Deployment Anxiety: The Crippling Fear of the Doorbell

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Deployment anxiety is the hardest part of military life as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t know a single spouse who doesn’t suffer from it at some point.  For some it’s worrisome, for others it can be down right crippling.  Sometimes anxiety about another issue is exacerbated by the deployment.  Over all, deployments suck.

My First Run in with Deployment Anxiety

My husband proposed to me over Thanksgiving.  We’d been together for 4 years and living together for 3… It wasn’t really a surprise to anyone.  That same weekend I purchased my wedding gown and my parents put down a deposit on our venue for the following July.  I had 8 months to plan my wedding.  So I had a little stress to begin with.

In February, my then fiance told me that he’d applied to join an elite unit.  While he thought he may be a good candidate, he stressed to me that it was a highly selective process and they may only accept a handful of officers out of hundreds of applicants.  As far as Army life goes, you don’t worry about something until it happens.  So I didn’t waste another thought on it, I had a reception menu to plan after all!

Then Came March

Mr. CrazyMilspouse came home with the most sheepish look on his face.  When I asked him what was up he broke out into a huge grin.  He got selected for the elite unit and after a 3 week evaluation, he’d get to don that coveted tan beret.  I was over the moon for him!  Oh but there was a catch…  He left for that 3 week evaluation in 2 days.  At the end of the 3 weeks we’d have to move to Fort Lewis… And he’d deploy the first week of June.

So no wedding in July.  I now had to move our entire wedding to the last weekend in April.  3 weeks.  That’s all I had.  We married in a courthouse so that I could be on his PCS orders and deployment orders that had to be cut before our actual wedding.  I cried on the phone with the design house that made my couture gown.  I agreed to an outdoor cocktail hour with no rain contingency in order to get the date I needed.  The job got done, but it was stressful.

Deployment Anxiety

That’s When the Nightmares Started

I woke up with sweating palms and a racing heart.  I kept telling myself that I was overwhelmed.  In a matter of 3 weeks we purchased a flatbed trailer, a car, had 2 weddings, packed everything we owned and we drove from Watertown, NY to Tacoma, WA.

The stress didn’t end once we got to Fort Lewis.  I had the first of my many miscarriages while we waited for housing the week before the deployment.

The Doorbell Made Me Want to Throw Up

Once he left, the most banal item in our home became terrifying.  I didn’t know anyone yet and I wasn’t working so there wasn’t a valid reason for my doorbell to ring.  It crippled me when it rang.  Counting to 3 before standing up.  I tried to glance out the window to see if I could see a Tahoe or a Crown Vic parked out front.  I said a little prayer before turning the doorknob.

You see, my worst fear was a casualty notification delivered by 2 soldiers in their dress uniforms driving a government vehicle.  My worries had grown from anxiety to full on paranoia.

Deployment Anxiety Changes but Never Disappears

Mr. CrazyMilspouse deployed many times since then.  My pre open the door ritual is still the same.  I just do it while quietly asking the kids to play in their room.  When I gave birth to my son, Robert, the hubs was away.  The doorbell ringing then became about him never getting the chance to meet his father.

I’ve learned that in some ways deployment anxiety is my way of funneling a whole mess of emotions into one definable issue.  I’ve planned a wedding, been pregnant twice, delivered a baby, planned a move, purchased homes, and sold cars… all while my husband was overseas.  I always have a lot on my plate.  My psyche protects itself by focusing on one humongous emotion instead of allowing myself to feel like all the walls cave in.  It’s my own crazy coping mechanism.

So cheers to all the spouses out there with their phone in the shower with them, who cry during all the wrong parts of a Cheerios commercial and have way too much on their plates.  Homecoming is just around the corner!

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24 thoughts on “Deployment Anxiety: The Crippling Fear of the Doorbell

  1. We’re going through our first deployment right now, and went through a VERY similar situation. Our wedding was planned for June of 2018, we found out he was deploying just after i put the deposit down (August). We then planned a whole wedding for October and he left in april. We did it, but it didn’t fully settle until months later!

    1. It’s so amazing how quickly everything changes!! We had a wedding, a PCS, and a deployment all in the matter of a few weeks. It’s hard enough to settle after a PCS let alone with a deployed spouse.

  2. This is so overwhelming, I have tears as I read your post. It is such a big sacrifice that each one of the military families go through. My dad was in the army, but there was no war during that time. Thank you to your family for your service.

  3. We live in a military town, and all the military wives that I’ve become friends with, have gone through this and talked to me about it. I cannot even begin to imagine the anxiety one must feel leading up to deployment.

  4. Definitely hits home. When James deployed to Afghanistan I frequently had that fear of someone showing up at our door step in their dress uniform and chaplain like they do on Saving Private Ryan. We’ve had a “normal” duty station here because he is on station orders but I’m afraid once we move up to NC that he will deploy again. Thank you for sharing these emotions!

  5. Oh girl!!! Your heart. To open up and share all of your experience…. Thank you. I’m getting ready to land in TDY land and then deployments sometime next year. I’ll be bookmarking this.

  6. I had no idea about deployment anxiety. This is so sad! I am so happy that you learned to overcome it though!

  7. I would be so paranoid about the doorbell as well! I can only imagine what it is like during a deployment. The days must feel so long. Just remember you are a strong person! I thank you for the sacrifice your whole family is making too. I worked for a military nonprofit, and while I’m not a military spouse, I know enough to know that being a spouse is hard work too! 🙂

  8. I WOULD WANT TO THROW UP TOO!! I would actually probably disable the door bell. It would give me nightmares every second of every single day. Oh my goodness, I can’t even imagine. I really can’t. I get anxiety when I don’t hear from my husband after a weird amount of time (because I know when he is going to call me all the time)… Gah! I feel for these women, and commend them for their strength!

  9. I feel for you! I suffer from anxiety but a different kind and I really admire your ability to keep strong. I think that the key strength. I take long walk to relieve stress when I can. It really helps but need to make time.
    Maria

  10. I can not even imagine the stress of the wedding planning and then to have it all turned upside down like this. Good for you for managing it. The doorbell fear is something I can’t imagine.

  11. I can’t even imagine this. I used to have nightmares of my husband being in car accidents when I was pregnant, but that was the closest I’ve been. I remember watching a movie about military wives and the feeling when they would come to the door so the CO’s wife took over the job. I don’t remember what movie, but the feeling was crippling just watching it.
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  12. This is overwhelming… You are an amazing spouse and should be proud of yourself! It sounds so hard to have to do everything on your own. I’m glad the wedding turned out fine at the end! Congrats to your husband for getting accepted to the unit he wanted, even though it was a long time ago 🙂

  13. Wow I couldn’t imagine living with this kind of fear, I struggle enough with my partners work and the pressures it puts on him plus living so far from my family. I admire your strength – both to deal with it and speak so frankly about it here <3

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