For many of our Veterans coming back from serving our country abroad, coming back to their own country can be one of the hardest things due to PTSD or a variety of other reasons. After having some unthinkable and unimaginable life changing experiences, one views the world in a whole new light.
On top of all of this, the friends, family, and colleagues that used to be there have now moved on to a whole new part of their life. Life does not stand still while you are away. The only thing that is constant in life is change its self. Coming back to the old relations poses a difficult question to try and find people who can relate, not even to the next step of understanding, what you have gone through.
Is this a challenge that is only faced by Veterans, or also others who have gone away for years and had to come back to their own country? I would beg to argue that it is the latter and the feelings could be felt by a grand number of people. The strange feeling of coming back to your own country and feeling like a foreigner? The strange feeling of having intense flashbacks to the way of life that you had? The upsetting feeling in your stomach when you think back to the foods that you used to eat? The strange feelings that you have when the languages you used to hear come back in your dreams? The unique elements of the culture that you either loved, hated, or anything in between that for one reason or another you became accustomed to.
This is a similar challenge faced by those who possibly have experienced substance abuse issues. If you found yourself in a substance abuse rehab center for a period of time, it can be daunting to try and reenter society. It could also strongly impact those who were in jail, and now trying to reenter society. Or even those with schizophrenia. Building these relationships back with the rest of society is a challenge faced by many.
After many years away from the communities that you are used to, some of the basic hobbies you might have done in the past have perhaps also changed. Perhaps you used to be a fanatic for pro sports? Well, after a few years of not always being connected to the sports you might feel a little out of touch with what is going on in the sports world? What if you used to have a love of movies? There were a few years of movies that you have missed. And on top of that, TV shows that everyone is talking to? How do you relate to something or talk about it if you have never seen it yourself?
How do you introduce yourself while carrying these enormous, potentially traumatic events? It is easy to meet someone and let them know that you have been in construction in Cincinnati the last few years, for instance. What is the reaction when you tell them you were overseas, doing unimaginable tasks? This either elicits countless questions to try and figure out exactly what you were doing — which could only open up the scars and wounds that you are hoping to recover from — or it could cause the opposite reaction where the person simply does not care at all or has no idea how to pose a question about it. Either way, it hurts.
What are some ways to deal with this?
Here are a few strategies:
1. Persistence: just like all things in life, things are changing and you will not always be the closest with the people you were close with as in the past. Be persistent to continue trying to reach out to old friends, new friends, family members, and others who could potentially relate or understand you better.
2. Become active in a community organization: this is an easy first step as a way to meet some new friends that might not always judge you or know about your previous background. They might share some new experiences or fun together that help you to explore the new area that you are living in and involved in.
3. Exercise: this is extremely helpful and one thing that helps to work through some of the struggles, ups, and downs of everyday life. It is a nice chance to let your brain flow through some of what is going on and lets you focus on the present moment.
4. Volunteer: giving back is one of the best ways to feel better yourself. There are many homeless shelters, youth organizations, or even online opportunities to give some time back to those in need.
5. Better understand the connection between your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions: programs such as Prevail provide an incredible opportunity to better understand our mind. If we are able to not only better understand what is going on in our mind, but always have the opportunity to challenge some thoughts that are going against our mind.