Wartime Worries Dept.
By Dr. Frank Howard Richardson
Q. My husband is out of the Army now. He can’t sleep. Some sudden noise like the exhaust of a motor will bring him upright in bed with a jerk that pulls the covers off me. Should he take sleeping powders? And will he ever sleep naturally again?
A. Give him time. He’ll improve a lot as he settles into civilian life and no longer has to depend upon wakefulness to keep alive. No sedatives, no alcoholic nightcaps. Above all, no opiates. These are dangerous indulgences that will retard his recovery, not hasten it. And don’t ask him how he has slept, either.
Q. I’ve just given a returned soldier his old job back, but how different he is from the steady boy he used to be! He’s just about ruining my business. He’s fidgety, restless, can’t stay indoors, is constantly running outside for a smoke. I hate to fire him. How can I help him — and myself, too?
A. To be sure it’s difficult for you to run your business; but not nearly so hard as for him to run the emotional mess that war has made of his life. You can get away from your problems occasionally; he can never get relief from his problems of living and adjusting. You can be far more useful now than when you were helping win the war with Bonds and taxes. Patience and sympathy and understanding will mean more to him than you’ll ever know.
Q. I started to work in an office when my husband went overseas last year. But tho I’d traveled all over the country by bus to be with him, as soon as he left I found myself nervous and confused as soon as I stepped in a bus. Being with people makes me nervous. When I’m alone I feel my chair is moving or the room is rocking. Doctor after doctor has found nothing wrong with me. My mother, with whom I live, tells me I’m crazy. Can I be losing my mind?
A. Soldiers’ wives frequently develop such fears and illnesses. One that I knew gave up her office job and got work in a defense plant, where other service wives were going thru the same emotional experience. She didn’t try to fight off her feelings. Instead, every time she felt sick or dizzy or confused she’d simply say to herself: “I’m doing this to get my husband home quicker. If he has to stand the cold fear and nausea that every man has when he goes into danger, I guess I can keep going too.” Her pluck helps the other girls; and their sympathy helps her. I believe that’s your cure.
Q. They boy next door is coming home after 23 months overseas. How should I act the first time I run across him?
A. Here are some suggestions, boiled down from a current publication. Be friendly but not effusive. Don’t ask him why he has come home. If he wants you to know, he’ll tell you — when he’s ready. Act as natural as you can; that will make it easy for him to be natural, too. Try not to stare at a pinned up sleeve, an eye patch, a cane. But don’t ignore them pointedly, either; that will embarrass you both quite as much. If his slant on life, morals, religion, has changed, let him talk it out. Try to see his point of view. Discuss, but don’t argue. Most important of all, be a good listener. Don’t ask questions — fool questions, he’s likely to think them. Be interested in him. Be yourself.
Q. The whole time my son was driving an army truck all over England and France, he was writing home that all he wanted was his old job as a bookkeeper back again: no noise, no excitement, no people — above all no gasoline and tires and gear shifts. He came back home, was at his old job one week, and was miserable the whole time. Then he got a job driving a truck — and loves it. Can you explain his willingness to go back to the driving he hated; and with no future to it, either? Shouldn’t we interfere to save him from himself?
A. Maybe this is his way of finding himself. he’s doing a job that’s become second nature to him now; earning his living without mental effort and with none of the jarring personal conflicts that make life so difficult for returnees not yet habituated to the ways of civilians. Wait till he begins to want something with more of a future to it, and don’t be in too much of a hurry for that to come, either. He’s not wasting time. He’s lucky to have found such a painless way of changing back from a man of war to a man of peace. Many of his fellows would be glad to swap places with him.
Wartime Worries Dept. taken from the May 1945 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.