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.