During my 20 year career in the teams, I never thought twice about stress, anxiety, or feeling alone. I definitely never had any feelings of failure. That's not to say those emotions did not exist. Naturally, our job comes with all of those, but the one factor that combatted all of these emotions was the brotherhood and a feeling of belonging. No matter what I had going on in my life, I knew I was going to be ok, because I had the honor to work with men that thought and acted as I did. I knew they would have my back, do anything for me, and I would do the same for them.
"No matter what I had going on in my life, I knew I was going to be ok, because I had the honor to work with men that thought and acted as I did."
Stress and Anxiety these emotions were not really talked about in the teams; although everybody was dealing with them. As a SEAL, you are trained and expected to harness your emotions and to keep doing your job to the best of your ability. Like many other team guys, I learned to compartmentalize my feelings and to put them aside. I became somewhat of a pro at not showing I was stressed or anxious about anything, always trying to remain cool, calm, and collected. That worked for me while I was in the teams, it was who I had to be to do the job.
I never felt alone, mainly because I had my family, and I was around guys every day who looked out for me pushing me to be better. Failure was unacceptable, and if for some reason it did happen, you learned from it and crushed whatever task was next.
When I knew I was going to transition from the military to civilian life, I wasn’t worried about it at all. I had the same confident attitude that I carried with me throughout my time in the teams, not thinking twice about any problems I might have. Even after the two-year ordeal of being jailed, going to trial, and all the stress that came with it. In my mind all of this would only make me stronger when I got out. In a lot of ways it did, but I was still not prepared for my transition out of the military and into civilian life.
I recently retired five months ago, and during this time, I have learned a lot. About a month or so in is where it started to hit me. All those years of compartmentalizing the stress, anxiety, hidden injuries, and loss of loved ones came crashing in on me. It was gradual, but I knew something wasn’t right. Simple tasks were stressing me out, and I would get anxiety out of nowhere, even just trying to relax seemed like a chore. I was frustrated that I was feeling this way and would get angry at myself. My wife noticed and would talk to me about it, but it was hard to explain what was going on when I didn’t know either. It was a crazy spot to be in but one that is not uncommon for so many who transition.
Eddie with his family
I have come a long way since then, in what is considered a pretty short amount of time. What helped me most was the people who I chose to surround myself with. I was fortunate to talk to other guys who had been in my position or were going through the same problems. Through those talks, I was able to link up with some amazing veteran-owned companies who are doing incredible things for men and women when they get out. One of those companies was Easy Day. Their product helped me tremendously and kept me away from pills, and whatever else the VA throws at you when exiting, their mission is what sets them apart.
As in the teams, they are about community, looking out for one another, and standing by to help when needed. I don’t feel as stressed or anxious anymore, and I definitely don’t feel alone. The key, in my opinion, is admitting that you are not ok and being vulnerable enough to talk about it to people you know have your best interest at heart.
Like the men at Easy Day, I’ll continue to pass on the lessons learned from transition and help those going through it. I continue my work now so that no other warrior has to go through what I have.
LLTB - Eddie Gallagher USN SEAL (Retired)
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