Running from life's problems: the response of a veteran without the right tools in the toolbox
If I could give any servicemember leaving the military only one bit of advice, it would be to seek to 'add tools to your toolbox.' What that means is to continue to equip yourself with different mechanisms to deal with anything in life. Different tools work differently in different situations and work differently for different people. The primary reason the military and the VA are failing in all aspects of mental healthcare is due to the fact symptoms may be a constant, but treatment isn't static across all patients; a dynamic approach is the only way to address mental health. For 'someone', a holistic approach via meditation and animal therapy has been more effective than any medication they've ever been on, and a close second to the most effective therapies they've done.
Take a good look at those risk factors, and take the reality in that 'someone' checks every single one of those blocks except 'lack of social support' and 'substance use.' Of the protective factors, they have possibly half- namely, the ones within their own control like goals. They've lost a few of the protective factors in the past years, yet they've hung tough. How?
Once upon a time, some 21 year old finished his time on active duty and left the Army, having no idea what to expect on the outside. We're all young and dumb at some point (who are we kidding, this someone still is...) and they went into the wild with at most a third of the risk factors, but without a fraction of the protective factors they have now. Down in the dumps, to say the least, was the norm for 'someone'- until they started volunteering at the local shelter, the Monmouth SPCA. 'They' would take dogs from the shelter for walks or runs, often on the beach, and it give 'them' the sense of purpose and bonding they needed to get through those times. 'Someone' even got to be in a h̶o̶r̶r̶i̶f̶y̶i̶n̶g̶l̶y̶ ̶e̶m̶b̶a̶r̶a̶s̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ super cute commercial:
But as all things must come to an end, as someone had to get a big boy job and move, but not before adopting two fur babies of his own...
Not pictured: species that can change from protective factor to risk factor.
Taji and Chaos (possibly more blogs on them later) would follow this someone on all of life's adventures to this day, inseparable. They are his family, and why some may pity one without the standard family, he feels luckier to have them. They were the first Pets for Patriots adoption at the Monmouth SPCA and they got featured in some cool articles and emails.
A lot of life happened between that adoption and now, like relocating for a job, divorce, and numerous surgeries. As lives go, people tend to come and go; people you thought you'd never be without leave and people you never thought you'd meet enter, cyclically. There is one constant protective factor, though, that he promises you is a great coping tool for any veteran (or anyone) and got him through (what he felt was, not factually was) his lowest lows: fear of his pets losing him.) Vets need a constant, pets are a constant. Pets can, have, and will save the lives of veterans, and vice versa. You can save the lives of both pets and vets by supporting Pets for Patriots. I strongly encourage you to make any donation you can.
Coping well enables you to factually be at your lowest point of your life, yet handle it better than you handled low, but not lower, points of your life. I could chronicle every surgery or major life stressor since the below story, but that would deviate from the point: simply know the picture painted below isn't the lowest low of 'someone's' life factually, but adding the right tools to the toolbox prevented him from reaching the endgame of the story.
Imagine being 24 years old. Just the year before, you moved away for a job. That year, your marriage shattered, business ran you into the ground (it did well, but at the cost of taking a toll on health and sanity,) your health plummeted (thanks, VA) and your finances plummeted by proxy of that. Imagine combining those circumstances with being known by many but not well-known by any, having nobody in your life that knew you for more than a few years. The best comparison? Imagine becoming fluent in Chinese overnight and relocating to China for a job; you may speak the language, but you don't 'speak the language.' One, three, or ten years may not change that.
Imagine looking at your political system, your society, and general daily life, feeling something like this. (Shoutout to my homies at OAF Nation, they're always a pleasure to work with and this is one of many articles that are spot-on descriptors of veteran life and transition.)
Your protective factors are minimal, and life throws you all of these curveballs, then decides to slam you with one more to tip you over the edge: someone who isn't you needs to draw their concealed carry to protect someone. Someone who isn't you has years of pent-up, repressed, seemingly forgotten issues come erupting like a volcano.
Someone who isn't you can't sleep that night, and just paces around their apartment, wondering when it will all end. Someone who isn't you, whom feels like everything he knows has shattered, someone who isn't you who felt like they didn't belong, someone who felt like their purpose was a shell of what it once was. Someone who isn't you decides to do what he knows best: continue on to the next day and hide it.
Someone who isn't you somehow shambles into his cush corporate job the next day, in some vain attempt to forget any of it happened; after all, someone who isn't you hid it all so well before. Someone who isn't you gets asked if he's okay by his coworkers, perhaps concerned by someone who isn't you's eyes being bloodshot or hair being east. Someone who isn't you has their coworkers ask 'are you really okay?' numerous times until someone who isn't you snaps, tells the reality, and sheds tears. Someone who isn't you is hugged by a coworker, well-intentioned, but someone who isn't you is shattered into deeper tears because someone who isn't you is reminded of someone he didn't have anymore.
Someone who isn't you has every demon crawl up to him, all at once. Someone who isn't you has every single risk factor assault him, and someone who isn't you has an inner dialogue.
Someone who isn't you has his thoughts reach the tipping point, and someone who isn't you attempts to scribe out a goodbye someone who isn't you never seemed able to finish, and someone who isn't you feels like that failure is the rough equivalent of urinating into an ocean of urine. Someone who isn't you finds himself lying down in his bed, thinking ending the pain was the only sensible thing. Someone who isn't you envisioned it as a mercy killing, and someone who isn't you thought those he left behind that somehow cared would ultimately understand and forgive him.
Someone who isn't you chambers a round and tastes the polymer of his pistol. Someone who isn't you is thinking his final thoughts.
Someone who isn't you has two pets he saved jump onto the bed, lying upon his sides, and begin purring loudly. Someone who isn't you bursts into tears. Someone who isn't you removes the magazine and clears the pistol, knowing somehow, someway, he had to figure life out. Someone who isn't you is saved more so by his pets than he saved them. This someone is a veteran and this someone is why it is undeniable animals save the lives of veterans, and this someone wishes everyone would donate to Pets for Patriots, because this someone knows it saves lives. It saved someone's life.
'Please don't leave me, I'll never leave you'
'Yeah, and if you're not here, nobody can turn on the sink or movies for me!' (Spoiler: possible future blog post on Taji's sink fetish in the future.)
Someone who isn't you has since had brain and heart procedures, and countless other severe life stressors, but has not reached that flirting-with-death endpoint again. Someone who isn't you carries on every day, no matter the stressors, because someone who isn't you has family he loves and family he can't abandon.
For someone who isn't you, life has actually thrown him worse predicaments, but someone who isn't you knows he can smile every day he's fortunate enough to be able to have Taji and Chaos in his life.
Someone who isn't you has also since experienced the wonders of equine therapy and someone who isn't you would rant for pages more about the connections you can make with animals, so someone who isn't you will simply tell his fellow vets out there: it works. Try it.
Someone who isn't you talks openly about these things, because it's time to break the stigma. Someone who isn't you can tell you first-hand there isn't a repercussion for taking care of yourself, and if there was, you should remove yourself from the originator of the repercussion.
Someone who isn't you takes care of himself when he feels it's hopeless because someone who isn't you has love that makes him do so.
Someone who isn't you is probably and obviously the owner of this company....
and is actively seeking to make more and new arrangements to benefit veterans, animals, and mental healthcare. So stay tuned.
December 13th update:
We are now working with Pets for Patriots to raise funds for this nationally operating nonprofit. Take $5 off any steel decor item on our site with code 'petsandvets' and we're kicking 10% of each sale directly to Pets for Patriots. Get an unbeatable piece of customized decor - hand-made by vets - for your home or office, or get some holiday gifts early. Treat yourself or treat someone else: you're helping vets and pets in the process.