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When Depression Takes Over – Take Your Life Back, Don’t Take Your Life (Part III)
It’s been a rough year for Fort Hood. According to Army officials, there have been 14 suicides at Fort Hood and officials are scrambling to make sense of it. That is a statistic I don’t want to be a part of. It’s a statistic that I don’t want ANY Soldier to be a part of. So, I want to tell my story in the hopes that telling it will encourage other Soldiers not to make fatal decisions.
In June, I hit rock bottom. I felt like a loser because I could not be the Soldier I wanted to be. Due to my injury, there isn’t a lot I can do by way of typical Army physical training. No running, no sit-ups, and barely able to max push-ups anymore. Walking fast enough to get a workout leaves me in more pain, which I’ve been dealing with since my injury outside As Samawah on 23 March 2003. Dealing with pain wears a person down and I struggle to find a balance between medicating the pain away or dealing with it (which I typically do). My wife says I’m addicted to pain to explain why I often refuse to take medication. The truth is that when I feel pain, I know I’m still alive.
I had been separated from my family for over six months due to my issues with my last unit and the Huntsville City School system. My “rock” wasn’t there to help keep me sane and I tended to overreact to every argument. After moving to Fort Hood, I stopped my normal counseling sessions to focus on my new job. Additionally, my anti-depressant medication expired and in order to get a new prescription refill, I had to go to the hospital on main post (I’m on West Fort Hood). I kept putting it off and days became weeks which became months. Add to that, the small little arguments that all couples have (especially when married to a hard head like me) and it was the perfect recipe for disaster.
I had it. I was over my threshhold and could no longer sustain the weight of the world. I suddenly found myself literally curled into a ball on my carpet at the foot of my bed. My mind began racing through scenarios of how I could end the pain, both physically and mentally – permanently. I was surrounded by over a dozen firearms, most of which were locked and loaded, all of which had ammo readily available. I had a full prescription of Vicodin and other pain managment pills. Did I want to go slowly or quickly; clean or make a mess?
I chose neither and recognized a third choice – call someone NOW! It was late and I decided to email a friend. It was the typical cry for help:
I feel like I’m losing it all – my mind, my life, and my family. It’s becoming more than I can take as the hopelessness becomes all-encompassing. I don’t enjoy doing ANYTHING anymore. I’m telling you this because I’m scared about what’s happening to me. I worry about not making it to Memorial Day.
Thankfully, my friend decided to check her email that late at night. She instantly urged me to call someone and wouldn’t leave me alone until she felt confident I was safe.
I called my mother and for the first time in more than 20 years she had to listen to her 36-year old son barely able to speak through strong tears and heavy breathing. She had to deal with a mentally expired shell of a person trying to talk himself out of making a fateful decision. She was speaking to a Master Sergeant in the United States Army with 16 years of experience under his belt unable to make a rational decision and provided the comfort and words needed to bring me back from the brink of personal disaster. A literal and figurative darkness that started at about 10pm on Sunday night didn’t end until well after midnight.
I made that choice because subconsciously I knew that no matter how much I was hurting, surely I had something to live for. And I did. Was I really going through something that was more important than my life? Or did I just FEEL that way? Consciously, I was through and didn’t want to fight anymore. I’m a resilient guy and can do anything I set my mind to (except running and sit-ups!). For more than an hour, my mother calmed her desperate son and held me tightly through the phone. She didn’t let go until she was convinced I was okay and wouldn’t do anything stupid.
Do you dream that the world will know your name,
So tell me your name
And do you care, about all the little things,
Or anything at all (anything at all),
I wanna feel all the chemicals inside,
I wanna feel (I wanna feel),
I wanna sunburn just to know that I’m alive,
To know I’m alive (to know if I’m alive),
Do you believe in the day that you were born,
Tell me do you believe,
And do you know that every day’s the first of the rest of your life,
Don’t tell me if I’m dying,
Cause I don’t wanna know,
If I can’t see the sun,
Maybe I should go,
Don’t wake me cause I’m dreaming,
Of angels on the moon,
Where everyone you know,
Never leaves too soon
Artist: Thriving Ivory
Song: Angels On The Moon
After hanging up with my mother, she convinced to call my wife and I bore my soul to her. I honestly don’t remember much of either conversation. I don’t understand how I got to where I was that night. I don’t know how my mind could have possibly gotten so degraded that I actually contemplated suicide. What I do know is that I didn’t give up on life and made those calls to the two people I least wanted to see (or hear) me in that condition. But, I knew that they loved me and cared for me. They would be the most affected if I ended my life and they deserved the opportunity to let me know.
Suicide is such a selfish act that doesn’t just affect the poor schmuck that has to clean up the carpets or identify the body. It affects friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, leaders, peers and subordinates alike. All these people are left with unimaginable guilt about what they could have or should have done differently that may have saved your life. Those with children leave behind tortured souls that must reconcile why their father or mother took his or her life. Children of a parent that just TRIES to commit suicide are six times more likely to attempt suicide themselves. With that in mind, think of the love you have for your kids and ask yourself how you would feel if they committed suicide.
Nothing in this life is worth taking yours over. NOTHING. In those moments curled in a ball and crying into the receiver of a phone, I thought that I had nothing left to offer the world. People wouldn’t have to worry about me any longer. All my failures (or perceived failures) would be forgotten. I would become a numerical statistic and nothing more. But, I would have been wrong.
I look at everything I’ve done and seen just since June. I look at the lives I’ve touched, the conversations I’ve had, and the beautiful sunsets I’ve seen. I think about those hours mowing the lawn where I get to plug into some good music and just be outside with the wind kissing my face. I think about the nights cuddled up with the love of my life at the end of a long day or tickling my children until they think they’re going to pee themselves. I would have missed shopping for phones as the kids grew up, teaching them how to drive, and giving away my girls when they get married (in 30 years after I’ve found a suitable groom). I would have missed the Soldiers that have come into my office and asked to shut my door so that they could open to me about their problems. The list goes on and on.
NOTHING IN THIS LIFE IS WORTH TAKING YOURS! Depression sucks more than anything I’ve ever had to deal with. It utterly frustrating to never feel like getting out of the bed and facing the world. It sucks pretending to be happy all the time. But, you learn to deal with it. You lean on those that love you and talk through these problems with a counselor.
If you take nothing away from this, understand that when depression takes over, don’t take your life. Take your life back! Be the better person and find SOMEONE to talk to. The next day after surviving the night I went immediately to my chaplain. I spoke with a peer and good friend in my section.
If you are a military leader there is something you need to understand. After a suicide, there are always speeches and training classes that tell us we need to be there for our troops. While it’s true that if our troops stop coming to us with their problems we have ceased to be good leaders, we can’t pretend to think that they will come to us with everything. But, we need to be there for them anyway and create an environment where we ARE approachable and sensitive to their individual needs. When I needed to call someone that night, my military leaders, peers, and subordinates were the LAST people I thought about. But, I had SOMEONE to call. If you don’t have someone to call, then please DO call those leaders! I’m not saying that you should avoid calling your leaders at any cost because that’s what we are here for. With that said, you need to call someone and be honest with yourself. If you think you have no one to call, remember you ALWAYS have someone to call – a squad leader, a platoon sergeant, a fellow troop, the 1SG, the commander, the Colonel, the Sergeant Major, I could go on and on. Senior leaders are well trained to handle these issues and I hope that we have learned to take these pleas for help seriously and act accordingly.
I don’t stay alive for myself. To be honest, I’m not very fond of myself and don’t feel like I’m worth much to myself either. But, there ARE people that are worth my life. There are people to whom I am of worth and they are the ones we need to stay alive for if nothing else. We can learn to love ourselves again – I am. It’s a slow process, but I know that pain – physical and mental – is temporary. When the pain goes away it doesn’t hurt anymore. But, you’ll never know if you use permanent and lethal means to deal with it! In the end we ARE worth living for to ourselves. While our mind may say otherwise, the way mine does, I know that it’s simply not true.
Suicide is never the answer. Seeking help is the answer. The suicide solution is no solution at all.