Coming home after deployment seems like it would be a dream come true. After having seen impoverished countries, war, natural disasters, and other traumatic experiences, returning to your loved ones should be a synch. So, why do so many veterans struggle? Though they’re obviously happy to see everyone and be on familiar territory, the days ahead are an adjustment that many struggles to make.
Military personnel goes through a lot both physically and psychologically. Whether in combat or not, they’re away from all they know, for who knows how long without any idea of the outcome. This, on top of the many horrific sites they see, can cause mental health issues ranging from stress and depression to anxiety and PTSD. Coming home, though a place of comfort can take a while to get through mentally.
Whether you’re a military vet or you know someone who recently came home from deployment, below are a few suggestions on how to transition easier:
Don’t Over Do It
Your family is excited to see you and will likely want to show their love by having a celebration. Though it’s a nice gesture, it can be emotionally overwhelming. Don’t hesitate to let loved ones know that you simply need time to yourself.
As for loved ones, don’t overwhelm them. After showing your gratitude for their safe return, give them space. Try to hold off on all social gatherings and family dinners until they let you know they’re ready to be around others.
Ease Into Your Routines
In the military, you got used to your schedule and routine is mapped out for you. Now that you’re back home, you call the shots. There’s also the added dynamic that your families routines have changed while you were away. Though you want very badly to get back into the swing of things easing into your normal routines is advised. If you had a full-time job prior to deployment, don’t go back right away. Talk to your employer about starting off part-time. If you were the one responsible for transporting the kids to school, consider doing it once a week and work your way back to more days.
Family, remember your loved one isn’t going to come home feeling 100% their best. Yes, complete isolation and weeks without doing much of anything could be cause for alarm, but you shouldn’t apply too much pressure right away. You can be supportive by helping when asked and encouraging them to do things they once enjoyed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Feel
After experiencing the events that unfolded during deployment, then coming back and having to cope with such drastic changes in your personal life, it’s common to go through a plethora of feelings. There are times when things will be okay and others where you feel overwhelmed with sadness or frustration. Bottling these emotions up, however, can lead to increased familial problems, trouble in the workplace, and, for some veterans, even results in addiction.
There is no shame or guilt in feeling. If you need to excuse yourself for a moment to do so, go for it. Just as important as feeling is talking about those feelings. You can share what you’re going through with relatives, other members of the military, or a therapist. Lastly, if you have turned to the bottle or illicit drugs for comfort there are inpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs to assist you.
Loved ones supporting a vet should understand that they’re going to have highs and lows as they transition back to civilian life. Give them the space they need to feel, don’t judge, and most importantly, don’t take it personally. Encourage them to talk to you by being an active listener and source of support.
Give It Time
Neither a vet nor their loved ones can expect the transition to happen overnight. No matter how badly they want to get acclimated with everything and get back to some sense of “normalcy” what they’ve gone through is no normal ordeal. It is imperative to take it one day at a time understanding that there will be triumphs and failures. With time and practice, you can make it through.
Know When You Need Help
There is nothing wrong with realizing that you need help readjusting to civilian life after returning home from war. If after some time you don’t see any difference in how you feel or you notice signs of physical or mental health disorders, reach out to your doctor or therapist. The sooner you’re seen, diagnosed, and treated the less of a negative impact this transition has over your well-being and quality of life. Of course, relatives who notice signs of trouble should encourage vets to get help.
Coming home is not as easy as it sounds. Sure, you’re excited to see your family and friends. You’re thrilled that you’re not in the middle of a war zone or unimaginable conditions. Yet, the psychological impact that deployment can have on a member of the military is stronger than you think. Don’t try to go full steam ahead to get back to “normal”, instead, take your time, work through your emotions, and gradually transition back into the life you once knew.