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  • Husband's anxiety/depression

    I've got a somewhat delicate situation regarding my husband's mental health and would like advice.

    A few months ago, my husband and I moved to a new state and therefore a new unit in the Army National Guard. (He's a soldier, I'm not.) Since my husband started drilling with his unit, his emotional and mental health has gone into a downward spiral. The unit itself doesn't consider morale a priority. All the soldiers seem afraid of their officers and don't feel comfortable coming to them with questions or concerns, and the unit consistently keeps the soldiers working 16 hours each day during drill weekends and 18 hours each day during AT, occasionally not bothering to feed them breakfast or lunch. They keep their soldiers busy but, in the words of another soldier in my husband's unit during the last AT, "The other units out here get twice as much done as we do in half the time." (Note that this is not a unit that has been flagged for deployment.) This sort of thing is foreign to us, and frustrating -- we came from a unit where there was high morale, a lot of trust between soldiers of all ranks, and a focus on productivity and taking pride in your work rather than in just logging long hours and looking busy so you don't get in trouble.

    My husband already suffers from anxiety and depression, which ranges from moderate to severe. A lot of this stems from childhood abuse and is something he's struggled with since an early age. It's been hovering in the manageable/moderate zone for the past several years, but over the last year or so, and especially after he started drilling with this unit a few months ago, his symptoms have gotten measurably worse. During this past AT, he called me and sobbed over the phone every evening, and during his drill weekends he becomes angry and hopeless. I'm worried about him. We had an incident a couple of weeks ago involving his depression that scared me. He has occasional suicidal thoughts and my constantly talking him through his bad patches is, I believe, the only thing that has prevented those thoughts from becoming actions. He hasn't seen a therapist for any of this, partly out of distrust of therapists in general and partly because he doesn't believe he's worth the effort. I'm working on getting him to see a therapist, but I feel like only a break from his military obligations and some time to really focus on his mental health is going to allow him to make any real progress. Without that, I can only see him getting trapped in this cycle of negativity and discouragement.

    What are my options? In my perfect world, he would be granted an honorable hardship discharge and would have time and space to start working on his anxiety and depression in a low-stress environment. However, he has four years left on his contract (he's been in for eight), and he's a man of integrity and a good soldier. From what I understand, hardship discharges are difficult to get and I'm not sure my husband would be comfortable going that route anyway. He's feeling completely burned out in terms of military service, and is overwhelmed and paralyzed by other aspects of his life, but he's not going to try to get out as long as he feels he has a moral obligation to stay. He keeps saying that he signed a contract and there's no way out of that, and that he needs to not be weak. I understand that, and I believe that military commitments should absolutely be honored as long as it's safe to do so... but I'm getting extremely worried about him.

    What do you suggest? Does a hardship discharge sound like a reasonable approach? Would the Guard's counseling services be of much use to someone who has a hard time opening up to therapists and is frustrated with his military experience, or would we just be treading water? Are there other avenues we might pursue? He's found some comfort in talking to the chaplain, but it's a drop in the bucket. The stress is taking a heavy toll, and while he seems resigned to pushing on regardless of the cost, I'm scared of what might happen if we don't find a way to turn things around soon.

    I would love advice and suggestions. Please just try to be understanding. I know it can be frustrating and aggravating when people mention getting out of the Guard early, and I'm not saying that's the only option that will work... but please try to keep your criticism there to a minimum. We're beating ourselves up for even considering it, but I simply don't see another way to take off the stress and give him time to focus on his mental health. I'd love to consider other options if you have them.

    Thank you!

  • #2
    Re: Husband's anxiety/depression

    He can talk to the chaplain. Have either of you looked at the resources on militaryonesource.com? Long term, he really needs professional help. If medical insurance is an issue, TRICARE is avaialable and is pretty cheap (his drill check could pay for it).

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    • #3
      Re: Husband's anxiety/depression

      Originally posted by RedLeg View Post
      He can talk to the chaplain. Have either of you looked at the resources on militaryonesource.com? Long term, he really needs professional help. If medical insurance is an issue, TRICARE is avaialable and is pretty cheap (his drill check could pay for it).


      +1. I am surprised that he was able to enlist with a history of anxiety and depression but I guess he did not disclose this at MEPS. Does he have this problem in his civilian job? How long he is in the Guard?

      I am active duty and yesterday we worked 13 hours getting ready for the field this Monday. Supposedly, we have Friday off for the Army's birthday but if things need to be done, we are going to be in on Friday and Father's day. Yes, that is demoralizing but that is what we get paid to do.

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      • #4
        Re: Husband's anxiety/depression

        Call Military One Source 1-800-342-9647. Explain the situation, they will set up a counselor for him to speak to. Do this ASAP. The last thing we need is to lose another soldier.

        Oh, and once I read "suicidal thoughts" I stopped right there to get the phone number to you. He needs to talk to a professional immediately.

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        • #5
          Re: Husband's anxiety/depression

          Originally posted by RedLeg View Post
          He can talk to the chaplain. Have either of you looked at the resources on militaryonesource.com? Long term, he really needs professional help. If medical insurance is an issue, TRICARE is avaialable and is pretty cheap (his drill check could pay for it).
          He already talked to a Chaplain.

          He's found some comfort in talking to the chaplain, but it's a drop in the bucket.

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          • #6
            Re: Husband's anxiety/depression

            I'll look into Military One Source -- thank you for the link and the phone number, RedLeg and jaydez. And thank you all for your good advice and gracious answers. I appreciate it!

            Chief Kemosabe, his anxiety and depression have caused minor problems with his civilian jobs in the past, as well as interfered with school. Last time he attempted college (before we were married) he failed his first couple of semesters because it was too overwhelming. I know it's stress/anxiety-related because he's brilliant and should have been able to handle college without a sweat. He's told me that he doesn't think he could handle doing school, work, and military at the same time without crashing, and so I've encouraged him to not work right now and just focus on adjusting to school (he starts in the fall). We're fortunate to be able to live on just my income if we're careful about finances. He didn't disclose any of his anxiety and depression when he enlisted -- from what I've been able to gather from various comments, he just figured that everybody felt depressed and overwhelmed a lot and considered self-harm occasionally, or figured that if he didn't have an official clinical diagnosis it didn't count.

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