We were scheduled to go to a concert this past weekend with another couple. We got dressed up - well dressed up for me was jeans and a silk tank top - and hit the road for an hour drive to the concert location. We arrived and found a parking space right away -it was within very close walking distance to the front of the arena. All was going well. We grabbed some sodas and really enjoyed people watching before we went into the concert. We proceeded inside, found our seats and the concert began.
The concert was rockin' and I was having a super time. After the first set, the lights came on for the stage to be reset. I looked over at the other couple we were with and I saw a look of panic. It was a look that I immediately understood. I got up from my seat and went over and quietly asked if they would like to walk outside for some air. I initially got the "no, it is fine" response, but eventually we came to an agreement that "air" would be nice. Out we went. We found a bench outside of the arena and honesty came rushing into the conversation. The amount of people, the enclosed space, it was just all too much for our friend.
He expressed that he felt very bad for the feelings and emotions that he was having. He felt bad that he was ruining the evening for everyone. He felt bad that he could not even go to a large event and enjoy himself or the company of friends. He looked at all of us and said, "what is wrong with me, how am I ever going to be able to take my kid anywhere she wants to go and be out with my wife and friends at events we all used to enjoy?"
Because we have been long time friends, I felt that it was okay for me to speak up instead of waiting for my husband to say something. I simply told him that he was not abnormal. He jokingly said, "well, that is the first time anyone has ever told me that." We all talked awhile longer and ended up agreeing that it was best to leave the event early. We left and spent the rest of our evening on the deck of their house and finished off our evening quietly.
The stress that he was exhibiting seemingly came out of nowhere for all of us. He had seemingly been fine for many months following his last deployment. However, he had not previously put himself in a situation that was on the same scale as the event we were attending. He found that it was just too uncomfortable to be around so many people and his stress reaction came to the surface all at once.
This week began anew for him and his family. He is seeking counsel, reaching out through his chain and to his friends and family for the support and help that he needs. Our family will of course stand by him and his family and be as understanding and supportive as we possibly can be.
We often read about and discuss war-zone related stress reactions, PTSD and combat stress, but like me, many people likely assume that if our service-members are going to exhibit symptoms, it will be during deployment or shortly after returning from deployment. In this case and likely in other cases, some people may not exhibit symptoms or seem to have any issues until much later on. For awhile they avoid certain situations that could possibly make them uncomfortable, thinking that eventually they will be able to handle it and their stress will just go away. As in our friend's situation, he soon found that things caught up with him. He thought that he just needed to decompress after deployment and all would be well.
There are many resources available online for those in need. Your friends, unit and local mental health providers can also be great sources of support and help. Families also need resources and you can find several here. You can also search the SpouseBUZZ categories for numerous resource links.
Has your family or anyone that you know had a similar experience to what I have shared? I am curious to know if others have or are dealing with 'delayed reaction' of stress after a deployment has come to an end.