I’m not quite done yet with my Army Reserve career. I am done with certain aspects of it. I will never be able to deploy again, among other things. But I am still in it for the one weekend a month, two weeks a year, for now. And by the way, as most of my fellow reservists can attest, the “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” thing is really more of a suggestion. There were calendar years in the past where I logged close to 100 days as a reservists, NOT counting the active duty time for deployments. I was gung-ho. Now, I only do my one weekend a month. I may or may not even do my “two weeks” this year.
As I’ve written about in previous posts, I was always the lead for the suicide prevention and awareness training at the different units I was part of. I was very good at it. I took the best of the best of all the resources and training materials I had at my disposal and made a presentation from those parts. I didn’t use the standard slide show provided by the Army. I rarely used videos from the Army’s suicide prevention website. I wanted the training I was conducting to feel different from all the other mandatory training we were forced to sit through. I wanted it to be real and memorable. I never facilitated “check the box” training. “Next slide.”
My section leader at my unit has asked me to go to one of our downtrace units to lead suicide awareness training next month. It’s been a while. I haven’t conducted that training since a few months before my failed suicide attempt in 2015. I write about it here. But I haven’t spoken to a group about it in over a year and a half. I have a million things going through my mind about how to approach it, how to get comfortable being in that role again. It was always emotional doing the training because I took it very seriously and had previously fought off thoughts of suicide. I would even incorporate my personal story into the training. But now, I’ll be doing the training after a failed attempt, not just thoughts.
That changes the whole dynamics for me doing the training. At least in my mind it does. Am I still qualified to facilitate suicide awareness training? That’s a rhetorical question. Of course, I am. But in my mind, while I’m doing the training, what will be happening? Will I be emotionally strong enough to talk out loud, to a group of fellow Soldiers, about the risks of suicide? Will I be able to intelligently get my point across without becoming a complete idiot because of what I know will be going on in my head during the training? Will I be able to focus?
Writing about suicide is easy, for the most part, compared to speaking to a group. I can write, take a break, compose my thoughts, come back to it, write some more, change my mind and write about something else altogether. I won’t have that luxury in front of a live audience. Once I start, I have to see it through. There will not be a stopping point to compose my thoughts, take a break, or change my mind. There are many things we do as Soldiers where we sort of remove ourselves from the reality of what is going on around us. I fear this won’t be one of those instances.
Every word I speak to the group about suicide awareness will be echoing in my mind and reminding me that I was almost a statistic not very long ago. I fear that every emotion I felt during that dark time of my life will resurface in my mind while I’m trying to conduct the training. My mind is a mess already, just thinking about it. What you don’t see here is that I took a break from writing this last night to continue this morning. I slept horribly. My mind was going a million miles an hour. Again, I won’t have the luxury of a break during training.
I know I’ve come a long way in my mental recovery since August 2015. But there are situations that still bother me. There are still thoughts in my head that make me uncomfortable. I guess the next part of my recovery is getting back in the saddle with conducting suicide training again. I will be mentally prepared. I will be academically prepared. And I will do my best to be emotionally prepared. Before some of you give me the rah-rah pep talk of how great it’ll go, or the talk of how maybe I should avoid the situation, I got this. I am a professional Soldier. I am a leader. I must always put the mission first. This will be no different.
Until my career in the reserves is completely done I will continue to do the things I’m capable of doing when asked. While conducting suicide training again is going to be very hard, I know I am capable of it. I know it will be uncomfortable, but I know it’s my job. I know I will obsess over this for the next few weeks, maybe even lose sleep like I did last night. But I got this. I have to, someone’s life might be depending on it
Thank you for reading. Thank you for taking a walk through my mind with me while I hash things out. This is good therapy for me. Good day, God bless
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