Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Sailor Stopped Writing for No Reason

 To ensure those reading this get all the answers they need, we have split the post into two. First Elise’s experience and Second an Interview with Elise, blog founder Stephanie Carroll, and Stephanie’s husband, Jonathan, a former flight carrier Chief.

I'd like to commend our guest contributor and Navy Girlfriend Elise because she has been going through one of the most difficult experiences any Navy Girlfriend, Boyfriend, or Military Spouse will go through, that is the experience of communicating ceasing without warning or reason. This is a fairly common situation for the men and women waiting at home, but not all will experience it for anything longer than two weeks at most, and those who do are not always at the distinct disadvantage as the Navy Girlfriend or Boyfriend. Elise has been patient and understanding to a level I cannot even comprehend and for that I commend her. 

Elise’s Story
Finding the Strength Within
Meg Wills via Flickr cc
Last I wrote I hadn’t heard from my Sailor in over a month. He’s been stationed overseas well over seven months now and one day he just stopped writing.

This separation has been harder than both he or I expected, and I will admit that, truthfully, I depended on my boyfriend for a lot of the support and strength I was surviving off of. 

This is the only military relationship I've ever been in and my knowledge is very sparse of what to expect. My Sailor on the other hand has been in for over a decade and is well seasoned in the customs. I relied on his knowledge of what is normal in military situations, and I relied on his encouragement to survive this separation. Together, I felt we could take on the world, but when the communication ended those encouraging words stopped and I was stranded.

Just a little after Thanksgiving was the last I had heard from him. The conversation we had was short. He texted to say he loved me and missed me but couldn't really talk because he wasn't in the best of moods. He ended by saying “I love you!”

A few days went by and I didn’t think much of it. Then a week passed. I started to wonder why I hadn’t heard from him, but I figured that work was probably keeping him busy. We had never gone more than three days without talking, but I told myself, I knew longer periods without communication was possible from the start, so I didn't really have a good reason to worry. Besides, our last contact was normal and loving.

When the third week started to creep up, I grew uneasy. I contacted his parents, but they had not heard from him either. For them, it was normal to go days or even weeks without speaking to him. Furthermore, there was no reason for them to be alarmed, as they would have been contacted by the Navy if something was truly out of sorts. As a Navy Girlfriend, I knew that I wouldn’t.

More days passed, the days added up to weeks, and the weeks added up too. I was torturing myself with the why, what, how, and again why? Unanswered questions whirled around my head every moment of every day. Even worse were the doubts and suspicions that my heart knew could not be true but my my filled with fears. By the time the days and weeks added up to a month, it felt like it had been six.

I have a good support network, and my friends helped to keep me busy and positive, but in private I was just trying to hold myself together. If I was going to survive, I knew I couldn’t lean on him anymore. I had to stand tall on my own.

A part of that strength came from letting myself grieve. There were a few days I decided I was going to be sad. So, I threw on his old T-shirt, cried, ordered take out, and Netflix binged. When morning came, I dusted myself off and kept on truckin’. I had promised myself, that after my feet hit the floor, I would arise feeling cleansed emotionally and mentally…and I did.

Nevertheless, I still felt helpless. I am a girlfriend. I don’t have contacts in the military or even a hint of knowledge of who I would contact. I wasn't sure what options were even available to me. All I could do was make my presence known to him, so when the holidays and our heartbreaking anniversary passed without a word, I still sent him letters and care packages.

After six weeks, I had reached my limit. I consulted with the Navy Wives I knew through this blog, and learned that despite my girlfriend status, there was someone I could contact and reach out to for help—the command Ombudsmen.

Ombudsmen (via The Ombudsmen Program is made up of spouses (male and female) . . . Navy families can turn to these volunteers on a range of issues; from information from the command -- especially during deployments, to advice on family issues, or even where to get the best deals on household needs in town. Navy Ombudsmen go through an initial training (16 hours of it) and then are offered monthly online training and local classes to aide in their mission and keep up-to-date on emerging issues.

I was so scared! The Ombudsmen is not someone to contact lightly, say if you are angry with your boyfriend or you haven’t heard from him in a couple days (not hearing from him for work reasons is normal for up to two weeks). This is someone you contact in case of an emergency and if you contact them frivolously, they won’t take you seriously or help you and worse, it can hurt your Sailor’s professional standing.

The Navy Wives supporting me told me that this was the person that could help me, but as a girlfriend, I felt as if I was breaking into someone’s house by doing so. I didn’t want to seem like the irrational, emotional girlfriend and I was even more terrified of causing problems or tension of any kind for my boyfriend at what is essentially his place of employment. Regardless, with the support and encouragement of these helpful women, I wrote the email.

Lenore Edman via Flickr cc.
I acknowledged that as a girlfriend I knew my access to privileged information was limited, but I just wanted to know that he was alright because this was all very out of character. I asked one of the Navy Wives I know through this blog to read over the draft I wrote, to be sure I came off composed and that the message I was trying to convey was clear. Then I pressed send.

My tummy was in knots when I saw her reply. I was so worried she would blow me off or say she couldn't help me, but she didn’t do that at all! She was so incredibly understanding and helpful. She was kind and willing to help. She explained she understood how hard these separations can be and would help by using her resources to encourage a response from my Sailor. She quickly forwarded that letter to his command and a few days later, he finally wrote me.

I wish I could say that after that, everything went back to normal, but that’s not the case. I thought it would all be better once we were communicating again. In my mind I had two months of catching up to do, but I quickly realized that a Sailor doesn’t stop communicating for no reason. He had things going on that lead to this, and his lack of communication had hurt me. Those wounds didn’t just disappear.

Talking at first was, to be blunt, awkward. I think he was expecting me to bite his head off—haha. The Navy Wives I knew through U&E explained that reconnecting and getting back to the way we were will be a slow process that requires even more patience than I had already had. We are still in the hard part, but I know that we will get through it, that I will survive it.

I survived the silence. I found the strength within, and I remained loyal and committed to my Sailor in the most difficult of circumstances. My love for him is even stronger and so am I.

 To ensure those reading this get all the answers they need, we have split the post into two. First Elise’s experience and Second an Interview with Elise, blog founder Stephanie Carroll, and Stephanie’s husband, Jonathan, a former flight carrier Chief.

About Elise
Hola! I am a God fearing 28 year old single mother who lives to love, and loves to live. My journey started almost 2 years ago, when I met my boyfriend online. Despite the hour and a half distance we made it work! I grew up in a patriotic home, but I didn't know anything about the military lifestyle, this was all new to me. He however, had been in the Navy for 12 years upon us meeting. About 6 months into our relationship we found out he was to be transferred early overseas. That is when I quickly grew accustomed to the demands of the service. Any plans to move in together were put on hold. We continued our long-distance relationship in anticipation of him leaving.

He’s only been gone a few months and we have at least 22 to go… Its been a roller coaster of emotions. During this short time I can certainly relate to the feeling of being unhinged. Coping with these emotions would often be followed by disappointment for allowing myself to be affected and seemingly weak. Its very lonely, which is what encouraged me to reach out to the internet. Given that we had never shared a home, it has made sleeping alone a little more bearable. It also gives me something wonderful to look forward, for when he returns home.

When I'm not holding down my man or my household, I work full time in the medical field serving others. My son is diagnosed with ADHD and has a mild intellectual delay; it poses its own challenges but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love to learn and ask a lot of questions! I am outgoing, expressive and a bit feisty. I've still got a long road ahead and a lot more to learn, but I am hopeful of the outcome!

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