Suicide has become more and more of a topic that has hit many social media websites and pages. They inform you of the numbers and various resources available to everyone, yet each day we are losing so many of our military & veterans. Yes I do understand that our civilian community is losing just as many and no matter what one life lost to suicide is too many. I can only speak to you about the veteran & military community and the hardships we face.
The traumas that started early in my life also started my early battles with suicidal ideations. Maybe I had a form of PTSD early on and it only made itself known later in life. I know that in early 1996 I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, in 1997 I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and on 28 August 1998 is the day I wanted to die.
This was my first suicide attempt while in the military, it was a day I just did not want to live anymore. Even then I was on a variety of pills for anxiety, depression, aches and pains. Earlier that year I injured my knees while doing my daily running and was put on heavy pain pills. It was also about the same time I was drinking more and more. At least a bottle of vodka a night.
At this point in my life I was divorced and a single mother to my four year old son. The divorce had left me and my son in such a horrible financial state, was at risk for losing my car and was barely making ends meet. Yet my career was at an all time high. A recent graduate of Airman Leadership School had garnered me a wonderful supervisory position in charge of my own section and troops. Was being recognized for all the great work we were doing and had been awarded some awesome certificates of appreciation and recognition.
Everyone at work was blind to the turmoil happening in my personal life. They were oblivious to the fact that I was going home after work and drinking my night away, sleeping only because the alcohol and pills knocked me out.
The evening of 28 August 1998, I was done. Done fighting a battle with myself, done trying to be a good mom and failing. Done with hoping to find my footing in my personal life knowing I could never have that confidence in myself like I did when I was in uniform. I was done. My son had been fed and put to sleep. I kissed him and told him I loved him so much, apologized for being such a bad mom and hoped that someone good would be able to give him more than I ever could.
I went to my room with a bottle of vodka and all of my pain & sleeping pills, and well took them all. That was it. I wanted it over, wanted it done, just wanted to be free of all the pain.
When I woke up, I was in the emergency room at Maxwell AFB, my commander was next to me holding my hand. My son had woken up from sleep later that night and found me. He went next door to tell them I wouldn’t wake up and they came right over. They found me, called 911 and were trying to wake me up. By 3 am I had my stomach pumped, had charcoal solution pumped in to remove the residual and had puked a lot of it up on myself. When I had finally woken up, I had to face the realization that I was still alive.
I am sure many of you are thinking of how selfish this was, how could I leave my son the way I did? How could I have done this thing to have him find me? You can think that and feel any way you want about me. You have no idea what I was dealing with and at that time I felt that this was my only way out.
I was released later that morning, called my friend Carolyn to let her know what I had done. She came right over. She was like a mother to me. I couldn’t face the shock and disappointment in her face when she came to my house, talked with me about what I had tried to do and tried to understand what drove me to it.
The next duty day I was at the Mental Health Clinic going through evaluation and mandated counseling for depression. Surely some of you are wondering why I was sent home that next day, why wasn’t I in the mental health ward of the hospital or kept under suicide watch. Mostly because my leadership wanted to think it was an accidental overdose, and my records reflected that. They were afraid to allow this misstep to ruin my career so it was easily taken care of.
The next few months were constant therapy appointments, learning to deal with what I was dealing with and thankfully I had a friend in my life that I was able to chat and talk with each and every day to help me deal with the fact that I wanted to die.
My son and I were healing, I was healing. Yes I know he had to see me go through this and any issues he had as a child were because of my lack of being a good mother to him. I look at him now and am glad to see him thriving, succeeding in so many ways despite the fact I could have broken him.
My rock back then, the person I spoke with every day to start the healing process is now the man who sits next to me. He saved me even before we fell in love.
The day I wanted to die changed a lot about me. Now I cannot say it changed me completely because I am still damaged and broken. It has made me realize that I need to speak out a bit more about the issues and about the demons.
Have there been other attempts you ask? Yes, they have been subtle and nothing like that of 1998. There have been a lot of self destructive behaviors that I have had and forced to deal with the consequences of those behaviors. Yet here I sit, with my husband by my side. With three wonderful and amazing children, a wonderful daughter in law and a cutie grandson, with another grand child on the way. My life is truly a blessed one.
Dealing with things does not mean DEALT with. I still battle the urges to hurt myself. Still fight the demons in my mind and the pain in my body. I am still here. Talking about suicide does not make someone go out and do it. Talking allows us to bring awareness to it. In all my life I have lost too many to suicide. Too many times I have had to sit in a hospital room grieving with my military family as life support was turned off. Too many times I stood at attention in my service dress as my military family member was laid to rest and too many times have I received that phone call to tell me someone I loved has lost their battle with the demons.
We have to be available to others, have to be compassionate as well as understanding. Quit telling people to just get over it, that will make us withdraw more. Listen to us when we speak of things, don’t interrupt with judgements. We just need to know you are there to listen. If you know someone is struggling, why not make contact if you haven’t heard or seen them in a while. Ask them if they need anything, even if it’s a cup of coffee or a donut lol. Maybe meeting somewhere to talk. Just reach out to let them know you care about how they are doing.
I hope to learn to live my life to the fullest, so that I can honor the lives lost to suicide, those who fought hard against the demons and couldn’t win that battle. By finding my way through the muck, by continuing to fight each and every day I hope to honor them all.