About a week ago I typed a long post about aiming to be authentic. I've also written a few posts about wondering what my mission truly is on this trip. During a recent conversation, the truth came out. Perhaps it's time that I share that truth. I've been waiting for the "right time," and as much as I talk about being in the "now," there is no time that is more right than now.
I battle, daily, with chronic depression and suicidal ideation. What I am doing, being with my dog and exploring life together is saving my life. I share so often because I hope to inspire others to see this world for what it truly is and give faith that life is indeed worth living, especially to those who think otherwise.
I have been involved with many veterans organizations and have tried to play a bigger role in suicide prevention, but have fallen short of being brought on board in any official capacity. When I have taken a position, I feel as if my voice gets stifled and I must fall in line, stay in my lane, know my place. Perhaps that is what I've been waiting for, the validation from someone else donning me with a position that says that I'm "qualified" to help others.
This is my qualification: "I am alive, and I aim to live."
I am done making excuses or feeling ashamed for these feelings. I am done trying to fight the VA, I am done explaining myself to other Veterans, I am done seeking validation from organizations, and I am done pretending that when I'm advocating for Suicide Awareness, that I'm not advocating for myself.
I've got a lot of work to do to continue to enjoy life as much as I used to, but after quitting drinking 18 months ago, I can tell you with assurance that I'll never be that number 23. This is not a message to reach out FOR help, this is a message to continue TO help. There is a lot of self work, introspection, and true big picture thinking that comes into play during the survival process...and it takes work, it takes ownership, and it also takes not allowing a part of you to become the definition of your very existence.
I may not be getting paid for what I am doing, but don't think for a second that these last few years haven't been spent doing what I consider to be my life's work. One of the biggest lessons I ever attempted to teach my Marines while on deployment, I found out after we got home that I never presented it to them as a lesson, and they thought that my getting "fired" from my position was because I was in some kind of trouble. They never knew that it was because I refused to carry out the ridiculous mind games of the Staff Sergeant I worked under. I stood my ground to prove a point, but was too passive in the teaching, and the lesson was wasted.
Today, I am passive no more, and will continue to not merely survive, but get out and actively thrive...and never once apologize for doing so.
I've had multiple people reach out and say my posts have inspired them to keep living, that our private conversations were what kept them from pulling the trigger. With that, I have a responsibility to keep pushing forward, to keep inspiring, to keep living. If you want to help me help others...then share this post, spread it like wildfire and light up the lives of others who may be sulking in the shadows. It's time to spread the light.