Editor’s Note: In September 2019, the Army Substance Abuse Program and USAG Bavaria Libraries presented an opportunity for community members to share their writing talents in support of Suicide Prevention Month. A panel of community members read the essays and choose the top three entries to be shared garrison-wide. White’s essay was awarded first place.
If you or anyone is struggling with suicidal ideation, you are not alone. Please reach out and get help by calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 09641-83-118, DSN 118 or click here for local resources.
By 1st LT Philip White, 18th Military Police Brigade
There it is again — a recurring feeling of dread and anguish. I just don’t get it. Life is going well and then this flurry of small events, or even one massive event, comes along and derails what seems like everything. Loneliness creeps in. Is life just a crazy ride of ups and downs? What is my purpose?
Life is a difficult beast; it is a beast because it is wild and unpredictable, regardless of the amount of time and effort you put into taming it. As any animal lover would know, there are certainly ways to “tame the beast,” and it all depends on the forces involved. Just like giving treats to a pet, there are ways that we can influence our lives and get past the difficult and unpredictable times. If you want to tame the beast, you need to bring a few things with you: your identity, some sidekicks and a purpose.
Life is never going to be easy, regardless of what background you come from. The poorest people want for more, and the richest people want for meaning. The truest and most valuable asset you have in taming the beast is yourself. Life will throw anything and everything your way, but you have the power in how you respond. You can choose to fight for victory or succumb to the forces that be. Fighting for yourself requires a few things: you need to know your values, you need to know your strengths/weaknesses and you need to know what you stand for. With these tools in your kit, you can continually press on and build your resiliency. Knowing yourself is foundationally important to combating everything that life can throw at you. If you know yourself, you can conquer anything.
Taming a beast is not easy work — in fact, bringing some buddies along with you can make it easier and give you some different perspectives. Believe it or not, most of life’s challenges are not too different from one person to another. Everyone needs their alone time, but combating life’s challenges is difficult and a group of people will always stand stronger than one. Find people and make a team. Take a chance and trust in others.
The smoking gun, the coup de grâce to this whole process, is purpose. Life can be long and relentless, but it can be enjoyable and prosperous with a sense of purpose. In the military, most of us find this sense of purpose in serving something larger than ourselves and the satisfaction of a job well done. For each unique person, this sense of purpose is special and different. People pursue certain career paths and engage in certain hobbies, because they find their sense of purpose in them. Sometimes this purpose is helping others, and sometimes this purpose is just having fun. Whatever it is, think about what you give your time to, and what your sense of purpose is, with everything you do.
It won’t be easy, but one of the satisfying things about a challenge is that it will never be easy. Rest assured that you have the power to overcome life’s challenges and all the adversity that comes with it. Life can be tough, but it will never be hopeless. If you have not been having success in taming the beast in your own life, try changing up your methods for taming the beast and always know that you can reach out to others for tips and tricks.