a year and a half ago I decided to joing the U.S. Army right out of high school. I had no place else to go. College wasn’t an option because my G.P.A. was so low. Right when I graduated basic training, my grandfather passed away. That hit me hard, because I wasn’t able to go home and see him before hand, and I wasn’t able to go home for his funeral. I went to AIT one of the hardest courses in the army. I started to get depressed because I was away from home and i didn’t have any of the distractions from my inner demons that I had in basic or at home. I was able to go home for Christmas in 2019, but when I came back I started to feel down again. I wasn’t able to see many friends and many of them didn’t want to see me. Towards the end of January, I had lost one of my families best friends, he was like another father to me. His death hit me way harder than my grandpas. I started spiraling into depression. The stress of the course, death and COVID and no way to distract myself other than class and music. I went to the chaplain and started talking to him about all this that was going through my mind, and he didn’t know how to handle my situation. I started cutting on my thigh, the few I could really trust tried to helpme but they didnt know how to help becuase I didnt know how to talk about what I was feeling. One of them ended up taking my knife from me. Which now I was thankful for. Fast forward to now, I graduated from my AIT course and will leave for airborne training soon (airborne is learning how to fall out of planes) then Im off to Ft. Bragg. I’m scared for what is to come within this next year. How will I do in the face of new hardships? Will I face them head on, or will I cower away from them? Will I be ok with the choices make? Will I make myself proud of who I am? I don’t know. I don’t want to lose myself through all of these hardships. I’m scared of who I may become. Im scared of the world around me.
Wow I can’t imagine the pain and fear you are experiencing right now. It seems like loss after loss. You lost the security of basic training then you lost a grandfather you loved, you even lost out on the grieving process with your family because you couldn’t go home to be with them. You lost the distractions that helped you feel safe. Then you lost a family friend. Then in a way you lost the safety of your Chaplain, because it felt like he couldn’t understand you and support you. Then even though you know it was a good thing you lost your knife which was giving you a coping skill (albeit a harmful one) of self harm. Now you are losing more stability as you transition.
I hear you friend. I see your pain and I imagine it feels entirely overwhelming. I heard something recently that brought me so much hope for the hard times. Pain + waiting leads to rising, so when you feel like you are in the middle of the pain, in the middle of the wait for things to get better that is when you can be sure that rising is on its way. You will survive this and you will gain strength from it. These “what if” questions you have are real and they are valid, but I challenge you to place your faith in the what if instead of choosing to let your fear guide it.
Sending love. Thank you so much for your service.
Hey brother - I’m a HeartSupport staff person, and Taylor reached out to me to reply to this post. I’m really glad she did, and I want to help speak into your situation if I can. I joined the Marine Corps when I was 18 for the same reasons you did, and though our infantry school was called SOI, it’s probably most of the same training.
I hear what you’re going through - it’s so tough to leave your entire life behind to join something you’re not super familiar with. You’ve got a mountain of new stresses and challenges, and the military doesn’t exactly equip us with the mental tools needed to deal with it does it? Sure, it trains us to kill, but it doesn’t train us to deal with it. Not to bash military chaplains, but I’ve never spoken with one that could relate to military service, much less the infantry experience. Maybe you feel a hidden responsibility to the life you feel you left behind - and as a result of some distress you’ve looked for a way out. Self harm is something that can seem like a good idea when you’re in a certain place of mind, and I’m thankful that you had people around you looking out for you.
I remember getting in and feeling very depressed for a year or so. Joining the military really is a “wrenching away” from your old life, and it takes most of us a good amount of time to adjust. But I want to encourage you bro! Things will fall into place. I am confident that when the bigger pieces of your life and enlistment start settling into place, you will encounter friends and experiences that you will treasure for the rest of your life - I certainly did.
I’m going to reply below this comment with my Insta handle and connect you with HeartSupport’s Veterans initiative. It’s brand-brand new, so there isn’t much yet in the way of resources, but know that we’re here my man. We hear you, we understand, and we validate what you’re going through. We’re with you in the mud, in the dirt, and when it feels like you’re in prison. You’re not alone, and let’s navigate this thing together. - John
From @johnsbrisketlegday: @originalposter bro I just realized you smoke brisket and we’re going to be friends
From @johnsbrisketlegday: @originalposter what’s up man- this is John. Here is our veteran initiative: @heartsupportvets
Hey brother. Ben Sledge with heartsupport staff and also a fellow veteran (like @johnsbrisketlegday). I spent 11 years in the Army and was out at Ft. Bragg and part of an airborne unit so I definitely know the struggle.
In life, we often look to the future or current hardships as insurmountable. Yet, when we reflect at the moments when we’ve grown the most, it’s been through adversity. Ask any person about the toughest moment in their life, and they’ll likely tell you they’re stronger and wiser for having battled through. That’s because growth happens in a crucible, and like gold in fire, human beings are refined by adversity. There has to be a breaking down and regrowth for the new strength to emerge. Though we don’t think about it, this is part of the natural order to life. Muscle break down and rebuild when you work out. If you hunt, you must draw the bowstring back and create tension. The more you create tension, the further the arrow flies. But that’s the double-edged sword in all of this. Struggle, tension, and pain makes us grow the most.
In the Army, this is what they’re teaching you and they remind you often of this through the pain and hardship you endure, as does life—never give up and never accept defeat. You can make it. You can endure. You’ve made it this far, and if you just put one foot in front of the other, it will be struggle, but you’ll b able to look back and say “man, look how far I’ve grown.” Last, if you hit me up at @sledgehs on IG, we wrote a book on self-harm I’m happy to give you for free. Just DM me.