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SELF CARE AND MENTAL HEALTH: From a Perspective of a Military Spouse and a Mental Health Profession

Over the past three years, I was working with military spouses positioned in a challenging, emotional position, one that people without privilege so often find themselves in. This was in a therapeutic perspective and the first thing to hit me when I was in the presence of these military spouses, was that their needs could not be more removed from the so-called realm of mental health. This was a general issue, personal issue, a societal breakdown, one that required things to be changed and connections to be formed.

I remember thinking how mental health needs would probably be at the bottom of the military spouse’s priority list, if at all. I remember asking myself that when spouses of service members are faced with issues that are much more pressing, much more obvious, or immediate, even substantial—emotional deprive and loss of self-identity, as well as deployments, Temporary Duty (TDYs), and Permanent Change of Station (PCS) that permeate the entire family can be difficult to manage—then—Mental Health. Why? Now, this is a question to think about. As a military spouse and a mental health professional, I have seen everyone, even other military spouses going through their lives without a mental health intervention, and they seem to be okay. Then why should I acknowledge my mental health needs…that’s for individuals with issues’… But I HAD to work with these military spouses and from a therapeutic perspective only. So, I plowed ahead, carrying the questions along. And I realized that we may be seemingly normal, contributing members of the military community, but our needs arise from the fact that we are indistinguishably connected to these common factors, and are subject to intricate emotions.

Contributions don't happen without offering something to others. Giving to others does not take place unless you have something to share. You cannot pour from an empty cup. And sooner one recognizes it, the lesser the drawback on oneself. I remember Dr. Shyam Bhat repeating and consistently stating, “How many people carry dead weight, all of their lives, without knowing that they do not have to.” The journey ahead from recognizing one’s own mental health needs, is the one of self-awareness, and transformation. The sooner we do it, the better. We are all broken, lovely, and the only ones we can save are our own selves. So, invest in your mental health, it does matter!

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