Friday, September 23, 2016

"Thank you so much, for these words of encouragement! . . ."

"This was the most helpful blog I've read so far. . ."

". . . Thank you for taking the time to explain all of the craziness to all of us!" 

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". . . your post really provided me with hope for the future . . . Thank you so much!"

 Welcome to Unhinged & Empowered!

photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc

My name is Stephanie Carroll and I am the founder of Unhinged & Empowered.

While I was a Navy Wife, on many occasions I wondered, am I going crazy? Am I coming unhinged?

Checking the oven twenty times just to be sure it is off - screaming at the top of your lungs when your only car breaks down - checking your email sixteen times in two minutes - locked out of the house with no one to call - being ALONE.

Sometimes when you are trying to make it work with a service member, you just feel like you are going insane, like you are weak and pathetic, but what I learned after ten years of surviving as a Navy Wife, is that, really it's all perfectly normal. More importantly, I realized that breaking down doesn't make us weak - the fact that we are sticking it out despite the break downs, the fact that we wipe away our tears and keep on going - is why we are some of the strongest women in the world.

But, when I first became a Navy Girlfriend and then a Navy Wife, I didn't have anyone to reassure me of my sanity, and boy does thinking you're going crazy make a girl come unhinged!

o I created this website in 2012 to share what I and others have learned, so that you may have the reassurance that you're not going crazy but are actually one of the strongest women in the world!

"God Bless you for this! I'm a Navy girlfriend and every day I wonder what I got myself into. This helps a lot. Thanks! I'll definitely be coming back!"

What We Stand For
Through this community we share the moments that make us feel unhinged and accept them as normal and even as signs of strength, thus empowering ourselves and others. This community is about focusing on the positive and supporting one another regardless of our situations, whether we are wives, girlfriends, spouses, partners, male, female, from this country or that country. We join here in acceptance and understanding. 

"I just wanted to say thank you . . . I am struggling a lot because I only know two other wives/girlfriends and they're both in different branches. I feel incredibly alone, and after Googling Navy girlfriends and reading this post I realized that I'm not. So sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, thank you."

How We Have Grown!
I started this site on my own, but certain experiences made me decide to make it something more, to take it to the next level. 

There is a strong anti-wife stigma and stereotype in the military. This has lead to an underlying pressure for military members and their wives to believe that other Navy Wives are bad people and treat them as such. In addition to seeing this stigma develop in person, I also watched as the power of the internet spread it like a brush fire. I've seen it on negative blogs, forums, and of course on social media. So many Navy Wives treat one another with judgement, cruelty, and rejection instead of recognizing that we are in this together and could support one another through understanding, encouragement, and camaraderie.

 Patrick Haney via photopin cc
This lead me to create the U&E Facebook Forum, a place where the readers of this site can come together in a place where they can give and expect understanding, encouragement, and acceptance - not just wives but girlfriends too.

That was my next realization. Navy Girlfriends were treated with even more rejection and cruelty than wives. They had no voice and no place to seek advice. That is when I started writing my Navy Girlfriend Guide series and encouraged Navy Girlfriends in addition to Navy Wives to write for the site as contributors.

Prior to this, I had also realized that I don't know everything, so I sought out others' to get involved and share their perspectives and advice. I became we and eventually we became international, welcoming writers from the US, UK, and Canada. Our experiences as Navy Wives and Girlfriends transcends borders, and we joined together forming a camaraderie across the globe.

"This is incredibly helpful info I didn't know how to ask for, but is great! 47days into a deployment as a Navy Girlfriend is making me feel like a basket-case sometimes because there's so much that I don't know. This will help with my curiosity and need for knowledge. Questions that I don't want to bother my man with right now. Thank you, thank you!"

Get Involved!
We want to be more than just a website or a blog. We want to form a community of strength and empowerment. So please, get involved, share using the site's comment feature, or visit the Facebook Forum. We also have a Facebook Page, which is used more as a notification of new posts rather than discussion - show your support and learn about new posts by liking us!  

If you are interested in writing for us, hop on over to the guest poster guidelines page and find out how you can share your experiences too.

Remember, we are some of the strongest women in the world, but together we are even stronger. We can accept that's it's okay to come unhinged because together we are empowered.

". . . Thank you for this. You have really helped me see things differently." 

When New Posts Come Out

I post in-depth posts that require a lot of research and writing time, so new posts come out from me at the beginning of the month. My contributing writers come and go as their schedules permit but when they are writing for the blog, their posts come out throughout the month. When I don't have other writers, posts only come out at the beginning of each month.

 "Thanks Stephanie. Always words of wisdom."

Learn More About Stephanie!

Become a VIP and learn all about my experiences as a novelist, how I became an author, what I'm working on next, and get free historical goodies including a newspaper article on Victorian hair styles and pictures of the bizarre Victorian furniture featured in my novel A White Room!

Or check out my website

This site adheres to the rules and regulations of Operational Security or OPSEC, and comments are monitored to do the same. In everything we write, we are always keeping the safety of our Sailors in mind and thank you for doing the same.

Five Ways to Deal With Dating a Sailor

by keith allison via flickr cc

I've been with my boyfriend for 5 years and the navy is literally turning him into a total new person and taking him away and I am pissed and I don't know how anyone deals with this. - Anonymous

Hi Anonymous,

I understand what you are going through and it's not fun. It's okay to be pissed and to feel frustrated and lost. We all do, especially at first.

Right now you might be trying to figure out how you are going to deal with this in the long-term because it feels impossible to deal right now, but the thing is that trying to figure out the future before you figure out the present won't be helpful, just overwhelming. The good news is, I can tell you from experience that it does get easier with time, so what you are feeling now won't be what you feel then.

As far as dealing right now. There are a variety of things you can do to make things easier and which are discussed in more depth throughout this blog (use the search bar to help find those posts), but a quick list:

1. Create a strong network of people and groups you can go to in order to vent or just talk to or hang out with. This can be friends, family, online groups, Navy groups, etc. Check out our Facebook Group.

2. Get in contact with and get on the email lists of your Sailor's Family Readiness Group and Ombudsmen. These are the people who can keep you stay informed about work schedules and official business. And yes they do speak to girlfriends.

3. Get hobbies, plan projects, plan trips, or go for that future education to fill in the extra time you will have when he goes away. Doing this gives you socialization and helps the time go by faster. What is something you've always wanted to do but haven't had the time for?

4. Keep reading up on this stuff. Do your homework. In addition to this blog SpouzeBuzz and MilitarySpouse and Military One Source are all great resources. You are already ahead of the game just by looking into this stuff.

5. Give yourself permission to be upset, to get frustrated, to cry, to scream, to get angry even. It's okay to have those feelings. It doesn't mean you can't handle this or that you aren't tough enough. Going through this, sticking it out despite those moments, that's what reveals your strength. Enduring those moments is what shows you can do this. Be patient with him and with yourself during this transition.

I'm wishing you and your Sailor all the luck in the world.

With Love,
Stephanie Carroll
Author & U&E Founder

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Do I Have to Give Up My Career for His?

Marriage by KMichiels via Flickr cc.
Hey everyone,

I'm in a relationship with a recent grad from the naval academy. We have been close friends for a year and decided to give a relationship a shot. He's an officer and will be going to Norfolk soon. I guess my main concern is the frequent moving. If we end up together for the long haul how realistic is it of me to think I can stay behind while he moves around the country. I love my job and what I do but it isn't exactly a portable career, I doubt I could up and move and still be able to do my passion. Do I put my career on hold so that he can do his? It's a lot to take in for someone like me who has had no real contact with people in the military for my whole life. This is a lifestyle I am unfamiliar with and would love some input.

This is one of the more common questions I get form new Navy Girlfriends and Navy Wives, and I was shocked when I realized I had never written a post on this subject so here is my expanded answer: 

Navy Wives & Girlfriends Have Careers
Interview by Fellowship of the Rich via Flickr cc.
I don't know what your passion/career is, so it's hard for me to say much on how that will specifically work with the Navy lifestyle, but what I can also tell you is that many, many Navy Wives and Girlfriends continue to pursue their dreams, passions, and careers even though they have to pick up every couple of years. 

I know Navy Girlfriends who remained girlfriends for years, and I've known Navy Wives who have finished college, traveled for fun, and become professional chefs, teachers, social workers, and nurses. I know of Navy wives who have become authors, comedians, fitness experts, you name it! 

Some people even make a long distance situation work out if their careers can't move easily. I know one couple who has done this for years successfully. It's called "Geo-Bachelor" when a family lives one place and the Sailor lives at his duty station. You even receive extra pay for that separation too. 

Who Gets Priority?
As a couple, you have to weigh the pros and cons of both of your career needs and decide who gets a little more priority. For example, because I'm a writer, I have the ability to do my passion, to some extent, anywhere, so when my husband said we needed to go to Fallon, Nevada to further his career, I recognized that it wouldn't hurt my career to go there even though I knew I might have more opportunities in a city setting. 

You might have to ask yourself, who is the primary provider for your family? If you are bringing in more of an income, then you two may decide to choose your duty stations based on what's best for your career as opposed to his. 

You Have Choices About Where You Go
That's something else to consider. In the beginning it seems like you go where the Navy tells you, and at first he has less choice about where he goes, but he still has a choice, and the longer he is in, the more of a choice he has. So for example, when my husband chose orders for the third time, we had options on the East Coast and the West Coast. We wanted to stay on the West Coast, and we could choose from duty stations in Washington as well as Central and Southern California. The duty station in Lemoore, California was best for his career, and as the main provider for our family, it made sense to go with that choice. However, if my career needed a city life, we could have gone to San Diego and that wouldn't have ruined his career. These sacrifices don't leave you without options. It just means you aren't in the ideal situation you hoped for.

When I went to Fallon, which is a small and landlocked town, it was, and maybe still is, known as being a career-killer for Navy Wives, and I met a lot of Navy Wives who didn't try because they were convinced there were no options as far as careers go. Yet, in spite of the small size and bad reputation for jobs, I managed to find a job as a reporter, which was what I was looking for right out of college. Other Navy Wives there were also able to get jobs in a variety of fields including the medical, teaching, and beauty industries. You just have to be open to the possibilities and willing to hunt them down.

Civilians have to make these types of decisions too. People pick up and move all the time, sometimes because they want to, but more often it's because of a job. 

There might be some hard decisions to make, but that doesn't mean that you will have to chose between him and your career. You can do both if the both of you commit to making it work while also recognizing that neither of you can have every ideal along the way.

Your Career Paths Might Change
One last thing I want to throw out there is that as time goes by, things change in ways that you could never predict or prepare for, especially when it comes to your career. I'm sure you've already heard people tell you that they received their education in something that's totally different from what they ended up doing. It's also true that as time goes by, our priorities and passions change and so do our careers.

Careers Board Game by Hannah via Flickr cc.
I received my degree in history thinking I would become some sort of professional researcher (a job that doesn't exactly exist, lol) and I ended up doing journalism right out of college and then as I started pursing fiction publishing, I also did part-time work with an after-school program, so in addition to writing, I now have this strong background working with children, which has led me to do volunteer work with them at my church. This is crazy because in college I was afraid of children and was terrible at interacting with them. I was completely against the idea of becoming a teacher, so the idea that I'd end up working with them was crazy. 

When I met and married my Sailor, he was determined to have a 30-year career in the Navy and become an admiral or something, then somehow he got into computer programming and earned a degree in it, and after 11 years decided to get out of the military. His first job was with a tomato plant doing supervisor work. His time there has helped him develop skills that are making him eligible for really high paying jobs in the manufacturing field. So even though his degree is in program engineering and his experience is the military, he's going this totally other route. And get this, he HATES tomatoes! Like, can't stand to look at them, kind of hate. 

My point in telling you all of this is that as much as you might want to, you can't plan for everything, and you can't plan to pick a career and stick with it until you retire. Things might change, opportunities arise, and the cool thing is that a lot of those opportunities can come from the Navy life. I don't know if I would have had the time to write my first novel is I was a reporter in a big city right after college. 

Just remember that if you are willing to work towards your goals together, then it will work out one way or the other, even if ten years from now your goals are totally different.

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About Stephanie Carroll
U&E Founder & Author

Buy Her Book A White Room!

Photo by Randy Enriquez
I dated and married my husband in 2004 when I was 19. I felt like an outsider for the first half of our marriage. He didn't understand what I needed to know about the Navy, and I didn't know what to ask.

After ten years of learning in the Navy, I founded Unhinged & Empowered. I wanted to spread the knowledge that I needed when I was new, to reveal what took years for me to learn.   
Cover Design by Jenny Q
In addition to being a Navy Wife, I am also a novelist. I write historical women's fiction.

My first novel A White Room debuted in 2013 and is about a woman forced to sacrifice her own ambitions of becoming a nurse to marry a man who can save her destitute family. He moves her to a strange, small town where she slowly succumbs to madness until she stumbles on an opportunity to nurse to the poor despite the fact that her husband prosecutes unlicensed practitioners.

Learn more at and connect with me @CarrollBooks on Twitter, Facebook, or on Pinterest!

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