A lot has changed since this time last year. The two most outwardly changes are that JD is home and we're living somewhere else. The less outwardly, but equally important change, is that our daughter seems to be back to "normal". JD's last deployment was rough on our third oldest (#3) and her already emotional, fairly dramatic, and willful personality. Ultimately, because it was rough on her, it was rough on me.
We've all dealt with the questions from our civilian friends and family regarding how we manage when our spouse is deployed. I'm sure many of you have also had the same asked regarding your children. People asked me all the time and I'd always been able to answer that they were coping pretty darn well. That all changed last year.
JD left in December 2006 and the kids all seemed to be handling his departure really well. They were sad, but not torn up. Nearly three years had passed since he had returned from his last deployment and they were older and more aware now, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Everything moved along for the first several months, but by the end of the school year, #3 was having a tough time dealing with her dad being gone.
She would cry and say she missed Daddy. I always tried to be understanding and let her know that we all missed him and that he missed us terribly, also. However, I never wanted to give this sadness too much credence. There were times I truly thought her crying was just a way to get attention or divert attention from other situations. It wasn't until she started acting out defiantly that I began to realize she might need some help.
We made our way through the summer, but it was trying. The kids and I headed home to Iowa for the entire month of July and it was there that my mom and mother-in-law were able to witness #3's behavior firsthand. She wasn't just giving me a hard time, she was talking back and ignoring their requests, too. It was frustrating and, to be honest, embarrassing. In August, JD came home on R&R and there was a bit of a reprieve, but as soon as he left, she started acting out again.
With the help of my mother and a couple of close friends, I finally found it in me to call Military OneSource and ask for help. It was during that initial phone call that all of the stress and frustration hit me. I was crying (and apologizing for crying) while telling some stranger on the other end of the line that I couldn't do this alone anymore. I don't think I'd even cried to my mom at this point and it took me by surprise. I believe, though, that it was at this particular moment when I realized I'd done the right thing. I needed help and was asking for it. I actually felt stronger in doing so.
Military OneSource, although able to help, referred me to Tricare. It was explained to me that due to #3's age I would probably want a child psychologist (something MOS couldn't guarantee for me) and by going through Tricare, I would be assured of that. I immediately placed the call to Tricare and by the end of the day had a doctor and an appointment scheduled.
For me, I think that making that call was so hard because I felt humiliated, like a failure. I'm not one who usually has to ask for help, I think I can handle most anything. How could this be happening to me? Ultimately, it wasn't happening to me. It was happening to #3 and once I realized that, I was able to get her the care she needed. For us, it was a good experience and, if necessary, I know I'd do it again.
How many of you have had experience in this area? Did your child act out or shut down? Did you push through it alone, with the help of friends/family, or did you turn to a professional for help? I'd like to hear how others have handled similar situations and I'm certain there are others who would, too.