War on Terrorism

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Coming Back Home

This post is republished from the DCoE blog.

Dr. James Bender recently returned from Iraq after spending 12 months as the brigade psychologist for the 4-1 CAV out of Ft Hood. He served for four and a half years in the Army. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad and many spots in between. He’ll be writing a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on mental health issues related to deployment and being in the military.

Hello, I’m Dr. James Bender and excited to be writing a monthly post. I hope you’ll share your thoughts and comments with me, so I can address the things you want to know and talk about. Having just returned from Iraq, deployment issues are top of mind.

Anyone who has faced redeployment, or coming back home can relate. Redeployment is a big adjustment after being downrange. If you engaged the enemy or not, you went through a major life change when you deployed, and you’re going through another major change when you get back. Just as it took some time to get used to deployment, it will take you some time (maybe several months) to get used to being back home.

During your readjustment time, you may be tempted to drive your POV fast or in the middle of the road. You might get nervous and want to drive faster when you see garbage by the side of the road, or when you drive under an overpass. Hearing fireworks or gunfire at the range might get you anxious. You may want to check your 5 and 25 in the shopping mall parking lot or feel nervous around crowds. You might have trouble sleeping or have nightmares about deployment. All these things are normal and will usually go away after a few weeks or months.

But, if you (or your buddies) are doing or experiencing any of the following, it’s time to get some professional help:

• Drinking a lot or doing drugs, especially if it helps you deal with your emotions or problems
• Constantly being angry, especially to the point where you’re going to lose it or can’t control yourself
• Having several flashbacks, or episodes where you think you’re back on deployment
• Thinking about hurting or killing yourself or seriously thinking of hurting or killing someone else

If you have any doubts or questions, it is completely alright to seek the help of a professional, or call the DCoE Outreach Center. While in the Army, I saw some service members very often, and some only once or twice to just answer questions. It never hurts to check in.

That’s all for now. Thank you for your service and see you next month.

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