The Other Big “D”: Not Deployment … Depression

Depression is one of those things people don’t really talk about, but it often rears it’s ugly head during deployment.

deployment and depression

Whether it’s brought on by stress or by worry, depression is a very real and very serious illness. Whether mild, moderate or severe, it takes it’s toll on you and your family. It affects your life at home and at work.

I was diagnosed with depression 7 years ago, and while I’ve been medication-free for almost 4 years, it’s still something I battle every single day.

Here are 5 tips for coping with depression during a deployment (or anytime): **Disclaimer: Please talk with a health care provider if you feel you may have depression or any other mental or physical illness. **

Ask for help - Taking medication does NOT make you weak. It makes you smart. It took me almost a year of feeling “off” before approaching my doctor about it. Don’t wait. The sooner you figure out what’s going on, the sooner you can fix it. I cannot stress it enough – seek out help if you are feeling “off” at ALL.

Know your symptoms - For me, excessive sleeping and fatigue were my symptoms. I knew when I started to get the “I don’t want to get out of bed” feeling that I needed to do something quick.

Know what works for YOU - I didn’t mind the medication at first. After a few years I got to thinking about how I didn’t want this to be something I had to take FOREVER when I knew that there were ways to control my depression naturally. So, I started playing with my diet and exercise. Experiment. Try new activities. See what works for YOU.

Have a support network - Surround yourself with people who care about you and know your symptoms. Let them know what to look out for – in my case, it was cancelled plans, excessive complaining, fatigue and mood swings. Sometimes, they’re the first ones to notice when you start to slip. And they can be the best at helping you get back on track.

Stay positive - This can be hard – especially when also dealing with deployment. But, you can get through it. Staying positive and looking for the positive in things is one of the most simple, yet difficult, things to do. Keep a gratitude journal to remind you of all that is good in your life.

Depression is not a death sentence. You can manage it, but you have to be willing to let others help. If you think you’re suffering from depression, please reach out to someone.

23 comments

  1. Kristin Kraabel says:

    Ugg. My problem is my depression/anxiety is better when exercising (exercising and sunlight are my medication) but my signs are sleep (need 8-10) so the first month is a struggle of less sleep (at most 6) to exercise. I naturally need more sleep anyways. It is so much easier when the husband is there and says get up you WILL feel better if you get up. Alas with just the body pillow he says stay in bed, you need sleep. The battle ensues.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Kristin, YES! Oh gosh, you and I are one in the same. Exercise and sunlight are crucial! If you ever need, I’d be happy to prod you & remind you that you’ll feel better once you get up! :)

  2. Laurie says:

    Great info! Many spouses face depressions during deployments (or other times) and due to the stigma often associated with it are reluctant to get help. Love that you’ve put some positive and encouraging information out for spouses who may be dealing with these issues!

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Thanks Laurie! Yes, even as spouses and significant others, we’re expected to “suck it up” and “just deal” – which is SO SAD! People seem to think we’re superhuman and shouldn’t be fazed by things, and that’s just not right. I’m hoping that people start to take a stand and share their stories of struggles and overcoming obstacles to show others that it’s GOOD to ask for help! And I think we all need more positivity and encouragement :)

  3. Army Amy
    Twitter: mrsarmyamy
    says:

    I’m glad you are willing to talk about this – there’s still a big stigma around depression in our country. I would add the tip to use the resources you have available. If you are in the military or a family member, you can see a chaplain, visit MFLAC (which I’ve done). Even at my civilian job, my company offered confidential, free access to mental health professionals.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Amy, YES! That’s a great list of people to contact. Thank you! But, even if you don’t know WHO to contact, telling ANYONE is better than nothing. My hope is they would be able to help you find someone who can help in a more professional capacity. :)

  4. erika (@chambanachik) says:

    I have struggled with it my whole life, and it’s definitely a challenge sometimes when my husband is gone.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Erika, Thank you for your comment! It is definitely a struggle some days – especially when they are gone. Feel free to contact me ANYTIME if you need to talk!

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Thanks Lauren! It’s something that holds a stigma, but really shouldn’t. I think most of the population has felt the effects of depression to some degree at one time in their lives. It certainly doesn’t discriminate! :)

  5. Kristen
    Twitter: klsmithcreative
    says:

    Being aware and deliberate with mental health is so incredibly vital, and an area of such struggle for the military community. The emergence of so much compassion fatigue is something that we simply have to address and take steps to handle. Good for you for being willing to be open about your own struggles and reaching out to others who might be struggling.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Thanks Kristen! Yes, this is definitely something we must be aware of and willing to address. I appreciate your kind comments!

  6. Michiko says:

    Oh, I don’t know how I missed this post. My mom deals with depression, so I know it’s something I have to watch out for. There are definitely days where I feel “out of it” and I’m completely unmotivated to do anything. I just want to lay on the couch and stare into space. But I recognize those times and know that exercise WILL make me feel better. I have to push really hard to walk outside or on the treadmill and I tell myself, “Just do it for 10 minutes.” Next thing you know, it’s been 20 and I feel a lot better.

    Important post topic – thanks for putting yourself out there.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Thank you Michiko! Yes, I too have to tell myself “just 10 minutes” … it’s amazing what a little exercise can do for you. It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good handle on things and know what to look out for – that’s half the battle!

  7. Lindsey says:

    I can relate so much. I went off my meds over a year ago and have been dealing with it through exercise and other stuff. We are getting ready for our first deployment and I worry how well I will do. Getting my feelings out and relating to others helps a lot, I have been trying to be brave in my new blog, http://outwiththebadinwiththegood.blogspot.com/

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Lindsey, Love the blog name! Definitely let me know if there’s any way I can support you during your deployment (or anytime!) We’re strong, but we’re stronger together!

      • Lindsey says:

        Thanks I am hoping to be able to figure it all out and I am way excited to find this blog! The last time he was gone (basic) I was pregnant and on bed rest and sank into a deep depression. I have so many more resources now and have a much better handle on things so hopefully it will go better!

  8. Amy Jane says:

    Thanks so much for writing about this!

    My husband isn’t in the military, but he has traveled extensively for his job and it’s definitely increased the challenge with managing my depression. And YES! Reaching out is so important.

    But so hard. When I’m at my lowest I sort of see pulling people “under” with me, and I spend a lot of energy debating over whether someone (I want to talk to) is strong (or safe!) enough for my to show my brokenness to.

    • Jessica
      Twitter: Deploymentdivas
      says:

      Hi Amy,

      thanks for your comment! I agree, it’s very hard and I, too, have spent a lot of time worrying about whether I should reach out to anyone or not. I think that’s why it’s so important to reach out to those people during the good days and says “hey, so, I’ve got this thing going on and some days are really hard for me. Can I count on you to be there for me if I need it? It would really help me to know that I have someone I can talk to who won’t judge.” Or reach out to a professional during those times of need.

      Just remember, if you’re struggling to reach out to someone, others probably are too. Maybe reaching out to others who may be struggling, too, would help you to reach out when you need it.

      Hugs!

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