During deployment, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. According to WebMD, some of the symptoms of depression are:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Now, we also have to understand that there is a difference between simply being sad and depression. There is going to be, in most cases, a period of sadness and change associated with deployment. This is normal. It is not uncommon for people to have some of the symptoms of depression, yet not be suffering from depression.
I have had people express concern about me being depressed because they say I haven't been acting like myself. And you know what, to an extent, they are right! But I assure you, I am not depressed. At times, I have difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and decreased energy; because I am working a full time job, taking care of the house by myself, and chasing behind a toddler without the woman whom I grossly underestimated the extent to which I lean on her for help!
I feel guilty at times. I'm a man. My natural tendency is to be a protector. I married a woman who loves being a Soldier and serving her country. There are moments when I feel guilty that she is in a war zone, while I rest in the comfort of our own bed. But I remind myself that my job is important here and my support helps her to stay focused.
Insomnia has become a part of my life. I can't explain where it came from, but it started with the deployment. It has gotten a little better though. There are a nights here and there that I can fall asleep at a decent hour, but most nights require a sleep aide. I'm at a point where it's manageable, and that's the most important thing to me. Getting only a couple of hours sleep a night is not healthy.
Am I more irritable than usual? The answer would have to be yes. Deployment is stressful for the servicemember and the family. I worry about my wife and I have a lot on my plate here. So some things that I would let roll off my shoulder before, really irritate me now.
And, I have lost some interest in activities that I once found pleasurable, including sex! Sex is a big deployment concern for many couples. What you do when those urges arise is up to you.That being said, I'm a firm believer that cheating is never the answer. For me, I try to turn my attentions elsewhere when sexual urges arise because I don't want to focus on a desire that can not be fulfilled. Even if you and your spouse had a very sexual relationship prior to deployment, you have to find your mental "off" switch! If you don't, you can allow the lack of sex to consume you and lead you to make a huge mistake. I've seen it happen to couples plenty of times in my many years of affiliation with the military.
In addition, I probably don't socialize as much as I would normally like to. I still get out a decent amount and I talk to friends/family all the time. But on the weekends, after a stressful week of work, most often I'd rather just relax at home. I've got projects around the house that I want to accomplish. I've got video games and movies that keep me entertained for hours.I have a toddler that loves to spend time with her daddy. When I'm home, I'm happy. It's my place of refuge. I work with people all day; everyone needs some time alone.
WebMD has a depression assessment that I decided to take, just to see what it would say. I answered as honestly as the details I shared above. Here is some of what it said:
Your answers aren't like the ones usually provided by people suffering from major depression, dysthymia, or other types of depression. However, depression symptoms can fluctuate greatly and vary between individuals. Only your doctor can properly diagnose and treat you.
Please see your doctor so that you obtain a complete evaluation and diagnosis.
Everyone feels sad at times, and that occasional feeling may last a few hours or even a few days. A major change in life -- including illness or a death -- may be followed by weeks of sadness. However, this doesn't necessarily define a person as depressed or lead to a depressive disorder.
As stated, it should not be used in place of a doctor. I know myself and I also talked to my doctor when I started having insomnia; I'm not depressed. I do have periods of sadness, but I've been going through a major life change, so this is normal. Often times, people with good intentions will try to diagnose a condition based on what they went through, read, or heard from someone else. If you feel like you may be suffering from depression, talk to a professional. You may find out that what you are going through is normal. Or you may find out that you are indeed going through depression. And if you are, that same doctor is much better equipped to get you the assistance you need than the friends with good intentions.