3.0 Talking to Others About Deployment Experiences

Services available to you:

  • Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Outreach Center (866) 966-1020
  • Veterans Affairs Mental Health support website Make the Connection
  • Military One Source support for service members (800) 342-9647
  • Click on the Call or Chat button in the right-hand corner of this website to get LIVE help from a trained consultant at the Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center.

Talking about your intense deployment experience can ease the impact of it.  Opening up about your deployment can be hard, so choose people who you trust to help and support you.  Friends, family members, chaplains, counselors and therapists can all provide support.

3.1 Sharing Your Deployment Experiences

The excuses listed are common and understandable.  You may need to coach yourself with self-talk. 

Below are positive ways to deal with these common excuses:

“I don’t want to be a burden.”

  • Remember: People who care about you don’t see your problems as a burden.
  • Ask yourself: “How do I feel when a close friend talks to me about something that bothers them?”
  • Work through the most upsetting stuff together.
     

“I think I should be over it by now.”

  • Remember it takes time to heal.
  • Looking for support can help you recover more quickly.
  • Judging and criticizing yourself isn’t helpful and may make recovery harder.
     

“I don’t want to be teased or made fun of.”

  • Talk to someone you trust.
  • Agree to keep the conversation private.
     

“I’m afraid I’ll get so upset that I’ll lose control.”

  • Go at your own pace and take breaks when you need to calm down.
  • Practice your new relaxation skills when you’re upset.
     

“I don’t think it will be helpful.”

  • Talk to someone to examine your own feelings.
  • Facing your fears is healthier than avoiding them.
     

“I think asking for help means I’m weak or going crazy.”

  • Everyone needs support from time to time.
  • Getting help shows strength, courage, and self-respect.
  • Talking about things can be hard, but in the end you’ll feel better and stronger.
     

“I don’t think anyone can understand.”

  • Only if you never give anyone the chance to understand.
  • You’re not alone; others have been through similar experiences.
  • Ask others how they handle stressful experiences in their lives.
  • Talk to a professional, such as psychologist or support group.
     

“I’m worried that talking about it may affect my military career.”

  • Talk to other service members with similar experiences.
  • Agree to keep the conversation private.
  • Know that in most cases, talking about your problems will help you overcome them.  But be aware that sharing some information could impact your career.  So share with someone you trust.
     

“I think people might reject me if they know what I did during deployment.”

  • Talk to other service members first, and then share with others you trust.
  • Ask the other person to listen without judging.
     

Remember: You did the best you could in the situation based on the information you had at the time.

 

3.2 How to Talk About Deployment

Not talking about deployment can increase upsetting thoughts and feelings.  It can limit your ability to understand what happened or deal with your feelings.  On the other hand, talking about your deployment all the time can be too much for you and others to handle.  Finding a balance between these extremes is the goal.

  • How do you open up to others and strengthen your social ties?  Things you may want to talk about include:
  • The actual events of your deployment
  • Thoughts and feelings you have about those events
  • Ways you’ve coped with your experiences
  • Ways you’ve grown or changed since your deployment
  • Practical decisions, such as what to do about your job
  • Thoughts about your future
  • Ways you found strength you didn't know you had
  • Things you’ve learned that might help others to cope with similar experiences
     

You should also figure out the best times to talk about what happened.  It’s a good idea to wait to talk about your deployment until:

  • You’re well rested
  • You’re with someone you know and trust
  • You’ve got enough time to share your thoughts and get feedback
  • You’re not already feeling upset
  • You’ve got some privacy
     

Other service members worry about getting emotional when talking about deployment.  If that worries you, remember these tips:

  • It’s ok to get emotional.  Once you share, your emotions won’t seem as overwhelming
  • Tell the person you may get emotional, and you’d appreciate their support if you do.
  • Take a chance.  Talk about painful feelings or thoughts even if it’s hard.
  • Expect some uncomfortable feelings after talking about hard issues.  Know that these feeling are easier to handle with time and practice.
  • Inform the other person you may need to take a break to calm down or collect yourself.

 

When you finish talking:

  • Thank the person for listening.  They should know you value their time and support.
  • Schedule a cool-down time after talking.  Do something fun and easy to help shift back to the present.
  • Plan to talk about your deployment with someone you trust.  Schedule your plan once a week or once a month.
  • Expect the other person to respond in ways that bother or upset you.  If that happens, know that they probably don’t have bad intentions.  Talk with them about what bothered you, or ask someone else for their opinion.

     

We strongly encourage you to get help and support from a trained behavioral health professional if you:

  • Feel extremely sad or depressed for more than a week.
  • Have anxious or distressing thoughts you can’t control for more than a week.
  • Find it difficult to work or meet your daily responsibilities.
  • Experience relationship problems, or have trouble taking care of your family.
  • Increase your use of alcohol or drugs to cope.
  • Overuse of prescription medications.
  • Have traumatic stress reactions that do NOT get better as time passes.
  • Think about hurting or killing yourself.
  • Think about hurting or killing someone else.
  • Feel extremely angry most of the time.
  • Have trouble sleeping most of the time.
  • Have problems eating or lose significant weight without trying.
  • Know others are concerned about you and think you should talk to someone.

 

3.3 Talking to a Professional

Many service members find help in talking to a professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, spiritual advisor, doctor, or nurse.  Others join a support group of people with similar experiences.  The decision to seek professional counseling is a choice.  Remember, some situations require more professional help than others.
 

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, let someone know. Seek help immediately.  Call 911 or the Suicide Crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.
 

It doesn’t have to be an emergency to get help from a professional therapist or counselor.  Experts who work with military personnel can help you:

  • Manage your feelings and thoughts more effectively
  • Feel more comfortable talking to people in your daily life
  • Pursue goals that are important to you
  • Focus on your future
  • Use the Trigger Record as soon as possible each time you are triggered
     

Using your Trigger Record:

It is important that you recognize what triggered you.  It is also important to see how the trigger affected your emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors.  You will begin to see how trauma triggers are different from the original traumatic experience.  If you have strong feelings or sensations, you can start from there and work backwards to determine the trigger that set you off.

Use the Trigger Record as soon as possible each time you are triggered.  It is important that you recognize what triggered you.  It is also important to see how the trigger affected your emotions, physical reactions, and behaviors.  You will begin to see how trauma triggers are different from the original traumatic experience.  If you have strong feelings or sensations, you can start from there and work backwards to determine the trigger that set you off.
 

Services available to you:

  • Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) Outreach Center (866) 966-1020
  • Veterans Affairs Mental Health support website Make the Connection
  • Military One Source support for service members (800) 342-9647
  • Click on the Call or Chat button in the right-hand corner of this website to get LIVE help from a trained consultant at the Defense Centers of Excellence Outreach Center.