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Climbing out of the Hole

Everyone's life has its ups and downs, and when you live in a military family, things tend to happen big: You don't move houses, you move continents. You make lifelong friends faster than some people make acquaintances. Your spouse doesn't go on a business trip, she goes on a year deployment. You get to see parts of the country and world that your friends from high school will never see. Kids get sick all at once as soon as the ship pulls out. And then there is that Murphy guy.

As some smart military spouse once said, "the highs are higher and the lows are lower."

As a whole, military families are a resilient bunch of folks. Sometimes, however, it is all just too much. As much as you want to "suck it up," there isn't enough space inside you. I was reading a blurb at Facebook the other day where a group of military spouses was taking one of those "how much stress is in your life" tests. The test facilitator was getting mad because he couldn't believe that the scores were so high and thought that they were not taking the test seriously. I've taken such a test and according to the scores, I should have been paralyzed by all the stress.

Which brings us to the point of this rambling.

Sometimes, despite our fervent desire to soldier on, it gets to be too much and it is time for help. One problem is, it is often hard to tell that you need help when you're sitting at the bottom of a pit. Super SpouseBUZZer Joan D'Arc wrote about this in Depression, Anxiety and Stress: A Force of Nature, A Fact of Life. Of course, everyone is different and no two people are going to use the same words or have the same reactions. Plus, even if you've been in a hole before, and gotten out, a new hole is going to look different from the last one and it might take you a while to realize that little low suddenly has steep sides and you're not sure if you can make the climb alone. Not sure? Check out Joan's list, do some reading, ask your doctor. If you have a friend, spouse, or family member who is understanding and you trust, you can ask them. More than likely, if you are asking yourself if you might benefit from help, the answer is "yes."

Then there is the problem that it is hard to figure out the system from the bottom of said pit. Thankfully, help is becoming easier to find in the military system, either through Tricare or Military One Source. I have used Tricare and found it was great at approval (they use self-referral) and paying, but not so great at helping me find a therapist. I have heard that Military One Source is better, actually helping you find someone to talk with, plus it stays out of the Tricare system.

The next problem is that in some locations, the demand for help is overwhelming the system and you are likely find significant delays or find with a counselor, therapist, social worker or doctor who totally doesn't get the military world. This could work out OK, or it could add a couple of inches to the depth of your hole. Be persistent: once you realize that you want help, don't give up when the first person you call doesn't have an open appointment for three weeks. I know (I have been there) how hard it is to call in the first place, and how easy it is to quit seeking help at the first obstacle. Also, don't be afraid to change if the first person isn't working. Just like not everyone would be the right spouse for you, or the right friend for you, not everyone is the right person to help you move along in your journey towards feeling better.

Lastly, about medication. It is not the end of the world if medication is one of the tools you use to help you improve your situation. You might be amazed at the ability of the right medications to improve your ability to cope with the stresses of life, and help you reach a place where you don't need them anymore. And if you do still need medication, even after things are good? You wouldn't keep insulin from a diabetic, would you? Refusing to take medication that works for your body is just knuckle-headed. Ask me how I know.

What if you find yourself burrowed in and you like it there? Depression can be a semi-comfortable place, as long as you don't have to deal with any other people in the world. Sometimes it seems like the work of getting back to normal is too hard and you don't have the energy to bother. It often isn't until you have come out of the other side that you realize how nice it is to feel "normal." Somehow, some way, force yourself to reach up out of the hole and grab a telephone. Believe me, wanting to sleep for four days at a time is not normal. Being totally wigged out about everything is not normal. Finding no joy in your family is not normal. Feeling like your whole body hurts (without a reason) is not normal. Life is meant to be enjoyed, and is hard to enjoy life when you are just so darn unhappy.

I don't intend this to be a comprehensive resource on mental health, as I'm surely not a mental health professional and I wouldn't even be good at it. This is more of a "hey, does this sound familiar?" reminder that a little help can go a long way in making your world a better place. Given all the demands that life is placing on us all, don't be silly and deny yourself the help that is available.

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