This week I am writing a piece on being an L.E.O wife with anxiety since it is Law Enforcement Appreciation Week. Huge shout out to all you out there who are in Law Enforcement. As I sit down to write this post this week, I don’t know where to start. I have so many thoughts on the subject of being a Law Enforcement Wife that I want to share. Let me start by saying that every single Law Enforcement Wife/Husband that I know has felt some degree of stress, worry, or anxiety (sometimes a combination of all three) in regards to their spouses’ career in Law Enforcement. That said, for those of us spouses who have the extra generalized anxiety component thrown in, it can be very hard to figure out the right way to manage the stresses of being married to an L.E.O.
I am a proud Law Enforcement Wife, but I had to work extremely hard (still do) to manage the stresses/anxieties that go along with agreeing to the lifestyle of a L.E.O wife. I knew when I married Chris that I was signing up to be a part of the L.E.O world, and it is up to me to make sure that I can set aside my anxiety in order to support, love, and comfort Chris each and every day. Additionally, I had to figure out a way not to add my worry to his list of responsibilities. It would not be fair for me to make Chris worry about how I was handling what he was being called to do. Chris needs to be able to focus on his job when he is working, not on me.
I know we live in a very political world, and I know that Law Enforcement falls into this world. However, I want to be clear that I am not writing a political peace on Law Enforcement. Law Enforcement is a career that toes the line of life and death daily, and it is so hard being the wife/husband at home behind the badge. Those who have spouses/family members in Law Enforcement have countless numbers of missed dinners, missed holidays, missed birthdays and get together. Spouses sleep alone, so that others sleep safely. Our spouses miss time at home with THEIR family to protect YOURS. This is why I want to offer what advice I do have for those of you living the L.E.O life.
I am not interested in the politics, I simply want to discuss openly what anxieties and stresses I feel as a L.E.O wife, and share what tips I use to manage these anxieties. I not only am a L.E.O wife, but I am also a proud daughter of my father who was in Law Enforcement for 30 years. I have lived and breathed L.E.O since my birth, and I am PROUD of all the L.E.O out there.
Below are the things that I have the most anxiety about, and how I best manage it:
Accept their job is dangerous.
It is not a thought most like to have, but accept that their job is just plain dangerous. Do not disillusion yourself that their jobs are rainbows and butterflies, and on the same hand do not overly focus on each and every danger obsessively. At some point, I had to focus on only my trust in Chris. When he checks on for work, do I trust him to take care of himself? Yes. Do I trust that he has been given the right training and tools to do what is being asked of him? Yes. Do I trust that he will always do whatever he can do to come home to me and our daughter? Yes. I let my trust IN Chris take over my stress/anxiety/worry FOR Chris. On days where I am overcome with anxiety for Chris, I focus my thoughts on the belief that he has been given the tools, mindset, training, etc. to handle what he is being asked to do and come home safely at the end of his shift.
I remember one night Chris came home and told me that he had a gun pulled on him. I had a little mini-panic attack let me tell you, but I was so proud and thankful that I was holding my husband safe in my arms. I was proud that he had handled the situation correctly, and that he put someone away that was a danger to others. Those that serve in Law Enforcement have answered a calling to provide for those who cannot provide and protect themselves, and that is something to be extremely proud of. What they do each day matters to a great many people. Yes, I wish he had not been put in that situation BUT I was so proud that he did not hesitate and that he handled it right. I held him a little closer, and a little longer that night. I was more grateful for his presence, and I was reminded of what is truly important in my life.
Another thing that helps my anxiety, is finding time to work on my perspective. I make sure to take the time to focus on how much more the dangers outweigh the positives of what my husband does for all of us each day. Did he take a drunk off the road that could have wrecked someone’s’ life and ripped a family apart by grief? Did he stop someone from texting while driving that was not paying attention to those around them? Did he get the drug dealer off the street, or stop someone that was on their way to harm another? Did he answer a call and help at 3:00 AM when someone had wrecked, was alone, and was scared? Did he come home 4 hours after his shift ended because he was waiting in a crisis with someone who needed him? The list goes on and on of how much GOOD my husband does.
I am proud of my husband and how well he does his job. I am so proud that he is BRAVE enough to willingly sign up for a job in Law Enforcement. I am proud that he cares for the safety and well being of the world around him. In moments where the dangers of his job seem to overwhelm me, I remind myself that God will hold Chris in the palm of his hand, and deliver him safely back home. I know God will guide Chris to make the decisions that will keep him safe each day. I believe and have faith in not just Chris, but in GOD. I have to pray, every single day for Chris’s safety. I have to surrender my worries to God, and have faith in Chris.
Expect that Plans will NOT go as Planned.
You planned a nice day trip somewhere for a Saturday morning? Nice, it’s probably not going to happen if your husband is working night shifts with late calls the night before. Inevitably, he will get called out and not be home until 6:00 am. Trust me, that planned dinner out with friends that has been on calendar for the past month will ALWAYS come after an early call or later call, and your spouse will be too tired to go. You planned to take your spouse with you to an important doctor appointment for your daughter (hmmm not speaking from experience he-he) when you know it will be an hour’s long appointment? Not going to happen with an unscheduled training that your spouse is required to attend. It’s his scheduled day off, but they need back up for a situation? That honey-do list isn’t happening, because he’s going in. Holidays…. don’t even go there (he-he). Plans are NOT plans when you are married to an L.E.O.
This is very hard to accept, and even harder when you have anxiety. Why, you might ask? Because one thing that I usually use to help manage my anxiety is careful planning, so that I feel prepared. This doesn’t pan out well when it comes to my husband’s work. Instead, I make up two sets of mental plans. One where it works out with my husband there, and one where I have it worked out if he isn’t there. Doing this allows me to be mentally prepared. I have had to learn to roll with changes and let go of the need to feel in control. Accepting that things will change and plans will not always work out, has helped me with my expectations, and has kept me from being disappointed in Chris (it’s not his fault when his jobs demands these things of him).
If you have kids, expect that you will sometimes carry all the responsibility (try hard not to be resentful).
Whew, this one is a big one. It is hard when you are on your own carrying all the responsibility for your kiddos. Anxiety and feeling overwhelmed with responsibility can easily go hand-in-hand. I can feel anxious just knowing it is JUST me, and knowing that no matter what the situation is I am the one that will need to handle it. Does my daughter have a stomach bug? Is she not sleeping? Does she need a new bottle, but is almost asleep in my arms and getting up will wake her up? What about making dinner? It is not always this hard, but I raise these examples to show that I am responsible for my daughter 100% of the time without any help when Chris is on night shifts/has been called out. Also, my anxiety can be worse at night and when I’m alone, so mentally preparing myself as best I can and managing my triggers ahead of time is extremely important with not feeling overwhelmed when it is just me and my daughter.
Accept and expect that when your spouse has been called out/is on night shifts, you are going to be in single parent mode. Your spouse will roll in about the same time you are getting up, getting your kiddos up, and trying to make it out the door on time to get to work and daycare. Then, by the time you get home after work it will be time for them to check on, and you will be in charge of dinner, lunchbox packing, bath, and bedtime.
A LOT of the time you will be solo parenting, and frequently it will be unplanned. Let go of the frustration that they are not there to help. It is not their fault or your fault, it is simply their work. As spouses to an L.E.O we knew what we were signing up for when we married them. No, that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier when it gets tough, but sometimes reminding yourself that it is neither of yours fault does help. Know that you are doing the best you can do, and that at the end of the day it will all have worked out. Instead of allowing yourself to think of all the stress in regards to being a single parent, I challenge you to think instead about all the strength it is teaching and giving you.
Be understanding that just because your spouse is checked off from work that they may not be mentally checked off when they get home.
Anxiety constantly makes us overthink and overanalyze everything, including the people closest to us. This includes our spouses. I used to be the worlds worst (still am sometimes) at getting so excited when Chris was finally home. I wanted him to be 100% mine from the minute he walked in the door. I wanted to talk to him, hear about his day, tell him about mine, etc. If he wasn’t just as excited and eager as I was, I would have hurt feelings. I would overanalyze his mood and worry that he didn’t want to be home with me (insecure much?). This was my anxiety talking. I knew that Chris loved me very much, and that he wanted to be home. I also knew that because of his reaction he had more than likely had a hard day.
Chris and I learned early on that he needed time to mentally check off from his work when he got home. We also agreed that he would communicate better by telling me when he has had a hard day, so that I can be more understanding of his needs when he got home. I now give him time when he gets home to unwind and undress before I expect him to really be present with me mentally or emotionally.
Our L.E.O spouses need time to mentally let go of their day before they can be our spouses. Their days are so much harder than most anyone else’s. Did they have to notify the next of kin to the death of a family member? Did they have to work a wreck involving a family, kids, or teenagers? Did they have to respond to a domestic call? The list of things they might have encountered in their day goes on and on. Think of how hard it would be to turn this off in your brain if you were in their shoes, and allow this understanding to give your spouse a bit of a break. Love them through the hard times, and understand sometimes they just have to bring home their work.
Until next week my readers, and HAPPY LAW ENFORCEMENT APPRECIATION WEEK!
Hey all you awesome people reading my blog. I'm Ginger and this blog chronicles how I live my life fabulously with anxiety.