Operation Ranger Up

Ranger Up Talks Suicide: Suicide is Selfish

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Updated: September 14, 2013
Suicide 500x400

 

By Kelly Crigger

“Long is the way…and hard, that out of hell leads up to light.”

–Milton

If you’ve been keeping count, The Rhino Den has posted 17 articles on suicide this week with all sorts of facts, theories, and personal stories about how and why it happens so much in our military these days. Most of them are uplifting and/or take a soft approach to the issue. If you want one of those stories, stop reading here. My stance is different. Some people respond to coddling and handholding. Some respond to being kicked in the ass. For those people I say suicide is a decision, not a disease and those who commit it are being selfish.

Now let me clarify something; there is a difference between suicide committed by a rational person and suicide committed by a mentally ill person. I’m not talking about those lost in the grips of psychoses who cannot discern between right and wrong or those with a diagnosed chemical imbalance that they cannot control. I’m referring to sane people who take their lives because an event significantly affected them or they were unable to deal with a pressing issue. One day, years ago, that was me.

My suicide attempt was the result of mental weakness. I wasn’t haunted by the sights and sounds of war and I wasn’t plagued by the voices of lost friends that wouldn’t stop. I was just a misguided teen who thought death was a better option than an ass beating and living a strict household was paramount to a life sentence in Leavenworth. Everything seemed too great of an obstacle to overcome, so I overdosed on a great deal of household meds. After two weeks in intensive care I recovered, but then came three months of suicide watch and eighteen months in a Boys Home for wayward youth. I’m glad to say it turned me around and a great deal of who I am is due to the diligent care of several sainted people during those years.

I learned a great lesson from all of this: what seemed like a hopeless existence wasn’t at all. Suicide is weak and I was stronger than it. I’ve been to the edge of life’s great abyss and come back with only one nugget of truth in my rucksack: dealing with your issues and living is better than giving up and dying. If I had succeeded all I would really accomplish is transferring the pain onto others.

If I had succeeded in ending my life the pain I would have caused those around me would have been devastating because suicide is incredibly selfish and runs contrary to the military ethos of selfless service. You may end your own suffering, but what you leave behind is a black hole of loss among those who care about you the most. Your family will be forced to deal with their own questions and everlasting grief. If you have living parents they will be damaged permanently. I’m a father and I don’t think I would ever be able to overcome the death of one of my kids, let alone taking their own life. I’m hyper vigilant every time we go anywhere because I would blame myself forever if something happened to them.

I had a friend kill himself at Fort Stewart in 2002. Sticking to my guns I have to say he was weak for pulling the trigger especially when I learned his reasons for it. The worst part of our relationship is that I will have to remember him not as the squared away guy I respected (and would have respected even more if he’d asked for help), but as the weak one who couldn’t hang and gave up. We all have demons, but he let his win and now my final memory of him is tainted.

I take this hardline stance partly because veterans are held to a higher standard of mental and physical toughness, so I expect them to deal with thoughts of suicide better than the average person. When you’re in that dark place you have to plumb the depths of your soul and rediscover who you are. Friends definitely help in that process but in the end it’s a solitary act to learn what you’re truly made of and take the steps toward recovery. I figured out that I was much stronger than I thought and fought my way out of the suck and think everyone can too.

In general, veterans don’t want to be coddled. I once wrote an article about veterans who deal with PTSD by training in Mixed Martial Arts because, to oversimplify it, we like to hit things instead of sit around a circle talking about our feelings. If you have suicidal thoughts treat them as your punching bag and kick its ass.

My message to anyone contemplating suicide is to simply be stronger than it. Suicide is the ultimate act of self-destruction, weakness, and selfishness. There’s nothing worse you can do to yourself and those who care about you and there’s no recovery. Everyone who has killed themself is still in the cold, hard ground where we laid them to rest. There is no second chance and no do-over. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I’ve lived some great years since my failed suicide attempt. I went to college, served 24 years in the Army, went to combat, started a business, became a bestselling author and (most importantly) raised an incredible family. I’ve known some of the greatest joys this world has to offer but had to go through some very low points to get there.

Living is hard, but if we wanted the easy way out we would have never joined the elite brotherhood of the military, fully knowing the hazards of our chosen profession. We’re the .45% and there’s no enemy we can’t defeat with a little courage and camaraderie.

Comments

comments

14 Comments

  1. Mike Mikulski

    September 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Kelly,

    Thanks for taking a hard look at suicide and calling it what it is, a selfish act. I served 21 years and had a few friends take the easy way out. They too, left behind a trail of wreckage that still haunts us today.

  2. Eric Hirst

    September 14, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Great way of looking at suicide. I hope this article reaches more veterans and even civilians as well. This has given me a new outlook on suicide and how
    to handle lifes challenges.

  3. Jessie

    September 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I had a failed attempt at suicide. I had problems. I had problems that I couldn’t talk to anyone in the military about. Sexual abuse prior to my entry into the military and sexual assault by a CMSgt. He held took my military ID and made me come get it. I was gay in the military. He used that against me. Because I couldn’t tell anyone, even the chaplain or a psychologist (they were required to report anyone who was gay) I was under investigation 5 of the 6 years I was in.. That in and of itself took a toll. My curtains were taped to the wall to avoid anyone seeing inside, day or night. If you don’t know what it was like before DADT, it was hell.
    I tried to get help but the threat of a dishonorable discharge was too much to bear. I was a good person, a very good Airman. I shot myself in the face. I survived and really do know how selfish that act was. Had I died, my parents, my friends, my fellow airmen, everyone would have remembered me, not for the great things I had done, but for the one moment in time where I was at my weakest and gave up. Unfortunately, when you are at your weakest, it’s when you are less likely to ask for help. In the military, you have to be tough. You have to work long hours. You have to put up with inane orders and bullshit to make the brass happy. How do you ask for help under these circumstances? I think there should be a code word. Mine would be “red flag”. I could be talking to someone (the internet didn’t exist then) and simply type my own selected code. It would mean that I have no fucking idea how to explain what’s going on, but that would be my cue for attention to my distress. People say that people who attempt suicide are just seeking attention. Really? Seeking attention to a problem before it get’s dire just means you need help. Unfortunately people don’t know how to ask for help before it gets too late. My suggestion would be that you should ask your battle buddies for a code word. They only need to type it and not have to explain. Then you go to them or contact them in some way. It’s hard to verbalize mental angst. I totally agree. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I went on to become a paramedic, now retired. I made a difference in many people’s life. I have loved, lost, laughed, cried, watched birth and death. I am so thankful that the stars were aligned the night that I shot myself. I lost an eye, but I gained an appreciation for life.
    Thank you for your hard look at suicide. It is selfish. It’s horrible for everyone but the person who takes that way out. Find a code word for your Battle Buddies. And pay attention.

  4. Kelly

    September 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Jessie-Thanks for having the courage to discuss it. You’re someone we need more of.

  5. J.S.

    September 15, 2013 at 1:27 am

    I’ve read every article and haven’t seen one possible subject addressed. How do you escape the thoughts? How to you run faster than your demons? I’ll admit I’ve though about it quite a few times, but I can’t even pinpoint why I didn’t do it. Any thoughts?

  6. Dario

    September 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Selfish is not the word for it. Seriously the people left alive and behind are that, ALIVE, to say a person is selfish for killing themselves is just ridiculous. First off, killing yourself, going through with it means you have a mental issue. Perhaps those people that fail at suicide are selfish but killing yourself is not. Besides we never know why people do this, even if there is a note we never really know. Shame.

    • Marie

      September 16, 2013 at 1:59 am

      I completely agree, Dario. You NEVER know what anguish another person is feeling. I’ve had trauma in my childhood. I dealt with it and moved on. I would NEVER judge another for how they cope or fail to cope with respect to suicide. Suicide definitely leaves a path iof destruction. No way to deny that. These people need help. They don’t need to be called selfish. You can rarely shame a person into having the will to live. Every person and situation is unique. Our veterans have experienced things that we will never understand. There are real reasons why they have difficulty in civilian life. Some people just deal with it better. It is an unfortunate situation.

    • Kelly's Brother

      September 16, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Dario, I agree with you and disagree with the “Selfish Act” crowd. Suicide is suicide: nothing more – nothing less. It is what it is… an attempt to terminate one’s own life. How can it be less acceptable for one to willingly take his own life than when someone or some institution takes another’s life against his will? Soldiers (both sides) take life and it is valor. Women take life and it is called a right. States take life and it is called justice. Taking a life is OK as long as it is not your own. Funny how the suicidee is selfish because he/she is blamed for others’ grief over their loss. The actor makes a decision to die. The audience decides their reaction (sadness, loss, fear, self-pity, etc.). Sadness is a voluntary emotive action, resulting from one’s beliefs and world view. We are happy for the cancer victim because he or she no longer has to suffer. But we are angry with someone who sees no other way to end hopelessness’ anguish. I too am a retiree from the Army, and like Big K, have earned the SS (suicide survivor) ribbon, with 2 OLC. But my experience is not a measuring stick to evaluate others.

  7. Vince

    September 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I have to agree with Kelly that suicide is very selfish. I contemplated suicide once when I was 12 years old. Why would I think about it at that age? My father died of cancer and he was my best buddy and ‘hero’. I was at a total loss and didn’t want to live if I couldn’t have him in my life.

    About a month after he died I was laying in my tree house looking up at the sky and missing him. I thought it through as to how I would do it. Then I began to think of my mother and siblings how it would effect them and I realized how much additional pain they would feel with my dying. I decided at that time it was pure selfishness and I would never do it but fight and find a way to deal with things.

    Since then I have lost a couple buddies because they didn’t think things through. I have helped save other as well. Through it all I tell the truth and let them see what they are doing.

    I am always there for those in need.

    Vince

  8. Jackie

    September 16, 2013 at 4:31 am

    When I was slightly younger I had several failed attempts at suicide. I’ve realized without even having actually died that these attempts have cost me my relationships with people I held very dear to my heart. I think a lot of people who try to commit suicide aren’t necessarily overly selfish people, they are just very focused inward and consumed by some wrong that has occurred or with problems they feel are insurmountable in there lives. For me, it appeared to be an easy way out and an end to mental anguish. I’ve always known without a doubt that there is an afterlife. When I was little I used to be able to see spirits very clearly. I think to a minor extent this lead me to not really fear death. When I got older and life got harder and more frustrating I started to fantasize about being a spirit and I thought I would prefer it to life in a physical body. However, if you do this its cheating and you have to pay for it. One of my most favorite books is 30 Years Among the Dead by Carl Wickland.Dr. Carl A. Wickland, (1861-1945) was a member of the Chicago Medical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the chief psychiatrist at the National Psychopathic Institute of Chicago.
    Wickland specialized in cases of schizophrenia, paranoia, depression, addiction, manic-depression, criminal behavior and other phobias.
    After moving to Los Angeles in 1918, he founded the National Psychological Institute of Los Angeles with his wife Anna Wickland, who was a trance medium.
    Wickland treated many patients suffering from mental illness of all kinds, and after many years experience came to the conclusion that a number of patients he treated had ‘attachments;’ by that he meant that spiritual entities had attached themselves to unwitting mortals and influenced them (often) in the worst kind of way—leading them to alcoholism, madness,occasionally murder, and suicide.
    Anyone who is considering committing suicide please read the chapter on suicide. I really liked this and frequently refer back to it when ever I end up talking with someone who is suicidal. This recently happened a lot because I took a job working in a mental institution of all places. One of the spirits in the book warns readers not to do this under any circumstances. Simply put you are forced to remain an earthbound spirit for a minimum of how long you were supposed to be alive. You have to face what you did and the emotions and pain of what you put those closest to you through. You, for the most part, stand by, present but invisible to all those around you unable to interact or help the ones you love in times of need.
    The truth about suicide is that the pain dose not end and the spirit dose not die. You will still have your consciousness and feel all of the pain you felt before you died on top of the pain you now caused your loved ones by taking your life.So to sum things up, your not getting rid of any problems and it will only get worse. Your own personal “hell” is what you can look forward to.
    I believe this to be true because during an attempt I actually left my body and saw it laying there.Okay comment too long gotta stop here :)

  9. Linda

    September 17, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I don’t think anyone thinks the person committing suicide thinks it’s selfish, but yes, it is. And yes, I considered it once. But since I lost a brother to it, leaving my poor parents and other brother wondering what we all did wrong, I knew how incredibly horrible it would be to those I loved. That, and I knew God would get me past what was happening…eventually. I had to have the courage to wait the problem out. And sometimes it truly does take incredible courage to wait for the temporary situation to evolve into life again. The worst part is, I think at some point we give away our thoughts, and if those around us could be more sensitive to it, we might see the signs and help in time. Kelly, your article was spot on.

  10. Wheel

    September 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Here’s a muppet news flash dipshit:
    When you’ve woken up screaming 20 nights out of 30…and 6 or more of those are in a row…when you haven’t slept in days because you’re so fucking afraid of what your own mind is going to drag you through if you do…when every drug the VA can try on you has had no effect…let me tell you something sister, it ain’t about being selfish. it’s about just wanting the pain to stop and being willing to do anything to make it so. You’re not thinking about anything but how much it hurts every single day…every single night.
    Your comparison to being a little attention whore has nothing to do with the pain most returning war fighters are suffering from.
    Ranger up should shove this article up your stupid ass!

  11. Wheel

    September 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    And here’s another thing for you to think about, if you judge your “friend” and it “taints your memories of him” then you were no friend…you are the one who’s being selfish. You’re little stunt when you were a wet behind the ears bitch is nothing compared to what your so called ‘friend’ must have been going through to NEED to leave this life just to make the pain stop. Fuck you and fuck you again…I see all the “once when I was 12″ stories coming out of the fucking woodwork here…great job. Maybe some vet who’s having serious issues will feel judged and this will be the straw that breaks his poor camel’s back. Nicely done. Fuck you!
    Wheel

    • leftoftheboom

      September 19, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Wheel,
      At the risk of causing a further tirade,

      “Maybe some vet who’s having serious issues will feel judged and this will be the straw that breaks his poor camel’s back.”

      Calm down. Everyone has an opinion and your opinion is just a valid as theirs. The delicate part, and I realize I fail at this also, is that you can express a valid concern and still be pushing someone else who needs a lift into a tail spin.

      Additionally, I got to say that I hope you are talking to someone about the rage issues. And before you jump all over me, I have already been down this road so I do know what I am talking about. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes you can make it out before the next train.

      If you need to curse me out, go ahead, but you are not helping yourself by losing it like this. Loss of control is a major issue. Just saying.

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