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Physical Fitness Exam **TW: Suicide**

20 October 2022:

There is an unwritten rule that Air Force Officers should NEVER score below a 90% on a physical fitness exam. A 90% score is in the EXCELLENT category. There is also an added pressure as a woman and black person to be "better" in order to disprove any question of the legitimacy of if you earned the position, you are in versus if you are there only due to affirmative action and not merit. The traditional test includes a timed 1.5-mile run, timed for one-minute push-ups and sit-ups. I have ALWAYS scored above a 90% since I first started taking the test back in 2009 as a cadet and my highest score was 99.9% in 2011 back when I was in marathon shape. Today I scored an 87.6%, my lowest score to date.

A month ago I received a reminder email that my PT test was due in October and while I already knew this, reading the email was another trigger as I associated it with "pressure from work" which made me panic and want to die. I went to the balcony of my apartment which is usually a place of peace for me, to try and look at the scenic view, calm myself and relax. Instead, the opposite happened. I started looking at the ground and started scanning for where I could jump that would ensure that I died and not just sustain an injury that would lead me to live and have more pain than I already have now. I felt the urge like I had back in July where I DID try to kill myself by a different method, and this urge scared me. I thought I'd lose control like last time and decided to call my friend. I told her while sobbing, "I've got to get out of the Air Force! I can't take the pressure anymore!" She listened to my cries and helped calm me down. She reassured me that it was ok to feel what I feel and if I want to get out of the Air Force, we both know there are lots of other jobs out there that would value me as I am.

I’ve been on a mental health profile since July after things got really bad and additionally have been on a shoulder profile for the entire month of September and late August due to injuries, I sustained during insomnia episodes. I've been seeking various mental health services since August of last year to cope with my depression and the truth is, PT or any form of "self-care" was not a priority for me. It no longer made me "feel good" and I was SO overwhelmed by all the other responsibilities and stressors in my life.

I started prepping for my fitness test two weeks ago as I was finally in a mental and physical state where I could leave the house without anxiety, intense pain or feeling like I wanted to die. While I was scared to see where I was at as I knew it would be bad, I told myself, "Kristin, the Air Force only requires you to PASS which is a 75%. Despite what others may think or say, this does NOT define your ability to lead, inspire, or do your job in your line of work. It’s OKAY if all you have in you right now is below an Air Force score of EXCELLENT. It's OKAY to not hide and be true to yourself. Its okay, that you have been AFFECTED by trauma and stress and are not your best self-right now while you are working through it. You can give your best without killing yourself in the process."

Two weeks ago my run was at 18 mins and I could barely do 5 pushups without shaking or experiencing pain. Today I ran a 16:40 run, did 35 pushups, and completed a 45 on sit-ups for a composite score of 87.6%. Had this been two years ago before the Air Force adjusted its scoring, I would have been very close to nearly failing the run. These were the lowest scores I've had in each category and the lowest PT score I’ve earned in my life but I am PROUD of it. I’ve run 5K's, 10K's, marathons, done ruck marches, terrain runs, played competitive tennis, basketball and other sports. I know what I am capable of. I know what excellence is. Excellence will look different every day depending on what season we are in, in our life.

A commitment to Self-care is a new value for me so I am learning how to prioritize time for me and my health within the chaos of my life. 87.6% is not an EXCELLENT score for the Air Force or the "unwritten rule that officers must score above 90% to be a good leader" which is a message I frequently received growing up in this officer environment, but its excellent for me. True for me. The best that I could do today in the year I’ve had to be ready for it. And with everything I’ve had to deal with and overcome, I am choosing kindness to myself and see this as a success.


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