There Were Moments
There were moments in my life where I wanted to die.
If you say you haven’t thought it, I’d say you lie.
For life is full of its ups and downs.
Spinning round and round, making us fall down.
We try to grasp and pull and make things right.
And sometimes the effort seems, just not worth the fight.
Death promises freedom from all the pain.
It seems a better option than going insane.
But what will find when we pass up this life?
Will we find final peace or just burning strife?
Or will it just be nothing, nowhere…in a sheath of black,
Where we don’t even exist and cannot look back?
Will we have wasted our one chance on this Earth?
Or will we come back in some unknown rebirth?
The questions are questions that will never be revealed.
For once death comes, our lips become sealed.
There were times in my life where I wanted to die. Funny thing was that these times didn’t come to me when I was deployed to foreign countries where stray mortars could have landed near me at any moment. No, they came when I was in the safety of my own country, surrounded by people I love.
It sounds odd at first. However, it makes total sense when you think about it. On deployment, I was a Soldier fighting for my country. I was serving a purpose, society, another Nation. On deployment, I was needed, respected and treated like I had value. I was empowered to act and that made me thrive.
Back home, things were different (during my hard times). I wasn’t fighting for the freedom of a Nation. No, it was something much harder, or so it seemed. I was fighting for my identity, personal growth and a glimmer of hope. I was serving others still but in ways that did not suit me, in ways that demeaned me, in ways that beat my spirit down. At home, I was needed alright. However, it came without any respect or value. I felt insignificant and dispensable. Of course, some of this was my own perception. And here is my belief on the truth. If two people are involved, there are three sides. Add more people, you get more sides. Each person inevitably has their own perception of what happened. Then, and here is the key, the truth typically floats somewhere in the middle of those perceptions.
The point is, while I was home, it was the people who loved me who hurt me the most. It should not be that way. Yet, that too makes sense. Generally, we don’t make time for people we don’t like. So, if we are not giving them our time, they typically can’t hurt us. (Outside of attacking us of course.) However, when we risk letting people into our hearts, we risk pain. And for some, it gives them the opportunity to control and manipulate us, whether intentional or reflexive.
This was my life for a time, and I allowed it, accepted it, and thought I deserved it. So in the hectic pace of life, I stayed busy. So busy ignoring my feelings that I was slowly slipping away from myself. I existed merely to serve others. I no longer knew what I wanted, who I was or where I wanted to go. I was devoid of passion and hope. I became indecisive about the simplest things in life. I couldn’t decide on things because I simply…just. didn’t. care. Where do you want to go to eat? I don’t care. What do you want to do? I don’t care. No matter what people asked me, I didn’t really care. (And that certainly can’t help any relationship flourish I imagine.)
I hid it well though. I worked hard. Played with my young children (one of my few joys). Went out with friends. Overall, I portrayed myself to be a happy, functioning adult in the world. I plastered a smile on my face and spouted lies through my lips. However, inside I was descending deeper and deeper into the darkness of depression. I was a shell of a person and that shell was starting to crack.
When my personal life hit ultimate lows, I was near a breaking point. I started forgetting things. I would cry uncontrollably when I was alone. I started to fantasize about my death and secretly wished God would kill me in some freak accident.
It finally got so bad that I went to a doctor/therapist because I didn’t want my children to live with the aftermath of their mother’s suicide. What did the doctor’s do? They offered me pills.
I left the hospital, pills in hand, crying. I thought that nothing was solved or would be solved, not this way, not for me. But I needed to do something, so I trusted the medical advice and took them.
Taking depression medicine (Zoloft) did work to an extent I must say. I didn’t feel like I was about to crack anymore. It numbed my pain and my sadness. It numbed my moments of joy though too. I felt nothing. I didn’t cry anymore, but I also didn’t have any moments of joy. It was like watching your life from the outside. No matter the situation, I was cool with it. The dog died. OK, let’s bury it. Want to go on a cruise to the islands? OK, I will pack. I hate you and want a divorce. OK, let’s start papers. Your best friend is coming to town for a visit. OK, I’ll pick her up at the airport. I was a functioning zombie, and felt NOTHING.
The meds allowed me to keep existing (the helpful part), but I wasn’t really living (the not-so-good part). This “quick fix,” like BebeRexha says in her song I’m Gonna Show You Crazy, provided me with a veil of protection from the ups and downs of life, from feeling.
Just like the song though, I didn’t want their quick fix. So after some time, I decided to come off the medication (which mind you – self diagnosis is NOT recommend by doctors). Fortunately, my dosage was low and I weened myself off the pills slowly, so I had no adverse effects from my nonprescribed decision. (But I don’t recommend this without talking to your doctor of course.)
As the medication wore off, it was like the shroud of darkness was being lifted from my life, my soul. I started to feel things. I started to do some soul searching. And like in the song, I started to find my missing piece, my goals, my passions…me. I spent a lot of time with myself and God. And I got tired of being sad. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to have fun. So I forced myself to go out and find joy as I realized, only I could bring myself happiness. I couldn’t wait for someone else to save me. I needed to save myself.
So I forced myself out into the world. One day, I’d walk in the park. Another day, I’d sign up for a yoga class, kayak trip or painting session. I sat at restaurant bars enjoying a cocktail and reading before going solo to a musical or symphony. I attended different churches. It was hard to go out alone, and frankly, sometimes it sucked. I would see happy couples, groups of friends. Yet, there was something liberating and intimate about my journey to me. So I kept at it.
Like before, I kept myself busy. The difference now though, I was busy with things I wanted to do, try or see. I was discovering new things. And in the process, I finding out what I liked (and didn’t), who I was and most importantly, I was discovering what it meant to be me.
Eventually, I discovered there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I wasn’t perfect, but I wasn’t bad either. I didn’t need pills to be fixed. I wasn’t going crazy. I was just suffocating in a life where I was not being true to who I was. I was slowly dying because I was conforming to everything I thought I should be and to what I thought others wanted me to be. When in all honesty, by not being my true self, I was creating a lot of my issues. I let others decide for me. I didn’t stand up for what I wanted, because many times, I didn’t even know. I offered nothing of value to loved ones because I thought I had no value to give.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been on this journey and I couldn’t be happier. I finally feel like the real me is here. I still have a ways to go of course, but I don’t think we ever stop recreating and discovering ourselves. Each day is a new opportunity to be better, stronger, smarter and just maybe…a little bit more more ourselves.
As a member of the United States Army Reserves, I have been able to develop my public affairs and photography skills in places such as Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed, I was honored to work with some pretty great people too (CBS’s Lara Logan, radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, and country music star Toby Keith).
I have been fortunate. Some of my work has been published in magazines and newspapers across the country, including Soldiers Magazine. I am a recipient of a Keith L. Ware photojournalism Award for my work in Bosnia, and some Brumfield Excellence in Journalism Awards for my work in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Outside of the Army, I was selected to work as a photographer for Flip Flop Foto. For a few years, I captured shots at weddings, magazine shoots, community events, and portrait sessions. The variety and artistry there was amazing, and had a huge impact on how I shoot.
Currently, I work as an editor for Army doctrine as a civilian and command a public affairs unit as a Soldier. Two jobs tend to keep me a bit busy. However, I find time to embrace life and try new things, like blogging!
Written for the On Living and Dying series. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: 365 Days On Living and Dying. But first leave a comment and let Michelle know how you feel about what she said, and be sure to visit her over at Chasing Life and Finding Dreams when you’re done.
Featured image via www.fullhdwpp.com