I knew it was time to retire when I submitted my paperwork to retire in 2012 after serving 22 years in the U.S. Army. I was ready, like most Military Members are after dedicating so much of our lives to the military.
I retired with a smile on my face. I enjoyed my career and really made the most of the experience. Traveled the world, made some lifelong friends and grew so much as a woman, a leader and a Soldier.
So imagine my surprise when I transitioned and found myself in the middle of an emotional battlefield. Stalled in my transition process. I later found that all Veterans must travel through this place – most travel with ease while others stumble a little. Then there are others who travel through it so fast with blinders on they don’t remember and are not affected by it.
So, I found myself in the middle of the battlefield, lingering a little too long. While there, I discovered there are a few emotions that are common to Transitioning Service Members. Here are the top 5 I experienced:
- Sadness – ‘Why?’ you might ask. I was leaving behind a life that I had grown to love and felt very comfortable in. Yes, I was ready to retire and ready to move on to the next phase of life. I had no idea I would have to mourn the loss of my previous life, but that’s exactly what happened. The military is so much more than a career – it’s a lifestyle, a culture, a mindset. So when I transitioned, I experienced sadness as if mourning the loss of a ‘good friend.’
- Fear – False Emotions Appearing Real. When I peeled back the layers and looked as the source of this emotion – there was no substance to this emotion. If I successfully served for 22 years in the military, I knew I had what I needed to survive transition. I just had to fight through this emotion and tap into those character traits that allowed me to be successful in uniform.
- Anger – Anger can be a volatile emotion. I read an article that stated that anger is often the result of other hidden emotions – such as shame or guilt. I know my anger stemmed from frustration at myself for struggling with my emotions during transition. I felt like I should have been able to better process and manage my emotions without issues. Once I realized the source of my anger, I turned that angry energy around into something positive and saw some real progress.
- Loss of Identity – This is a very common emotion experienced by Veterans, with many complaining of difficulty connecting with others once they transition out of the military. I struggled with this one because so much of my identity was connected to my military experience. I had to figure out what I was passionate about, what made me happy, what made me upset, and what did I want to do in this next chapter of my life. Moving past this emotion required an intense self-assessment.
- Withdrawal – I found this emotion comfortable because it allowed me to avoid the real issues that had me stalled in the transition process. Besides, I loved myself, why not spend time by myself. Withdrawal, while it may feel good for the moment, is a stalling tactic. I had to be honest with myself and address the emotional issues I was avoiding.
There are many more emotions that you may experience during transition, these are some of the more common ones that may cause you to stall in your transition process. So, if you find yourself in the middle of an emotional battlefield during your transition – Shot, Move, and Communicate!
Do what you need to do to keep moving forward in the transition process. Conduct a self- assessment; be honest with yourself and those who love and care about you; and push through the emotional battlefield towards progress. There is a wonderful life that awaits you on the other side #BattleBuddy.