I almost committed suicide and my daughter saved me. The struggles of being a veteran.
Did the headline draw you in? Now that I have your attention. While the statement is true, that contemplation lasted all of 2 seconds. And it was never a serious contemplation. Not because I am stronger nor more morally empowered than others. That is simply all the time it took for my life to flash before my eyes. And my daughter is my life. But what happens when that rationality stops? What happens when judgement is absent? When does it become a harsh reality? Let's be realistic here. Had it not been for the love I have for my daughter; would I be here? She did save me from myself.
Welcome to one of the biggest fears that veterans have. Trying to determine their worth and decide when enough is enough. Veterans are hard to understand because we struggle with understanding ourselves. Our battles never end when we return home. From an anecdotal standpoint, it was easier for me to do my job overseas than it has ever been to do my job here at home. Survival instinct seems to just hit differently overseas. It seems more natural. Just to come home and feel unnatural.
I don’t think people realize the darkness veterans have to endure. I don’t need attention. I don’t want attention and I would appreciate it if you simply stepped back and listened. It’s not comfort that I seek. It is simply understanding. Our veterans face more than most people are willing to acknowledge.
My heart and mind feel as if they’re sharing the same turmoil. My soul feels like a shadow imprisoned in a dark place. Not because I cannot function. My demons seem to haunt me more than I can handle. But those demons seem to struggle handling me. I have these conversations with the men I served with and often. They always say the same thing.
At what point does the heart become so heavy that it becomes a burden? When does the heart weigh you down? Everything that I feel makes me suffocate. Including love. Happiness is often a burden as well. Because we often find ourselves in situations where we had to sacrifice a part of ourselves for happiness. So, the happiness we experience often exists to fill an already empty void. My past seems to carry the lions share. I am tired of fighting with my consciousness. A bottle of alcohol or a bottle of pills? What is more addictive, the high or the pain? I would say the pain. The heart experiences its own sorrow we don’t feel pain the same way.
What kills us more? The act of pulling a trigger or the agony of fighting yourself internally. I am not saying that I am suicidal. I have so much to live for. I understand that my presence on this earth is valuable to more people than just myself. When does that logic and reason cease to exist?
As I am writing this, I am having a hard time putting my heart into it. I know what I want to say but, I am struggling to say it. I don’t want this message to get lost in translation nor do I want it to become a stigma. I can’t say that I am proud of everything that I had to do overseas. What I can say is that I understand why I had to do it. Morality has such a different definition when you fight in an active war zone.
I had this conversation with a brother of mine who served in the Navy. I don’t think people realize that even within the veteran community there are different classes of “veterans”. Being combat arms and fighting on the front lines just comes with its own set of rules and repercussions. This doesn’t deter from the act of serving selflessly. We should be thankful to all of our veterans. Experiences, however, may vary. That does not make one experience more important than the other but, at the same time it does.
I have personally shed more tears trying to make myself happy than I ever have just being happy. That is not to say that I am not happy with life. I’m drowning. We all are. This is not even remotely a cry for help. I understand what I have to do in life and what I have to endure. I am no stronger than any other veteran. Nor am I better suited to deal with these things.
What does freedom really cost? At the very least, mental slavery and personal agony for those who are sent to defend it. Veteran support shouldn’t be a popularity contest. It shouldn’t be a token of social acceptance. We are failing our veterans.
I think most veterans sacrifice their independence without realizing it. There are parts of us lost eternally for the preservation of something much bigger. We essentially lose a sense of freedom while defending it. I can’t explain that. I just know that is how it feels. We are forever enslaved with our demons.
We have to do our veterans more justice. With each passing day we lose more than we should. This is what Independence Day feels like for most veterans. I hope that everyone enjoyed their celebrations this year. I also hope that moving forward this message resonates. Freedom isn't free.
-The Patriot Edda-
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