A common viewpoint in the African American community is that we absolutely do not go to therapy. We go to church or to the mosque and read our holy books to get us through tough times, but we do not go talk to some stranger to help us with our personal problems. Culturally, it is frowned upon and looked at as a way “other people” get through their problems. I am proud to say that I break this stereotype.
My first time seeing a counselor was when I returned home from Iraq and it was a pleasant experience, but I only went once. I was still under the idea that this just wasn’t what strong Black women did. That idea changed when my husband suggested I see someone before we moved to California. I had major anxiety about moving back to my home state, considering that I had been gone over 10 years and had visited maybe 3 times.
The experience that I had with the therapist in N. Carolina was a positive one. He got me to see that my anxiety was from the relationship I had with my father and that the relationship needed to end. At that moment in time, my father was calling about 16 times a day and when I would not answer he would call back to back and leave messages. He was still trying to control my life. Before we left N. Carolina, I struggled with having to live so close to my father because I knew in my heart that I didn’t want my children to be around him, so this therapist helped me reach what was really bothering me and told me that I needed to heal from all the abuse from my father before I even began to try to have a healthy relationship with him. I left N. Carolina feeling awesome and knowing this was the right thing to do, but after I got here, the guilt set in.
It is unnatural to cut communication with a parent, even a parent who has a personality disorder. The guilt was eating me up, so I decided to see a counselor here in California and she was awesome. She was a veteran. Her husband was deployed to Afghanistan and we had similar backgrounds in regards to abuse and religion. She helped me let go of the guilt, but just when we were making some great strides, her husband got orders moving them to the Carolinas and I was left to have to meet and open up to a new therapist.
I met the new therapist today and I don’t like her. I didn’t realize that I didn’t like her until I left her office. I don’t think she is doing anything wrong, but she is from a different time. Apparently, I have some emotional disconnect, which I would have to agree with, but that’s kind of what happens when you’ve been through some traumatic things and would explain why I’m sitting on her couch to begin with. [Full disclosure: I don’t share this blog with my husband. I don’t share my Instagram, workouts or yoga with him. I have in some ways cut him out of my life by not sharing these things. It is a defense mechanism and it is also just being a stay at-home mom and wanting to have something to myself that doesn’t include the kids or him.] The therapist told me that I should look at things from my husband’s point of view and the fact that I am preparing myself to live a life without him is not fair. I agree with her, but I could have done without the judgement. I don’t ever want to live a life without my husband, but the Army makes it very clear sometimes that I don’t have a choice. I am not consciously preparing to live life without him, but what I am doing is getting a life that does not include me being sad all of the time because he is gone. I do not live in fairytale land. I know that my husband will come home different and I need to be able to carry on until he mentally returns. Am I shutting him out because I don’t want to miss him. Yes. Am I keeping a slice of my life separate from him because a whole chunk of his life does not include me right now, absolutely. Is it right? I don’t think so, but this is my 3rd deployment and I learned the last time that if I don’t have something that I hold dear to myself when he returns that does not include him then my world seems like its crashing down. The scariest part about all of this deployment crap is that when they return, you don’t get them back completely, which means you have to adapt to a whole new person and you don’t even know why. It’s hard, but because I have experienced it, I completely understand.
The therapist asked me, if my husband came back with severe PTSD or angry and downright nasty, would I stick by his side? I told her that I probably would not and the reason being my children. She then gave me examples of women who she works with who have been married to war veterans for over 40 years and they have just had to learn to deal with these men the way they are. I reminded her that my husband and I are a dual military couple. I served just as he did and I have taken the steps to get myself together. If he cannot make an effort to keep our home peaceful, then as my children’s mother, it is my responsibility to remove them and myself from a toxic environment and that is when she told me that I had some emotional detachment and we needed to work on it. I don’t agree with her, but I will go back and see what she has to say.
I know that I am not always right and that’s why I go to see a counselor. I sometimes relate my past experiences to my present and that is not good, but I genuinely love my husband. He is a good man. He is an awesome father. The way he is with our children has healed me in ways that I can’t begin to articulate. He really is my dream come true. I couldn’t imagine being with someone else. I don’t think about us not making it. In my heart, I feel that we will be together forever, but my life goal is to provide a home for these souls we created that is safe, free of chaos and loving. Am I wrong for that? Are military wives supposed to be martyrs? Did I miss that lesson or am I really just emotionally detached? Hmm…