Resiliency: Not just a day, but every day
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- To be resilient is to know what it means to persevere in the face of hardship, to rise above circumstances beyond your control.
Military members across the world understand this concept better than most simply because of the nature of our work. The things we see, feel and do in the name of loyalty, honor and patriotism can weigh heavily on the mind and soul.
Experiences of hardship, geographical and cultural isolation, long hours, intense conditions and life or death situations all contribute to the daily stress of living. The choices and sacrifices required of us have the potential to break us down in ways that aren't always visible. Sometimes the worst scars are the ones you don't see. The indelible marks born on the soul are the hardest to overcome.
Violence has colored my world for as long as I can remember, and I am disturbingly good at compartmentalizing incidents as well as explaining away and hiding the bruises. From the time I was very small and unable to defend myself to as recently as six months ago people have tried to take from me what I don't want to surrender. I have survived being physically, mentally and sexually abused, being beaten, strangled, raped and tortured. I've stared down the barrel of a gun and read my death in the eyes of the one holding it, fought back against enemies bigger and stronger than myself, knowing I was just making things worse but refused to surrender.
While I survived all these things, I am by no means unscathed. It wasn't until I joined the military and was taught the various symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders that I began to understand the reasons why I reacted so strongly to certain things and I wasn't alone. I met others who had the same anxieties triggered by sudden loud noises and quick movements, people that weren't comfortable unless they had their back to a wall and all exits in sight.
I began to feel confident knowing that I didn't have to bury everything and deal with it myself. There were resources at hand should I choose to take advantage of them. I didn't have to hide all I was going through, didn't have to lock away and deal with the pain on my own. No longer was I relegated to screaming silently into the dark. I was given a voice but also a chance to help others find their own.
This is what I've learned through my own stubborn will and refusal to give up. This is what makes up my resiliency. Developing creativity, maintaining a sense of humor, helping others, self-motivation and retaining a feeling of self-worth are the incredibly simple, yet effective tools that helped me.
In the Air Force, they teach us about the four pillars of resiliency: mental, physical, spiritual and social wellbeing. While it might seem like you've heard it all before, believe it or not, they work. Pouring yourself into a self-improvement project, whether it be physical, artistic or intellectual-just getting out of your own head for a while can work wonders.
If you need more help and have the inner strength to admit it to yourself, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, chaplains, mental health, financial advisors and victim advocates are all readily available resources to help you and your family.
Resiliency days and small group discussions help to foster open communication within a unit and are all part of the "Never leave an Airman behind" concept. We might balk at having a whole day spent on what feels like the same messages over and over again, but you never know when it hits home and someone decides that they do need help.
Without its people physically and mentally healthy, no military force can function at its optimal level. Resiliency doesn't mean that you sweep the past under a rug and forget it ever happened. It's about coming to terms with and rising above whatever is trying to drag you down and becoming stronger in the process. When you can acknowledge what set you on your current path and continue to forge ahead in spite of it, you have achieved true resiliency.
No one is perfect and set backs will happen in every battle, but as long as you are resilient, you will win the war in your own life. To put it simply: learn from yesterday, fight tonight and prepare for tomorrow.
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