I woke up on Homecoming day looking like a member of the cast of Veggie Tales—and not the asparagus character. I gained 15 pounds during deployment. I stopped people on the street to tell them I had no idea how that happened. I told myself that maybe I had an uncharted disease. I swore I suffered delayed pregnancy and any minute I was bound to go into labor and deliver a fourth child named Felix.
That did not happen. Instead, I had to face the fact that the coping portion of that particular deployment was written in food. Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food and God would describe this kind of mindless food behavior as ‘going numb.’ Going numb is what you do just this side of depression. Going numb is needing a three hour nap every Sunday afternoon of deployment. Going numb is buying four bags of chips in a week and wondering where they go. Going numb is what you do when too much is going on--too fast, too intense, too frustrating, too scary, too nerve-wracking, too much. Going numb during deployment wasn’t something I actively pursued, it was what I did when I was stressed out and on autopilot.
I wonder if going a little bit numb isn’t what actually gets us through the particularly rough bits of deployment. On a sugar high, I tell myself, the loneliness ain’t so bad!! Yet I cringe even as I write that. I know that isn’t a good way to think. That isn’t an effective Deploy Mentality. That, my friends, is 15 pounds climbing aboard.
Geneen Roth would probably say that a good Deploy Mentality skill would be to pick up the bag of Doritos and ask: Am I hungry? If the answer is no, the next question would be: What is it is that I really want?
The next answer would be: I want my husband. I want the edge of being constantly lonely for him to be shaved off. I want to be able to take care of these kids and this house and that job without being so tired all the time. I want the deployment to be over.
Food will not actually fix the deployment problem. The only way to lose weight during deployment is by learning how to soothe yourself in another way—and by soothe I do not mean “open a bottle of wine.” By soothe I mean that we have to see that going numb might be a way to cope, but it isn’t the best way or even the most effective way. Instead, we've gotta learn to feel what we feel. To let that wash over us. To let ourselves be done with it.
Which is a whole lot easier to write than it is to do, isn’t it?
Navy wife Jacey Eckhart is Editor of SpouseBuzz and author of I Married a Spartan?? The Care and Feeding of Your Military Marriage available on iTunes and on www.jaceyeckhart.com.