Mental Health is a hot topic in both military circles and among our civilian counterpart. And with good reason. We’ve faced unprecedented challenges in the last 18 months. Guest writer, Morgan shares with us some tips she has found to help her maintain her mental health.
Airing Up Mental Health
by Morgan D. Farr
Mental health is a delicate topic. We, as a society, are just now starting to discuss it openly… finally.
I am so grateful for these open discussions, but there is a portion of mental health and resiliency in the military community I think needs some tweaking. And that portion is how we talk about resilience, recovery, and relaunching into the world during the trials of military life.
To talk about mental health in a way that isn’t threatening or off putting I am going to share with you my favorite ways that I have heard mental health described within the military community and which one is my favorite.
Hot air balloons—we rise with heat.
Tea bags—we produce the most when in hot water.
And my personal favorite… the basketball.
I should explain.
I went to a military marriage conference once where the speaker compared service members (and their marriages) to a basketball, meaning they always bounce back.
At the time I thought that was pretty cheesy. But now, ten years into this military life I can say that the basketball analogy is the best fit for me.
And here is why… basketballs are dynamic.
A hot air balloon doesn’t change, or at least, you don’t want it to. You want a hot air balloon to do exactly what it is supposed to do. Go up and come back down safely. That is it. No improvising or unexpected movements.
The tea bag analogy is also rather one dimensional. You don’t use a tea bag more than once to have strong tea. And we all know that in military life you will face A LOT of hard, so you need more than one use.
But a basketball? Now, that one works.
If you have a basketball that is properly aired up and you know how to handle it, the movement is a thing of beauty.
It almost seems to be tied to your hand; your motions are fluid and in sync with the ball. That is military life when things are running smoothly. Fluid, on target, and a beautiful sight. This generally happens when we have been at the same duty station for a while, have made solid connections, or even a PCS where nothing was damaged in transit. You feel good, confident, and ready for the next challenge.
Now, imagine a basketball that has lost some air.
The ball will still bounce, but it bounces differently. It won’t have as much spring back to your hand. You would have to work harder to control it, but it is still manageable. The ball just needs a little air to be able to be back at 100%. In the military community a little air leaks out when you think that you are PCSing to Colorado and find out with a month and a half to go that you are actually heading to San Diego. A significant change, but all still manageable. You can handle this challenge even if there is some inconvenience or frustration. Mental health and resilience are important here. This is where talking about issues, game planning, and leaning on friends is a great way to take care of yourself.
Finally, imagine a basketball that has gone flat due to a hole.
There is next to no air inside it. This ball doesn’t bounce, and it needs help to function properly. This is military life more often than not. This is the months long deployment when you just want your service member home. This is missing a birthday or anniversary for a TDY. This is holidays lost, traditions altered, and life moving on while you are dealing with military life.
What does a flat basketball need? A patch to stop the leak and then more air. A patch might look like hiring a babysitter for one afternoon a week so you can catch up on household chores. It might look like a service member going to get a sports massage after a particularly grueling ruck march. It might look like taking coffee to the new neighbors to grow roots in your new community. It may even take the form of professional counseling to help you and your service member reconnect after a deployment.
God cares when you feel deflated or burned out.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 40:11 that, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” God cares like the shepherd cares for his sheep. He knows us individually and knows our needs. He cares about your mental health and your ability to stand up under the pressures you face.
You get to decide what works for you in terms of mental health and resiliency.
You make the assessment of what kind of basketball you are at currently and what you need to get back to optimal. Do not ever be afraid to reach out for help when you struggle with military life. There is no shame in getting help with mental health. Every basketball needs air now and then. And sometimes you’ve got to patch the hole before you can add air.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, we would be honored to pray for you. You can submit your confidential requests here.
Morgan Farr is a Texas-loving, succulent-cultivating, book nerd and aspiring author. Stationed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this Army wife is learning to train dogs, developing her four young children, and tackling homeschool life… while moving all over the country. You can find more of Morgan’s thoughts on her blog.