I just watched "Beyond 13 Reasons Why" for season 2. Netflix undertook a brave task in producing and airing both the original and second season of this show, especially considering the often avoided and highly sensitive topics the series as well as the novel upon which it is based addressed.
In the second season, Olivia Baker, mother of the main character and suicide victim, brings a list of 11 reasons to live to the character Clay. In this blog I want to double that number, mostly for symbolic reasons.
An often misquoted statistic is that 22 combat veterans a day commit suicide. I must dispel that fallacy. The actual statistic is that military veterans are 22 percent more likely to attempt suicide than non-veterans. A corollary is that combat veterans are 19 percent more likely to commit suicide than military veterans who did not directly experience combat. While 22 veterans do not die by their own hands each day, the propensity is still an epidemic that must be addressed.
I am a combat veteran a few times over. Those with whom I am willing to discuss the horrors I experienced are a cursed few. Even so, those unfortunate enough to be on my list of trusted individuals need to ask. This is something my ex-wife never really embraced. She thought it all should have come out like emotive word vomit. Part of the reason is that, like suicide, the effects of PTSD are not endured alone despite how isolated we may feel. Discussing the impacts of what I experienced at war directly affects and effects others who were there. Given what I did in the military, it also affects national security and the safety of countless civilians.
My journey through PTSD serves to illustrate that sense of dark isolation. I can, too easily, understand what those who commit suicide go through. I have been there. If it were not for my intense grasp of my mortal coil, I could easily have long fallen into the same spiral into nothingness. Despite bouts with depression, periods lacking motivation, and what seems like months of continual loss, I want to keep living more than anything. It may just be curiosity that keeps me going. I admit there are times I wonder "what's next?" meaning after this life. However, my desire to see "what's next?" as in what tomorrow brings is greater. Also admittedly, sometimes that curiosity is just in seeing if it really can get any worse. Spoiler Alert: Things do not get that bad.
Here is my stiff middle digit to the 22 percent statistic; my 22 reasons why not.
1. AJ Fosler, my daughter. In full disclosure, she is my ex-step-daughter. However, I have helped raise her since she was a 3 year old pile of giggling strawberry-blonde curls. She is the first reason because I simply refuse to quit on her or let her down, regardless of the fact I am no longer a daily part of her life.
2. I am still in debt. This may seem a strange reason, but it is a simple concept. For one thing, one of my life goals is to own my own house. Well, the bank still owns a good portion of it. Besides, I have no desire to stick somebody else with my bills and would rather leave the house, paid in full, to someone.
3. I refuse to let the bad guys win. That's what happens if I just give up, roll over, and die. I beat them. I'm still here. For that victory to remain, I need to still be here and not dead by their hands or mine.
4, 5, & 6. My nephews. What sort of example would I be setting for these future warriors and leaders?
7, 8, & 9. My mother, father, and brother. I have put them through enough worry and pain during my years in the service. It would be rude of me to put them through more by having them deal with the messy aftermath of a suicide.
10. My ex, because, well, refer to number 3. She is highly competitive and issued a challenge. Despite the fact she is 17 years younger than I am, I WILL out live her. Sorry Missy, I did over 20 years in a dangerous job. I'm still here though many others are not.
11 I need to do something with this degree I busted my ass to earn. Seriously folks, I am not one for wasting time or effort. So I'm sticking around until something pans out.
12. My book(s) are not yet finished nor published. I have three that I started and never finished, and a 4th in my head that will likely be completed before the others. It is on my bucket list to publish a book that sells, perhaps not millions of copies, but, at least, a few thousand.
13. I can still walk, run, swim, bike, and do pull-ups. Actually, for being almost 50, I'm in great shape. Many 30 year old guys have remarked that they wish they were in as good of shape as I. They could be. They just need to eat better and do some exercise. Granted, I am as I am because I had a healthy beginning. I worked out regularly in the Army, hitting the gym outside of PT, and competed in bodybuilding competitions until a Registered Dietitian told me that the pre-competition diet my body required to do well was unhealthily healthy (too strict).
14. I have places I still need to see and a few things I need to do. So, yes, the rest of my bucket list..
15, 16, & 17. Schuyler Haynes, Chris Seifert, and Derek Dobogai. There are, perhaps too many, more names I can add to this list. But these are three of my closest friends who were killed in combat. I need to live so their memories live on.
18. I'm a rebel. I refuse to be part of a statistic, especially one that I find so repulsive.
19 - 22. Every Soldier, Sailor, Wingnut, and Marine serving, who has served, or will ever serve. I am a retired Non-Commissioned Officer. I will always do my utmost to not let any of you down, to pick you up when you falter, to salute you when you succeed, and to sing odes to your glory when you triumph victorious.
So, 'til Valhalla my brothers and sisters. Keep the mead cool and flowing for me. I'll be along eventually, just not yet.