I was 24. I was just promoted to Staff Sergeant, but I also was going through a really rough divorce.
I was preoccupied with life things, but then I had all these new responsibilities at work.
I kind of felt like I was losing control of my life.
My friend noticed that I was constantly stressed, and he recommended a counselor he had been seeing.
I thought about going, but... I waited. And waited.
It wasn't because I didn't want help or didn't think I needed it -- I did. I was afraid of what they might tell me. I was terrified they'd diagnose me with something, and I felt that as long as I didn't go in... I wouldn't be labeled.
I felt like they weren't going to tell me something I don't already know. You might be able to tell I'm the kind of guy who thinks, "I'll fix it myself." Which, frankly, for me, can work most of the time. But then, sometimes that attitude can keep you from getting healthy.
I was embarrassed, proud, afraid of what my friends or parents might think. That they'd think I was, y'know, weak, or not man enough. On top of that -- I'm security forces -- I kinda thought it would affect that too. Like, maybe I wouldn't've been allowed to carry a firearm or they could've made me switch career fields... something like that.
Definitely embarrassed, but mainly I was worried about the perception and how it might impact me professionally. I have a TS clearance and I often have to brief colonels and generals, people from the senior executive service, legislators. I thought, maybe I wouldn't go as far. Or worse yet, maybe I'd lose my clearance, or my job.
I just didn't have time to see a doctor! It sounds crazy now, but between my family and my job, I felt like I was constantly putting out fires all the while my mental health was just spiraling.
I'm old school. My parents brought me up you know, "Boys don't cry," and, "always be strong." And intellectually, I know that's not healthy, to bottle your emotions. But when you're brought up a certain way, it becomes instinctual to revert to those original lessons. And half the time I don't even realize that's what's happening.
I'm stubborn, I've always been stubborn, so I think for me, the biggest hurdle was acknowledging that the best thing for me at the time was to go talk to somebody.
You don't really think to take care of yourself, especially if you're physically healthy, when you have kids' baseball games, birthday parties, sleepovers, dance recitals, parent teacher conferences, homework... I mean it doesn't end! Especially when he's deployed! And by the time you finally have a chance to reflect, you fall asleep!
I thought it would be difficult to be effective at my job if my authority, if my expertise were to come into question.
I was just trying to suck it up and pretend everything was fine and, of course, that didn't work. But it took a lot of courage to finally get myself to go in.
I'm glad I did.
It's just not worth it.
I would say in the end, it's not worth the trouble you could be saving yourself by getting help, if you need it.
You just have to prioritize your sanity. I mean, people don't walk around on broken ankles. Why should it be any different for your mental health?
No matter where you come from -- sometimes because of where you come from -- you're going to have issues you need to deal with in life. For a lot of people, they might never have to see a doctor, or a counselor, or a psychologist. But a health condition is a health condition, no matter how much you try to ignore it or explain it away.
I guess what surprised me most is, once I talked to a couple of my buddies I realized I'm not alone and, everyone's dealing with something.
What should have been obvious to me was I can perform better, give better insights, and pay more attention to detail now that I don't have to manage some invisible monster on a daily basis.
Just don't wait. There is a treatment that's right for everyone, even if it's something simple like taking a walk, calling a friend or whatever. But talking to a professional can really help identify what you need to do and develop a plan for making sure you do it.
I would say don't let life get in the way. This is your life.
If I could offer advice... If something's not right, it won't get any better if you just sit around not doing anything about it. Get help.