There IS a flip side

  • Published
  • By Hannah Stolberg
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

 It's 7 a.m. on a Thursday and I have to say, this has been the most disappointing week I've had since Air Force Trials; not just with training, but with life.

The week has been full of triggers I was not fully prepared for. I’ve had more flashbacks and panic attacks that pulled me from school early. My grades are sinking. I'm becoming more reclusive. I even kept messing up my Warrior Games biography information and had to ask another person for help because my cognitive processing is so off. It has even begun to affect my training.

So far this week both days of archery were disappointing, I’m not where I want to be as I further adjust to a sight. The swim days were equally disappointing, leaving me feeling sluggish. I even began losing some function in my left leg for a good portion of practice on Monday; working the pool with one arm and one leg felt like I was just splashing around. This has all left me feeling very frustrated.

Despite this I have to say that I’ve begun to find ways of looking at things differently, looking at the “flip side” instead of burying my head in the anxiety. I’ve come to realize a few things:

1. There IS a flip side. I've been involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s adaptive & rehabilitative sports program under a year. A year ago--even 6 months ago--you wouldn't have even heard me TRY to look for the positive side because, in my mind, there wasn't one. The fact that my outlook and the way I process challenges has changed so much that I can now look for a positive is victory enough in my book.

2. My world feels like chaos. There is so much noise and I can't even think. But my body said "Get in the pool" not, "Get a bottle of alcohol.” The fact that my “go to” is now the water, and not alcohol, is beautiful. My swimming may look a little ugly this week but it is healthy and healing.

3. When outbursts of anger and panic attacks began to overwhelm me my mind said, "Throw some arrows" not, "Throw some plates." I have not broken anything this week. I have not yelled at anyone. I have not tried to destroy people or relationships, on accident or on purpose. I have not used unhealthy outlets for my anger because my mind had archery and shooting.

This all led to the realization these are positive coping strategies and I'm actually using them. This is largely because of this beautiful team and coaches encouraging me and working with me. I knew training would be challenging and hard and that I would grow more than I could understand, but I didn't know it would make such a tangible impact in my everyday life.



Anyone can refer an active-duty Airman into the AFW2 program; download the worksheet by clicking the button below and submit the finalized form via email.


Refer an Airman Worksheet

AFW2 Program Mailing Address

  • ATTN: AFW2
  • 550 C St. West, Ste. 37
  • JBSA Randolph TX
  • 78150-4739