Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Suicidal Ramblings

In Salon today:  A predictable suicide at Camp Lejeune: http://tinyurl.com/299zkcs
Years ago I was writing a regular (or irregular) column for a military publication. My column on suicide prevention and the desperate need for it generated much response, most especially from airmen and soldiers who were stationed overseas in Desert Storm. They sent me emails and told me how desperate they sometimes felt, and how there was so little help for them. That column was later used in a suicide prevention course. 
Fat lot of good it did. 
Years earlier, many years earlier, I was stationed at my first post, and I was despondent, off and on. Occasionally, and sometimes,  usually, I was quite happy. Someone overheard me say something that they took for a wish for suicide, which it wasn't -- believe me, I wouldn't deny it if it had been. I am no stranger to depression. But they believed it, and they called my commander, and next thing I knew I was escorted to the post clinic and then to Ft Ord for further questioning, just in case. I promised not to harm myself, I promised them that I had no intention of harming myself, and eventually they let me go. 
How embarrassing. But better alive than dead, no? On the other hand, how easy it would have been to tell them I was fine, walk away, and then off myself. How very easy. 
We can't tell what's in someone's head.
Years later I found myself encouraging my ex-husband to have faith in a life he couldn't find any joy in. His suicidal ideations were frequent and all consuming, and I paid such close attention to his every mood to ensure I could keep him going that I myself eventually needed psychiatric help. Again, in a mental health clinic, promising not to hurt myself. I had no motivation to hurt myself -- I was just tired and worn out and I was empty. If I'd had enough energy I might have considered it, I don't know. But I didn't. 
Not that I never have. There have been times when I thought the world would be better off without me in it. Those times are in the past, fortunately.
My ex fought the idea of suicide for years, along with major mental illness. Eventually cancer got him instead, which just goes to show. Something's going to get you in the end.
Still, in most cases, putting the end off until it's something physical that takes us is a better choice. The mental pain that comes with being suicidal is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. There's no room there for giving oneself a break, no space for considering alternatives, no space for anything other than the overwhelming thought that life would be better if one weren't actually living it. 
In the military especially mental illness is considered a weakness. I know, I've been there. Best to push it under the rug just a little so no one will see it. We ignore it. We push it away. We tell people to just get over it, as if they wouldn't if they could. No one wants to be in that kind of pain. I'd like to think we've made progress, but the numbers of military suicides don't indicate we have. War sucks. War sucks especially if you're in the middle of it. 
Is this the best we can do for people we send to war?

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