The elephant in the room
Nobody likes fear. It’s one of those uncomfortable feelings that threatens to tear us apart. It disturbs our peace. It keeps us up at night. It may prevent us from eating or from seeing our friends. It’s not a generally sought-after emotion.
More people than we realize struggle with fear. I bet every single one of you have some big things you’re afraid of. Some of them may be irrational, but some are based fully in reality. Some real fears we can do something about, but the worst ones are the fears over which we have no control.
A very real fear I was dealing with recently was that I was going to fail this past semester of nursing school. I was struggling BIG TIME in Adult Health II class. I failed a unit exam. At one point, I was actually failing the class with a 76%. (Passing is 78%.)
Another fear I have surrounds deployment. Right now we are trudging through our third deployment, and you would think that it would get easier with each subsequent tour. Yet I have never struggled with fear like I have during this deployment. Sometimes the thoughts I have are intrusive, and my mind becomes fixated on them. I lie in bed at night and wonder if my husband will ever lie beside me again.
Facing fear head-on
The fear of failing nursing school and the fear of something happening to my husband are both very real to me. Yet one of them I can do something about to conquer, and the other one – well, we milspouses know that we have absolutely no control over what happens on the battlefield.
awful Adult Health II class, I knew I had to WORK. I had to FIGHT if I wanted to pass. Work and fight against my weaknesses is exactly what I did. I met with my professor on a regular basis. I joined a study group and did conference study calls with my friends. I recorded lectures and listened to them in the car. I made flashcards and study pages. I watched nursing videos online. I even asked my primary care provider if I could try taking a beta blocker before exams so I wouldn’t have panic attacks and test anxiety. I pulled out all the stops so I could succeed – and it worked!! My fear of failing Adult Health II is no longer a factor because I PASSED!
But deployment fears? That is a much trickier beast. The stress of being separated from your spouse has an effect on the other areas of your life, and it definitely compounds the stress of nursing school. (I don’t recommend mixing nursing school and deployment you can at all help it!) Plus, is there anything you can do about the dangers your soldier faces in combat? Nope, not a thing – except to pray.
The “controllables” vs. “uncontrollables”
Fear is not something we should suppress. Yet it’s not something we should let hijack our life either. It can become extremely destructive. While I have not conquered it yet, I’ve found ways to cope. I try to focus on the “controllables,” like how well I do in school, how I take care of myself, and those types of things. As far as the “uncontrollables” go, I try to frame them in the best light possible. I savor the times that Mark and I get to FaceTime or chat on Messenger. I get excited about sending him care packages. I periodically look at my countdown and watch as the days tick away. I excitedly plan our trip for his R&R. I write daily grateful thought for my 2017 Gratitude Jar – even if it was just “I got to talk with Mark today!” I journal on a regular basis. (I’ve already filled up one book!) I’ve even talked with my mom, voicing my fears, which is something I haven’t done before. And I find refuge in God and my faith that tells me He’s got this, no matter the circumstances.
Fear might be a factor in our lives, but it can also compel us to have more courage. Fear does not, and should not, define our lives. Even if you feel it, keep pushing on. Continue believing that good things can happen, even when circumstances seem unstable. If you’re a military spouse and you’re going through a deployment where your deepest fears could become reality, know that other milspouses, from history and in the present, have felt the exact same way.
Be strong and courageous
My husband has a dog tag-shaped piece attached to his keychain, which I have been carrying around. Imprinted on this piece is a Bible verse:
I will be strong and courageous. I will not be terrified, or discouraged; for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go. -Joshua 1:9
I think of Mark and know that he is not terrified. He is strong and courageous. He knows that wherever he goes, even if it’s the most harrowing of circumstances, that the Lord our God is with him. These thoughts challenge me to do the same, because as much as my fears play with my head, I will never have to face what he does. In the end, no matter what comes my way, be it nursing school challenges or deployment fears, I will keep walking forward in courage and faith.