By Wanda “Sistah Soldier” Petty, President & CEO
A few months ago, the Pentagon released a campaign created by the Airforce about the number of active duty service members who have committed suicide. The statistics are tremendously heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but reflect on the feeling and emotions I once experienced.
I was near retirement, and in the process of being medically discharged due to having fibromyalgia, degenerative disks, and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). I spent numerous months trying to get the proper help from the VA, but many times my symptoms were grouped with others who had similar conditions and overlooked. The depression became so bad I was willing to take whatever medications the doctor would prescribe. However, that wasn’t worth it either. I found myself taking anti-depression meds that caused me to be bedridden for over two weeks just from one dosage. My husband requested I not accept them and wanted me to seek a more natural way of finding relief. He didn’t understand what I was going through, because he had never had the experience. Never-the-less, I loved him enough to honor his request.
During that time, it was difficult for me to accept the fact my career was ending as a result of a freak accident. Since I had built up administrative leave time, I decided to take a cruise with our church. We had a women’s retreat. I thought, “this is the perfect time for me to have some ‘me’ time and focus on what I would like to do after I retired.” Things were going well until one night while we were sailing back. I shared a room with a good friend of mine, and she was out wandering the ship. I stood on our balcony, watching the deep blue waters flutter at the rear of the vessel. The weather was pleasantly warm, as the full moon lit up the sky with its bright radiance. For one moment, “I felt I could be at peace if I jumped over the railings, and no one would know until morning.”
However, just as soon as I had that negative thought, I had a definite idea. One filled with love that reminded me how I would leave my family feeling. I didn’t want to leave them in a confused state of mind, because I gave up on my life and my future. All of a sudden, I became accountable. I realized everything I joined the Army for (i.e., create a different lifestyle for my children that would set their course for a prosperous future) would become voided. I would ultimately be reversing everything I’d been working for during the last 21 years. I couldn’t face the thought of what my decision would do to their future. It wasn’t worth it.
What did my being responsible look like? I returned home and sought counseling outside of the military, and it set me on a better pathway. I felt safe sharing with the therapist, and my diligence paid off. If I had not taken into consideration how my decisions would have affected my family, my life could have taken a turn for the worse. It was not easy, but I put in the work. I hired a transition coach who I could relate to. Since then, I’ve had several coaches to guide me to different levels. Yes, it required me to take responsibility for my life, and when I look back at that time frame, I believe it’s because I was experiencing an identity crisis. Who had I become? I didn’t have anyone to be accountable to, and I didn’t think I mattered. I did, and so do you! Does it work like this for everyone, no it doesn’t, but I’m sharing with you my experience so that you can understand there’s nothing different between you and me. We all have had thoughts that were not for our best interest, and we must recognize them and seek help. I care. Americas Heroes Group cares, and we both desire to see you live a healthy lifestyle.
If you feel you need immediate attention, call the suicide hotline @800273TALK or visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Starting October 30, we’re launching a new mentoring program called, “Sistah’s Circle,” an affordable way to address life situations and transitions. If you’re interested, go to www.shevet- inspires.com and register.
Sistah Soldier is a career strategist, and inspirational activist who helps veterans, women, and minorities identify and pursue their purpose. She’s the CEO, host, and producer of SHE VET iNSPIRES Television Show and partner of She VOICES Coalition. Copyrights Reserved© Sistah Soldier 2019.