Thursday, October 2, 2014

An Unpleasant Diagnosis

If I were a different type of woman (genteel, wealthy, childless), living in a different place (the South) and time (decades past), I would collapse on my fainting chair, fan myself with something lacy, with the back of my hand dramatically pressed against my forehead in a forlorn manner.  Those who tend me would summon the doctor, who’d arrive tout de suite, carrying his leather satchel. He’d check my pulse, look in my bloodshot eyes, and know my situation was precarious.

The doctor’s interview with me would reveal the telltale symptoms: expiration-date-induced palpitations (heretofore known as EDIPs) and grocery store melancholia (GSM). Also present would be the cast of supporting symptoms: irritation, jaw clenching, sleeplessness, excessive use of foul language, and feelings of hopelessness, despair and anger.  By themselves, the lesser symptoms could be anything but, when presented with the very unique EDIPs and GSM, they can only mean one thing: a diagnosis of Imminent Deployment of a Loved One Syndrome.

For those who have had the good fortune of never having been afflicted with IDLOS, please take a brief moment and be grateful for the people who do what they do so that others don’t have to. And if a reader is curious as to what, exactly, EDIPs and GSM are...EDIPs frequently goes hand-in-hand with GSM, which causes the unpleasant situation of doing more crying in grocery stores than in any other location. Technically speaking, expiration-date-induced palpitations is the chest tightening that occurs when you realize the coffee creamer/oil in your car/library book will be in your immediate life for a longer duration than your spouse. Grocery store melancholia comes in many forms, one being EDIPs, others of which include: the mere sight of boxes of cake mix and holiday candy displays, which remind you of all the birthdays and holidays that will be missed during a deployment; the sight of new products and favorite products rendering you heart-broken by the thought of not being able to share that product with the person who’s deployed; running into someone who asks how everything is going while you suppress the urge to shout, “NO ONE SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS….IT’S JUST NOT NATURAL! MY KIDS NEED THEIR DAD!!” While these are some of the most common triggers of GSM, the triggers come in many forms, and I never cease to be amazed at the many ways the grocery store can reduce me to tears.

If I were that other woman, the doctor would make sure that people were quiet around me, doing nothing to increase my fragility, and I’d get to stay in bed for as long as necessary until my constitution strengthened. I’d ask for something to “settle my nerves,” and the doctor would take pity on me and prescribe a heavy sedative for several months, and he’d tell me it would be all right and that he’d wake me when it was all over. I’d reply, “Thank you kaaahhhhndly, sir,” and I’d wake up months later, and it would, indeed, be over.

I wish I were that woman. Her indifferent sedation would be a much-preferred experience to the one we will have in our house…the one with little kids crying because they miss their dad and it’s been so long since they’ve seen him, the one with the what-if worries, the one with heartache and exhaustion and stress and crappy, canned dinners and homework to do and grass to be mowed and snow to be shoveled and sports schedules to be juggled and Christmas trees to be fought with and holidays to be conquered and a sense of “normalcy” to be created/maintained and a life to be lead with no rest in sight. Sedation…if only.

Of course, all that stuff I just listed also sounds like my “normal,” every day life. Five days out of seven, I largely manage as a single parent. I was independent before I married Mike and these many years of being an Army spouse has made excellent use of that as Mike has worked crazy hours in demanding jobs and gone on long deployments and shorter trips to stateside locations. If there’s a bright side (and don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying there is a bright side), it’s that I’ve done this before. I’ve managed to keep the kids and myself alive and relatively safe and sane for two deployments, which (I think) means that the odds are in my favor that we will probably make it again. I hope. I think. Just maybe.

Another symptom of IDLOS is constant doubt. About everything, but specifically about one’s ability to manage as a single parent while still maintaining some version of sanity at the end of the day. Maybe this is just a symptom of parenting, or living, but it is exaggerated during a deployment, as I will question absolutely everything, wondering if I am being a good-enough parent, a supportive-enough wife, if I am properly maintaining myself, as I wonder what’s the point of all of this (pontificating war and peace and politics, etc) and whether our kids and family will come out of all this damaged at the end.  

For the record, none of these acronyms can be found in the latest DSM book (although they probably should be). Though every word I’ve written is true, I’m fairly sure EDIPs and GSM, as well as IDLOS, are only creations in my own mind. I am not actually qualified to diagnose anything, despite all the time I spend on the internet diagnosing various ailments (if you think you have lupus, check with me…I’m a resident expert). Despite my lack of accredited expertise, I can confirm that there is a cure for IDLOS, as well as most other afflictions: time. Usually lots and lots of time. This, too, shall pass…with enough time. This is where that sedation would come in handy.