Mental Health Continuum

Mental health has been a hot topic over the last several years at work – and within the military, it’s especially important. Some of the things asked of the military can be stressful or traumatic. Unfortunately during the 80’s and Afghanistan… the first time around…. mental health wasn’t talked about or understood and many soldiers suffered from PTSD in silence.

Things are much different now, but there’s still a lot of misconceptions and stigma around mental health. I try to be as open as possible about my struggles so my subordinates know it’s okay to not be okay.

At work, we have a “mental health continuum”.

It’s fairly self explanatory; in the green, things are good – and in the red, not so good.

For the most part, in previous units I’ve been in, I’ve been in the green/yellow sections; for the most part, I’ve been in the green, occasionally in the yellow. However, since being in my current unit – 16 months – I have slowly been shifting to the orange and red sections and I’ve probably been in the red for at least 6 months.

I remember when I was on my last bit of training a couple months ago, when we were talking about mental health and the continuum. Someone asked how long should someone be in the red before seeking help.

2 weeks.

2 weeks in the red before talking to a social worker or psychologist or Padre or doctor. 2 weeks.

I have been in the red for 24 weeks. At least.

And why have I not gone to the doctor? Because I’ve been afraid of being put on stress leave as the office can’t run without me. Seriously – I know some people think they’re indispensable, but there’s literally things only I can do.

Right now? I don’t care. I don’t care how much work will suffer. I have a doctors appointment next week and I’m going to bring it up because I can’t hold on anymore. I have been working from home on Wednesdays during November but it was only approved for November; they didn’t support beyond that…. or it needed to be “re-approved” for December. My supervisor said she’d talk to her boss to see if they’d support it but she didn’t guarantee anything.

Moving back into the green is a process and doesn’t happen overnight – or even in a week or a month. One day in the green won’t even dent the continuum scale. Especially the longer you’ve been in the red. A week in the green may not even help. Working from home once a week didn’t make things better, but it didn’t make things worse – and that’s what I was hoping. We have 3 weeks off over Christmas and I’ve just been trying to make it to then.

But right now I need to make it the 3 weeks til then!

I hate feeling like this; it’s not me. And I try. I use affirmations. I’m doing more meditation. I want to go to the gym so very badly, but my exhaustion and frequent migraines are preventing me from doing things I enjoy – even if I know it’ll help. Every night I go to bed thinking “tomorrow is a new day and I choose happiness!” and every morning I wake and want to cry.

It’ll get better. I know it will. I just have to be patient and kind to myself until then.

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