Sometimes I talk to myself. Whew, there, I said it. It might be strange to hear that as a confession from someone who might otherwise be perceived as a normal, stable person involved in a long-term relationship, but it is something I have found myself doing from time to time. You see, last year after almost three years together, the Babe (that is what my partner Trent and I call each other) went on his first long term deployment and suddenly life seemed so quiet. We had a routine, the babe and I, everyday we made it to the gym. Everyday I had some type of dinner planned out for me to attack and get on the table. Everyday we had a good movie or TV show to watch while we sat side by side on the couch.
We had over a year to prepare for that first deployment, and there was the benefit of me also having served in the Navy myself, so I knew what was in store. I am known for being tough, stoic, and without tear ducts, but when that day finally came I found that I had been preparing for it mostly by looking out for the Babe more than comprehending what it meant for me at home. Immediately there was a silence that seemed sort of loud and deafening. I did not have to get up so early anymore to get breakfast ready for him so he could get to work. I did not have to rush home from school so quickly either so I would not waste any time getting to the gym. As a chef, I did not have to plan dinners because it seemed odd doing it for one person and no one else. But then came the nights when the TV was on and the shows would play and the first time something funny happened – I looked over to the empty spot on my right to share the moment and nobody was there. There was only silence.
I thought about going out, but a part of me felt that it just would not be right. I felt that if I went out and had all this fun while the babe was stuck on some ship out in the middle of nowhere, it would not seem fair. I am also too old to be hanging out at nightclubs and bars anyway just for the hell of it. I have many friends and they are wonderful too, but admittedly much of their activity involved drinking and hanging out at these places. So I stayed home and I did my homework and waited for the daily calls that I was very lucky to get. I never complained about the loneliness to the babe, not as long as he had to be away. He hated it even more than I did. I knew he was worried about being away from me too long. We all worry from time to time that we are slipping away from the person we love so much, and you can not do anything about the distance except wait and get a phone call in.
So I guess I began to talk to myself. It was not like a whole conversation or anything. You don’t need to have me committed anywhere, but here and there I found myself laughing at a show with a comment or two about what was funny. I might be in the kitchen and suddenly ask myself a question out loud and laugh when I also came up with a verbal answer. If I was driving and missed a light or had to break suddenly, I would complain to the invisible person sitting in the passenger seat. If I messed up a recipe that I had been working on at home, I would complain out loud. Most of all, I really didn’t realize I was doing it. It sort of began to happen on its own. I was beginning to internalize and that is not such a good thing.
I am also a board member for a local neighborhood watch group and an event came up that required someone from the organization be present. No one else could do it so I decided I could step in. I had the business cards, the haircut; I was feeling pretty darn spiffy so off I went ready to mingle. As I walked in I began to feel apprehensive because I was not expecting it to be in such a crowded place, and I did not recognize anyone. The mixer came with a couple of free drinks so I got myself a glass of wine and sat at the bar feeling completely out of place. No one noticed me and for some reason I could not bring an introduction of myself to anyone. I began to think about the babe and wishing he were there with me. He was the social one, he was the one with the killer smile that got everyone to open up and talk to us. I began to feel like I could not just be out and about without my babe there next to me, holding my hand so to speak. I finished my drink and left deciding I should go home, but something else happened. I began to tear up and I snapped. I could barely drive out of the area, but something told me not to go home and instead get to my best friend Aaron who was working at the Center nearby. By the time I got there, I was a complete mess.
I sent a message to Aaron by text message to come out and see me in the parking lot. What came out of me was so intense and raw that I knew I had crossed some sort of line. I began to confess my fear of not being able to get anything done, not reaching my goals, not measuring up for my babe. I was completely broken. Aaron had never seen me cry before, not with such violence. He did his best to reassure me, and he immediately knew that my problem was that I was missing Trent so much it had completely built up into this river I had backed up before the dam, which had just been breached. When he finally got me to calm down I felt completely exhausted. That was when he convinced me that I should probably see a counselor, someone I could bounce my feelings against and who could hear me out. That day turned out to be a turning point for me. It was tough at first, but sometimes it takes more strength to accept and deal with your weaknesses rather than let them drive you on some unknowing path. Knowledge really is power, and each of us deserves all the power we can get.
If you think you need help outside your circle of friends. Do not be afraid to reach out. Many cities have LGBT centers that can guide you to counseling services formulated to reach your needs. The Veterans Administration even has services and groups that will reach out to our gay and lesbian veterans that need this type of assistance. The hard part is getting in there and taking part in it. The challenge is making that first step, and finding the right number to contact. It is a different world now than it was even five years ago. If the counselor you get doesn’t match your style, then demand another one. What matters is that your voice is heard one way or another because you deserve it. You deserve it.
Two months after my melt down the babe finally got home. It was wonderful. I had to warn him though, don’t be freaked out if you hear me talking in the kitchen while you are still asleep. To be fair, it only happened once after he got back. Ha!