I Almost Became A Statistic

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Laurie Arellano
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

I almost became a statistic. 

I had always prided myself on my resilience, even before resilience was a commonly spoken term.  But it seemed like life had kicked me in the gut a few times and I wasn’t getting back up any more.  It happened slowly, but at some point I was aware things were getting out of control.  I was getting less and less sleep, I was having panic attacks, I felt overwhelmed at the smallest thing, I lost interest in the things I had loved.  At one point, I was shocked at my appearance.  But still, I plowed on, believing I would eventually ‘snap out of it.’ 

I was always a person who looked like they had it together.  I could smile and laugh despite being in terrible pain.  I could be effective at work and manage a busy family schedule despite feeling like I was just going through the motions.  I appeared to have hobbies and goals.  I drank dangerous amounts of alcohol and never missed a day of work.  I was making a lot of self-destructive decisions. 

If there had been someone asking me if I was ok or being truly honest with me that I wasn’t ok, that would have likely stopped the downward spiral.

One day, the straw broke the camel’s back.  I broke under the pressure of something that, in hindsight, wasn’t life-altering.  But after struggling to survive with depression for so long, my body and my mind were too tired to fight any more, and I considered suicide.  It was the most alone and most frightened I had ever felt in my life.  I contemplated all the things I had to live for along with all the reasons it would be easier not to live.  I didn’t want to be broken, but I didn’t want to live like that anymore. 

My story isn’t over. 

Reaching out for help was the best choice I’ve made in my entire life.  The day I alerted someone that I was having suicidal thoughts, I made the decision to put myself above the perceived stigma and the fear and I took control of my life back from depression.  Short-term medication and long-term therapy have been very effective for me.  I surrounded myself with strong people I could trust to walk with me and keep me focused on the long-term goals.  I’m several years removed from those days, and I feel more alive and more resilient than ever.

I am not ashamed of my story.

Self-education and being an active fighter in the battle against the stigma of mental illness have empowered me to feel in control of my health and my life.  I truly believe if it could happen to me - if I could rationalize to myself that I understood why people kill themselves, and that suicide might be my only hope - it could be happening to someone reading my story.   

You are not destined to be a statistic, your story isn’t over, you’re not alone.