I was surrounded by the same four walls in my room and honestly, I was tired of looking at them. I cried, a lot. I stared for days, with anticipation, on what life looked like from outside these four walls. I was stuck. It felt like every day was a new day, with new opportunities, but every time I woke up in the morning, those same four walls was all I had. I began to spiral downwards and I knew I had to do something to pull myself from this destructive thought process and I knew I could not do it alone. I had plenty of days where my only outlet was swiping up the screen on my phone and staring at social media to find “something” that would draw me out of isolation and into the lives of others.
“Every decision you make indicates what you believe you are worth”.I decided the only way I would survive myself would be to step outside of fear and reach out to other veterans that felt the same. I came across a group of veterans that challenged me to “think outside the box”. I was envious that they were doing all the “things” in life that once used to bring me joy. By “things” I am speaking of: camping, hiking, fishing, hunting---and they looked to be really “connected” to each other and each other’s day. I wanted that. I wanted that so bad, but it wasn’t my time; at least so I thought.
“Your story”, is just that: a story. It does not define what you are capable of.
I was still recovering from four surgeries; one after the next. I continued to watch from the sidelines as they went live on social media and I bi-curiously lived through watching other veterans laugh and enjoy life. And, I laughed. I laughed a lot; until I cried. I cried because I knew I had to make some changes within my own life if I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. I cried with relief and with anxiety and fear, but I did not stop my own personal search to find a group that I could relate to. If anything, it made me think more about what I enjoyed doing that may help me step outside of my own comfort zone. What I enjoyed doing the most was being outside, and yet I had not left my bedroom in years. I was telling myself the same story, instead of challenging myself to create a new one. If I wanted something different, I had to do something different. I had to decide if I wanted to stay in my past or if I wanted to change my own future. I had to decide what the rest of my “story” would look like, moving forward.
Make the decision to make a decision.
My next decision would save my life. I reached out remotely. If I could not be there physically, what could I do that would alter my current situation? I made one connection with one veteran and decided that I would do whatever I could do to help, under my current circumstances. I may not have been able to “show up” physically, but mentally---I was exposing myself. I was vulnerable in a way I hadn’t been able to be, in years. I found small ways to use the connections I had already established--to bring a sense of purpose back into my life. I made the decision to make a decision and I decided to “show up”.
These four walls may have been my nemesis, but in a way, they were also my leverage to “get the buck outside.” I didn’t want to watch from the sidelines anymore and if it meant committing to something “bigger than myself”, then I had to be honest with another and share why I needed a hand up. I had to decide to make a different decision every day if I wanted my story to change outside of these four walls. I had to trust someone other than myself because for so many years, my brain was saying the same thing and it was getting old, fast.
Your brain has been lying to you, “You are not alone”.
In speaking to another veteran, I was invited to “show up” to an event. I accepted the invitation. Now, please do not be mistaken, was I petrified? Yes! Was I on time? No, I almost did not go. What happened next, gave me anxiety like no tomorrow, but it worked. I was not alone and my brain was lying to me.
On the morning of the event, that same veteran messaged me on social media and asked me where I was. In the middle of my own chaos and while he was attending this life-changing event, I told this veteran that I was still in bed---not sure of if I could muster up the courage to attend.
His next message was unexpected, but exactly what I needed to hear.
“It doesn’t matter that you are late, just show up. Get dressed and get your a** over here!”
And that is exactly what I did.
If you are a veteran that is struggling, isolated, and feeling alone--you are not alone.
There are thousands of veterans across the nation that wake up feeling just like you; the only difference is they are showing up in their own lives, by showing up for other veterans when they feel like they can not.
It is not easy, but nothing GREAT ever is.
Find one person.
Connect with that one person.
BE honest with that one person.
Lean on that one person.
Trust that one person.
Step outside of fear and give yourself the opportunity to “just show up”.
This may seem like a lot to do in the beginning, but it gets better. You do not have to be at home, alone, in your thoughts, living the same story every day. You do not have to believe that there is nothing left for you to accomplish. You do not have to do life alone. Two things that are required of you: Reach out and show up.
Whatever that looks like for you; Just show up.