Last week was a highlight for me. It marked a milestone for a journey that I hadn’t asked to be on. In fact it was a military mental health nightmare that I’m happy to wake up from. I’ve written about my son’s suicide attempts, addiction to prescription meds and alcohol and his struggles with PTSD, Depression and Anxiety. But until last week I hadn’t seen the “reason” behind our families experience. I couldn’t get past the why us.
Why did we have to almost lose our son to understand that military life (and life in general) had become too much for him to handle. Why our son, our family? I now understand the answer. Because we are the perfect people to share our experience. I’m not saying this because of conceit, I’m saying it because we are the average military family: 2 kids (boy & girl), a cat, a dog, a mini-van and us. We vacation to visit our families and we move every 3 years. Our kids did well in school, both received scholarships that paid their tuition. They were active in sports, had lots of friends and volunteered.
So Why Us? Because if it could happen to us it could happen to anyone.
Last week my son and I were invited to speak about our experience and the DASIUM program we started a few months ago at the 2014 MOAA Warrior Family Symposium. The topic: Behavioral Health in Military Families. You can see what we shared below, but that wasn’t the highlight of the event. Sure seeing my son knock it out of the park and share something so personal in front of so many leaders, spouses, organizations and military brass was incredible.
But the thing that hit me was the countless times people pulled me aside saying “that could be my kid”, “he doesn’t look depressed”, “he doesn’t act like an addict”, “your family doesn’t seem like the type” – whatever type they had in mind I do not know.
No he doesn’t…and no we don’t. Which is the answer to “WHY US”.
Suicide, depression and addiction aren’t selective. In fact the number of military families living thru these situations is rising at an alarming rate. And we have been asked to help change that. Whether by choice or circumstance we are in the fight to bring awareness to the growing crisis affecting teens.
You see until my son spoke many people assumed he was another expert. Suit, Tie, grin and all. The room was silent as we shared our story and he became the face behind the mission to stop the stigma and bring awareness to what’s really happening in military families. Our message that these issues don’t discriminate was heard loud and clear.
We changed mindsets and lives that day, and that’s the thing that will stick with me and gave me my answer to “why us”.
~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at TheDirectionDiva.com