How I survived suicide and devoted my life to suicide prevention

For hundreds of years people who served in the military have had to bear the burden of the impacts of war. For the most part, our service men and women are left to fight these impacts of war alone. The big quest is why? Why are our soldiers and veterans not reaching out in a time of need? The answer is simple but extremely difficult to address. 

In order to understand why we do not reach out I have decided to tell my personal story. I am a United States Army Veteran and a law enforcement veteran. I served 8 years in the Army with several deployments including a tour to Iraq in 2005-2006. I also served as a Deputy with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado. I have always been compelled to serve my community. I believe that I possess the true meaning of the word patriot. 

With that said, what happened? While deployed, I suffered several traumatic brain injuries (TBI). What I did not know, was the lasting impact that these TBIs would have on me and my mind. Shortly after returning home from Iraq, I went through a series of unfortunate events. I lost the majority of my childhood memories, my balance was not what it used to be, I struggled with word choices, and my ability to retain information was almost nonexistent. 

This change in self sent me on a path of destruction. I found myself completely unhappy. Dealing with major stress, manic depression and major anxiety. I wanted to find the answer to my problems but was dealing with a series of physical injuries at the same time. For long time I found solace in my prescription pain medication, but this was only masking a greater problem.

At this point I was dealing with addiction to opiates and the lasting impacts of unaddressed PTSD and TBI. This is when I started fantasizing about not living; I thought about it so often that I began to write about it. I created secret social media accounts to talk about suicide so my friends and family would not know it was me. To be honest, those around me had no clue I was even thinking about it. 

I put on my costume every day and convinced everyone that I was just a jovial person. In fact, I was the one people would call when they were dealing suicidal thoughts themselves. I would talk with them and walk them through steps to survival, while at the same time I was planning my own death. During this time I reached out to the crisis hotline a few times, however, at that time I was not committed to actually following through with the suicide so the assistance as not beneficial to me.

After everything compounded in my life and my efforts to reach out for help were only met with “more medication” rather than addressing the underlying issues, I decided it was time to leave my current reality. My reasons for suicide were clear to me. I was not the same person I was before I deployed to Iraq. I was suffering inside and out. My body was in constant pain, my mind was in constant turmoil, and I did not want to “force” my family to deal with my pain.

At this point, I had cut off all efforts to reach out for help. I was still going to the VA for treatments, but it was only to present to everyone that I was okay. I still spoke to everyone as if nothing was wrong. I secretly prepared my affairs and had my first attempt. It was very spontaneous and not very well thought through. I decided to hang myself. The only problem was I could not handle the choking sensation once I put the belt around my neck. After this attempt, I realized that the only way to do this was to ensure that I could not back out, so I decided to end my life by using a firearm. When I pulled the trigger, all I heard was a soft click. My weapon had a failure to fire. 

This was the moment that my life changed forever. After hearing the click, I was immediately filled with anger. Why am I unable to end my own life? I did not have a plan for after, and this was different for me, for the first time I was living in the present. I decided to get back into treatment, but the difference was I actually accepted the treatment. I turned my passion for suicide into a passion for helping others dealing with the same darkness.

I cofounded Warrior Now Inc as a way to help our Veterans dealing with mental illness, addiction, TBI, and PTSD. Our system is lacking in addressing this issue and we can help change that. There is a stigma that is shared across the military that mental illness is a sign of weakness rather than pinpointing the underlying cause and finding the treatment. This stigma has been carried over to the civilian world for many years…until now. We are dedicated to ending the stigma and promoting proper Mental Health, Recovery, and most importantly Suicide Prevention.

Today, I am living my life serving others with a new light. Every experience I have had has led me to who I have become today. My role with Warriornow.org helps me continue to fight the suicide epidemic that is plaguing our Nation’s Heroes. We have turned our community of Warriors into a mental illness fighting force by establishing a mentor program that can be accessed by anyone, no matter what war you served in, or discharge you may have. Having a mentor program that is separate from the crisis hotline is so important for our Veterans. We want to be there in the beginning so that we can help fight the unseen war together. In the military, we trained for war as a team. Now that we are veterans, we need to train for the war on suicide and mental illness as a team.

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