Military service and mental health

I had the opportunity to sit and talk a few days ago with a veteran.  He had returned from military service 18 months ago.  He came in complaining of forgetfulness ..of important dates, meetings, etc. and yet of also common, unimportant things…what drawer he puts his socks in, where they keep the broom  at home.

Eventually, we got around to addressing the possibility that his military service experiences may be playing a part of his current trouble.  He was skeptical about the connection.  Further, he did not want to talk about his experiences because talking about them brought up such bad memories.  Yet…he knew he needed to talk about them…with someone.  They were such a burden to carry alone.


He related that due to his military training, he was able to do things he never thought he would do…namely kill another human being.  He recalled with great detail one particular situation.  He related that he knew at the time of the incident, that he was able to do what he needed to do due to his training and out of a sense of survival (“It was either him or me.”). Yet he also knew what he did (kill another human being) was against every fiber of his being.


Since we have begun talking about the experiences he remembers the most, the forgetfulness has subsided.  He still struggles with other issues…intimacy, snap reactions to strangers, etc.


After he returned home, he didn’t feel the need for counseling.  So why is he forgetting things now or at the time he started counseling?


Upon returning from military service, psychologically, he was still in survival mode.  After 12-18 months at home, he began to psychologically calm down and only then did the memories of what he had done remain for him to contemplate.  It is like listening to a loud  band at a bar.  After you leave, your ears are ringing but after a while, your ears stop ringing but you can still recall the lyrics of the songs the band was singing.  And you start to think about the lyrics and what they mean….and how it applies to your life now (as opposed to when you first heard them at the bar.  At that time, you were busy attending to the music, lights, sounds, people, etc.


More later…

Speak Your Mind