Military spouses (and kids and service members, for that matter) are taught to do more with less. We’re conditioned to hurry up and wait. We’re trained to sway with each disappointment, changed plan or separation that blows our direction. We handle it all because we’re made of the most resilient stuff on the planet, and frankly, because we must.
Somewhat unintentionally, I’ve made a career of laughing off all the ridiculous things military spouses encounter on this wild ride. A little newspaper column in New Bern, North Carolina, that started as “something to do” at our first duty station when I couldn’t find a job before the start of the school year turned into my becoming a blogger. But it is my unfortunate privilege to now know that not every aspect of military life is punchline material. Sometimes sarcasm and snark can’t fix it, and we just can’t handle it on our own no matter how much we think we can. Luckily, we don’t always have to handle things ourselves.
Sources of support for military spouses and kids:
- Each other. The people around us at our installations know better than anyone what we’re going through, even if they’ve never been in our exact position. Ideally, we have “our person” at each duty station. If you don’t – maybe a sour PCS is the thing you are having trouble coping with – remember you can always lean on your person from the last duty station.
- Spouse clubs. These organizations are headed by volunteers who have stepped up to help. Having a rough start to parenthood? Accept their offer for a meal train. Personally, I’ve offered to come over and hold newborns so a new mom can sleep, or take a shower or run an errand solo. Take people and organizations up on offers! They wouldn’t offer help if they weren’t willing to give it.
- Nonprofits and private organizations. Aboard most installations (or nearby), you’ll find resources like the American Red Cross and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society that aren’t Department of Defense-affiliated but exist (at least in part) to support military families. The Red Cross can help with messaging deployed service members and can also help coordinate getting service members home in the case of a family emergency, like the birth of a baby, or if an immediate family member is critically ill or dying. If finances are a source of stress, the Relief Society can help with budgeting. They can also provide financial assistance. Nonprofits and private organizations can be very targeted, so chances are you can find support specific to your needs, whether your stressor is grief, addiction, financial crisis, baby blues, child-related issues or something else.
- Non-medical counseling. If you want to talk to a mental health professional, you have some options. You can choose to see a military and family life counselor face to face. In-person may be the most impactful, but if you live in a small military community, it may not be as appealing for fear of bumping into your counselor at the commissary. So, you can also choose to talk to someone over the phone or through a secure chat. Military OneSource provides both options, and offers specialized conversations based on your specific needs. Your comfort with whatever arrangement you seek is vital. If you aren’t 100% comfortable, you won’t get out of it what you need.
- Medical attention. If you suspect you have the flu, you don’t hesitate to call the clinic and make the first available appointment. But for some reason, seeking treatment for mental health has a stigma. Just because the symptoms of stress aren’t always physical doesn’t mean they don’t warrant a trip to the doctor. If the other options on this list aren’t improving your stress level or symptoms, or if you’ve thought of harming yourself or others, don’t delay medical help.
For those times when it’s just too much, you have resources in your corner. The only catch to accessing help, though, is realizing the toughest truth for military spouses: We can’t always be the helper; we must accept help sometimes. So, knowing yourself the way that you do, you know when you’re facing something too big to power through on your own.