Seeking strength after loss
A friend of mine committed suicide yesterday. He left behind a family. In the aftermath, I can't help wondering what led to this, and if I could have done anything to prevent it. This is a fairly typical response, but it doesn't lessen the impact. I find this difficult to process because this is not the first, second or even third time someone close to me has ended their own life. I can't imagine how much harder this is for his family.
I found myself wondering what makes us strong? Conversely, what is it that gives someone cause to consider ending their life, even when there are others that need and depend on them. I find my own answers insufficient, but I resolved to set them down anyway in the hope that they might provide some meager balm for my troubled mind. Here goes.
What makes a person strong? I'm not talking about physical strength when I type this. What makes a person strong on the inside? Some of the most indomitable people I've met were physical weaklings. Disabled people who refused to view their physical setbacks as weaknesses. Women who had been severely abused, but refused to let that abuse dictate their perception of life. People who had lost all of their loved ones, yet they still maintained a positive outlook on THEIR life.
The common thread among all of them was adversity. They had all suffered significant setbacks or tragedies, but they didn't let these events stop them from becoming strong people.
There are thousands of stories of human beings overcoming overwhelming odds. How did they do this? The simple answer is determination. They refused to quit in the face of adversity. I have experienced this myself while serving in the Marine Corps. I learned that the physical limits you perceive yourself to have are largely illusory if you have sufficient dedication.
We see this all the time in the movies. The hero is hurt and looks to be finished. Yet, when someone he/she loves is threatened, the injury is overcome and they find a way to triumph. It may be a cliche, but most cliches are rooted in truth.
The bottom line is that humans need adversity to become strong inside. Only through trial and tribulation do we come to understand that we are as mentally as strong as we perceive ourselves to be. So go out there and test yourself. You don't need to be a member of the armed forces to do this. You just need to push yourself in the face of difficulty, and when you think you can't go on anymore, keep going.
Whether it's combat in an armed theater, a MMA fight or even getting up and going to work at a job you hate but need right now anyway, don't quit.
Don't quit on yourself.
Here is my own rather feeble example. When I was in boot camp, I got sick the day of a 25 mile forced march over some rather hilly terrain. The recruits all had a 60 lb. ruck on their backs, and the drill instructors set a brutal pace designed to leave most of us behind. I was tired before I began. During the last half of the march I hit a physical wall that I had never previously encountered. I began to fall behind, like some of the others.
I knew that those of us who didn't keep up with the DI would be punished after the march, but that's not what caused me to overcome my physical weakness and catch up to the first group. I thought of my father going through the same thing 25 years earlier. For whatever reason, I decided right then and there that I would be the "last man standing", physical weakness be damned. My conviction gave me the strength to catch up to the DI despite the steep incline of Mt. ************. At the end of the march, there were only two of us behind him.
I have used the strength I found that day many times since then. Sometimes for mundane things, like getting up and going to work at a job I hated. Sometimes for not so mundane things, like the time I got stung by something while snorkeling in the ocean by myself more than a mile from the shore and my heart began to race while I had trouble breathing.
Here is my message to you and myself. Never give up believing in yourself. Be the last person standing.