For the second time in his career, Master Sgt. Jaime Moran was feeling “off,” worrying excessively about little things – lots and lots of little things. The first time it happened, he was serving at his second duty station at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, just a few years after joining the Air Force in 2005. The “off” feeling started with fatigue. Then he began to fret about all kinds of things– not necessarily about whether or not he locked the door or remembered to turn out the lights – but the kinds of things the average person wouldn’t worry about, like if he had braked long enough for a stop sign.
Moran’s anxiety became so severe, he told his supervisor he was going to see the Chaplain. In truth, he had already sought out the Chaplain’s help, but was ashamed to tell his supervisor he had made an appointment with mental health.
“But then I went,” said Moran. “And then I told him I went, and he was totally supportive.”
Moran’s doctor diagnosed him with anxiety not otherwise specified, and despite his top secret, special compartmented information (TS/SCI) clearance, there was no effect on his career in the intelligence community. Not long after, Moran had a permanent change of station to Germany where he continued his treatment until his symptoms improved to the point where it was no longer needed.
Then, last year, the symptoms reappeared.
Now stationed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Moran said, “I started worrying about things and ruminating, that’s what it’s called, about past events and just a lot of racing thoughts.”
So once again Moran sought out a Chaplain and then behavior health providers, who he says really helped him. He was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, started on some medication and began going to cognitive behavioral therapy. Despite this second bout of anxiety, he kept his TS/SCI clearance.
Moran said, “My flight commander, Lt. Jason Rimer, I called him to tell him you might hear something because they’re putting me on the medication that I’ve taken before. But because of this medication, they want to make sure it doesn’t have any side effects, I might be [like] non-deployable.”
Rimer was supportive, telling Moran, just like anything else, if you hurt your leg, you need to be seen for your leg. If you hurt your arm, you have to be seen for your arm. Again, Moran said, he had zero problems with his clearance or ability to conduct his mission.
“If they put you on certain medications, because people react differently, you might be temporarily unable to deploy. But then again, that’s for a reason.”
Moran has responded so well to medication and behavioral therapy, he feels it’s important to let other Airmen know if they are having mental health issues, there is help, and they are not alone.
“Because, what starts to happen to you,” Moran said, “you start to get into that zone of almost rock bottom, you just think “oh my God, what’s wrong with me?” There’s something wrong with me. This happens to people, and that’s the reason there is such a thing as behavioral health and Chaplains, and people are there to help you. That’s their job.”
Moran also advises Airmen to seek out a Chaplain as their first line of defense.
He said, “Personal opinion, my first thought has always been the Chaplain because I know they have a hundred percent confidentiality, and so I spill my guts to them basically.”
Moran said because the Chaplains were always thoughtful and level-headed in their responses, it made it easier for him to make his way to mental health. His wife also encouraged him to seek help and was the first to notice his excessive hand-washing, a symptom of OCD.
“There was one time she said you washed your hands like 20 times in an hour. And I said, “no way, really? No way.””
That observation helped nudge Moran into seeking help, and he’s not shy about sharing how cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as medication, helped alleviate much of his anxiety and compulsive behavior.
While Moran still has concerns with his hand washing and intrusive, repetitive thoughts, he said it’s not at the same level as what it was before. His therapy has worked so well, in fact, Moran was cleared to deploy overseas and continues to keep his security clearance.
To those who suffer anxiety or other mental health disorders and fear seeking help, Moran answers back, “What if you don’t?”
“If you don’t,” he said, “it’s either going to get worse or stay the same.”
For Moran, seeking treatment early, before it affected his duty performance, got him the help he needed with no consequence to his career, where he maintains one of the highest levels of security clearance. Additionally, Moran said, the support he received from his supervisors and behavioral health was, in his words, “awesome.”
To locate the right providers or get a referral for treatment, contact your installation’s mental health clinic, behavioral health, or Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647. In an emergency, call 911 or the Military Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.