First off: Thank you in advance for reading and sharing this important message!
Why am I thanking you? Because you and the people you are connected to can help save lives.
Jason was one of those good-hearted kids who joked a lot and loved to make people laugh. When 9/11 happened he was too young to enlist but he was swept up in the desire to serve his country. Six years later he was old enough to join the military and he was on his way to a world that had never been honestly portrayed by the media or armed forces promotional video.
There’s a saying that “war is hell,” but after two tours of duty, Jason knew being home was even more hellish.
The clock read 3:26 am and, as usual, he was wide awake with a thousand thoughts rushing through the superhighway of his mind, ploughing through previously buried memories of childhood. Wave after wave of regret surged down that highway, drowning out everything but war. No, not the horrors of war he had actually experienced, but the fully raging battle taking place in his own mind every time there was a quiet moment. On one side of the mental battlefield were the “soldiers of image” that fought to keep up appearances. After all, people constantly told him that he was the most well-adjusted veteran they had ever met.The image had him cracking jokes just like he did when he was a kid, and even though everyone laughed, Jason felt like each joke was a ghost that lacked the substance of playfulness. Because as well adjusted, strong, playful and together as he seemed, on the other side of the mental battlefield was an emptiness, an emotional and mental quicksand that constantly threatened to drag him under.
The clock clicked to 3:30 am. Jason put his head in his hands and shut his eyes against the dark. He didn’t know if could wear the mask of having it all together for even one more moment. Suicidal fantasies began to play out in his mind. It would be so easy to just go up in the attic, drop a rope over a rafter and have it be done. He took a deep breath and got up to go to the bathroom. Maybe he could make it one more night. Maybe.
Jason is like so many of us who wear a mask and walk around like we have it all together until someone finds us hanging from that rafter. The risk is particularly high among veterans. More VETs die on a daily basis from suicide than in combat. Every day, at least 22 VETs take their lives. That’s more than 8000 a year. For comparison, 4,491 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2014!
Why am I telling you this? Because your vulnerability could save a life like Jason’s.
Whether we are VETs or not, when we walk around hiding depression, anxiety, or emotional trauma, we do so because we tell ourselves it’s weak to let people see that in us. We do so because we are afraid. We do so because we are ashamed. And because we are ashamed, we not only shame ourselves but also others who feel similar things. And we perpetuate the myth of “I’m fine.”
This message is about asking you to raise awareness with regards to depression and anxiety and to do so by sharing your story with others using the hashtag #WoundedLeadersUnite
Please note this is NOT just for VETs. It’s to raise awareness for all those who suffer in silence. It’s for all those who wrestle their demons. It’s for all who know that place in the mind where the quicksand of despair never wants to let go. Make a difference. Save a life.
Share your story with the #WoundedLeadersUnite hashtag and let’s end this epidemic!
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