Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Stress Trigger: Something As Everyday As Sport Cream

I hope sharing this story will help all you spouses, families and significant others increase even more your compassion for the post-war life of our service members. There are stress triggers everywhere and we don't even know it. But I believe knowing this, that there are unexpected triggers all around, will help us have even more patience and understanding for our service members.

Earlier this week I wrote about learning to recognize stress triggers. Today I want to share how I learned that there are so many triggers I would never have imagined all around us in our everyday life. A couple of days ago my husband shared with me that he and several other military guys were in a room where someone had slathered on a well-known brand of sports rub. He named the brand. Then he said it was setting off anxiety triggers for all the military guys because that brand of sports rub smells exactly like dead bodies. Wow. That blew  my mind.

I can't imagine how stressful that would be to be in an environment where you can't get away from that smell and the emotional attachments, very stressful ones, that that specific smell would trigger. It's tough to get the scent of sports rub out of your nose and I would imagine the smell of dead bodies is very much the same.

It's easy as a family member to just want things to hurry up and get back to normal and focus on home life reintegration. It's easy to overlook in our anxiousness sometimes that there is a lot more going on that we might imagine. It's good to have a lot of patience with our service members when they are faced with potential post-deployment stress landmines that could surface at any moment as they are just walking around in their everyday lives. In our homes and families, it is important that we  have understanding for this post -war reality for our service members. The scent of war is just as stressful as the visual memories they carry for the rest of their lives.

We may never know what will trigger a stress response in them, but if we can learn to recognize the signs of their stress we can immediately take action to help alleviate the situation and be supportive to them. I think when they realize that we understand and are there to help it makes getting through these situations a lot easier for them.

If any service members are reading this, I would love to get your feedback on how we loved ones can help and even share with us some of the weird triggers you have come across that might be helpful for other service member's families to hear about.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Learn To Recognize His Stress Triggers

image via

I wrote this post last fall and somehow never published it. It's a good one that I hope other people will be able to connect with and will help someone out there with the stress of reintegration. Reading this again this week was a great reminder to me too. I still need to be mindful about stress triggers. To set the stage, we went on our first little, "long weekend" vacation since he had come home from deployment. This event I am writing about happened early the morning of our last day of our trip. 

From September 2013: Yesterday I was talking with our reintegration family counselors after our daughter had an appointment. I shared with them our experience on Sunday with the crowds. They mentioned the words "stress triggers" and how great it is that I am learning to recognize them. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks that I'd totally blown it Monday morning.

My husband woke up in the middle of the night stressing out about all the things waiting for us at home. I was looking forward to just having a peaceful day before we headed home late that evening so we could miss holiday traffic. He could not sleep and kept me awake talking about every stressful thing he could think of, including the traffic and how horrible he was sure it would be.

Instead of recognizing that the traffic was triggering his stress and doing what I could to help him, I got mad. Here he was ruining the last day of our trip, yada, yada, yada. In a not very nice voice I told him we were leaving because he was determined to ruin the day and the trip so there was no point in staying another minute. I got up, started gathering up my things, then our little one's things and by the time I got to the car, I wasn't even speaking to him.

While talking with the counselors, they helped me realize that just like that call of "I can't do this" that I responded to so quickly and calmly, I could've done the same thing Monday morning. I didn't connect post-deployment anxiety with his concerns about driving home.

He was the driver for his group for the year he was in Afghanistan, so yes, perhaps he may have a little post-deployment stress about driving in crowds. Duh. I didn't even put that together until days later. I realize now that he felt responsible to get us home safely, that he was worried he'd be too tired to drive us home at night, and again that crowds and stressful situations like traffic jams are a problem.

I started thinking back to some of our more heated moments since he came back and I think I can just about attribute them all to situations where his triggers have been triggered and sometimes I made it much worse by choosing to get belligerent rather than focusing on eliminating the situation that was creating his anxiety. My conversation with the therapists was a real eye opener.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Having A Relationship With A Woman Instead Of A Girl

I saw this and it reminded me of so much of the chatter I see on Twitter. I see so many girls who are very proud to be bratty and take and take and take and only give what they want to give when they want to give it. These women expect everyone around them to cater to their emotions and their demands. It makes me sad for the men who date and marry these women.

This is a fantastic teaching principle for children. I want boys (and men!) to know this and have the power to make decisions that best serve the happiness of their lives. I think if more people understood this, there would also be a higher expectation of women to be more than bratty little girls. Bratty little girls can be found in every age of womanhood - and sadly this is empowered by men who indulge these women and take care of them when they refuse to take care of themselves.

I think this is phenomenal advice for any man and it's great guidance for we women. What kind of a woman do we want to be is a fantastic question to use as a ruler for our life choices, our behavior and how we treat the men in our relationships. I know I want to be a woman who makes others feel invigorated and inspired.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Missing My Before Husband, Finding A New Normal

Last night for some reason I was just missing my husband so much that when he fell asleep on the couch I sat on the floor next to him, held his hand and laid my head on his chest....and cried. When he woke up this morning the first thing he said was "Who moved the coffee table so far from the couch last night?" He had no idea I was there. But that's okay. It was a moment I needed to have that he didn't necessarily need to have.

This morning, missing him again and still feeling a little teary, a line I have read many times from other military spouses came to my mind. "The man you send on deployment is not the same man who will come home to you." You know what comes next, right? You've heard it a million times. "You have changed too and things will never be the same as they were before. You have to find a NEW NORMAL."

New Normal....those two words...I'm gettin' tired of them. I'm tired of New Normal. I want Old Normal, even for just a few minutes. I have to say that after all the reading and preparing I did for pre-deployment, deployment and reintegration the things the experts said again and again have pretty much all been right on the money. The only thing I have read repeatedly that has not happened at our house is that my husband has not become hyper vigilant. He does not check the doors regularly or stand guard in our home. This is very likely because of the fact that this was not part of his work while deployed even though I am sure he was expected to be on guard constantly. But he was not in an assignment that required him to be a part of base security.

But of all the stuff I read, it's pretty much all come into play at one point or another. Today it was the reality that my old guy is gone. I'm married to a different guy now. That's a weird reality. Maybe it comes more into focus on a week like Valentine's Day when I think about how simple and happy our relationship was in the beginning. That changes too over time. Getting married means bills, shared responsibilities and a huge ability to affect other people by even your smallest actions. Maybe that's a good way to look at it. Everything changes so don't hold onto anything in the past too hard. Our kiddo is changing all the time too. I wake up and she looks taller and older than she did the night before. It's weird but true. People say it all the time, that she looks taller and older all of a sudden. That's pretty crazy really, but again it's true.

Maybe my hope and prayer for this Valentine's Day is to fall in love with this new guy I am married to in a new way. Maybe I can think about how I've changed and try to help him find the new me as well. Perhaps that can be our gifts this year. To find our New Normal or at least start finding it. I'm sure it doesn't happen all at once.

image via mca