The Comfort of “I Know How it Feels …”


Typically I leave my deep blogs about my life to my personal blog, TheArmyWife(DUDE), but I am hoping what I have to share will be seen by many and figured writing here for SpouseBuzz would generate more views. And more importantly, more people hearing what I have to say.

In a blog written on my personal blog titled “Why Does It Have To Be So Damn Hard” I openly shared my emotional and mental struggles. This wasn’t the first time I “got real” in my blog, but I do believe it was the first time I truly felt the desire to “get better”. It was the first time in my life that I was willing to say to myself (and the followers of my blog) that I need help and I must commit to getting it.

For years now I have been off and on seeing counselors. Usually it was a last resort type of thing. Whether it was seeing a need to really work on me to save my marriage or when I was fighting for custody of my son. Most recently it was while my wife was deployed and the dark days overwhelmed me. However when I looked back I was always able to tie my emotional/mental state with something that triggered it. This last time was different. There was not a trigger to be found. And that scared the hell out of me.

I have always been an outgoing person. I was never the type to be intimidated by any sort of situation. I thrived in large groups and was always the one to stick out in the crowd. But slowly something changed. I became more recluse. I was nervous when I was out of my element. I began to feel great anxiety when I knew I had to be around people. Especially large crowds.

My family is stationed at Fort Riley and our installation has just launched the “I Know How It Feels…….” campaign. This campaign “is designed to show Soldiers, Family members and Civilians throughout our formation that they are not alone in their struggles, others who stand to their left and right have been in their shoes and know how they feel. Posters featuring Big Red One Soldiers, Civilians and Family members discussing their own personal struggles and what they did to overcome their challenges will be distributed periodically throughout December”.

I am a firm believer that the best way to reach others is to share our own stories. To share our testimonies if you will. I believe “Iron sharpens iron just as one man sharpens another”. It is through sharing our experiences that others may find strength. And this is why I am as open as I am.

As hard as it is to admit, I get it. I know how it feels. I really do.

I know how it feels to feel overwhelmed by life’s circumstances.

I know how it feels to have regrets.

I know how it feels to lack confidence.

I know how it feels to not want to get out of bed or off the couch.

I know how it feels to want to give up on my marriage.

I know how it feels to want to walk out on my family.

I know how it feels to wonder if I would be better off dead.

I know how it feels to have anxiety take over the mind and body.

I know how it feels to do everything I can to avoid taking care of myself.

I know how it feels to wake up a dozen or so times a night.

I know how it feels to wish I had something that was truly diagnosable to explain why I am the way I am, so we could effectively treat it.

I know how it feels to want to run away. To be lost. To be free of the thoughts. The feelings. The emotions.

I know how it feels …

When I wrote the post “Why Does It Have To Be So Damn Hard,” the underlying topic I was trying to convey was “why does it have to be so damn hard to get mental health counseling?” I, for the life of me, can’t understand why it is so difficult to get into a mental health counselor beyond a Primary Doctor or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). When I went for an intake to see a psychiatrist to see about getting some meds prescribed to help me cope with what I was going through, I asked the intake counselor why it was going to take two months to be seen. I asked him if more or less all they can do is wait for someone to be in crisis rather than prevent. He said “yes, that is the way it works.”

So I know how it feels to have the odds stacked against you. I know how it feels to believe you are fighting alone. I know how it feels to wait for what feels like an eternity until you can be seen. But what’s more, is I know how it feels to make it through some very dark days to keep that appointment that is far enough away a child can grow a shoe size.

After a couple of months wait I was finally seen. I now know how it feels to stay committed to “getting better.” I now know how it feels to work towards a better me. I now know how it feels to explain my thoughts, feelings and emotions to someone who gets it. Someone who wants nothing more than to help me get better.

If life has taught me one thing it is that nobody really knows someone else. We may think we do, but we really don’t. We don’t know what they are going through. We don’t know what they have been through. We don’t sleep in their bed. We don’t see the battle some face just to make it out of the house. We aren’t them.

The next time you hear someone say something cliche like “put on your big girl panties” or “put on your big boy dungaroos” or “lace up your boot straps,” etc, think about. You may think that person needs to hear that, but most likely what will help the most is for them to hear “I know how it feels … .”

About the Author

Wayne Perry
Wayne Perry is a male military spouse (or as he likes to say, a MANspouse). He and his wife have been married for nearly seven years and she has been in the Army for three. Wayne is a stay-at-home dad with two boys that keep him extremely busy. Wayne is also an advocate for MANspouses, inspiring them to get involved in the military community and support each other. Through the facebook page MANning the Homefront he hopes to connect MANspouses with one another.
  • Guest

    Right there with you. When I moved to KS 4 yrs ago I was in crisis and I still couldn’t get help. It was a month to get an appointment with a shrink and by the time that came around I was so overwhelmed that I was torn between getting help and giving up entirely. Then when I did see someone Tricare approved, she couldn’t remember my name from week to week. When I asked for a different counselor, I was told I would have to go to the back of the line again. Thankfully I am enrolled in school, so for $15/week I can see a shrink who knows who I am and is interested in helping me.
    I am telling you this because while Laura’s advice is good in general, my experience with Tricare and military mental health counseling has been anything but the smooth, easy process she describes. This is one of the major hurdles with getting help in a military family. If I hadn’t had the school health system to back me up, I don’t know that I would have been able to hold it together until I could wade through the bureaucracy to get help.
    Hang in there. I am right there with you.

  • GuestDC

    It was like you were inside my head writing this…especially your list of “I know how it” feelings. Thanks for reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles.

  • Ashley

    “I asked him if more or less all they can do is wait for someone to be in crisis rather than prevent. He said “yes, that is the way it works.””

    That seems to be the way the entire military healthcare community works. And it’s so frustrating.

    Wayne, this post had me tearing up because I really do know what it feels like. And it’s refreshing to read something like this coming from a man. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers, Wayne. :-)

  • Elizabeth
  • Love it. And I know how all that feels. Even when I stated I having thoughts of hurting myself, my primary care doctor couldn’t see for a week, then two weeks to send out the referral, then a couple more weeks for the response, and then a couple of months for the first appointment.
    I hear this is slightly better when we are near a base, but on recruiting duty there is no one who really shares “I know how it feels” and I would welcome that.

  • marie

    Thing can be just as had for a spouse of a veteran my husband has been having problems and he sets up Dr appointment and then when the day comes he dont want to go. These problems need to be address. I call and ask for help but they keep saying we cant do anything we cant force him to get help. All I do is worry and it has put a strain and lost of stress on me. I just dont know what to do I just need some help. I cant go to a va hosptial and I cant afford insurnce ( cause we live on a penston from the army) and that hardly pays for the basic needs. I just set and wait and wonder whats going to happen next he dont understand why I get on to him I keep telling him but he dont remember,yes Im glad they will take care of but I just dont know what kind of stress it is on me. Im sure there are others out there just like

  • Thank you for this post Wayne!