In the US, there are more than 18 million veterans. Coming back from serving on active duty can change you as a person. What you witness during your time stationed abroad and the physical and emotional stress you face can all take a toll on you. War comes at a heavy price, and it requires immense courage to put yourself in such a risky position to defend your country. So, when you return home, you may find it hard to get used to your civilian life. None of this is unusual.
However, as you gradually get used to a slower pace of life, you must seek help and look after your well-being. Once you take up new habits and form a routine, you’ll regain control, find yourself getting better and start enjoying a more fulfilling life. Here are some steps you can take to embrace a new chapter of your life.
1. Speak To A Primary Care Doctor
As a veteran, it is important to get your physical well-being checked regularly by your primary care physician. These medical caregivers will perform routine examinations and screenings to deduce your current condition. It is also a great way to learn if you have any underlying illnesses or disease that needs immediate attention. Veterans fairly commonly treat joint aches, muscle pain, heart troubles, and inconsistent blood pressure.
However, if you served in the military around the 80s, there is one more condition you may be dealing with. In 1980, most military gear, including weapons and bunkers, had asbestos. This microscopic fiber can seep into your body and accumulate in one spot, making you sick. Most cases of mesothelioma take years to develop. This is why you need to get it looked at and know your treatment options if you show symptoms of breathlessness, blood in your cough, or pain in your chest.
Mesothelioma is an expensive and aggressive illness to treat, so don’t ignore your health and assume the body aches you feel you will go away on their own. Getting tested and looked after right away will help you get better faster.
2. Seek Mental Health Counseling
It is common for military personnel to suffer from mental health conditions. These include depression, PTSD, and anxiety.
When you come home from serving your country, the after-effects of your military service may start haunting you. It is not unusual to have trouble falling asleep, experience intense mood swings, and in extreme cases, you may even lash out at your family. PTSD is a strong mental ailment. You may experience hallucinations, feel your heart rate rise and go numb. If you don’t get timely help, your symptoms may worsen.
When you are in severe pain and feel yourself spiraling out of control, you can end up hurting yourself or start self-harm. This is why if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to the relevant avenues and get the support you need. You can look into talking to a psychiatrist or a counselor or joining a support group.
Psychiatrists are licensed practitioners who can diagnose and prescribe your medication. These professionals use various treatments to help you embrace a healthier life. For instance, depending on your mental status, you may have to undergo psychotherapy, psychosocial interventions, and electroconvulsive therapy. Your psychiatrist may also have conversations with you to better understand your ailment, help you comprehend your disease, and help you with your emotional well-being.
On the other hand, support groups connect you with veterans who may be dealing with the same issues as you. Talking to them, expressing your feelings openly, and speaking your mind in an unfiltered manner, can help you unload the burden you carry within yourself. Your support group can also guide you to expert counselors and give you the advice you need to help you get better.
3. Get All Your Vaccines
Vaccines build up your immunity and prevent you from contracting severe infections. These include tetanus, mumps, HPV, measles, and in recent times the Covid virus. While you were on active duty, there is a chance you may have missed out on your necessary vaccines, so once you return home, make sure you get your health charts updated. Likewise, if you are coming back from areas that may have cases of Ebola or malaria, you need to get tested and ensure you are not a carrier.
4. Look Into Physical Therapy
It would help if you saw a physical therapist regarding inflamed joints, weak muscles, and limited movement. While you were on active duty, there’s a chance you may have injured your tendons and joints, which caused them to act up later in life. If your muscles lock up when you walk or become swollen anytime you bend, you may experience significant pain.
A physical therapist checks your range of motion and administers therapeutic measures to make them more flexible. They may help you carry out specific exercises, massage the impacted area and slowly support in applying force on your weak muscles.
After a few sessions, you’ll notice that you’re able to move in a much more liberated manner, and your muscles will not lock up as quickly as they once did. A physical therapist can also help you deal with scar tissue, so it’s a good idea to consult their services immediately.
5. Make Time For Yourself
You need time to find your momentum again. Adjusting to a routine at home requires active engagement. Therefore, the best way to focus on yourself is to make a routine. This involves charting your day, sleeping at least nine hours a day, and eating a proper meal.
As military personnel, you may be used to vacuum-sealed lunches or freeze-dried food. So explore different cuisines, utilize your kitchen and try cooking other nutritious meals. If you have trouble sleeping, look into a sleeping aid or talk to a specialist to ensure you get shut-eye.
You will have good and bad days, which are all part of your journey. If you are having a hard day, its okay; journal your thoughts, meditate and speak to your therapist to get back on track. When you have a pleasant day, celebrate and make sure you enjoy the day thoroughly.
There is honor in serving and dedicating your life to your country. But this honor comes at a heavy price, often at the expense of your well-being. As a veteran, coming home after returning from active duty is not easy. It’s time to get going again, which involves rebuilding your life from scratch.
Start by seeking medical attention for your wounds and severe ailments. It will help if you also consult with a physical therapist if you struggle with moving your limbs.
Furthermore, you need to update your vaccine chart and get help for your mental health ailments. Finally, pave time for yourself, and deal with each day slowly. Embrace the good and the bad, and accept that you must show significant empathy for yourself as you recover.