A Call to Action for Dependent Mental Health
I think that one thing that everyone can agree upon is that current pandemic is a thief. It has robbed so many in endless ways. From taking lives, to taking loved ones—our ability to really LIVE during this time, even if we haven’t succumbed to the virus, has been stolen. signersigner
It is no secret that an overseas assignment used to be coveted. There were endless travel opportunities, the ability to immerse yourself into another culture and see the world seemed so glamourous in a way. With COVID-19 an overseas assignment has started to equate to feeling like a caged animal. No longer can we travel, not even to see family. No longer can we even go to the grocery store as a family. Our children, off base at this point, are forced to learn virtually and let me be the first to say—my five year old is NOT having it.
My mental health is dwindling, and I know that I am not the only one. The long gray winter days that tug at my sanity every year are much worse this year. As someone who has struggled my entire life with being happy, the struggle has never felt so insurmountable. I am healthy-ish (an accomplishment for me,) my son and my husband are healthy. My husband has a wonderful career, I have an amazing career. We have great friends, a beautiful home filled with so much love but I’m falling into a rut with no end in sight. Prior to the typical, “Are you speaking to a professional?,” “What about medication?,” “How is your diet?” I’m an open book. I speak with an MFLC regularly. I am on Lexapro, I eat well, I get outside when the sun is shining, I paint, I read, I have hobbies, I no longer drink…I am making every good choice that I am able to make on my own. The next legitimate question from a professional would likely be, “Then what is missing?” The gym. The gym is what is missing. I need to move. I need to feel my body overcoming physical obstacles. My family was lucky enough to purchase a treadmill while we have been here. It was a large purchase but the end justified the means. We made it work. The treadmill broke last week and my spirit went with it.
Our tri-base community is tight here. We all shop at the same commissaries and BXs. We all live locally, our active duty members see the same folks regularly at work and have close contact. We go to the same doctors, our children go to the same schools. I know that this is a very big ask and I promise you I don’t take it lightly. The dependents need gym access. We are suffering in a way that our AD members can’t identify with. They get to go to work, they have a purpose, they interact. We are silently battling ourselves and our children with no break. I’m telling you this as someone who recently had a six month deployment—I was NOT okay. I needed an outlet and that outlet became drinking and I was drowning. I know my story is not the same as everyone else’s but I can guarantee it isn’t the worst out there. Give us a gym. Give us one of the gyms locally, please. The gym by the chapel on Mildenhall—the smallest one, beggars can’t be choosers. We understand that we all must take full responsibility should we choose to use it. That all safety precautions from masking the entire time to wiping down surfaces are mandatory. A lot of us are mothers and trust me, I can speak for most when I say, there is nothing worse than mom guilt. We know the precautions we must take in order to not bring this virus to our babies. We protect our own, it is instinctual.
I think I’ve made it apparent that I am take my mental health seriously and that I am doing the best that I can. I’m asking leadership to also take it seriously. There are ways—there have to be ways to do this. Please help us help us. We are the heart of the military while AD are the limbs—you fail the heart you fail the entire system.