By Jessica Bertsch

Dear military spouse,

I’m your biggest fan! I get you. I understand your lifestyle, and I cheer you on like an SNL Spartan cheerleader daily.

Here’s the deal– over the years you’ll hear a ton of this:

“I could never do that.”

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“I can’t even imagine how you single parent so much. I go crazy when my spouse is gone a few days.”

I’ve noticed I get super witty with my responses and dodge the depth of what my life really is. I tend to say,

“Girl, God made me a super hero and my cape is imaginary.”

“I knew what I signed up for.”

“There are people far worse off than me, so I do what I gotta do and have been called to support my husband.”

Now that I’m almost 11 years into marriage (all of them being in the military lifestyle), I want to share some real honesty. For years, I’ve tended just to coach my way through conversations. I’ve imagine this little voice saying, “Jess, don’t break down. You got this. You’re strong. You’re awesome. Keep the wittiness coming.”

However, here’s the reality and truth:

It’s OK to hurt.

It’s OK to admit it’s ridiculously hard.

It’s OK to be mad.

It’s OK to get rowdy.

More than anything, it’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to be honest with your emotions. After battling with depression as a teenager and fighting it after my first son was born, I want to tell you that your honesty is what you need. Here are some outlets and ways I’ve found that have been my lifeline throughout the years:

Find a real friend

You need a “vent” friend. The friend who will let you hurt, scream, and be angry, but who doesn’t keep beating your points to the ground. You need the friend who will let you wallow in self-pity for 24 hours and then call you the next day and say, “Let’s find some ways to move on.”

Also, make sure that friend doesn’t ride along on your negative train. When you say, “Military life sucks,” you don’t need a friend who says, “Yes, it sure does.” You need the friend who will respond with, “Yes, it’s hard, but we wouldn’t have met without your military spouse time.”

Admit when you need help

Asking for help is so freaking hard for me (and many others I know). Guess what? People actually love to help! People truly love to serve! Embrace it.

Just a few months ago, I began looking at my next six months and started to panic. We will be selling a house, buying/renting a house, moving three children, moving a business… all while my husband rotates in and out to sea. I finally ran up the white flag, called a friend, and said, “I need you here for a week in May. Like I honestly can’t do it all. I need help.”

Take care of yourself

Every time my husband comes back from sea duty, I schedule something fun for me. Sometimes it’s a simple pedicure and sometimes it’s a big ol’ girls’ weekend. Regardless, I do something that allows me to have some fun.

Communicate your limits and needs

As we went over my husband’s dream sheet this past year, we it became harder and harder to make decisions. When you have children and successful careers in the mix, it’s so hard to feel balanced. I finally realized I needed to be truthful with where my happiness level is, where it needs to be, and what that means for our future. (I asked him the same, by the way. This marriage is all about cheering each other both through life towards fulfillment and happiness.) It’s really challenging when you start sharing your limits and needs. It’s raw and real, but it’s also wonderfully freeing.

Surround yourself with positivity

Get rid of negativity in your life. I mean it. I’m talking habits and people. You don’t have time for it, and negativity sucks the life out of you. Find your pep squad and stick with them.

Find resources

I’m not talking about gossipy sites that are military-ish that give you “Ten Tips to Get Hot Romance Back.” I’m talking places that provide unbiased resources that will guide you through our lifestyle. I highly encourage you to make sure you’re focusing on and reading sites that build you up and not bring you down.

Get legit help when needed

If and when you ever feel like this lifestyle is too much, be honest with yourself and your spouse. It’s not easy, and there are super tough seasons in our lives. Get professional help when needed. There is no shame in it. I think it takes strength to admit we want to be better, and that’s worth celebrating, my friend.

The only way I make it through this lifestyle is by focusing on my husband, whom I adore and know is being really fulfilled serving our country; surrounding myself with amazing people who cheer me on day after day; and having a deep relationship with God. Without those three things, I’m pretty sure I’d be in fetal position frequently, playing the “why me” card.

Our lives aren’t easy, but the awesomeness that comes along tour after tour and the resiliency we start to see in our children are worth every single hardship. My commitment to you is I will always try and stay positive, but I’ll also keep it real and honest along my journey. We’ve got this, military spouse. Together you and I can do some incredible things!

Jessica Bertsch is a proud Coastie wife and mom of a five-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, and a ten-month-old. In her “spare” time she runs Powerhouse Planning, LLC