Resiliency: is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
The military spouse is resilient, even if they aren’t trying to be, because they have to be. It seems in the past few years there has been a push for spouses and service members to become resilient. There are even trainings offered on how to become resilient. This is a great thing, because everyone needs to know how to overcome a tough situation or difficult week. Resiliency is fantastic, BUT the focus has shifted, making it a synonym to be “tough” and “not ask for help.”
Sometimes being resilient isn’t enough…and that’s ok.
I suffer from anxiety; I get so overwhelmed I just don’t deal with it (right now that would be unpacking the boxes from our recent HHG delivery…SO MUCH STUFF!) It took a LOOOOOOOONNNGGGG time for me to be ok with admitting that I need help. For me that comes in the form of an anti-depressant and therapist. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but for me it was like climbing a mountain to admit I needed help. *gasp!* NOT ME! I was Spouse of the Year for Ramstein in 2017, and I was awarded the Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year! I was resilient! If I looked for help outside myself I was failing. Oh, was I WRONG!
I am a Key Spouse (& have been for the past 5 years), I’m involved with my kids’ activities, church, Spouse’s Clubs, and more. Helping people is my thing, it is truly my happy place. However, that’s a double-edged sword for me. It made me feel like I couldn’t ask for help because then I was somehow not being resilient.
The first time I reached out for help went badly. I called our MTF Mental Health and was asked by the operator if I was Homicidal, Suicidal, or going to violate OPSEC. The answer to all that was a big ole NOPE, but I needed to talk to someone and they hung up on me. It took me a year to make that call and then another year and new baby to reach out again.
My anxiety reared its ugly head in an unprecedented way after I had my baby and it made me hyper-protective of my kids, like ‘Helicopter Mom’ on steroids. My baby was a preemie and needed to be in the NICU for a month. Talk about being kicked in the stomach. The one person you want to not leave and constantly have with you can’t be with you. I still get worried that he remembers me leaving when he was awake in his little incubator and I had to leave for the night to take care of the rest of our kids. It killed me to walk away every day, even though his NICU Nurses at LRMC took pictures, foot/hand prints, and updated little keepsakes with weight and milestones. They were (and are) amazing people and I am so thankful they were there to care for him; but it still destroyed me to have to walk away day after day.
About a month after he came home, I called the Ob/Gyn Clinic and said, “Look, I don’t like my family, I need to talk someone.” I was able to get an appointment that afternoon. My therapist, or as a I affectionately call him my “Talking Doctor” helped me come up with coping mechanisms for when the stress is getting overwhelming or there are big things happening like a PCS or TDY and my psychiatrist (aka: my ‘Drug Doctor’) listened to me and prescribed the anti-depressant. Those magical little green pills help me to be ok with things that in the past would have caused me to either shut down or explode.
Being resilient is the ability to be tough and bounce back.
Sometimes, though it is not enough and you need to reach out and ask someone to help you walk the road a little bit. That can be reaching out to Mental Health, Military OneSource, a Mentor Mom, MFLC, Chaplin, or even just a long vent session with a good friend. Remember even if you ask for help it doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being resilient. It actually means you’re taking necessary steps to make yourself an even better you.