Health News

Mar 27, 2012 1:08 AM by Matt Stafford

Trigger points for military stress

For Specialist Daniel Mata, some parts of being home - after being deployed to Iraq - immediately stood out as being more stressful than before war.

"When I'm driving I see certain things on the side of the road; I'll go from going the speed limit to bombing about 100 miles an hour down the road to get away from it just because it looks like a marker for an IED, or it could be an IED" says Spc. Mata.

"How do you say that to the police officer?" News 5 asked Spc. Mata. He said that he had been pulled over for it.

"I just told him, 'I just got back from Iraq like two months ago. I'm used to looking for IEDs; I just saw something and I was out.' He was like, 'Well you've got to slow down. I'm not going to write you a ticket, so you've got to slow down,'" explains Spc. Mata.

"If you see something on the side of the road and you speed down the highway at a hundred miles an hour, and here I am coming into traffic saying, 'What's wrong with this guy?' I could make a decision to make that better or worse," says Tonia Dailey, a mental health therapist with Community Link.

Spc. Mata agreed.

"Back then, I would have pulled a gun on them; whoever is yelling at me. But now I know I need to calm down," says Spc. Mata.

Spc. Mata says that while deployed the use of a weapon becomes a part of everyday life.

"Someone gets too close to you, you point it at them; it becomes like a second part of you. You use it as a tool for whatever you need to," says Spc. Mata. "But here, when you're back in the States, it's not a good thing to have if you think about it the same way as you did in combat."

"I got rid of all my guns," said Spc. Mata.

As the discussion continued, family members in the group pointed out that the changes in household roles when military men and women come home can create a lot of stress.

"I wouldn't say that my husband had PTSD, but he did have some character changes," says Kendra Kabongo-Faroul, an intern with Community Link and an Army spouse.

"He had to learn how to soften up a little bit... How to be in a relationship again," adds Kabongo-Faroul.

"While he was gone I was doing everything, and so when he came back I had to take a step back and let him be the man in the relationship; which was difficult for me after doing everything for a year."

When asked what helped her situation the most, Kabongo-Faroul said, "You just have to be honest and if you see something, you recognize something, you feel a certain way; then you talk about it."

"I just wanted to add to what Kendra said," says Jane Haines, a registered nurse. "My daughter was in Kandahar, Afghanistan. When she came back she seemed to be a little bit agitated; wanting to be in control of every decision."

"How difficult is that as a parent? What are the best ways that they can jump in that situation and help?" asked News 5.

"I think to just come alongside them and let them know that you're there for them.; give them time and space to readjust," says Jane Haines.

Family support seemed to be a common theme in this group's discussion for overcoming stress.

"When I came back from 'Nam; if I wasn't drinking, I wasn't sleeping," said Don Dupuis, a Vietnam veteran. "Then I switched over to smoking pot and hash; it was the only way I could sleep."

Dupuis also mentioned having a very short fuse at the
time.
"When the kids were smaller it was okay, but when they got into the 10, 11, 12; where they get really testy, I was afraid I was going to hurt the kids. I finally told Marikay, 'You're going to have to do the disciplining. I'm going to hurt the kids. I can't deal with it.'"

"I would just explode over nothing," said Dupuis. "She did most of the disciplining, and I think it really taxed her. She's a good woman to stay with me because I really put her through the wringer."

The group agrees; the more people in someone's corner, the better off they'll be coming home.

"People need to not be scared to go get help; which now, in the Army, it's not going to hold you back from anything if you go get help for mental health, but there's also programs that people need to look into that are off post," says Spc. Mata.

The Warrior Relaxation Response Center hosted News 5's roundtable discussion; they work with individuals on stress-related issues. For more information, click here.

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