LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany - If you're feeling anxious about reuniting with a loved one after being deployed for 15 months, or if you've already redeployed and seem to have trouble fitting into the family routine again, there's one important factor you need to realize - what you're experiencing is normal and usually resolves itself with time.
"Every Soldier and every family is going to experience some kind of difficulty during the transition. Expect it, it's normal," said Captain Shawn Gallagher, an Army psychiatric nurse practitioner at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Insomnia is a common complaint among returning Soldiers, as well as being hyper-vigilant to noise, or showing displays of anger that are more than normal or last for a longer duration.
"While the Soldier's been away, the spouse may have become more independent," said Gallagher. "Everything he's used to has changed and he may not be sure where he fits into the family situation. But the Soldier needs to understand that that is a normal part of the post-deployment cycle. There's nothing wrong with them, but it's just something that happens and that typically improves and gets better over time."
While the spouse may have become more independent, the Soldier can become more reliant on his or her "battle buddy" and fellow Soldiers while living in a life and death environment with them 24/7 for more than a year.
When the deployment ends, the intense camaraderie ends rather suddenly. Unlike Soldiers who spent weeks together decompressing on troops ships as they returned from World War II, today's Soldiers can be flown home, receive a hero's welcome and enjoy a warm reception at home all within days of redeploying with their unit in Afghanistan or Iraq. But as many find out, said Gallagher, the honeymoon eventually ends and the reality and normalcy of day-to-day life soon resumes.
To help better ease into the transition, Gallagher said communication is the key, and to begin the discussion while still deployed. Find out how your spouse has been getting by day-to-day, and ask question about the new routine. By doing so, Gallagher said, you're letting your spouse know you recognize that adjustments have been made, but at the same time letting him or her know that you want to become part of the routine again.
"It's like when you're dating. You're starting over in some respects," Gallagher said of establishing the routines of a new life together.
And as with dating, problems can arise. Most Soldiers don't have redeployment issues that don't resolve themselves with time, but for those who do, Gallagher recommends seeking out a friend, family member, clergy or a battle buddy to discuss what you're feeling.
As for seeking professional help, Gallagher offers the following advice: "If you think it may be better to talk with someone, that's a positive sign, and that's the time to see someone - not because of psychiatric concerns but to reinforce combat stress principles and management."
And for those who do need additional help readjusting, the good news is that much of the stigma for seeking help has taken a definite positive downturn, said Captain (Dr.) Sebastian Schnellbacher, an Army psychiatrist at LRMC.
The stigma has decreased as the Army has increased its efforts to identify and resolve potential problems, said Schnellbacher, noting that Soldiers are assessed both before and after they deploy, as well as follow-up assessment months after they've returned.
For more information on predeployment, deployment and post-deployment issues for Soldiers and family members, Gallagher recommends visiting the Behavioral Health website.
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