Standing in front of eleven soldiers and delivering a set of orders prior to leading them across the undulating ground in order to destroy the enemy.
This may sound rather daunting to a civilian, and at first, it was. Nonetheless, after a relentless amount of diligent training, it became second nature and I was quite comfortable in carrying out the task. Although, how is it that I was so confident in performing such demanding duties whilst serving in the army and yet now I struggle to walk into a room of five people without getting sweaty palms whilst looking for the nearest exit.
I can remember specific moments of my operational tour in Afghanistan. We were led face down in a ditch as bullets whizzed over our heads, to which point we received the order to advance forward onto the enemy position. Climbing out of that ditch whilst under effective enemy fire was one of the hardest and scariest things I have ever had to do in my life.
I was able to overcome tough situations like this, but now I lack confidence in executing the simplest of tasks.
I had an interesting phone call conversation this week with an old loyal friend of mine who is still currently serving in the army. I fired this question at him and he hit back with a thought-provoking theory.
“It’s about being tuned into your surroundings and current situations at the time”
I believe what my friend was trying to tell me, was that whilst you are in the military, you are tuned into the military frequency, in effect. You know how to conduct yourself in a military manner, you understand the military vocabulary and you know how to behave around other military personnel. You also have a good understanding of the kit and equipment and you understand your role.
On the flip side, when you jump into the civilian world, you need to re-tune into the civilian frequency, so to speak. You need to re-learn how to conduct yourself in an acceptable civilian manner and you need to acknowledge what military vocabulary is not acceptable in a civilian (snowflake) environment. You will also need to learn a new trade or job which involves meeting a new level of standards.
It’s all completely alien to a veteran during the initial stages of transitioning from soldier to civi.
It’s a great theory and I am glad that my old loyal friend was able to highlight this for me. However, I still fail to understand why at times I feel so anxious around people.
There are times when I feel that I need my own space, my own head space. Sometimes being around people causes me to feel suffocated and surrounded. I don’t have an explanation as to why I feel like this and I couldn’t tell you if it is related to my personal experiences of being in the army or not. Having said this, I am fairly confident that I am not the only veteran that encounters this rush of anxiety.
I have adopted one method for overcoming this and it seems to work for a majority of the time.
I have created time for my own head space.
I choose to wake up every morning at 0500hrs and this has become my routine. A lot of people say that I am mad for getting up so early but there is a reason behind my madness. Not only is it healthy to maintain a routine when leaving the armed forces but during those early hours of the morning everybody else is still tucked up and asleep. As a result, I have achieved my own head space within my own time zone. Further to that, I have also discovered that I am most productive at this time of the day.
Having these few hours of peace in the morning does help to some extent but it has not conquered my random anxiety.
This week, I would like to bring veterans together to discuss this ‘problem’ of mine in order to gain a clearer understanding as to why I and many other veterans experience this wall of anxiety.
What are your thoughts and opinions?
Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s blog. It was a little shorter than usual, albeit, it is quite pertinent to how I have been feeling over the past few years.
I look forward to reading some of your views on this matter.
Thank you for your continued support
Soldier to Civi Promotions