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Body, mind, spirit need tune up like cars

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By SGT. 1ST CLASS JEREMY EMERSON

September is Suicide Prevention month and to those who serve and also suffer from silent struggles I urge you to not delay another day truly knowing yourself.

The life you save could be yours. I know because I once found myself on the verge of suicide.

I have always considered myself both generous and loyal to others but that was not the case with myself. Giving all I can to those around me but in complete disregard for self. All too often we tend to base how we want to view ourselves by the opinion of those around us and reject the honest truth of who we are.

When that truth became all too real to me I found that in my life I was merely hanging by a thin thread instead of holding the whole ball of yarn. As an organization when assessing suicides, failed attempts and even ideation; we are often in search for answers on how it came to this point and sadly sometimes with no results.

Those questions are even tough to answer for those who are in the midst of a struggle. Not only is finding the root of the problem important but so is determining their true self identity. It can seem impossible to know how situations will affect one another but another factor is how they will react to it.

Throughout my time in the military I have sat through annual suicidal awareness and resiliency trainings. None of them could prepare me though for a truth I was only able to give myself. I learned the hard way; how the power of my identity could either make or break my life.

Several years later after returning from war; life gave me no other choice but to begin to look within myself. Having taken selfless service to heart in all I do I would often feel selfish about anything that put the focus on me. When my personal and professional world crumbled those thoughts quickly changed to humility.

Being vulnerable is hard for anyone; let alone someone in the military because it can be viewed as a sign of weakness. If looked at from the right perspective though it can unlock personal courage like no other thing can.

Being involved in a war brought back trauma from my past that I did not properly address. That, along with other mental and physical barriers led me down a path where I eventually lost my faith, family, friends and then my military career.

To the outside eye it would be hard to see I even had a struggle because I would use my coping skills to protect not only myself but others from me as well. I felt my personal matters were such a burden to me that I could not bare to push them on someone else.

I did not choose to mask my pain in drugs, alcohol or reckless behavior because I felt my struggles were already overwhelming as it is. I knew the hopelessness of pain and could see the stronghold of self-medicating as well

Although I knew I mattered; I just could not shake the denial that was buried deep within me. When I was going through my darkest times over this past year it came with thoughts of suicide. For anyone who knows me or has served with me that would be one of their furthest things in their minds.

It has taken much therapy, outpatient treatment, support groups and finding my true identity to allow me to see things today with a new filter.

Now my life is not just about the labels and obstacles that I have been given but rather what I am able to do with them; instead of what they will do with me.

I entered the military to help people and although my 20-year career will be ending soon, I believe my next mission as peer specialist and advocate for veterans will be one of the best assignments I have had yet.

I have helped many people throughout my life; having learned to help myself and embrace the support needed to get better.
It has opened new doors for both me and those I am now supporting.

My encouragement to those who are suffering in silence is to always search within while reaching out to others. No matter how much we try to keep things low key; life has its own way of making noise.

You are worth far more than you feel the value you are able to give.

Lastly, no matter how selfish it might seem, please take care of yourself. Just like a vehicle needs a tune up from time to time so does your body, mind and spirit. As a member of the military you have been trained in various methods to save someone’s life without hesitation so why wait any longer and start saving yours.

To learn more about Emerson’s blog for peer veterans, visit https://peerveteran.wordpress.com/.