Photograph: Unsplash-Benjamin Faust
You thought civilian life would be different. Maybe you planned on getting out the military after your contract was up. Maybe something happened that led to you being separated/discharged sooner than you anticipated. Or maybe you did your 20+ years to make it to retirement.
You were nervous about transitioning to the civilian side, but hoped it would be better. However, you have a lot more nerves and doubt then you were prepared for. You’re unsure of yourself. You feel out of place going back to school and/or entering the workplace. You’re worried about finances and aren’t sure if your disability and G.I. bill will be enough to live a full life. You feel panicked about whether you should have stayed in the military or not. Sometimes, you wish you were back in.
You stress about everything. After years of things being laid out for you (hair length, uniform, pay, health insurance, job duties), everything now falls on you. You are in charge of every decision that you make and there’s just too many paths to take. You panic when thinking you may make the wrong one and often freeze up. You distract yourself with videogames/social media/tv to avoid having to think.
You feel left out in conversations with friends who’ve never been in the military, but also struggle to connect with friends who are still in since you aren’t technically one of them anymore. Friends and family keep asking if you’re relieved to be out and you feel like you have to say “yes” because saying “no” would require too much explaining and some of it is hard to put into words. You feel insecure in school, being older than many of the students. You feel behind your peers in the workplace and worry about being able to ever catch up.
Photograph: Unsplash: Wes Hicks
Photograph: Unsplash-Jessica Radonavang
You can find your new identity as a civilian without losing touch of who you are as a veteran. You can create a new path for yourself and work through the anxious thoughts that are stopping you from moving forward. You can learn ways to break through the stress of this transition and have healthy coping skills and tools to get through the day.
You can finally start getting some sleep as you gain control over your racing thoughts at night. You can work on connecting again with your family and friends in an authentic way and begin to build a new, healthier life for yourself. You can build some confidence back up and feel better about the new identity you are creating for yourself.
I started working at NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach in 2015. During my 4 years there in an on-base medical clinic, I worked with active duty members in the Navy, Marines, Army, and Coast Guard. I saw the difficulties that came with being in the military firsthand while there and many clients I worked with wanted to get out of the service due to the difficult working and living conditions they were in.
But at the same time, everyone who was transitioning out, even if it was all they could think about, was extremely anxious at the thought of being a civilian again. I spent the 3 years after my time at Oceana working with active duty, retirees (both medical retirees and those at the end of their 20 year careers) and their family members. I’ve heard and seen how difficult that transition to civilian life can be. It’s not as easy as it seemed and nothing can fully prepare you for it.
Photograph: Unpslash-Olivet Pictures
With my experience, I have a helped many individuals prepare for and/or adjust to civilian life. I take a very laid back, but direct approach. I want to help you work through the grief of ending your military career. I want us to talk through the experiences you had while active duty and process them. We can work on identifying what your goals for this next stage of your life are and develop a plan for how to achieve them.
I’m not going to ask you to do a ton of therapy homework (though if you want podcast or book recommendations, I can recommend some stuff). But there will be small tasks to do occasionally between sessions, like practicing a new coping skill you’ve learned in sessions or taking small steps to build a new routine.
I want you to enjoy coming to therapy sessions! Therapy is a place where you can be fully listened to, not judged, and be free. You will hopefully start to feel better about where you’re at in life and have more of an idea about the direction you’re heading. You can be more confident and be more assertive. You can start to process everything you went through while in the military without fear of it negatively impacting your career. You can have a solid self care routine to recharge when needed. You can finally build a positive work/life balance and feel more fulfilled. In therapy, you can learn techniques to help you become your best self. If you come to sessions and put in the work, you will get something out of it.
You've undergone a lot of change, so let’s work together to unlock your potential and help you build a healthy future together!