Suicide rates and depression among military veterans AND their caregivers is a big issue. There are groups online that are supposed to serve as SUPPORT groups but over the past 12 years I have seen many of these groups deteriorating and even becoming a breeding ground for hate and picking on others.
Each of us who wanted to participate in these groups NEEDED support and that is why they joined. Me included. We are each dealing with something different and often times, things very heavy. It is important that we stand together. We may have differences or disagree on something, but I for one do not like to argue. I do not want to be part of a, “mean girls” club. I try extremely hard not to be argumentative or to engage in debates.
The reasoning is this:
I learned, “life happens,” when I was pretty young. I lost a good friend at the age of 15. I had the best grandparents, all of whom are passed. I have had friends die in war, I have had friends come home from war and die from suicide. Ken was deployed to Iraq for 15 months. He was wounded in May of 2007 and given a Purple Heart while still in Iraq. I was afraid he and his guys wouldn’t make it home. Many did not make it home. He made it home, but not unscathed. I held the home front down the best I could.
My husband and many in his unit who were like family were wounded in war. Many were killed in war. I sat in doctors offices and hospitals while Ken was in the Warrior Transition Battalion trying to heal from wounds of war for almost 3 yrs straight. After he was medically retired, that didn’t end. I lost count of how many appointments I’ve been to with him. How much paperwork I’ve filled out for him. Would I do it again? Yes. Was it easy? No.
I raised three amazing children who are now adults. I homeschooled them for several years after Ken was injured in war because of the insane amount of doctor appointments he had to go to, I couldn’t get the kids back and forth to school, so I had to school them myself, while in doctor offices, hospitals – the kids would drag their schoolwork with them where ever we needed to go.
In 2013, I lost my last living grandparent. My grandmother. My very best friend. She was a Rosie the Riveter. She built bombs during WW2 and survived The Great Depression.
I lost both of my parents in 2015, which has been very hard. The pain of losing my parents will never go away totally. I am certain of that. My parents lived next door to us when Ken was stationed at Ft. Bragg. Yes, we were that close.
My mom died of breast cancer after a long and excruciating battle. I stayed many nights with her when she was on her death bed dying. Moaning out in pain. Sometimes screaming as I stood by, holding her hand, having to lie to her – telling her it was going to be ok. My dad tried to kill himself because he was heartbroken his wife of 50 years was dying. I was at the hospital with him and watched him cry of heartbreak. If you had known my dad, he was always a pillar of strength and did not cry. He had known my mom since kindergarten. My dad died almost 6 months after my mom died. Now, my mom was expected to pass as she battled breast cancer for many years. My dad, that is still a shock to me.
I continued to work. I continued my caregiver duties. I have continued helping veterans as much as I have been able to. I have donated thousands and thousands of dollars out of my personal pocket for veteran causes, veterans who needed help when organizations could not help them due to rules and stipulations within their nonprofit guidelines. I have listened to people vent about their problems as I sat silently with tears running down my face on the other side of the phone, putting on a strong front so they person on the other side of the phone would find strength. I have listened to Caregivers as they vented for hours and hours on end as they remembered their problems, but would forget – I too am a caregiver.
I have stayed up late to help veterans. I have woken up in the middle of the night to help those who called and needed a listening ear. I’ve went to the ER with suicidal veterans and I have had hundreds of messages and emails from the military veteran and caregiver community asking for my resources, asking for guidance which I will always continue to give if I am able.
I built a positive and encouraging support group of over 300 members of military caregivers. I have had many contests on my personal page, just for fun – to help make someones, anyones day a little brighter, spending money out of my own pocket to do so.
Why am I telling you this? Because, you see all of the, “amazing things” I have done, but may not have realized, these things are due to great sacrifice.
So many people think I am SO strong, but in fact, I have been weak. I have been broken. I have struggled just to get out of bed somedays. NO ONE is strong 100% of the time.
I am guessing many of you did not know some of my struggles because I do try to put my most positive self forward, to encourage others. My biggest point is, even the people who look the strongest can have big struggles. We ALL have struggles.
I do not put my deepest, hardest struggles online often but as the veteran suicide rate continues to hold steady and as the caregiver community deals with extreme depression and suicide as well. This needs to be addressed.
You do not know what others are struggling with behind closed doors. I challenge you all to be kind. Be caring. Your words can be life or death to someone. Your words could be the last straw that breaks the camels back. Get back to remembering why you needed support. Why you wanted to give support.
I’ve seen some wonderful military veteran and caregiver influencers being torn apart more and more over the years. Please remember, we are human.