It was this time of year, 31 years ago, that I put a loaded gun to my head and pulled the trigger. I was depressed, which isn’t unusual – many people find that they are depressed during this time of year. I’ll leave the formal explanations to mental health professionals. I know only my own experience.
In the United States, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and Christmas comes along about a month later. Families gather. There’s loads of great food. This time of year, we’re told, repeatedly and at great volume, that we’re supposed to be happy. And lately, the holidays have become so commercialized that they’re hardly recognizable. Spend money. Eat a lot of food. Be happy.
But what if you’re not happy? Well, something has to be wrong with you, people say. And it has to be you, because everybody else seems so happy.
In 1982, I was deep in the throes of bulimia. I felt trapped. I was unhappy. The only glimmer of joy, the only hint of accomplishment and pride, came when I “rode with the hounds” a few weeks before my suicide attempt.
But, when you ride a horse, you eventually have to dismount. When my feet hit the ground, every bit of joy, every shred of pride and accomplishment vanished. What was wrong with me?
I was miserable. But it was the holiday season and everyone around me seemed so happy. How could I explain my feelings to my family and friends? I felt that I couldn’t, so I didn’t. I know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that if I had asked for help I would have received it. But I did not.
I have no regrets about the choices I’ve made in my life. I’ve come out in a place that’s better than I ever could have imagined. But I’ve come to that place at a high price. I’ve caused pain to friends and family. And I can’t apologize to my mother and father. They no longer walk this earth. But I’m not sure I could have apologized to them when they were alive; we never spoke of what I did.
I can’t change my past, but perhaps what I learned can help another during such a challenging time of year. Don’t put yourself or your family and friends through hell. If you feel depressed right now, ask for help. Don’t build up walls. Be open. Talk about your feelings. Ask for help.
If you can’t bring yourself to ask family and friends to help you, there’s another option. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. It’s anonymous, and it can help. You can call 1-800-273-8255, or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
Do it. Life is a wonderful gift. Stay alive. Stay alive, and ask for help.
If you are or know of a Veteran in crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their loved ones with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For free, confidential support call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1,chat online, or send a text message to 838255.
Sue W. Martin is a Management Analyst with the VA Section 508 Office where she manages the accessible e-learning project. Sue lives in Springville, AL and likes taking long walks with her Seeing Eye Dog, Kismet.