Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Post: My Story of Resilience

For the past two days I've been sharing about the Offutt Spouse Resilience program here at our base.  The first day I wrote about the bathtub of emotions and the second day I shared how resilience was like pulling the plug on that bathtub.  

Today I have one last post about resilience by Aimee Salter, who is one of the Spouse Resilience Training Assistants (RTA) at Offutt AFB.  

Aimee has been affiliated with the Air Force for 15 years, both as an active duty member and as a spouse.  She currently serves as the Key Spouse for the 1ACCS.  Aimee has a background in behavioral science and holds a Master's of Science in Criminal Justice and Behavior Analysis.  In addition to serving as an RTA and a Key Spouse, Aimee volunteers as a Victim Advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence and also as the Vice President of the Parent-Teacher Organization at her children's school.

My Story of Resilience 

A little over two years ago, I entered into a very difficult and trying time in my life. Around the same time, with the exception of my husband, my support network literally crumbled around me. 

For anybody, this can be pretty rough. But as a military family, it was especially hard.  Sometimes we rely heavily on our surrogate families to be our support when we don’t have to strength to face our situations alone. Watching my support network systematically disappear was nothing less than traumatic. Basically, I was left to carry the stress and burden of the situation alone. 

After a few months, this bled over to my children. They were mirroring my stress. The more I focused on the negative, the more they did. 

One day in the middle of a rant, I stopped. Enough was enough. I was done with the negativity. I was done being angry. I was done letting the people and the situation control me.  

After church, the kids and I went to the store and bought a journal. That evening, we had our first entry into our “Thankful Book.” 

Our "Thankful Book" is a journal where we write down one thing we are grateful for that day.  Each night we take the time to do this as a family. For the first few months, writing in the Thankful Book was a chore and some days, it was a struggle to find even one thing I was thankful for.  However, it got easier. 

By the time the worst of the situation hit us, the Thankful Book was a part of our lives, part of our routine. Hearing what the kids were thankful for and taking the time to reflect on all that I had to be thankful for was exactly what I needed

To this day, we still write in our Thankful Book. The kids even have their babysitters write in it when they come over. It is no longer something we “just do”, it is something we choose to do

Fast forward to a few months ago when I was presented with the opportunity to go to the Resilience Training Assistant class, to become a Spouse RTA. I wasn’t 100% sure what Resilience was, but I went anyway. Over the course of 3 days, I learned different strategies on how to effectively deal with stress, enhance communication, and strengthen healthy relationships.

However, the biggest lesson for me was the moment I realized that I was practicing resilience every single day and, despite all the things I'm convinced I am doing wrong, there are a few things that I am doing right. We now had a name for our Thankful Book strategy, we were practicing resilience by  “Counting Blessings.” 

Unfortunately, I am not completely through this trying period, but I no longer let it, or the people involved, have control. Through intentionally practicing resilience, I have been able to strengthen my techniques and I am equipped with new strategies to effectively deal with the tough situations that are sure to come my way. 

I know we all face challenges and stressors on a daily basis. I also know we are our own worst critics…this is why I am so passionate about resilience and have helped create and launch the Offutt Spouse Resilience program. My hope is that through the training, spouses will realize they already practice resilience, in one form or another. And I hope they walk away continuing to strengthen their strategies, but also with new strategies in their “tool-kit” to effectively deal different situations they may encounter. 

Thank you, Aimee, for sharing your story with us today!

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