In A Military Family, We all Serve

In A Military Family, We all Serve by Shara Ruffin #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #Military

In A Military Family, We all Serve by Shara Ruffin #TheWellnessUniverse #WUVIP #Military

Military families face many unique challenges.

Challenges including long separations, frequent moves, inconsistent training schedules, late nights in the office, and the toll of mental and physical injuries on both the service member and the family. These trials can be devastating if the proper support is not in place to address challenges that arise.

As a former military spouse, four years ago I faced one of the most difficult hardships in my life.

I was a new military spouse and a new mother while facing the fact that my husband, a non-commissioned officer in the Army, was “volunteering” to go back to Afghanistan ten months post-deployment from his last tour. During his previous nine-month deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan, I had given birth to a stillborn daughter, which left us devastated. We were starting the process of healing, and I was going through a whirlwind of emotions. I thought things like, “Does he not want to be near me?” My husband told me that he needed the money from his deployment to get out of debt.

Three weeks after my son Jaedan was born, he left for his deployment training in Fort Polk, Louisiana and I was left to care for my son in Philadelphia. I struggled to manage my anxiety and post-partum depression. Four weeks post-partum, I went back to work as a mental health provider while still managing the demands of single parenthood. I struggled to seek and maintain my own mental health treatment. Within those four weeks, I started crying all the time, isolating myself, not able to concentrate, and feeling hopeless and helpless. Whenever my husband would call me, I would keep my emotional pain to myself because I did not want him to worry.

While at work, I sought support from my peers. I was scared to ask for professional help. My thought process was “I should know better, I can handle this, I am a mental health professional.” I was afraid of asking for help, fearing what people would think of me, but I was also desperate. Even as a mental health professional, stigma weighed heavy on my mind along with shame, which now as I look back, I realize how irrational my thought process was at the time.

In a military family, we pride ourselves on having courage, being strong, and making sacrifices.

This type of thinking was not conducive to my mental health and was causing more harm than good. It took me a few months to even consider reaching out to a professional. I was not attached to any military resources due to the fact that I was away from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I ended up calling Military OneSource which allowed me ten sessions with a contracted therapist in the Philadelphia area. Going through counseling with a therapist who was not associated with the military and juggling a full-time job as a mental health provider while taking care of a newborn was not without its challenges.

When my son was five months old, he became terribly ill. He was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for an evaluation in the Urology department and was diagnosed with Ureteropelvic Junction Obstruction (UPJ). Due to the extensive blockage in his kidney, I was told by a specialist that my son would have to have surgery at six months. It scared me to death. For the next several months after his surgery, his life was filled with numerous ultrasounds; specialist and emergency room visits because of his weakened immune system. The stressors of taking care of a sick child, managing my own mental health, balancing a full-time job, being a single mom, and the geographical distance of my husband all had a detrimental effect on my marriage.

My marriage ended in divorce due to these stressors related to the military lifestyle.

Please don’t shed a tear for me because my story has taken a positive shift. At four years old, my son is healthy and has not been to a hospital in about a year and a half. I am emotionally stable, I see a therapist every other week, and I have begun to work on healing myself through a life and career coach. Due to my numerous trials, I have started to tell my story of pain in order to help others see that they are not alone.

After several months of engagement on social media, I have been blessed to share my message on various podcasts and internet radio stations in order to share my story and empower others to start their own healing journey. On April 12-13, 2019, I will be speaking in Toronto, Canada at the 2019 Congress Child Psychology Conference. I never imagined that I would be sharing my story in another country. This recently occurred after I shared a picture of my son dancing to Bruno Mars, after letting him know that he would never have to go to the doctors for check-ups on his kidneys ever again. I strongly believe that our emotional pain, our stories can be blessings to other people. I am currently writing my first memoir about my own healing journey called, “Hidden Wounds: My Breakthrough to Healing.”

I hope my story has been a testament that no matter what we are going through, we all have the power to heal and become the person we were meant to be. 

Peace and Blessings,

– Shara

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