A veteran's response to global pandemic.
I’m going to preface this by stating the obvious, not every veteran will respond the same way I did. But for me the “Safer at home” or “Shelter in place” orders triggered anxiety and hypervigilance. I felt the need to prepare for the worst. I pm’d (preventative maintenance) my firearms, reviewed plans with my spouse, and didn’t sleep much that first night. Cars passing by my house, normal night time noises all raised suspicion and warranted investigation, in my mind at least. By the next day however I was able to calm down and relax a little. At first I was critical of myself. I thought “What the hell is wrong with me? Why did I start freaking out?” Then as the days passed I noticed via some online social groups that I’m a part of that I was not alone in the way I responded. That helped me realize that I am not alone in my mindset, my way of viewing the world. If there is one thing the Marine Corps taught me it is to be ready in case you need to fight. So why did I feel the need to fight?
It was the little things leading up to the “Safer at home” orders. The mass panic, hoarding of groceries and toilet paper. One story in particular got to me. I have a friend whose parents are doctors; their office was broken into. Guess what was stolen? No, not the thousands of dollars’ worth of medical equipment. No, not the pharmaceuticals. That’s right, it was the toilet paper. Someone was desperate enough to break into a medical office and steal toilet paper. My thought was, if people are that desperate, my family must be in danger. And danger is something I’ve lived in and through before. Muscle memory kicked in, and I responded accordingly. Only problem is I’m no longer in the military, and this is not a theater of combat. It’s been over 10 years since I’ve been in the military. Nevertheless, there I was doing what I was trained to do, getting ready for the fight. Now the acts in and of themselves are not really that big of a deal. The way it affected my family however, that was what bothered me.
My automatic response, which have been normalized and engrained into the sense of who I am, were viewed as a little excessive by my wife to say the least. I’m lucky that my wife is an amazing woman who supports me in everything I do. But I can only imagine if things were different how this would impact my marriage. I imagine maybe some of you reading this right now may have responded similarly and this may have triggered an argument or fight with your partner. Because our understanding is, “What do you mean I’m being over-reactive? I’m just preparing in case we need to do something”. We then get defensive and totally ignore how our partners are feeling--in an effort to make them understand how we are feeling. Therein lies the problem. We need to make sure that we can understand where the other person is coming from before we can even attempt to explain where it is we are coming from. This was the problem I faced upon returning from Iraq, and it was that situation that taught me to stop, take a deep breath, and attempt to look at things from the perspective of another.