What if there were a meeting to go to for those of us that have attempted suicide, or been stopped just in time? If I went to that meeting would I stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Dave. It’s been 4 months since my last debilitating bout with suicidal thoughts.”? Would I have to go into what brought me to that point? Would I have to disclose all the stuff about my PTSD and depression and fears and general weirdness that I deal with in my head every day? Would anyone go to such a meeting and share their innermost thoughts? I have compared recovering from suicide to alcoholism more than once. I think both are a lifelong recovery process. Both need a support group of some sort. And both require the person to be completely honest with himself. Suicidal Anonymous? We might need a better name for our group.
A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a fellow Soldier talking about things in life. Like many other fellow Soldiers I talk to and share my story with, she was intrigued that I was so open with something so personal. Many of the people I talk to one-on-one have gone through a situation similar to mine, or have other behavioral health issues that I can relate to, not just suicidal thoughts. The most asked question of me during a conversation about my story is, “Aren’t you afraid people will look at you differently if you share that stuff?” Actually, there was a time I did fear that.
In the military, there has always been a stigma placed on those who sought help for mental health issues. Granted, it is more accepted now to seek help than when I came in in 1989, even encouraged now. The Army has come a long way in the last couple decades in dealing with the matters of mental health concerning Soldiers. But it’s that first step a person has to take to get help that is by far the hardest. Asking for help or sharing the deepest secrets of your mind can be very uncomfortable. And you can’t make someone get help until they’re on the verge of it being too late, especially if that person doesn’t want help. Or at least, that’s my personal experience.
Back to the question, “Aren’t you afraid people will look at you differently?” I have accepted that I need people to look at me differently than they used to. I am different now. I see myself differently. My brain doesn’t always process things rationally anymore, although I am making progress. But I still cannot be expected to perform on the level I did before my brain changed and I got diagnosed with PTSD and other things. Therefore, I need people to understand my situation and see me for who I am now. And I need to share my experiences because it keeps me in check with myself and allows others to keep me accountable to continuing my recovery.
We don’t have a Suicidal Anonymous group for those of us recovering from our own dark thoughts and actions. Even though I went to group therapy after my hospital stay last year, in the beginning of my recovery, it felt like each one of us was our own solitary group, an island, alone in the waves somewhere. I intend to change that, and I have for myself. I tell my story. I read some of the blogs posted by others on the topic of their experiences with suicide, some posted anonymously, some with a name. I make myself available to those that need to talk about it. And I connect with all those people as if they are in a group with me, going to our anonymous meetings, whether they know it or not.
I imagine I will be in recovery for the rest of my life. Just the fact of how close I came to dying, I know it will always be somewhere in my mind. I know there are experiences that will trigger my PTSD and drive me to being severely depressed or having anger issues. But I am choosing to not be anonymous about it. I am choosing to share my story even if people look at me differently. I am choosing to be better. Not because it’s easy to choose to be better, it’s actually very difficult. But because I want to be better, choosing to be better is now a viable option.
I’m bringing this meeting to order. Hi, I’m Dave, it’s been four months since I last seriously thought about suicide, 15 months since my last attempt. I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad you’re here, too. Good day, God bless.
Other posts of mine related to this one: