November 22, 2018
The following was submitted by one of our supporters who wishes to share their story. Sharing stores is an important part of outreach and making connections for helping others. We do share other’s stories and writings on an anonymous basis when requested. If you’d like to have something published, please contact us.
It’s hard to tell exactly when my life changed. It’s not like it had ever really been normal. I’ll spare you the gory details of my youth, that part isn’t really relevant. I look at it as just another contributing factor to the reasons behind my mental health and addiction issues. For sake of time, I’ll just fast forward to 2014 when my life could have ended.
I had hit what I now know as rock bottom in February of 2014. I hadn’t gotten out of bed other than to use the bathroom for over a week. I hadn’t showered in days. Food was out of the question. To top it all off, I hadn’t been sleeping much, or if I did it was during the day. Nightmares haunted me whenever sleep dared to come.
On February 19, 2014, just five days before my 29th birthday, I tried to take my own life. In a moment of clarity, I changed my mind and stopped what I was doing. I knew I had a friend that would be picking me up in a little while to take me to a Doctor’s appointment that had been scheduled for months, so I sent her a text to let her know that I was going to start walking.
I had walked about 3 ½ miles before she made it to town to pick me up. When I got in the car we started fighting because of something I had said. In the heat of the moment I blurted out that I had tried to take my own life and that is why I had started walking.
She insisted that I tell the Doctor about what I had just told her because I needed help. Without thinking, I told her she had better go in to my appointment with me, otherwise she wouldn’t know if I told him or not. She went in with me.
I was sent to the ER for a mental health evaluation which I had lied my way through and almost made it out of there. When the Doctor left the room to get my discharge papers started, I made a comment that if they were worried about my lack of sleep, then they should admit me upstairs and drug me so I could sleep. My friend left the room without saying a word. It wasn’t until she returned that I found out that she went and told the Doctor what I said. They asked me one more time if I would please go to the Brattleboro Retreat and get help. I told them to make the call before I changed my mind and then broke down crying. Because of policy, I had to go the mile or so by ambulance. That meant I had to wait a few hours. Those next few hours consisted of me crying, sleeping, and finally eating. That Friday, I was released.
On February 24, 2014, my birthday, I started the Uniform Service Program at the Retreat for outpatient treatment. I learned so many valuable tools while I was there. Sometimes I forget about the tools until I catch myself using them and not even realizing it.
Here it is November 21, 2018 and I still have these tools. I find myself now at a different kind of low. I scream and cry. I still get up out of bed, still eat and do my day to day stuff. I reached out to friends when it got to be too much. I noticed a problem when I would pick up a bottle of alcohol and stare at it before putting it down without opening it or taking a drink. I noticed that I wanted to die, but knew I couldn’t be the reason my mother buried two sons in the same year, or at all. I thought about harming myself in many other ways, but still managed to reach out to set up counseling for as soon as possible. I find myself going to the firehouse just to work out. This time my low didn’t stop me, it just slowed me down a little bit.
I never in a million years thought I would willingly text or email someone and say I need help. I had nothing against others asking for help, I just thought it made me look weak if I asked. I’m always the guy people go to when they need help and I’m always there. I even put off asking for help for a couple of weeks because I didn’t think I had the time. Then I remembered what happened the last time I thought I was find and I MADE time for me to get help. The thing that made the biggest difference between 2014 and now was hope. I didn’t have any of that back then. I thought I was the only person in the world that felt the way I did.
Now I know that I am not alone. I have friends that understand and that I know I can count on any time day or night. I have my brother and sisters in uniform that have walked a similar path. I know that a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life or the end of life. Right now I may be down, but I am far from out. You see, the word quit is no longer in my vocabulary. I am not sitting here telling my story because I quit. Someone whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for once told me that the world is a better place with me in it. I recently went to see her and she reminded me of the words that I couldn’t seem to remember anymore. While I may not always see it, I know she speaks the truth.
It is my hope that by sharing this with you, that you may see that as a sign that you can get help too. It is not a sign of weakness and it is ok to be scared. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared about starting counseling again. The key is to work through that fear and take that first step.
I promise you, there is someone there to help you take that first step.
Anonymously submitted by B.H., firefighter and first responder