When Alan First Deployed: My New Friends at 9-1-1
******This is the 11th chapter in the series The Real Army Wives, stories from a young military bride from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.******
I tell you this particular chapter with hesitation and humility. It’s an embarrassing story, but at the time, this was my reality. I hope you can laugh with me now, and rest assured that I am not normally this paranoid. I promise.
When Alan first deployed, it was suddenly like….cue the sound of crickets.
The night of the deployment dragged on until dawn, so first, I went to bed and slept until the afternoon. (And thus began my new problem of having my days and nights mixed up.)
That first morning, Alan called me from the Killeen airport around noon, which woke me up. Even then, I was already so excited to hear his voice, and he hadn’t even left the country yet!
I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be a MONTH before I would hear from Alan again, except in letters, real snail-mail letters.
So there I was in Texas, alone, 22-years-old, no job, no children, and no plans, a brand-spankin’ new military wife.
What to do now? I had no idea. It sounds like bliss to have zero people depending on you and almost zero responsibility. Wow! Each phase of life truly brings something different to the table. But blissful is not how I recall feeling.
Instead, I began to be depressed, and I didn’t even know why. Obviously, it had something to do with this crazy start our marriage was off to and anxiety over sending my husband overseas to a new war. I had also developed a miserably painful case of TMJ, seemingly the moment I said good-bye to Alan, which would not go away. I could hardly chew anything.
Plus, I was a little isolated, having been in Texas for only three months, with almost everyone I knew in the world still in Alabama.
People I met asked me uncomfortable questions, over and over again.
“So what do you do? Do you have a job yet? Are you staying here?”
Everything in me knows that it isn’t wise to let what others think you should do affect your decisions, and yet it did.
Why was my answer never good enough?
What did I do, you ask? Well I…..
- kept house
- wrote my husband a letter every single day
- made my meals
- worked on decorating my first house
- typed out every letter I received from my husband for his family to read
- washed my clothes
- bought a new sofa
- watched a billion episodes of Friends
- and played board games versus myself.
That’s never what I actually said to people who asked, but I wish it had been!
Instead, I took this all as pressure (whether it was or not) to have some sort of career goal. Look, up to this point, my life goal had been to go to college. But I was done with that now.
Once in college, I’d had one half-hearted career goal to be a physical therapist. But once I closed my eyes through the entire video of a cadaver dissection in junior year biology lab, I knew this physical therapy plan was not going to work out…
…So after that there had been no career goal.
Now I was 22, and finished with college, but there was still so much figuring- things- out to do!
I did have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, from the University of Alabama, so many people suggested I try out the alternative teacher certification that Texas offered at the time. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree could simply take a crash course in education, pass the “highly qualified” national teacher exam, and bam! Texas grants you a probationary teaching certificate, and you’re a teacher. Technically, your first year was considered an internship.
Hmmmm….I did always love school….and passing tests was always a strength of mine…so why not?
Did I have a dream of teaching children? No, not at all.
Was I good at managing children? Also no.
But hey! Everyone says this is a great idea, so let’s do it. Let’s make the people happy. I’d always been good at that too.
I enrolled in the classes and was accepted right away. Teacher school started a month after Alan left.
This whole married young adult thing was working out okay. I now had a plan, a few friends, and a goal I wasn’t the least bit excited about. In fact, I dreaded it.
Looking back, all I can think is “why???” Why did I do all this? Was it really just to appease all the questioners? Ugh!
So I had a career goal, but did it fill the husband-deployed void?
No, not at all, because I didn’t even truly have a desire to be a teacher anyway. In fact, maybe that just added to my misery.
I did various things throughout the days to keep myself busy, like joining a ladies Bible study where no one really spoke to me much, attending an aerobics class with my friend Theresa, even though I dislike aerobics classes, and I often played Skipbo versus myself….(Skipbo is a card game, sort of like Uno. Yes, I know that sounds a little sad, but this was the pre-Facebook, pre-Skype, pre-iPhone world. No one had to know!!)
Okay, it’s true. I didn’t have much to be all that happy about.
But every night I looked forward to watching the Lifetime evening line up. There was an hour of Designing Women followed by an hour of Golden Girls. How I loved it, but I also lived in dread of it.
The thing is that once the credits rolled on Golden Girls, there was nothing else on that I wanted to watch, and I felt like staying up past midnight was the “wrong” thing to do. You know? There’s just something less respectable sounding about being an up all night, sleeping to noon kind of gal. (Silly, I know, but that’s how I felt–guilty about every silly little thing!)
I didn’t want that to be me. Before I had always been such a hard-working well-respected member of society! My first job was at the age of 15!! The day care managers called ME and asked me to obtain a work permit and come work for them after school.
I had a job ever since, even in college, even when I was taking 21 hours of classes. My on campus job was a cushy one, working at the University of Alabama National Alumni Association, with the sweetest boss ever. But still, I had always been employed.
Not only was I employed for all of my time as a teen and young adult, but I had also maintained a strong GPA, earned scholarships and grants to pay my way through college, and worked an a Resident Assistant in the dorm.
The transition to unemployed, geographically alone, housewife knocked me for a loop. There was just so much to decide and change. It was exciting, but it was terrifying.
Come 12am each night, I became all squirrelly in the head. I heard every little sound. Every little bump.
Most nights I could not actually go to sleep until about 4am because I reasoned that by 4am, no one was going to break into my house. It was practically dawn.
Why did I think people wanted to break into my cute little duplex? I have no idea. We owned next to nothing really.
Between 12 and 4 am I was beyond reason anyway. All logic was gone. Every sound was a criminal.
Then it happened.
One night, someone rang my doorbell. I was sitting in the living room a little later than usual. It might’ve been 10 pm. I was up watching endless episodes of Friends.
I looked out the peephole and didn’t see anyone. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang again. I opened the door. No one was there.
At 11 o’clock, or maybe even later, it happened again!!
Now that’s a little odd anyway, but for a depressed woman with paranoia, it was obviously a gang that was stalking my house. Maybe even an ax murderer!!
Well, I did the only logical thing to my temporarily insane brain. I called 911!!!
“This is 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
“I’m home alone and someone keeps ringing my doorbell, and there’s no one there!”
“Hmm. Yeah, it’s probably just kids. Did you see anyone?”
“No.” I was probably crying…
“Well, we’ll send someone to check the area, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, thank you so much!”
I hung up the phone. The doorbell rang again.
Why were they here to torture me???? Hadn’t I been through enough????
I turned out the lights and peeked out the curtains. There was little Hannah, my next door neighbor’s 9-year-old-ish kid, crouching behind some bushes.
Relief. Phew! Okay.
That I could handle, but I didn’t go outside and bother her. Though in hindsight, she probably did it because she craved attention.
Hannah’s mother, Shelby, was another source of my misery. I continued to hear Shelby cussing people out on her phone, at the top of her lungs, about 2 or 3 nights per week. No wonder I didn’t feel super safe.
No, I would never utter a cross word to Hannah or her little brother Houston. I felt terribly sorry for them. Who else’s kids would even be out that late, running around the neighborhood ringing door bells?
But night after night, I continued to stay up late, unable to sleep.
I added playing computer games on pogo.com to my list of late-night activities. See I had to stay up so I could scream and run if anyone tried to break into my house.
It made no sense whatsoever, and I knew it didn’t, but I was admittedly a little crazy. I could NOT go to sleep.
Was I spending tons of time in prayer, digging into my Bible for consolation, or seeking help? No. And I was absolutely not about to ‘seek help’. I would admit my issues to no one. I am Southern born and bred. You keep your problems to yourself. Don’t go bothering other people or admitting that you are weird.
And then one night my wake-up call came.
Golden Girls was still on. I had my bedside lamp light and my back yard porch light on. See, there was a door in my bedroom that led to my backyard.
Yet another reason I was certifiable. Of course, paranoid April believed that the intruder would come straight to my back door because it was enclosed in a privacy fence. No one could see into my backyard. Therefore, all the robbers in Killeen were clearly just waiting to break into my house, via that door that led into my master bed room!!!
That is, if the screaming lady next door didn’t scare them away, of course, but that night her place was silent.
I was sitting there in my bed watching my shows when my back door knob actually rattled! It did! It rattled.
I listened as hard as I could, heart pounding out of my chest, not daring to move a muscle.
Yes. There were definitely sounds at the door. Light ones, but sounds nonetheless.
No time to waste! I slept with the phone by my pillow in case of Alan calling or in case I needed to call the police anyway.
“This is 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”
“Yes! Yes! There’s someone at my door I think. I don’t know. It’s…my door, my back door. It sounded like someone rattled the doorknob. I’m freaking out.”
Well, truer words were never spoken. I was definitely freaking out.
I don’t remember what she said, but she kept me calm. What happened after that, whether or not the police came quickly or not, it’s been so long ago that I don’t remember.
I do remember hopping out of bed, throwing on my bath robe, and going around peeking out windows.
The police came. They assured me there was no one in my backyard.
Somehow I finally snapped out of my insanity and realized that there was simply a bug hitting the glass, a bug that was obviously attracted to that light bulb I left on every night.
I could suddenly see myself so clearly.
How had I become such a joke?? Such a walking disaster?? All I thought about were my own problems. Most of my problems weren’t even real. They were imaginary!!
The insomnia and paranoia were feeding each other into a cycle that had to be broken. Plus, my jaw was still killing me. It was time to march down to post and see the doctor.
I resolved this was my last night in Crazy Lady Land. I vowed with every ounce of courage I still had, “Tomorrow I am going to see a doctor and admit this to someone. Maybe they can help me. Maybe I can take anxiety meds or something. I can’t go on like this. Even if they do laugh at me, I have to go get help.”
Read about what happened next HERE.
Each new chapter appears on Monday morning here on storiesofourboys.com.
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