Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mental Insurgents

Returning home for a soldier who's been in a combat environment, or even just in theater, can be a difficult transition. Those who suffer the emotional scars of battle have to deal with re-acclimating themselves to the normal grind of daily life, and even those (like myself) who didn't have to experience any horrific events also have to relearn how to interact with a civil society.
Last weekend, I was briefed on the different signs and symptoms that I and my fellow soldiers could exhibit upon returning to the States. Some might be some signs of irritability or lethargy, while more significant signs like isolation and suicidal thoughts are also likely to fight their way into the forefront of one's mind. The clinical physician who briefed us referred to these symptoms as "mental insurgents."
Just as we have been fighting a group of insurgents on the battlefield, leaving this environment leads to a new enemy combatant that must be fought in order to preserve our ability to function in society. Regardless of what a soldier experienced over here, it is significantly different from the lifestyle he or she leads back home. As a result, it's a matter of slowly transitioning from a hostile environment to a civil one that could lead to the deterioration of one's mental and emotional well-being. This is something I myself must be consciously aware of a guard against. Small things like being a busy restaurant, or getting stuck in a traffic jam could trigger a reaction that leads to self-destructive behavior. While I'm confident that my faith and the support from my family will aid in re-integration, there are many who do not have these forms of assistance. In addition to praying for the safe return of my fellow soldiers, I ask that you also pray for their mental and emotional recovery from being in theater. This can be just as important to the overall well-being of our military personnel AND their families.
Take care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Be prepared for strange dreams when you get home. Here are two I had not a month after returning from Iraq. (1) I dreamed that I was part of a convoy and we we're performing some sort of patrol..in Middle America. We were all hungry and decided to roll into (where else) McDonalds and order some tasty Big Macs. As we pulled up to the drive through insurgents started to pop out of nowhere and fire on our convoy. They were coming out of everything! Out from behind bushes, out of the store, from behind the giant menu screen, even from the playground (sick bastards). At that point I woke up and my body was covered in sweat. It took a while for me to go back to a McDonalds after that. (2) We were doing a long convoy operation escorting gas tankers to the border. What border I don't know b/c our convoy was going down Kingston Pike in the dead of the night. Nothing more came of that dream. So be prepared to have some weird dreams man...and stay away from McDonalds.