JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Tex. --
“The challenge … was that the [intelligence] mission was never-ending. It was a 24/7 – 365 job, and we always had to be on alert,” says Capt. Joseph Siler, as he recounts how seeking help for his invisible wounds made him a stronger Airman.
The mission started when Siler commissioned in 2010 as an intel analyst. What followed were 12-hour-plus shifts in a fast-paced, stressful environment and a deployment to Afghanistan.
But it was not until 2015, 10 months after Siler came back from deployment and settled into a standard 9-to-5 schedule at Maxwell Air Force Base and a newly married life with Katherine, an Air Force Reservist, that his world started to cave in.
“I’ve already made it through the hard stuff, why am I having so many issues now?” Siler questioned as he began experiencing loss of balance, nausea, and anxiety. He rapidly lost 20 pounds.
Siler immediately sought help after would become the first of many frequent panic attacks. He went to the Mental Health Clinic which referred him to an outside behavioral health facility where he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over two weeks, Siler received counseling services and talked with a psychiatrist every day. Medical professionals walked him through his medications, helped him work through his experiences, and taught him how to cope with his invisible wound.
“For the first time, I got clarity [on] what was going on,” remarks Siler. “I learned that PTSD is not normally diagnosed in the first six months of being back from deployment. It usually develops once the body slows down.”
Siler now emphasizes understanding all available tools to overcome PTSD, “Medicine alone does not help you change the behavior that contributes to stress.” Leaning on family for support, exercising again, and practicing music, Siler learned to manage his stress and soon came off all medications.
Now a flight commander in the 492nd Special Operations Support Squadron, Siler believes Airmen need to know it’s okay to seek help. “I am living proof that going to Mental Health can help your recovery,” Siler reminds Airmen.
Receiving treatment allowed Siler to understand his experiences, learn healthy techniques for dealing with PTSD, and come back a stronger officer and a more resilient Airman. “Go in, get help, and get back to the fight!” Siler calls on Airmen to use available resources and reach out for help living with invisible wounds.
Editor Note: Invisible wounds are as real and severe as physical wounds. If left untreated invisible wounds can have negative impacts on an Airman’s personal and professional life. It’s important for Airmen to recognize signs and symptoms of invisible wounds in themselves and in their peers, to ensure a mentally strong, resilient, and lethal Total Force. The Air Force is committed to supporting Airmen living with invisible wounds by providing a wide range of resources to support their recovery journey. To share your own stories of invisible wounds and/or learn about available resources visit www.ReadyAirmen.com.