No friends, no support system and no time for herself. Her husband was constantly deployed or away for the military. She describes it as the loneliest and worst year of her life.
In this episode of Military Spouse Spotlight: Honest Conversations, Britni Miltner of the MilSpouse CoffeeHouse podcast joins me for an honest discussion about the challenges of military spouse life.
It’s past time we talk about the hard stuff.
Here’s the full Facebook Live, or you can read the full transcript below.
Pam Chavez: Hello, and welcome to Military Spouse Spotlight: Honest Conversations. As military spouses, it’s inevitable to lose yourself in this lifestyle. Like, it’s just going to happen at some point in time. But how long are you going to stay in that spot? That is the key. So, hi, I am Pam Chavez if we have not met before. I am the founder of Health on the Homefront and I’m on a mission to help military spouses discover their big audacious goals, their personal dreams, and then help you through bringing them to life and stay tuned until the end and I will let you know how to get a hold of me.
But today we have Britni Miltner, cocreator and cohost of the Mil Spouse Coffee House podcast, and we’re chatting about the hard stuff. So she is brave enough to open up about her hardest year, and she’s on the other side of it. So that’s always a good thing when you’re on the other side. So let me know in the comments, which year so far as a military spouse has been your hardest and why? And I know it’s not easy to talk about that tough stuff, but I’m telling you it is extremely cathartic. It really helps you realize how many other people are going through the hard stuff too. So, hello Britni, thank you so much for being here.
Britni Miltner: Thanks so much for having me.
Pam: Yes. And so, which year was your hardest?
Britni: Yeah, so this actually was 2017. It really wasn’t that long ago, but I’ve come so far since then, since we were at a new duty station and my daughter’s older and we’re at kind of in a situation now where my husband isn’t as gone as much as he was in 2017 and we have more of a community here at our current duty station.
Pam: It really does make such a difference. And it’s not, you know, I’m a very extroverted person, so I will chat with anybody. But it’s different in every duty station, how quickly your tribe kind of comes together, you know? It’s not necessarily a personal reflection of you that you’re not making it happen. It really is just this whole slew of factors that can contribute to that. Yeah. So where are you new to the military when his all happened?
Britni: No, so I have been a military spouse since 2007, so it’s not a new thing for me. I think really honestly a lot of what had to do with it is I was suffering a little bit from postpartum depression and I didn’t really know. When we relocated to San Diego, my husband was on a ship – he’s in aviation normally. He’s a pilot. So we were going from an aviation community to a ship community, which is completely different. And you know, I already knew I was going to be far from family. I had never really been to California before, and I was nervous about that. And then I knew that he’d be gone the whole time – pretty much the whole time. And so, you know, I’ve done deployments when it was just me without any children and I did fine.
You know, I’m extroverted as well and so I can talk to a tree stump and I go out there and I’m the one that goes to up to people to say, hey, I’m Britni, I’m new here. Will you be my friend? I will be that person. But this was a completely different situation because I had a one year old and I worked full time from my home office, but she was in daycare full time and I also worked from my home office, so I wasn’t getting human being interactions. Like, I wasn’t getting out of the house because my work schedule was a typical Monday through Friday, nine to five. Basically, I didn’t have the freedom to work whenever I wanted to. Like, I couldn’t take my computer and go to the coffee shop and meet people. I had to be at my office desk for certain reasons. And so I just kind of lost myself and I lost that community and I kind of forgot how to interact with people in real life. So, it made things really difficult.
Pam: Yeah, absolutely. Now, could you tell when you were – I mean obviously you could tell you were upset, but could you understand like the depths of where you were when you were in it?
Britni: No, I knew I was, I knew I was sad. I knew that I was lonely. I knew that I kinda just was never happy. And we lived in San Diego, which is a fantastic duty station. How could I not be happy in San Diego? There’s so many things to do. It’s just a beautiful place. And, I didn’t really know, I think, how sad I was and how lonely I was in the midst of it all. I knew I was overweight and I knew I didn’t feel good, but I didn’t really realize how alone I was until after we moved and I got involved in things again. And I thought, oh my gosh, that was really bad. And I didn’t really even realize that I was isolating myself. I didn’t even know that I was doing that, I think, because on the weekends there were moms groups, they were groups with the spouses club of the ship, but everything was during work hours and then anything that was done after work hours, I didn’t have a babysitter and I wasn’t going to pay $15 an hour for a babysitter. It just wasn’t in the budget.
And then my daughter went to bed at 6:30 so it’s not like I could take her anywhere because of her bedtime and when we were talking before we started recording, routines are kind of a big thing for me. So especially with a little baby, you know, routines are something that you have to stick with. So really, my only time to get out of my house was the weekends and that’s when I would go grocery shopping or you know, I have to go to Home Depot to get whatever or just running regular errands. And then I still had to factor in nap time for my daughter. And then, you know, then you just kind of like, all right, well I guess I’ll just sit at home again on a Saturday night and watch Netflix.
Pam: I remember that time of life too when I had two babies that were 16 months apart. And, that’s, you know, part of, I feel like the unpredictableness of this lifestyle, like I really wanted routines for the kids. That’s at least something I could sort of control, and they were never great sleepers. So in order to get good sleep, we had to stick to the nap routine. Like, it really made night-time sleep better. It just made everybody’s attitude better. It would be like a bit of a break that I would get in just an exhausting day because it was too rowdy little kids, you know? And so, yeah. I know that routine.
But I remember being very confined because of that too because, you know, it helped me out so much to have the routine but then I would miss out on so much because nap time would always fall at like 10 to noon or something. Like, when they were doing like the two nap time or whatever. And I always seem like I couldn’t ever make the functions because it was right at nap time and it wouldn’t be fun if I kept him out anyway, because they’d be a hot mess, you know.
Britni: I know, because we had passes to the zoo and Legoland and SeaWorld and all of those things and it was great. But by the time that I actually got her there, got out, cause we lived in a condo building too and that was part of it. We lived in a very walkable area of San Diego. We didn’t live in a very family-friendly area, so to speak, but it was very walkable and we could walk to Balboa Park. But by the time I got her, you know, all her stuff in the elevator down into the car, through the park parking garage, wherever we were going, it was like time to just go out there for 30 minutes and then we had to turn right back around and go home again for nap time.
Pam: Yeah. It’s exhausting. Especially when you’re running on empty and just mentally frazzled. Yeah. So how did you come to realize that you were suffering from some postpartum too, that that was factoring into it?
Britni: Well again that was something I think I didn’t even realize until I got into the other side of it thinking, oh my gosh, this whole time I just kept thinking that like, because in my head I was like, is this forever? Am I going to feel like this, is this what being a mom is like? This kind of stinks. And then before, I mean we were married for seven years before we had my daughter, and that was by choice. We were both very independent and spontaneous and all kinds of stuff. And all of a sudden that was gone, you know, and so then I wasn’t able to travel anymore for work. And, you know, I just kind of felt like pieces of me were stripped away. And I lost myself, you know, during that time I completely lost who I was.
And so now that she’s older, we’re in a different duty station, I almost had like a light bulb moment and I’m like, you know, community really makes a big difference. And I had a community and it was online, right. And online’s great. That’s actually when I made a lot of my military spouse connections and the military network, but you need human beings. You need people to meet with for lunch or who’s going to come over and just order Chinese food with you and watch Netflix together or something, you know, just little things. Go to the zoo with me.
Pam: Yes, go grab a coffee, something – just that physical interaction – no, I completely agree.
Britni: Yeah. So, you know, and that’s what I was missing, and there were a lot of factors involved. Like we said, it was just not being near family, being in kind of a neighborhood that wasn’t really family-friendly, working all the time, nap times, routines and work schedule and really just not putting forth the effort. Like I guess what I could have done on the weekends is really tried to connect with some sort of group or been the me, the real me who usually goes up to people and is like, I want to be friends with you, hang out with me. And I just didn’t do that.
So, in retrospect I could have done things differently, but at the same time I kind feel like that piece of my life was there for some reason. Like, I feel like I went through that for a reason because I learned a lot from it and I learned that you need, you know, I should have really have gotten help, I should have utilized the resources that we have and that I knew about because I was sharing that information with some of my followers on one of the blogs that I used to have, but I wasn’t utilizing it myself.
Pam: That’s interesting. Why do you think – do you think it’s just because you were in the muck of it all so much?
Britni: It has to be. I think so. And I just kind of, maybe it was in denial a little bit, right? Maybe I was a little embarrassed. You know, it’s hard. It’s a hard thing to do.
Pam: Yes, and that’s why I want these conversations to happen, because I can guarantee somebody that’s watching this is in it right now.
Britni: That’s why I wanted to do this. I want everybody to know that, you know, you asking for help is really a sign of strength. It’s really a strength and, you know, you have to, you have to make that one first step. And I could have gotten pulled out of that depression sooner than I did if I just would’ve taken that step.
Pam: Right. Yeah. Because when you are in it, you almost can’t see the way out or that there is a way out or that you need to get out right now. I completely agree. I understand. And that is one of the amazing things about our insurance is that that stuff is covered, you know? So that is sort of been a common theme along these talks too in this series is that yes, the help is there, but nobody’s going to just come place it on your front door. You know, you really have to be that advocate for yourself and your life and your mental health too. Because even if you don’t have, you know, everyday depression for years and years of your life, this lifestyle is extremely conducive to situational depression. You know, you’re moving constantly. You’re always starting over with friends.
Yes, I get and love that we have friends around the world and that is amazing. It’s fantastic. I love following them on Facebook and still watching their children grow up. But like you said, I have to have that in-person connection as well. And until you get that at a new duty station, it’s incredibly lonely because your spouse goes right to work and they’ve got their, whether it’s like their best buds or not, or if it’s just co-workers, it’s people that they see everyday and that they share stories with and go out to lunch with and do stuff. And we’re kind of over here like, oh god, I’ve got to make some friends.
Britni: Right? And I don’t know about you and actually I’ve been lucky now, but I always seem to find my tribe, like, I don’t know, six months before I PCS.
Pam: Yes, that is such a common thing. I know, it’s completely solidified and you’re like, oh, okay, goodbye. Hopefully we’ll travel in the same circles. So, was it the entire year that you were in that, then?
Britni: Oh yeah, it was almost immediate. We weren’t in San Diego for a very long – it was a short tour for us. But I mean, I knew that going there, it was going to be a one of those where he was going to be either deployed or underway or working all the time. And so, I kind of knew ahead of time and maybe that was part of it because I kind of thought, okay, I’m going to be by myself and so I need to just go ahead and just get used to it. And instead of working with it and being like, okay, I need to be happy, I kind of was like, I gotta deal with it. I’m just going to deal with it. And it’s really interesting. I was talking to my sister and she’s very much somebody who is in touch with her feelings. She does everything by, you know, it doesn’t feel good. I don’t want to do that. It doesn’t make me happy. And she said, but why are you coping? Like, why aren’t you making actions to make yourself happy? And I’m like, I don’t know. It’s hard.
Pam: It is hard. It is very hard. And so, you all are navy?
Britni: We are navy. Yes. My husband is.
Pam: Yes. Right. And how long has he been in?
Britni: 16 years.
Pam: Oh wow. You are seeing the other side!
Britni: Yes, I see the light!
Pam: I know, that is us, too. My husband’s reaching like 18 years. So, yeah, I know, it’s a good feeling. When he joined, did he know that he wanted to stay in for the full 20?
Britni: I don’t think so. We met when he was already four years in and I think he joined while he was in college and you know, I don’t know. I’m not really sure. I think things changed as his career progressed over time. I think he then was like, okay, yes, I’m going to make this more of a career. And then now, he’s like, okay, definitely, we’re going to make it through to the end.
Pam: All right. So I’m gonna ask you a few, not necessarily rapid fire questions, but something along those lines. Let’s see. Okay, so favorite duty station and why?
Britni: This question always is so difficult for me because each one of them I feel like have different things that I liked. Jacksonville, Florida has been great because we’ve lived there I think three times and I have a really great group of friends there. I’m from Atlanta, so it’s close to home. Whidbey Island, Washington too. I didn’t love it while I lived there, but that is where I found my people. Like, that is where my military spouse network really started there and I found some amazing community.
Pam: Yeah, I love Washington too. If only the weather was just a little bit better. It’s gorgeous there!
Britni: I always say if Seattle were located anywhere else like closer to east coast, because I feel like it’s way out in La La Land. But I’d lived there in a second if it were closer to home.
Pam: Completely. I love so much about that area. Absolutely. So what’s your dream duty station?
Britni: Well, I mean, we don’t really have many options because of the aircraft that my husband flies. Right now we’re in Memphis because it’s just kind of… it’s just there. We only have a few options really. So either it’s Jacksonville or Whidbey Island.
Pam: Oh, okay. How’s Memphis?
Britni: It’s fine. It’s close to home so it’s fine.
Pam: That’s good. So how many deployments have you been through?
Britni: Two deployments, but several trainings and all of that fun stuff.
Pam: yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Do you have a morning routine?
Britni: I do. I usually wake up and go straight to my treadmill or when it’s nice outside, I try to walk three miles and listen to podcasts or something like that. And that is something that I started last summer and kind of got out of the habit of doing for a couple of months and then I just picked it back up. So I usually try to do that every day and it really makes a difference. I can tell if I don’t exercise in the morning.
Pam: So you’re able to sneak out then like before your husband?
Britni: Yeah, so my husband hasn’t left yet so I’m able to do that before it’s time for, you know.
Pam: That’s a great morning routine. Yeah, that is fabulous. Okay. So what is the toughest, hardest part that you think is military life? And then I want the audience to answer that too.
Britni: The hardest, toughest part, military life? I would say saying goodbye, whether it may be your spouse or family when they’re visiting or when you’re visiting or people that you’ve met or the area, saying goodbye to a great area. Like, I think saying goodbye is really difficult and I’ve always been really horrible with goodbyes. So for me that’s what it is.
Pam: Yeah, because there are a lot of goodbyes. Does your daughter know your relatives and stuff very well?
Britni: Oh, no. I mean, she knows my mom because my mom comes and she knows my in-laws and just really like core family, I guess. Grandparents and that’s about it.
Pam: Yeah. I know it’s been a long time since my kids have seen any family. So what’s your favorite part of military life?
Britni: Oh gosh. Just meeting everybody. You know, I think it’s great. I think our network is so amazing and we’ve got a lot to learn from all of us in different branches and just different walks of life. And I love just meeting everybody and learning their stories and connecting.
Pam: Absolutely. Yeah. I know, I always love exploring new places too.
Britni: Yeah, that’s great too.
Pam: So I am putting up your link to milspousecoffeehouse.com and tell us about MilSpouse CoffeeHouse.
Britni: Yeah, so it is a podcast that I started with my friend Leslie O’Bryant, she’s a marine spouse and she and I met online through a MilSpouse networking site. We started recording – we recorded our entire first season and we met at the Military Influencer Conference in-person for the first time last year. So, but we just kind of connected and thought, hey, let’s do a podcast and we can just get it out of our system. And if people like it, they like it. And if they don’t, then at least we can say that we did it, right. So, we launched last April and actually our first birthday’s coming up this weekend, but we launched in April of last year and hit ten thousand downloads in six months, and we were just floored. We’re like, what is going on here? We were just, you know, we’re just pleased and excited and we just talk about anything military spouse related or dealing with toddlers or just being a girl or being a mom or just life, you know?
Pam: I love it. I have been a guest on it and it was super fun. Super fun. I know I need to go catch up on all of the episodes. Speaking of podcasts, because I’m a huge podcast fan – I love to listen to them while I’m cleaning the kitchen and, you know, multitasking and stuff. What are your favorite podcasts?
Britni: So I like ghost stories. If you guys know anything about me, like I’m a huge ghost story nerd. I have experiences on my own and so there’s a couple. Lore is a great podcast that I like to listen to and it’s like kind of, I don’t know, it’s like mysteries and things like that. And then Two Girls, One Ghost. It’s kind of silly, but…
Pam: So interesting. I never would have thought that. I did not know that about you. Cool. Yeah. Well, are there some great – like, because we did like a ghost tour on post here at Fort Riley. I mean, there’s gotta be stuff in Memphis I would think.
Britni: Yeah, I’m sure there are. I haven’t explored here, but yeah.
Pam: I know Savannah, Georgia has a ton too.
Britni: I have been on several of those in Savannah and I’ve had a few experiences in Savannah.
Pam: Oh, wow. Cool. Yeah, I actually had an experience out by Chicago. We’ll have to talk about that. So you have to tell me about that because I want to hear yours too.
Well, thank you so much for being on here. I loved hearing your story. I’m really thankful that you opened up and shared this because I absolutely think that everybody can relate at some point in time. They’ve been down and out, maybe not quite as down, or maybe in it right now. I do think this lifestyle, just with all of the transition and all of the unpredictable nature of it, you’re away from family, you’re away from friends and your spouse so much of the time that it’s just conducive to those tough years. So I’m glad you’re on the outside of it now looking back. Have you ever felt yourself like sort of going back that way and you’ve been able to stop yourself now?
Britni: I haven’t experienced it. I mean, it’s still kind of fresh. It happened in 2017, was when I was down at the bottom. So I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure that if our next duty station, my husband will deploy again and I don’t know. But I think, now that I know what it was, I think it will be more conscious of it.
Pam: Yeah, it definitely, and that is the thing about going through that hard stuff too, you know, is when you come out of it, you can spot it hopefully easier. Well, thank you.
And so, I just want to wrap it up and say, so if you are ready to uncover your personal mission, you deserve to achieve your goals. That is sort of a common theme with each of my guests so far is that they are doing things and following their passions outside of military spouse life.
So, I would love to help you get unstuck. You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time. We can hop on a call together and I would love to chat with you.
So, thanks so much, Britni. I really appreciate you being here and enjoy the rest of your day. Bye.