By Alexandra SheaOctober 1, 2019
October is a month full of activity and events. It marks the start of fall, is filled with Halloween fun and scary movies, and the annual flavor of pumpkin spice everything. The month also brings awareness of breast cancer and highlights the importance of monthly self-breast exams. This month also brings attention to the invisible wounds Soldiers often suffer in silence.
We are talking about depression and the stigma of weakness associated with seeking help.
"As warriors we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Greca in a video series. "We push through pain to handle things on our own."
Greca, who served for 30 years as an Army infantryman with several combat deployments, along with others, stepped forward to share their stories in a series of videos speaking about the highs and lows in their lives on the Military Health System's Real Warriors website.
The website was established to offer Soldiers and their Families a culture of support with 24/7 resources to get help with depression and to let others know that there is strength in seeking help.
"Sometimes the change in us is so gradual that we don't even recognize the signs and symptoms of invisible wounds or even that we may need to lean on others for support," Greca said.
In his video series, Greca spoke about his combat deployments and the effect they had on him throughout his military career. He talked about distancing himself from his emotions to remain strong and accomplish his mission while overseas, and how that distance affected him physically and emotionally.
"I saw so many flag-draped caskets that death started to feel normal to me," he said. "Sometimes I even judged others when they showed emotion and thought they were weak. Carry on with the mission, there is no time to feel. People die in our profession of arms."
Greca spoke about having difficulty sleeping, feeling physically and emotionally drained all the time and that his Family couldn't understand why he was there but not present in the moment. The toll taken on his body was also affecting his Family.
"For eight long years I struggled in silence because I simply didn't understand something was wrong," Greca said. "The signs were so subtle that I mistook my emotional numbness for strength."
By listening to his Family's pleas to seek help, Greca did. He received help through the resources offered on the Real Warrior webpage. Through guidance from his health care professionals, Greca said he was able to reconnect with the people and activities that meant the most to him and brought him joy again.
"After seeking care I realized that it took strength to recognize the warning signs in not only myself but our brother and sisters as well," he said. "Today I'm sharing my story and encouraging each and every one of you not to wait to seek care."
The care Greca spoke about is available every day to Soldiers and their Family members through the Behavioral Health Clinic at the Moncrief Army Health Clinic as well as online at realwarriors.net. The website offers several video series of other Soldiers and their struggles with depression, stress and anxiety, sexual assault, death and suicidal thoughts.
"Decide now, I can, I will, keep my mind and body fit," Greca said. "Reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness."
If you need immediate help, please call 911 or the Military Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255 and press 1.