Military Transition: From the Shotgun Seat. As a military spouse with a recently retired husband, I watched this interview with Dr. Nancy Lin about the military transition and it resonated with me because Dr. Lin discusses the real and raw side of this transition. They talk about military mental health as a whole and touch on how humor and communication play a part in the healing process.
I’ve loved an active duty serviceman for the bulk of my adult life. I met my husband at the young, exciting, albeit naïve, age of 20 and I was all in with no holds barred. I grew up in a small town where being stationary was accepted and being mediocre was celebrated, and I wanted more. We would travel, see the world, and embrace every hiccup and obstacle as just another part of the adventure.
You laughing yet?
Very quickly, my daydreams of breakfasts in Paris and three-year tours in Spain were crashed into hurricane-style by month-long trips to the field, weekend duty calls, overnight watches, uprooted plans, and postponed vacations that never happened. And that wasn’t even the worst of it.
Everyone told me about the deployments. They told me about how I would have to be strong on my own, learn to adapt to time alone, build my own life, the whole gambit. They told me about how communication would be hard and I might have to weather a few days of silence waiting for a phone call. The stuff you see in movies.
They didn’t tell me that every time he came back he would be different. That everywhere he went he would leave another small piece of himself. That every time he came home he was already preparing to leave again. That’s the stuff they don’t tell you. I’ve made it my mission to make sure every young military spouse I meet hears it. I’ve been called out for being blunt on that front, but I just consider myself a realist.
For 11 years, I watched my husband slowly change day in and day out. Lord only knows what he was like prior to the nine years he served before he met me. I’ve watched him suppress his feelings, bury his demons, and despite all of it still get up and go do his job. There were moments where it was so profusely soul-crushing I didn’t know how either of us would survive it.
Then he retired. And all my happy thoughts of rainbows, sunshine and puppies came flooding back. Now it will be different. Everything will be normal now.
Now you’re crying laughing, right?
Turns out, nothing magical happens the day you’re served a DD 214. There is no catastrophic shift in mindset or some life-changing realization that now you can go ahead and feel your feelings. Farthest thing from it, actually. Now it just means there is nowhere to channel it. Now there’s no more being surrounded by the same three thousand like-minded people every day. Now it’s just finding every possible self-destructive outlet to try to make it go away.
I have weathered this transition alongside my husband, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lived it. I’ve never been in his head, and I go back and forth on being both thankful that I haven’t and wishful that I could be. But what I know is there was a moment where he made a choice. He made a choice to not let his demons consume him and to just get better. I’m sure some of you are assuming that he walked off to a psychiatrist that would somehow magically fix everything for him.
Nope. He just started talking. He talked to me. He talked to buddies. He reached out to other chiefs and master chiefs that he hadn’t spoken to in years. He talked to anyone that would listen (which is a LOT of people in the military community, but I don’t need to tell any of you that).
There is more power in connection and communication than I’ll ever understand. There is more power in this community than I think any of us can put in words.
When I learned about Mental Hell and Wellness, my first thought was, I wish this had already been around when he retired. So if you’re reading this, I’m glad you’re here.
If you’re going through this transition, take it from the cheap seats. Make the decision to get better. It’s not easy, it’s actually really hard, but I’m telling you now, it is possible.
A Loving Military Spouse to a 20-year Navy Seabee Veteran
Mental Hell and Wellness Series:
Introducing Mental Hell and Wellness: The Path Out of Hell
The Why Behind The Mental Hell and Wellness Series
What Are We Doing About The Mental Hell & Wellness Of Our Vets?
Mental Hell and Wellness: That Awkward Talk (Part 1)
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 1
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 2
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 3
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 4
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 5
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 6
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 7
Breakdown: Lauren Rich Ep 8
Interview: Dr. Abby Cobey
Interview: Dr. Nancy Lin
Interview: Dr. Michael Terry
Interview: Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk