I happen to be a HUGE fan of Deborah Mullen, the wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. She is one of the best advocates for us, for military spouses. When I’ve met her, she’s been down to earth, ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She uses her voice, her status, to give us all a voice. This speech, given at the Military Health Services Annual Conference was one that made me stand up and cheer.
She talks about anticipatory grief, secondary PTS, the situation of children missing school because their parent is unable to get up; the abuse of alcohol and drugs. She talks about the lack of tracking, the lack of ability to get to the spouses. She talks about the stigma still attached to mental health issues, that we still worry about the negative impact on the servicemember’s career. She discusses the spouse who is given 5 meds and no followup appointment and no referral to mental health; the 1/15 rule. Why are we failing to look at the totality of the problem, why do we expect the young spouse to look after the service member, but not herself.
This line resonated with me:
You do not have to put on a pair of combat boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war. If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself — and frankly the military owes it to YOU — to get the help you need.
As Mrs. Mullen says, we have all sorts of programs, training, but we don’t have a place to find them all! And we need time to recover.
They want time to explore and understand what is happening to them … and the patience and understanding of loved ones, friends and the system itself.
We need to reach out to each other. We need to keep talking to each other. Recently, a friend of mine decided to “go dark” as she dealt with some stuff. We made sure she was ok, safe and that she knew we were there. Did we hover? Maybe. Did we think she was suicidal? No. But did we want to make sure she knew we were there if she needed us? Yes. That’s the difference.
I talked to my husband about Jessica’s letter on her blog. When he read it, he remarked that the symptoms seemed like those he had heard to watch out for during all his training – the infamous “don’t kill your self, don’t kick the wife or the dog” when you reintegrate training and the new resiliency training. Since we aren’t (for another few days) in a unit that conducts resiliency training for families – I’m going to go find some at ACS.
I for one, would rather be a pest – I’d rather you hate me for being a pain in the ass – because you have to be alive to hate me. That’s what I care about. That you are alive.