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Leadership Lessons: Leading by Example

Active Military
Active Military
Veteran News
Veteran News
February 11, 2019
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Suicide. Nobody wants to actually talk about it. It has this taboo feeling that you can't address it without at least 6 million years of experience in the field of psychology or mental health. Yet every day we see more and more headlines talking about how more and more veterans and active duty members are committing suicide and yet, still that's all anyone will say."Suicide rates among (insert veteran or active duty group here) on the rise for this year."But, when will we actually talk about it? When will those of us who've somehow found a way to cope, a way forward, through therapy through parenthood, or any other facet start owning the responsibility of talking to our brothers and getting them the help they need? I mean, shit we do what we can and you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink right?I was like that once. Everyone else was the problem. I was going through something and nobody understood, or so I thought. I kept pointing fingers. Sometimes I was right to point them, other times I was incredibly and erroneously mistaken in my judgment and I should have looked in the mirror.My mentor, who I've written about here, was killed early on in our deployment to Iraq, one of my good friends who I've also written about here was killed the next month. My best friend who has gotten me through so much is missing both of his legs due to an IED attack in December '05. Another one of my peers and a great friend to everyone he met was killed towards the end of December '05. One of the officers that I knew for a short time, but respected immensely was killed in February '06. I had lost touch with my boot camp best friend, a man I spent my days in the DEP with and considered my best friend in the Corps at the time...he was killed in November '06...and so many more stories I could tell...and yet I'm here, physically unscathed.It felt so unfair that I was not killed or maimed like my brothers. I felt like I had cheated the universe and these feelings of guilt and anger and the ever accelerating downward spiral I was traveling down was just the universe working to correct a mistake it had made by not killing or wounding me in Iraq. Drug and alcohol abuse seemed inevitable. Violence seemed unavoidable at every turn, whether it was with strangers or my own family...even those who were trying with every ounce of their soul to help me. I had this foreboding sense of doom at every turn. Suicide was how I thought I should fix it.I saw at least four different psychologists and each time I thought I was getting better, but I wasn't. I had this mental block that still to this day, I don't know why or where it came from and I still don't understand how I fully broke through. Somehow when I checked myself into the Audie Murphy VA hospital emergency room due to my symptoms now physically manifesting by making me tachycardic and claustrophobic even in the most wide open spaces, something changed and the psychologist I spoke with somehow got through. It took nearly 8 months of intensive therapy every week and an extreme life event to turn me around.Roughly thirty-six sessions and a significant life event. I'm not 100% better, but I don't feel the impending doom anymore. I don't feel like me taking my own life is the way to fix everything anymore...I'm not here to say I have all the answers, but I know that life exists on the other side of those feelings and those emotions. If I could say to anyone who is fighting their demons, brothers, and sisters as one of your own, I want you to know and I mean this with every ounce of my soul and being...There is life on the other side of this struggle and it is quite honestly the most beautiful things I've ever had to the opportunity to see. Your life on the other side of this battle is filled with experiences and moments that are the most euphoric thing I could ever describe to you. There is life on the other side, and it's something you should experience.

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