It felt tight, so tight. No, not the outfit I was wearing. My chest was constricting with every breath I took.

Just putting on a nice outfit for an afternoon of wine tasting with my dearest friends was sending me into a full-blown panic attack. Except I didn’t understand that my experience was a panic attack. I wrote it off as just being overly sensitive or judgey.

I was anxious to wear just the right thing. Not too dressy, not too casual. Something that fit me well, that screamed “I’m a fun friend” without losing the flirty vibes I wanted to send to my spouse.

After at least ten outfit changes, my husband was pacing at the bottom of the stairs, asking repeatedly if I was ready yet. But I wasn’t. Every glance at his watch or check of his phone just ramped up my sense of overwhelming indecisiveness.

I wish I knew then what I know now.

For every military spouse who battles anxiety

I felt so alone in my lack of decision-making capabilities. Sometimes, I still do. Asking me to pick a place for dinner often sends my brain into overdrive.

“What if I pick the wrong place?”

“What if it costs too much?”

“I bet it’s not child-friendly.”

When I need to make decisions professionally, at a place where I am not the boss, is fine. I’ve never once fretted about whether I should or shouldn’t give a pop quiz as a teacher. Sharing professional opinions in staff meetings? No sweat!

It’s a different story when it comes to my own life and even small choices. Even a seemingly little thing can send me right back into full-on panic.

I agonized for months about whether stepping back from teaching to spend more time with my kids was the right choice. Countless nights found me tossing and turning, mulling over the pro’s and con’s in the wee hours. Let me tell you, no good thinking happens at 3 a.m.

It feels so lonely to be anxious about something, anything when everyone else seems to be handling life just fine.

We’re not alone.

I have met dozens of military spouses with anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns over the last decade. We are out there!

Actually, it’s almost a relief to find out that a new friend also faces similar battles to mine. It means I have one less thing to hide, and one less person that I need to be “okay” in front of.

Instead of putting on my happy-rosy face, I can share my latest panic attack (it was a flat tire in a more remote location) or bond over ways to calm the tension. Through a friend with anxiety, I’ve started exploring ways to calm my nervous tics and channel my energy more productively.

There are people who can help.

One of the best resources a fellow military spouse shared with me was the Military Family Life Counselor (MFLC). If you’ve got a problem that needs confidential help, call your local MFLC. Seriously, please do it.

They don’t take notes, ever. Nothing is recorded at all. And they rotate frequently to avoid awkward commissary interactions.

Best of all, they are all licensed therapists who can offer a range of helpful solutions to many personal, professional and mental health concerns.

My MFLC helped me to create self-care routines. cheered me on as I started exploring different professional opportunities and reminded me that I am more than a wife or a mother. I can confidently say that this one person helped to prevent a second bout of postpartum depression. That in and of itself is wonderful.

If you prefer more official channels, military and civilian therapists are available around the world. Through in-person consults or even apps, you can connect with a therapist or other provider to address your concerns.

Choose hope.

That day, standing in front of the mirror, feels a million years ago and also like just yesterday. In the end, it really didn’t matter what I wore. Logically, I knew that even at the time.

But that logical thinking is hard to do when your brain is in overdrive and panicking.

Now, it helps to remind myself that mistakes happen to everyone. Everything is mostly fixable, too. This too shall pass and it will be okay in the end.

I practice self-care routines. I almost never miss the chance to exercise and I take time every day to be by myself. I’m still working on getting out of my bubble, but that’s okay.

I’m a military spouse who battles anxiety and who has survived postpartum depression. And I’m not alone.

If you need help with your mental health concerns, please contact an MFLC, Military One Source or your PCM for advice.



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