When You Are Used to Living in Survival Mode
When you have your first baby, you go into a bit of survival mode. Everything is so new, and now you have this other person that depends on you for everything. You are not getting much sleep, and you just want to get through each day. And somehow you do. Your baby learns to sleep through the night, they start to walk, then run. They start to eat real people food and before you know the fog lifts and you feel more like yourself again.
As a military spouse, having a new baby isn’t the only time I have been in survival mode.
My husband left for Germany when my son was just 13 months old. We had to wait for Command Sponsorship to join him and during those 4.5 months apart, I was right back into trying just to make it through each day. I didn’t sleep too well and found myself up until 3 am every night. Then my son would be wide awake for me just a few hours later. We didn’t have family nearby, and I was pretty much on my own other than a couple of friends and a playgroup we went to every week.
During those 4.5 months, my goal was to keep my son safe, and healthy, maintain the house, and work on all the paperwork and everything we had to do to get to Germany. There wasn’t a lot of time or energy to better myself as a person. My son watched way too much Elmo during those days, and I always felt like I was on the verge of tears.
Over the next few years, my husband would deploy four times, and I would enter periods of survival mode. Trying to get through each day, trying to make the best of the time apart, feeling like I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do.
As we military spouses head into periods of deployment with survival mode hitting us in the face, we can feel like things will never change. That we will always be surviving and that we won’t do any thriving. That we just have to count down the days, getting through them, until they come home.
So how you can get out of survival mode? What can you, as a milspouse change to make the time apart from a better experience for yourself and your family?
Step outside your comfort zone
If you feel yourself sliding into survival mode, take a look and see what you can change about your day-to-day life. How can you step out of your comfort zone to try something new? Is it taking the kids to a new playgroup? Taking your kids to Grandma’s house by yourself? Joining a club that you heard about?
Trying something new can make you feel stronger, and that can carry over to the rest of your deployment.
Remember, you got this
Seriously, you do. Even if you think you are not making it through this deployment, as long as you wake up each morning, take care of your kids, and make it to the end of the day, you got this.
Remember, the deployment is just days. There might be a lot of days, but they are only just days. After you hit enough of them, you will be done, and the deployment will be over.
Make a lot of plans
Make plans. Stay busy. Start a new hobby. Get out with friends. Redo something in your house. Write a book. Volunteer. There are so many different things you can do to stay busy during a deployment.
As I look back on the times I was more likely to be in survival mode; it was when I wasn’t as busy and didn’t make as many plans.
It’s okay to cry
You are going to have bad, tear-filled days during deployments. It’s okay to cry. Try not to let the tears consume you. Let yourself do it but make sure to get out of bed. Think about the good things going on in your life, even if they are silly.
Start writing down all the good things that will happen during the deployment. Your son turning one, the latest book release from your favorite author, or a visit from your mom. All these little excitements will help you see that life still happens even when your spouse is deployed.
Ask for help
If you need to ask for help, do so. Military spouses have a hard time asking for help. I am so guilty of this. I will try to do everything myself before I would ever ask for help. But sometimes you need to.
If you feel like you need to see a counselor, do that too. Going to see a professional on a regular basis can help you through the deployment, help you see that you can do this, and help you thrive while your spouse is away.
Know that survival mode is okay, grow through it
Sometimes, you will just be in survival mode, and that is okay. Just remember, this won’t last forever. While I believe you can rock your deployment, not every day will look that way.
You know yourself and what you can handle. You know when things are getting too complicated and when you need to reach out. If that means being in survival mode for a while, that’s okay too.