JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
I almost became a statistic.
I had always prided myself on my resilience, even before resilience was a commonly spoken term. But it seemed like life had kicked me in the gut a few times and I wasn’t getting back up any more. It happened slowly, but at some point I was aware things were getting out of control. I was getting less and less sleep, I was having panic attacks, I felt overwhelmed at the smallest thing, I lost interest in the things I had loved. At one point, I was shocked at my appearance. But still, I plowed on, believing I would eventually ‘snap out of it.’
I was always a person who looked like they had it together. I could smile and laugh despite being in terrible pain. I could be effective at work and manage a busy family schedule despite feeling like I was just going through the motions. I appeared to have hobbies and goals. I drank dangerous amounts of alcohol and never missed a day of work. I was making a lot of self-destructive decisions.
If there had been someone asking me if I was ok or being truly honest with me that I wasn’t ok, that would have likely stopped the downward spiral.
One day, the straw broke the camel’s back. I broke under the pressure of something that, in hindsight, wasn’t life-altering. But after struggling to survive with depression for so long, my body and my mind were too tired to fight any more, and I considered suicide. It was the most alone and most frightened I had ever felt in my life. I contemplated all the things I had to live for along with all the reasons it would be easier not to live. I didn’t want to be broken, but I didn’t want to live like that anymore.
My story isn’t over.
Reaching out for help was the best choice I’ve made in my entire life. The day I alerted someone that I was having suicidal thoughts, I made the decision to put myself above the perceived stigma and the fear and I took control of my life back from depression. Short-term medication and long-term therapy have been very effective for me. I surrounded myself with strong people I could trust to walk with me and keep me focused on the long-term goals. I’m several years removed from those days, and I feel more alive and more resilient than ever.
I am not ashamed of my story.
Self-education and being an active fighter in the battle against the stigma of mental illness have empowered me to feel in control of my health and my life. I truly believe if it could happen to me - if I could rationalize to myself that I understood why people kill themselves, and that suicide might be my only hope - it could be happening to someone reading my story.
You are not destined to be a statistic, your story isn’t over, you’re not alone.