, emotions and all.
I had this happen during my hubby’s last deployment. They came home sort of unannounced. We got very little warning. It was super hard to move from detached (to cope while he was gone) to Whoohoo. In fact, it was not only numb, but almost grumpy and angry feeling that I hadn’t had time to prepare for them to be home. I still find that, years later, when he’s gone on training missions, I revert back to that stage and we struggle to get me back to feeling “normal.” You are not alone. I think more of us do this than we talk about. It’s hard to explain it to people.