“I remember waking up, gagging on the activated charcoal they used after I overdosed on the very medications that were meant to save me. My first thought was, why didn’t it work? I failed again.” Sara, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, shares the painful memory of her suicide attempt.
Sara has been a soldier’s spouse for nearly 12 years. She and her husband met in grad school. She was studying for her MBA. He was in medical school. When he joined the military, Sara wholeheartedly embraced the life.
“I was that wife. The one that helped out with his unit, led the FRG and mentored newer spouses. I was the go-getter; the career, the family and the military protocols, ceremonies and traditions were all a part of that equation. I loved all of it.”
But 4 deployments and just as many PCS moves—all while parenting three young girls—started to take its toll on her mental health. On the outside, Sara seemed happy. She continued to volunteer and help others. No one noticed she was suffering.
“I didn’t want to get up in the morning. When he was deployed or away for training, I felt overwhelmed and lonely. I isolated myself.” Sara found it hard to cope with day to day activities. “I started thinking about how I was nothing but a burden to my girls and to my husband. To the whole world, actually.”
Sara lost weight; she was sleeping less; she would cry easily and jokingly tell friends the world would be better off without her. Yet no one picked up on the pain she was experiencing and the dreadful thoughts that kept her up at night.
“I felt like there was a black cloud following me around. I was convinced that the only way for everyone else to be happy was to end my life.”
It all came to a head one October night in 2014. Sara sent her girls on a sleepover and picked a time she knew her husband wouldn’t be home yet. She counted out the antidepressants she secretly had her doctor prescribe but never actually used, took a swig of her favorite alcoholic drink and waited.
“I thought if I was gone, that my daughters and my husband would be better off.”
Sara didn’t realize that her father was going to drop by with some tools for her husband. He was the one that found her. “To this day, he is haunted by what he saw. My dad had to call 9-1-1 and perform CPR. He was shattered.”
Sara now realizes the devastating effect this has had on her family, friends and loved ones. “I realize now that by not seeking help, I was putting not only myself at risk, but it was greatly affecting my family and friends and their well-being.”
She’s now in treatment for depression, including medications that are monitored closely by her physician (and her husband), in a support group and in individual therapy. She talks openly about her experience in the hopes that it will help someone else.
“I know I’m at risk, but now I also know how to ask for and get help. Life is still hard, but now I have the tools to help me through the struggles.”
Could your loved one be at risk? Read more on the warning signs and keep the Military Crisis number handy: Call 800-273-8255; then press 1.
Posted by Ingrid Herrera-Yee, PhD, Project Manager, Military Spouse Mental Health Profession Pipeline