10 Sep

I like to view this year as an experiment.  I’m doing trials on separation, travel, motherhood, single-motherhood, long-distance love, living with family, packing a car, and lonesomeness.  Most of these were predictable from the first time I learned we would face this deployment (Valentine’s day, 2010).  I was even able to anticipate some of the side-effects.  For instance, I realized that I would learn to live “normally” without my husband; I would get used to him being gone, essentially.  I knew I would become homesick for my own territory.  I knew Young G would develop cognitively with an awareness that we travel often and live without Daddy.

One of the side effects of this year has begun to intrigue me, because I never expected it: paranoia.

I’m not a person who has dealt with paranoia in the past. In fact, it’s sort of a pet peeve.  I get very uncomfortable around people who speculate.  Ask, “what if?” Try to see the future.  Build faiths on prehistory.  Won’t hear two sides to a story.  Insist they have all the evidence to diagnose everything.  These people make me uncomfortable to the point of becoming angry.  Instead, I constantly, continuously attempt to offer a counter-point, or the other-side-of-the-story.  There are always two sides.  The trouble with paranoid people is they either (a) Don’t talk to other people about their fear, or they (b) Preach their paranoia.  I guess these two things go hand-in-hand.  There are far too many people in this world for anyone to draw a conclusion without getting some feedback first.  I shouldn’t get started on people who think their issues are unique…

“I know exactly what he’s thinking,” is a line that drives me insane.  NO YOU DON’T! You don’t *know*. You speculate.

The paranoia began before the HD ever left.  I missed a birth-control pill, or was a few hours late taking it.  Regardless, I convinced myself I was pregnant.  I refused to mention it because I feared that to speak it might make it truer.  Nothing could be worse, I thought, than being pregnant right then.  It would mean pregnancy all alone.  It would also mean the HD would have to either miss his brother’s wedding, or his child’s birth (and I believe in husband-coached childbirth).  It also would mean that we’d have TWO Christmas babies!  Furthermore, this baby would be four months old before having a daddy around.  Time would tell, I reasoned, and I could deal with the truth later.

I had made a snap judgement.  My brain almost instantaneously concluded I was pregnant based on missed pills, an erratic period, and a change in my mood.  Eventually I noticed other symptoms. I felt I was gaining weight.  I perceived that I was eating more, and perhaps only specific foods.  Was I craving it?  Then the sleep.  Oh LORD!  All I wanted to do was sleep.  Finally my mother asked me, do you think you’re pregnant?

The fragile reality I had constructed began to crack when she asked me this, because it finally brought my irrational fear out into the open.  Honestly I conceded: maybe.  She was excited, and kept asking me to take a test.  Her excitement horrified me more.  Maybe her feelings of elation were somehow evidence I had truly conceived.  She *is* my mother, after all.  Fortunately, though, it helped me that the issue was “out there”.  Since I am the kind of person who believes we ought not shoulder life’s waves of problems alone (because someone else has already been here, done this, and I can avoid their mistakes), I mentioned my fear to a group of friends who were also military wives. I don’t recall exactly what I told them, but their response was a casual, “Oh, have you convinced yourself you’re pregnant?  That always happens before a deployment!  Just take a test.”

Surely enough, I took the test, it came back negative, I started my period the *next* day, and I’ve been able to drink beer all year.

I wish I could say the paranoia stopped there, but it hasn’t.  The dark panic that sets in from lies being whispered in your ear is a sign that the words truly are lies.  The panic is exactly what I felt when smoking pot that one time.  So I conclude it can’t be reality.  The very nature of the panic indicates it is NOT reality.  Unfortunately, this does not prevent the panic from occurring, though it can lessen it — shorten its duration — once it sets in.

My dreams vividly portray the HD cheating on me.  I wake up in a sweat, and my nightmare voice whispers gently, “it’s not unlikely…”  The nightmare produced an entire scenario between him and another soldier, and the possibility increases.  It’s not like he’d be the first man to do this.  Would I even actually know?  He is trained to tell me nothing when we talk, so what’s one more thing to not tell me?  This is a long road for him.  Days and nights start to all look the same in that dusty, colorless world.  It makes me sick to my stomach.  Even in my nightmare I start thinking, I have to leave him now.  I love him so much… and now he’s never coming home to me… because I have to be strong.

Another nightmare brings him home, but he’s different.  He’s very changed.  He hits me.  This isn’t okay!  People counsel me gently that I must expect him to be violent after all he’s been through.  Maybe that gentle counsel is the same voice that whispers every other lie.  Hmmmm.  When I wake up I know he would never hit me, but he must be changed.  Of course he is.  Nothing can be un-seen.  This year is now a permanent thread woven into the tapestry of his life.  Thread? Who am I kidding.  It’s an entire scene woven into his tapestry.  HUGE.  He’s in a goddam war.  You’ll be lucky if even likes living with you when he gets back, much less enjoys the same things he used to.  By the end of this mind-fuck I’m convinced we’ll never sip wine — hand-in-hand — at another art gallery again.  His Fridays will be spent cleaning a gun while hanging upside down, blindfolded.  Never-mind that he’s a dentist and doesn’t even do that now…

Yesterday my most recent paranoia surged upon me, in wakefulness again this time, instead of sleep.  He won’t find you attractive, I heard.  (Now, as I write this, it is obvious how ridiculous a lie that is!)  I stood undressed before the mirror and saw my soft stomach.  It does hang sort of weakly there, with very little muscle tone.  I’ve run every day this past week hoping to change things.  Before that I ran a couple of times a week.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy with my body, but the paranoia wasn’t.  The rain recently has kept me from fixing my hair, and it hung raggedly about my face.  My face!  I think I stared so hard at it I produced more pimples.  The more I looked the more I criticized myself.  The anxiety swelled and I raced in my mind, Dye your hair! Run twice a day! Get a wax!

What ridiculousness!  My husband will ravage me, after his six months of faithful abstinence, and then take me on a date down-town for tapas and wine.  Just like old-times.

I talked to him today about all this.  He understood rapidly, with little explanation.  I look forward to him being home and feeling comfortable in telling me all the side-effects this deployment has had on him.  He told me I’m beautiful. I believed him.

I’m not sure yet what has caused this, or what it says about us in this year, but I’m pretty sure it will happen again.  I do know that when a fear is held inward it festers.  Not even a fear, when any independent conclusion is held inward it festers.  It grows, and we collect data for it, like a conspiracy theory.  As soon as we talk about it, sometimes just hearing the words come out of our mouths is enough to help us realize the truth.  Other people have been here, and done this.  They have good advice.  Avoid their mistakes.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  There’s no telling who you’ll steam-roll with it!


4 Responses to “Paranoia”

  1. NiNi 10 September, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    How did one so young get so wise? You are amazing. Just let me say the palpable change that you created in that boy made him whole when none among us ever realized before you that he was only half. For sure his dreams are just of you. Thank you so for the view inside. You are a treasure and an encouragement to us all, wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, grandmother’s, etc, etc. We love you so and long to hear that the restoration has begun.

  2. alltheseblessedthings 10 September, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    This one made me cry. My heartache for you could not compare to your own for him, of that I am certain.

  3. HD 11 September, 2011 at 4:01 am #

    This year in Afghanistan has made me a lot of things. Most importantly it has made me realize what is important in life. Those things are God, love, family, being a husband, being a dad, enjoying moments as they happen, art, music, wine, smoking cigars, breathing fresh air…I long for all of these. I miss you dearly and although I may be changed a bit, at the core is the person you knew and learned to love. This experience has brought out a lot of who I really am, not this fake bravado that some guys put on.

    Although the idea of cleaning a gun while hanging upside down sounds like a blast, and I actually have no doubt I could do that with my M-9, I dont think Ill spend too much time acting like a tool when I get back. :) Id rather go see an art gallery.

    • Dumatella Carolinensis 11 September, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

      My darling HD, love of my life, I know that I know that I KNOW that God himself has brought us together, and given us a love that supersedes our comprehension! Nothing so pithy, trite, and tired as a silly stretch of separation could wedge us apart. I treasure you more, now, than ever before.

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