By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bass, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 12, 2013
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
Toughen up, develop a thick skin, don't let people see that you're hurting; I've heard these phrases my entire life, from parents, coaches, family members, friends, and supervisors. The result, I hurt; but I don't show it.
I know that I'm not alone either, now I'm going to show my hurt.
I am incredibly proud to wear this uniform. Taking my oath of enlistment last year was one of the happiest days of my life. Despite how frustrating and even terrifying basic training was at times, the joy I felt when I received my Airman's coin or marching in parade made it all worth it.
But I also struggle with anxiety and depression . There are days where I feel so low that I don't even feel worthy of putting on this uniform.
I don't consider myself a suicidal person, I'm too scared of pain to take my own life, but there are times where I just wish I could pass away in my sleep. Escape the pain, erase the heartache.
Fortunately I know that isn't a viable option. It's just running away from your troubles, rather than confronting them head-on.
It's hard even dealing with the fact that I struggle with depression. I think the hardest part about dealing with my depression is just coming out and saying that I'm hurting. Well that's not an excuse now.
We call ourselves Warrior Airmen. What kind of warrior would I be if I just quit? What kind of Airman would I be if I decided to say, "Screw it, let somebody else now deal with the pain of losing me."
The answer is obvious: I wouldn't be a warrior or an Airman, let alone a Warrior Airman.
It still doesn't get rid of the hurt. It doesn't 're-blue' me. It doesn't make me want to jump out of bed on the tough mornings, climb into my uniform with a hop in my step, and go to work.
So what does help? I count my blessings to start.
I know that I'm blessed: blessed with a full-time job, a place to sleep, a place to eat, a car to drive home in, a family who loves me, friends who support me. I know I'm blessed with health care; that if I get sick all I have to do is call the clinic and schedule a time to see my doctor. The Air Force has seen to it that all my needs are taken care of, almost free of charge to me.
I also have the ability to talk to people when I'm struggling. I know I can call a chaplain and they'll listen to my ramblings and be able to assist me when I struggle. I have good leadership, if I have an issue I know I can run it through my chain of command and they'll do whatever they can to help me. I have friends who have been in similar spots, who know what I'm feeling, fellow Airmen who can direct me, who will listen to me. There's also mental health, I know I can go over there and talk to someone if need be. No one but yourself and the doctor you speak to will know that you chose to come to them, there's no stigma, no repercussions.
I also have my faith. This is just my opinion but it's what really works for me; my faith gets me through. I won't dive into details regarding my beliefs; this isn't the venue for that. Find something for you to believe in; whether it is a god, or the flying spaghetti monster, or even just your family. Having something bigger than myself to believe in, to trust in, to hope in; that gets me through.
That's just me though.
Maybe there's a way that I can have tough skin and still address the fact that I'm hurting. Having tough skin isn't necessarily a bad thing. Being resilient means that you're able to let things roll off you, bounce off your tough skin. Maybe it doesn't mean being shut out to the world, but rather not allowing the world to affect you in the first place.
My hope here is that maybe because I'm hurting, and I can come out and say I'm hurting, that someone else would find the courage in themselves to step forward and say you're hurting, and you need help. That instead of being scared of dealing with the pain and doing something foolish like committing suicide, that you would act more like a Warrior Airman and get the help you need.
My issues aren't finished yet. I don't know when they will be, often it seems like I'm traveling through a dark tunnel; I can see the light at the end, but the tunnel also just seems to get longer. But I'm working through my issues, getting the help I need so that I can help you when you need it.
There are many ways for you to get help and work through your issues. I choose to count my blessings, speak to a chaplain and trust my faith, and know through faith that something better is around the bend, just out of sight for right now; that gets my through. Find what works for you; get involved in intramurals, volunteer at a homeless shelter, speak to your supervisor, talk to your friends, call your parents, go to mental health, find a chaplain, even just look up at the night sky on a clear night and count the stars and glimpse at how far this universe extends. Do whatever it takes to persevere the hurt, because the hurt won't last forever.