June 21, 2012

Suicidal Thoughts: Recovering From the Darkness

NOTE: I am in therapy and have an appointment in an hour and thirteen minutes and will be discussing the below. I have a safety plan called Smoke Break if the thoughts become persistent. When I can think of nothing else, it's time to check myself in to the local VA, for the 7th time if necessary.

If a veteran admits they have thought about killing themselves, then they mean yes, hell yes, too much and maybe even all the time. We talked about the compulsions to kill myself in the last post. Now I want to address the buildup to compulsive behavior; the compulsive thinking and the many reasons not to live rolling around in my head.

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has helped me several times over the years, so call 1-800-273-TALK.

I have few close friends locally and family comes around every so often; my dog and a few friends, that's it. I do not want to keep feeling this pain in isolation. Been fantasizing about how ending it would 'show them' or how 'they wouldn't care' while stoking my resentments and devising a list of who cannot come to my funeral. The obsessive thoughts of self assisted doom have been patrolling my mind to seize upon my life. There's no loved one or caregiver here, or resources for assistance for a non-Post 9/11 and undeserving veteran. I don't have a plan, just unmet needs fueled by distorted and delusional thinking leaving me vulnerable to the compulsions to kill myself. But, such is life.

Along comes detachment and numbness to replace the physical and mental pain, a different kind of anguish that makes us relish the void and can last for as long as life for some. It's another kind of hell to be cut off from the out going person I used to be, that deep down my desire to be among loved ones out in the world is buried under the fears of loosing my reality to the past, cyclical thoughts fueled by petal to the metal emotions raging on and on to loose myself. Or yourself if you are stuck in this pattern thinking. Below is how I get through moments of utter inner panic, most do not see it. But, those in the know do.

If you need a therapist in person or over the phone, click the Give an Hour picture above to get you in touch with mental health practitioners in your area free of charge.

Chronic traumatization causes our survival mechanisms to become hard-wired into our neuropathways; a veritable surgical steel Swiss Army Knife of fight, flight or freeze. A constant threat assessment on the battlefield was a lifesaving skill to master, at home it can manifest in distorted and delusional thinking, a major component of chronic Combat PTSD. The entrenchment of our evolutionary and primitive defensive mechanisms makes us prone to reactionary and compulsive behavior in civilization. The evolutionary defensive mechanism confound us with cyclical and repetitive thinking that may or may not be grounded in reality. Over time I have been able to become less reactionary by learning coping skills, education on my condition and triggers along with treatment. I can attest to the plasticity of the brain as per becoming a completely different person from 7 years ago, it has been exhausting most days but well worth the hard work.

Accept that you cannot prevent all of your triggering events and see them as a window into your suppressed self. 

The compartmentalized part of the mind acts as projections into the environment as seemingly inconspicuous triggers such as the unconscious sensory stimuli exchange of a tailpipe backfire for a battlefield bullet discharge. The damaged subconscious suppresses the ability to consolidate past and present memories thus giving birth to the dissociative features of Combat PTSD; a phenomenon we experience most days. It will make you question your own reality. During PTSD moments our arguments may have paranoid and delusional components set within circular arguments and backed by defensive mechanisms. As we learn our triggers, defensive mechanisms and look into what our subconscious is trying to communicate to us we begin to see a perspective from the out side of the chaotic, we begin to see more options. When we get caught up inside the circle and the battle is on. Anxiety and panic attacks can be coped with to where they pass without making us freak out. Meditation and pray have been my greatest tools to work through mine.

Meditation and mindfulness exercises like guided imagery can give you the sense of letting your thoughts go, or clearing your mind.

How? Imagine a body of water representing and matching your emotional level from raging seas to the calming stillness of a pond. Start with was an open body of water with the waves matching the level of your stress and anxiety. Visualize the waves calming to the point of stillness. This tool can be used to gauge internally your stress level and as a way to self sooth during these moments. Where there was no emotional gauge before, now if I am out of touch with my emotions accessing this image helps me gain perspective again. Coping skills such as guided imagery and other mindfulness techniques help by giving us a visual representation of our emotions so that we may better self sooth our anxiety and stress levels. Keep practicing and remember is not about perfection, it's about addressing our dangerously detached and compulsive behavior.

I ask God to take the power of it and practice letting go rather then holding onto.

Part of Prayer is asking God's blessing, an oft looked over piece is the sharing of the burden. We do not have too onerously endeavor, a trick of the Defensive State of Mind is to believe that we are alone. The sharing of the burden is living a prayerful life, venting to God and all who will listen is doing His work. Do you think the Apostles and saints talked calmly to God? By sharing your experience, you are the change you wish to see in the world. Your footsteps blaze the path where many will follow

Maybe it's time for us all to begin healing, if in your heart you feel the welling sense of hope beginning. Please, do not squelch this; you will be happy again given time. Also, accompanying may be apprehension and a sense of foreboding. This is a normal response, you were meant for more than you have been living and your being resonates this. You will become what you dream, if you dare to accept what is in your heart and act soon, if not now.


  1. Scott, I am glad you have your backup plan of Smoke Break..... I can only wish that you don't get to the point of needing it.
    I am sorry you have to deal with your pain in isolation. In my life, the support of the people who love me brings me away from the brink. You shouldn't have to be alone in fighting your demons.
    It is so difficult, though, understanding what you are going through. I guess I am lucky - as hard as I try I will never really know what a vet with PTSD feels like.
    Sometimes I want to just throw in the towel and give up the relationship with my vet. It is so painful to be in my shoes too!
    Reading your words helps me hang in there. Thank you for being so open and sharing your thoughts and your incredible sadness. I am sure it is painful and cathartic at the same time.
    I think of you with loving empathy, I wish you peace, and I hope someday you will be healed.

  2. It's been a while, but I am back and writing again. Will be posting a new article on Vets in Cannabis. Watch for it, also posting past articles from here on our fan page on FB https://www.facebook.com/VeteransPTSDperspectives/ renamed The Veterans Project.

    I am in a better frame of mind, but shit still ain't right. I keep making these huge mistakes that cost me everything. More on that later..

  3. Scott, as difficult it is for you to post all these things, know that you are helping yourself and helping so many others on your journey.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee