Guest post by Jennifer Goodman exploring the need for human connectivity while transitioning from the military
Transition is something to which everyone can relate. What I recall about my own transitions so far is the literal sound of a door closing with each one. The dorm room door closing before I started my first semester of college, the locking sound as I turned the key to the front door of my childhood home the last time I walked out of it, the door closing behind me as I brought in the last box following the move to a different state to start my new life as a military spouse. The sound of those doors closing always brought the same thought to mind “this just got real.” I remember almost immediately reaching both back and forward for support: back to my familiar connections – family, friends, mentors and forward to anyone with whom I may share a commonality and with whom I could maybe form a connection.
When I was in college, we didn’t have the amount of technology we do today. Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t quite developed Facebook and we were several years away from iPhones. As frightening as this sounds, we actually had to call people to communicate since texting hadn’t quite taken off (yes, I can hear the audible gasp). Those Stone Age communications helped keep me grounded though. They provided motivation when I needed it. Those communications helped protect me mentally when I felt overwhelmed with change.
While there was beauty in the simplicity of limited forms of communication, the endless forms of communication today make regular communications easier in our busy world in my opinion. In addition to the obvious platforms of social media and messaging, we also have communication platforms via gaming. Popular games like Words with Friends include a texting feature so after I drop a 101 point word, I can talk smack to my best friend 3 states away. Pokémon Go encourages not only getting out into the community, but also going to new places as well as talking to people and making new connections. The best part of using gaming as a method for engaging in a new community, or for maintaining home connections, is that it’s easy to forget about all the positive steps you are taking to care for your mental health when you’re doing something fun.
Research tells us that protective factors like a strong support system, which includes both friends and family, a sense of connection to our community and participation in the community protect us against mental illness. For some, building new relationships and jumping right into a new community may come naturally, for others it may take some planning and effort. If you fall into the latter group, start considering how you will stay and become connected as you prepare for your transition. What methods will you use to stay connected with friends, family, and mentors whose relationships you value? One place to start is to get their gamertag. Figure out what time of day meshes for both of you to communicate. Schedule a time to hop on your gaming system for a friendly spar. And, just maybe, get a phone number so that you can make a call now and then. And of course, plan ways to become involved with your new community – perhaps a Pokestop would be a good start.
About Jennifer Goodman
As the daughter of a marine, spouse of a career member of the US Army, and friend to many active and veteran military members, Jennifer has always had a connection to the military. While attending Adams State University to earn a Master of Arts degree in clinical mental health counseling, Jennifer developed an interest in military mental health. Jennifer later worked for the military’s transition assistance program where she found a passion for supporting transitioning and veteran service members and their spouses with all aspects of transition. Jennifer believes that a successful and fulfilling transition is the foundation of strong mental health for our veterans and their families. Jennifer is excited and humbled to join OSD as a blog contributor and hopes to help empower active and veteran service members and their families by sharing information and resources.