Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Did Deployment Give Me OCD?

Author of A White Room
Deployment OCD happens. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

What do I mean by Deployment OCD? This is when your Sailor or Military Member deploys, and you get so paranoid that you end up creating these little repetitive and unnecessary routines to make yourself feel safe.

For example, you check the stove multiple times before you leave the house - you turn back after leaving because you think you left your hair straighter on - and every time you get home you walk through every single room with a cell phone and a knife just to be sure. Okay, hopefully, you don't do that last one ... but if you do, don't worry, because I did it too.

photo  ©2009  Chelsea Oakes, Flickr

When this happened during my first experience with deployment, I thought I must be absolutely crazy. I really thought I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that compels a person to do unnecessary actions repetitively in an effort to fend off severe anxiety.

Over time though, I learned, having what seems like symptoms of OCD is actually quite normal during a deployment. I know tons of Navy Wives who do this. It's a natural reaction to the fear of taking care of a house and home all by yourself. If something goes wrong, it's all on you, so you just want to be sure you didn't leave the stove on.

So what do you do?

Acknowledge What You are Going Through

To start, don't let things like this freak you out. Remember that a deployment has a major impact on you as a human being, that means your emotional, psychological, and physical state. Different people react differently and nothing is wrong about a coping mechanism, as long as it is not harmful to you or your personal wellbeing, family, or security.

You are dealing with fear and anxiety that is not only normal but perfectly understandable. The fact that you have this fear is not wrong. You have a right to it.

Start commending yourself. Girl you are doing something most women can't imagine doing, so start giving yourself props!

For the majority of people, this Deployment OCD will go away as soon as he gets back, and if it makes you feel safer, then just do what you got to do.

If it Bothers You, Then Make an Effort to Cope Some Other Way

If it really bothers you that you are doing this, feel comfort in the fact that you can stop and cope some other way. You don't actually have OCD, so stopping this behaviour is just a matter of effort and willpower. Still, take your time and be patient and kind with yourself. Just because you don't actually have a disorder, doesn't mean you can just flick this off like a light switch.

Face what's going on in your head.
Pay attention to the thought process you have when you want to check things repetitively. Maybe, you are thinking: I have to check the oven again because if it is on then the house will burn down, and it will be all my fault, and I know I just checked it, but if I'm not sure I will be afraid.  

Once you have identified your actual thoughts, you can consciously make an effort to think something different: The oven is off. I checked it, and I know it is off. I am strong, independent, and more than capable of taking care of myself and my home. I do it all the time when he is here and other than that, nothing has changed.

The idea is that instead of submitting to your fears, you reassure yourself that you are capable of handling this situation and taking care of things because you are a strong and independent person. You are taking the irrational thoughts and replacing them with empowered rational thoughts.

Don't just accept the worst case scenario. Think the 'what if' through. Think about what would really happen if you forgot something. How about - did I leave the fridge open? If you did and you don't go back, the house will still be there and other than a little bump in the electric bill and possibly some melted butter, nothing extreme would be wrong, so take a chance because you probably didn't leave it open. When you get home later and see nothing bad happened, you can think about that as evidence next time.

Acknowledge when you do something. If you know you will freak out about the oven, specifically, then when you check it, say out loud to yourself, "The oven is off. I have checked it." Or even do a check list. Don't worry if this seems silly or crazy. Remember, you're going through deployment and are allowed to do whatever you need to do to cope as long as it's not harmful to you, your family, or personal wellbeing.

Find a coping strategy that you are comfortable with. If you decide to eradicate this coping strategy, try to find another one that is healthy and that you are comfortable with. This could include taking a self defence class, installing a security and fire detection system, getting a room mate, taking firearm classes, or even just getting a big dog.

Remember the importance of having confidence in yourself, and your ability to take care of yourself, your family, and your home because that is the root of the anxiety that leads to OCD-like activity.

Also, keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with checking things before you leave the house - I'm talking about repetitive and irrational checking that interferes with your life.

What if it's really OCD?
Then it's still okay. Everyone has something going on with them whether it's physical or mental and nothing is wrong with that. If you feel like your symptoms are not just a coping strategy, or if they are seriously affecting your life in a negative way, or if they do not go away after the deployment ends, go to your doctor and discuss it. Or check out the website for the International OCD Foundation.

Share with others too. You have no reason to be ashamed or feel like this expereince is only happening to you. You don't have to hide it. Other wives and girlfriends are going through the same thing when their Sailor returns, so share with them, vent your frustrations, and get it out there.

You can share here too! Or on our Facebook Forum of course. So, what are some of your post-honeymoon experiences—after your man gets home—those “awkward” moments that make you feel guilty and confused. How have you coped or are you still in that coping place?

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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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