Seeking help - Who is on your team?

  • Published
  • By Capt Kristen M. Seitz
  • 97th Medical Operations Squadron/Family Advocacy
 I have the best job in the Air Force as an active duty social worker. I work with people who come to talk to me when they are feeling overwhelmed or consumed and other things that used to get them through the tough times just aren't working anymore.

My favorite part of my job is I get to see those same people get better. Knowing that people who seek help when they need it, will feel better and improve their lives is why I get up in the morning and put my uniform on with pride.

However, there are many people who do not seek help when they need it. Often times I see someone who has suffered with overwhelming stress for years finally coming to talk because it's negatively impacting their relationships and work. The Air Force is seeing that one of the biggest barriers to seeking help is peer stigma. It is socially acceptable to go to the doctor if we break our leg or take our kids to the pediatrician when they have an ear infection. What about when we aren't sleeping at night because our minds won't stop thinking or when we lose interest in things we used to enjoy and we find ourselves more irritable toward our loved ones. Why is it so hard to seek help then?

In order for the mission to be done, and done right, we have to take care of ourselves. Successful people have figured out how to balance the mission and self-care.

When a quarterback walks onto the playing field for a championship game, he didn't get there alone. Many people played a role in strengthening that player to be ready for game day. The coach, his teammates, exercise physiologist, physical therapist, sports-medicine doctor, family, friends and the list goes on. He couldn't do it without all of them.

You have a team. Your team may be big, it may be small, but you have one. I know who is on mine.

My family, especially my mom, is my biggest fan. She is always a phone call away if I need her parental support. She is my cheerleader who encourages me to push myself toward my goals.

My kids remind me of my sense of purpose. They motivate me to keep going when I feel tired. They need me to be successful, so I continue forward even when I'm not sure where I am going to find the strength.

My friends, near and far. I don't think we truly know who our friends are until a trial or challenge in our life arises. Our teammates will come forward, even the ones we least expect. My friends who I reach out to show me overwhelming support. I play a part in this; they won't know I need them if I don't tell them. A good friend is one who will tell us the good things we are doing, and also the things that don't make sense. We need that kind of person on our team.

My leaders see in me what I don't always see. There have been leaders on my team who have shaped me and helped me grow, both professionally and personally. They have challenged me to think outside the box and stretched me to look at the potential I have. My leaders have stood by me, coached me and modeled to me the qualities I aspire to have. My leaders and coaches have trained me hard. Though I haven't always liked the training, I've always learned.

Without my NCOs I would quickly be out of the game. My NCOs have been the whisper in my ear, setting the example of excellence in all we do. They edified me when I felt skill less. They guided me when I was unsure of the next "game play". These teammates have taught me how to "do it right".

My chaplains have given me tools during the most worrisome times. When my hope has felt shaky, when my sense of purpose waivered and when I wasn't sure what decisions to make; my faith, "defensive line," reminded me that I will never fall, that I am never alone, and that I am always loved.

I have many more teammates I haven't listed. These are just a few. They don't all play a huge roll at the same time, but I know they are there when I need them.

Who is on your team? Who strengthens you for "game day"? The stronger our team is and the more we utilize our team, the better prepared we are at bouncing back when facing adversity. If we encounter a play that is a set-back, our team is right there waiting for us to call out the next play and get back in the game.

The point of having a team is to seek help when we need it and recognize those actions as a sign of strength. We don't have to go through life's challenges and stresses alone.

In my job as a mental health therapist I see people who wait such a long time before they finally bring in their team. The negative impact is that by the time the team comes in they are in bad shape. The stress has taken such a toll that it impacts their work, relationships, finances, etc. It doesn't have to be that way. The benefits of asking for help when it is needed will outweigh any cultural view that we just need to "suck it up" and "get over it," or we can go through a challenge on our own. I have seen those people. They aren't having a winning season.