- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband is a combat veteran, and he is still not doing well since returning from his last deployment in September. How long should it take for a veteran to get used to being at home from a long deployment?

I’m so sad right now. This was his third deployment. He was in Afghanistan for one year and to Iraq twice. He still is not sleeping well at all. He may sleep for two to three hours. He has nightmares, too. I hated to do this, but I started sleeping in a separate bedroom just so I could sleep. Otherwise, I wouldn’t feel like going to work the next morning.

My husband does not like to go anywhere or do anything. He is not sociable at all, which is the opposite of how he was previously. He doesn’t want to go to the movies or out to dinner or anything. I don’t want to be too graphic, but our love life is nonexistent. When I try to initiate making love, he always says he doesn’t feel like it or maybe later.

I keep telling him he needs to get some help, but he won’t because of his rank. He thinks he will be able to work through this with time and he doesn’t want to cause any problems in his career. I disagree with him. How can I persuade my husband to get help?

- A Caring Spouse

Dear Spouse,

The reintegration process will vary from one person to the next. There are post-deployment health assessments that your husband should have been a part of. On these assessments are mental health surveys that ask questions about sleeping difficulty, nightmares, depression, anger and agitation. Based on his answers, he would receive a referral to the appropriate medical provider.

This is what should happen. But oftentimes service members like your husband do not tell the truth about their symptoms to the providers who can help. While some service members do come forward on their own accord with little to no prodding, others fear reprisal, believing they could cause problems in their career or with their security clearance.

Even more feel they will be perceived as weak and will be shunned by their units. I also have met service members who reported they were not supported by their command when they sought help for symptoms of combat stress. If your husband thinks admitting to some difficulty would mean he is weak or could cause him career difficulties, he may not be inclined to tell the truth.

The larger truth is that your husband is not alone. Many soldiers, men and women of all ranks, are reporting similar symptoms and are receiving individual and group counseling and other medical care. It helps to share your combat experiences with others who have been there.

Talk with your husband and tell him about the changes you have noticed. Let him know that not getting help will have more of an adverse effect on his career. Even more, it will have a negative impact on his marriage and relationship with you and other family members.

It’s important that you take part in his treatment. Remember, however, that this is not your fault and I don’t want you to think that I am making you responsible. Moreover, you can’t make him get treatment.

Start discussions with your husband and ask other family members and loved ones to show support and do the same thing. After talking with your husband, tell him you would like to make an appointment for him with his primary care physician to rule out any other health problems or with Behavioral Health on base. Let’s hope he will allow you to do this.

In the meantime, you should visit Web sites such as www.military.com and www.militaryonesource.com for resource information to help you. Please know you are not alone and there are many people who care about you and your husband.

Hang in there and keep me posted.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband and I have moved to the D.C. area. I am 26 with no children. I am not sure whether I am expecting too much out of the Army or whether I have not been given the tools I need since moving here, but I have not received any information regarding programs with other wives unless I requested it. I did not even know what a family readiness group was until I overheard some people talking about it at the PX. My husband was given no information to pass to me, and I have had to get him to ask around in the office to find out about organizations.

I have met a few people since I started working, but it seems that everyone around me is either in the partying stage or does not get out much because they have young children.

I contacted the family readiness group a month ago, and I was told someone would contact me about the next meeting. I guess there have been no meetings because I haven’t gotten a call. I have yet to find out the actual meeting dates and times of the spousal club.

I would love to know where I can meet people. I hope I’m not trying too hard to fit in. Do you have any other ideas or know of groups I can contact?

- Looking for my Niche

Dear Niche,

Transitions are tough. What you are experiencing is normal. Don’t be too hard on yourself for not having friends. I’m not sure what’s going on with your family readiness group, but I have confidence they will contact you. Friends eventually will come, and I’m sure you will find your niche in your new community.

Try visiting the Red Cross on base and visit Army Community Services. Both will have information on volunteer opportunities on base. ACS also will have employment and educational information. Once you begin to explore opportunities, you will find something that is right for you. Write to me as often as you like.

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com.

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