JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
For those that are diagnosed with a mental health condition, it never just affects their mental state. Mental health conditions take a toll on the body, relationships, work ethic and so much more. Recognizing the signs and seeking help is the best avenue to coping with these conditions.
“I didn’t notice the signs myself, my daughter did. She noticed I was increasingly becoming afraid of doing things, I didn’t want to go out nor did I want her to go out,” said Master Sgt. Jennifer Ibanez, Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program Ambassador. “There were also times I wasn’t sleeping, and my anxiety became more noticeable.”
Master Sgt. Ibanez, and her family, were hit by a drunk driver while driving home in September of 2019. This tragic event has left her with physical pain she experiences daily, struggles within her military career and mental tolls due to the trauma caused by someone else.
“Coping with mental health struggles and being active-duty military has been a daily struggle,” Ibanez said. “The accident and injuries sustained make it difficult to perform my duties as a First Sergeant some days. I even question my worth as a First Sergeant because of what this position is for me and the Airmen.”
Although coping with mental health conditions, fulfilling a career and having a family can be a huge task, there are resources and tools to help those who need it. Asking for help, seeking help and putting yourself first is a necessity in conquering mental health battles.
“Currently I see a therapist who helps me work through reframing my thoughts, and exposure therapy which has helped me become an Ambassador and share my story through AFW2. The Air Force also offers tons of resources through Chaplains, the mental health clinic, Military One Source and many other organizations,” Ibanez said.
All of these resources, along with AFW2, offer tools to help those who are struggling to cope with their condition and maintain a sense of normal and live their life to the fullest. Your life doesn’t end after a tragic event changes everything, it just starts a new one down a different path. Finding something worth fighting for is key.
“Living with a mental health condition is challenging but realizing that not everyday is going to be a good day is important in healing,” Ibanez said. “I pull my strength from my family, peers and Airmen. I love to focus my attention to my three P’s: People, Purpose and Passion. It’s what keeps me going.”
Seek the help you need, find your reason for continuing this roller-coaster of life and always keep looking forward. Build your mental strength, share that experience with others, and reach out when you need extra help. Everyone has good days and bad days, and everyone has a life worth living.
“Forget about the stigmas, ego and focus on YOU! Seek the help you need. Always remember YOU are enough, and never let who you were talk you out of who you are becoming,” Ibanez said.
Master Sgt. Ibanez is an amazing example of overcoming tragedy and not letting it define you or control your life. To hear more amazing stories from Ambassadors, and how they are surviving their new normal connect with us through our AFW2 social media pages. To refer an Airman, or learn more about the program, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil for additional information and resources.