Managing Chaos When a Spouse is Away
Sometimes life throws you curveballs you aren’t ready to hit. For the families of men and women who are deployed or mobilized, unexpected circumstances can add to an already stressful environment. We know – we hear many similar stories in our role as a leading military lending company.
For Joanne Marquez, those curveballs came fast and furious. Her husband Tim, currently a First Sargent in the Army Reserves, was mobilized shortly after the family moved to a new city. A few months later, her oldest son was hospitalized for pneumonia. Then, he developed a virus the doctors thought might be meningitis. Joanne quit her job to manage life at home.
“It was during that year that I nearly lost my mind,” Joanne said about the first year of her husband’s 3-year mobilization to Ft. Huachucha, Arizona.
“I was getting more angry every day. Any time I talked with Tim, he told me about going out with the guys and all the great things he was doing. I’m sure he told me about how much he missed me, all the hard work, and how lonely he was but honestly, I don’t remember that,” Joanne said.
AN UNWELCOME SURPRISE
By year two of Tim’s mobilization, life got harder.
Joanne was fielding calls daily from her son’s school about his behavior – it escalated to the point that the police were called to assist teachers in controlling him. Her son was talking about death and killing.
“You don’t think a 6-year-old is capable of something like that until you live through it,” Joanne said.
Her son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a condition that leveled out when he started medication. Still, Tim and Joanne opted for a third year of mobilization for Tim so he could slowly adjust to coming home and being a father to a son with this condition.
“It was during this time I found God and in the process had to learn to completely rely on strangers to help me deal with my situation,” Joanne said. “I learned to pick my battles and be flexible in my parenting, which wasn’t easy at times.”
FORMING A SUPPORT NETWORK
Joanne lived two hours from base, which meant no access to a family readiness support system. So she reached out.
“I don’t like feeling out of control and my life was totally consumed by chaos when Tim was gone,” she said. “But by allowing people to help me and giving up that control, I learned I didn’t have to do it alone.
“People were amazing,” she added. “I had to completely let go and let someone else take over. By doing that for those three years, I learned that people want to help; they enjoyed being able to give me the gift of their time and friendship.
“I also learned I’m stronger that I ever thought I could be.”
Joanne encourages spouses going through hard times during deployment or mobilization to be honest about the fears of military life. Most of all, she says to find help as soon as you need it. “You can’t and shouldn’t do it alone, regardless how hard you try.”
What’s your story – have you faced chaos while your spouse was away? What support systems do you rely on when crisis hits?