We are continually being told that military spouses and partners are incredibly adaptable and resilient, but is that really the case? Is that just sweeping under the carpet the real truth, that actually, we need just as much help as anyone?
Military life can be challenging. We all know it, we’ve all been there. However, at this time, during this global pandemic, it has been incredibly hard. But, we are still being told we should be coping because of this so-called ‘resilience’.
I have been shocked recently when I heard the number of people that I know, in our community who have been considering suicide due to isolation and depression. I’ve spoken to so many of us who are feeling completely isolated and alone. It’s not just those who have partners deployed or overseas, but it’s surprisingly also those who are surrounded by people, surrounded by their children, who are also feeling incredibly isolated. This pandemic is putting a significant strain on so many of us in a way that we have never experienced before.
I’ve not spoken before in detail around my mental health although you can hear some of it in the interview I did with Polly for the Be Glad Movement. I grew up in challenging circumstances. For me, it’s made it very difficult in my adult life to bounce back from some of the challenges that military life throws at me. I’m not alone in saying that a lot of us had a tough time with our partners deployed during the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, and that has for me rolled into trying times during subsequent deployments, and other humanitarian aid trips that keep the Armed Forces so busy. Now, this is nothing against my wonderful husband who quite rightly is working hard on his meaningful career; it’s just the situation I am in and how I manage, (or not).
Last November, my step-mum died, and it left me feeling too dented and hopeless. It was a really dark time for me compounded by the fact that we had moved so many times I found it almost impossible to build a support group to help me find a way through it….and yet, I was still being told how resilient military spouses are supposed to be.
Even as a very positive and independent person, who used to be fiercely proud of how ‘resilient’ I thought I was actually, it seems that when your body forces you to stop and really listen to how you feel resilience has absolutely nothing to do with it. It was exactly how I felt, many years ago when I first entered this community and just before I started my business. Alone, depressed and very much failing at being the ‘resilient spouse’ that the world was telling me I am meant to be.
Stopping to take time to listen is something that I have never done through choice. Through my tough childhood, through those unnerving deployments, through the postings, and the business growth, I have never just stopped to listen. Through the last eight years of supporting military spouses in business, through the Northwood Networking group, and the Forces Enterprise Network years, and now the Milspo Network work when I was telling business owners to look after themselves I just ‘kept calm and carried on’. I bought into the idea that military spouses were resilient, and it almost broke me!
But now, after having some time to sit back and think it’s time to realise what I already know – that good mental health is vital not only to thrive through this military life but also to succeed in the business world. It was time to look after myself and accept that it’s ok to ask for help and not hide behind that ‘resilience’ tagline that others seem so keen to put on me.
A few months ago, I secured a place on the Warrior Programme after a few Milspo’s recommended it to me. It is the MOST AMAZING free support provided for the military and their families that I have ever encountered – and believe me, I have done a lot of these courses! It has been the most wonderful and empowering experience of my adult life.
‘The Warrior Programme enables individuals to manage their emotions and to develop the resilience, focus and motivation to succeed in today’s world. The programme has been developed over the last ten years to meet the demands and challenges experienced by past and present members of the armed forces and their families.’
It’s impossible to explain what happens on the Warrior Programme I was actively encouraged not to by the course leaders – and for those of you who’ve done it, you will know exactly why.
But I can tell you this. It’s given me the tools to hear what I want. From now on I am listening to how I feel and I now choose to look after myself. I owe it to my husband, my clients and most importantly myself to be the best version of Jess I can be.
So I no longer choose to be ‘resilient’. Because being resilient SUCKS! Being ‘resilient’ is a smokescreen that means I have to put up with nonsense rather than working through it and finding the best resolution for myself. Being ‘resilient’ means that I don’t have to face facts, so I bury my feelings. Being resilient means that I can no longer be who I want to be. I don’t want to pick resilience anymore!
I want to shake off this myth that we, military spouses, are always tough, and resilient and able. It needs to be recognised that we need support and actually, underneath we are just the same as everyone else, and we need to listen to what we want.
If you are struggling or if military life is just becoming a little bit much, please see this as a sign and please know that you are not alone.
There are loads of support projects available to our community; The Warrior Programme is just one of them. Maybe it’s time to give your mental health some love.
The Royal British Legion –
Call 0808 802 8080, https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-support/physical-and-mental-wellbeing
Naval Families Federation
Army Families Federation
RAF Families Federation
0800 018 2361
Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
Shout – https://www.giveusashout.org/
Text Shout to 85258
The Warrior Programme