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More Scared of College Campus Than Afghanistan

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I am currently deployed in Afghanistan and I should be coming home in a few months, God willing. I'm more scared to come home than I was getting deployed. That fear is keeping me from sleeping at night.

I'm a single soldier, and I want to go back to college when I get home. I'm just scared about how it's going to be when I get to my first day of classes and I'm surrounded by a bunch of kids fresh out of high school. I’ll be sitting in the corner like some hulking degenerate who got a second chance at an education.

Believe me, I have talked to my chain of command, my battle buddies, the chaplain, and the combat stress personnel here. Nobody can give me a definitive reason as to why I'm feeling like this. So here I am, coming to you, hoping that you may have an answer.

Sincerely,
GI Insomniac

Dear GI,

I’m glad to hear from you. What you are feeling is very normal, especially given the stress and environment you have been in. Let’s face it: War isn’t a normal environment.

Secondly, you have been more hypervigilant than normal. Your sleeping and eating patterns have been different during this deployment and even the way you envision life after deployment can provoke stress and some anxiety. You will experience a range of emotions from happy, sad, ambivalent, etc. It’s normal.

So look at it this way: When you get back, you will be making a transition to a different environment. Transitions can be stressful. It can keep us awake at night thinking about “what-if.” What if I don’t reintegrate in to my community? What if I don’t do well in school? What if my family and friends think I’ve changed? You see where I’m going with this?

Now, to your advantage I think it’s great that you are thinking about these things. Hopefully, you had a great wellness plan during your deployment. From your report, you have reached out for professional support. That’s great!

One development on college campuses you might not be aware of is how many universities now feature services specifically for returning veterans. The name of this organization differs from campus to campus (Office of Military Services, Veterans At Virginia Tech, Office of Veterans Affairs, etc). You can easily find it by Googling the name of your college with the word “military” or “veteran.”

Like you, many returning vets report that they feel different at first from their fellow students. Don’t let that interfere with your pursuit of a degree. Keep reaching out. Personally, I think you will be fine.

Sincerely,
Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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