There is nothing worse than feeling like all hope is lost.
We've all been there -- that moment when darkness seems to loom around you and you can't see a way out.
Someone reading this is there right now. You might feel as if your service to the military has stolen too much of your soul. Maybe you are a military spouse who is so exhausted from taking care of everyone else that hope for yourself is gone.
Someone reading this is afraid that life has nothing else to offer except more hurt and more pain, and that no one understands or even cares.
That is a lie.
Let that word sink in for a moment: "Lie."
Perhaps you would argue with me right now, "You don't understand what it's like to be me. What it's like to have done the things I've done. To have been hurt the way I've been hurt. I've tried, and it's just too hard."
You're right. It is hard. Life can be really crappy sometimes and so can people. But to believe there is no hope -- that is a lie. And you are taking the bait.
My favorite moment in a person's story is the darkest one, because what is usually right around the corner is the place where darkness lose its grip.
Right now is the moment when you trust there is a comeback in your story. And even bigger than that, your story is meant for someone else to hear.
It's a joyous moment, one that makes me want to leap to my feet because the fog begins to clear and a small light of hope shows up.
You have a story yet to tell, and it does not end with this chapter.
The best stories always have chapters of struggle, something that was overcome. Every day, I get to work with people in counseling who are discovering the comeback in their story.
If you watch carefully, you will see stories in public that give evidence to new chapters that are ahead.
One of my favorite stories is that of Joshua Mantz.
Mantz died in Iraq, only to be revived and come home to tell about it.
He became the poster boy of surviving trauma and traveled as a public speaker as a representative of the Defense Department.
Still, he found himself facing his darkest moment alone in hotel room, struggling with survivor's guilt, depression and loneliness. In a last attempt to reach out to a friend to keep him from suicide, he was connected to a mental health clinician who saved him from himself.
That one moment of human compassion changed him.
Mantz said that those impacted by war have seen the "very worst side of humanity" and that true healing begins when they begin to see the best of humanity -- the power of community and human connection.
Perhaps you need to experience that connection. It exists, but you won't see it until you reach out and begin to tell your story.
Choosing to trust there is a new chapter ahead is a risk. Fear will try to convince you that it is not worth the risk -- that only pain is coming, not hope.
That's also a lie.
There are many experiences in life that will never make sense: the loss of a child; a miscarriage or infertility; the worst of humanity that you experienced; the loss of a battle buddy; or what it took to survive a moment you shouldn't have survived. War itself.
While it is important to process these dark places and decide what we believe about them, we may find there is nothing that will make that chapter make sense on its own. By itself, it will keep looping as a solo chapter of meaninglessness.
But in the context of a bigger story, it suddenly has purpose. Mantz's night when he ultimately found hope in the hotel now has context, and your moment will too.
Your first step might be to reach out like Mantz did. Maybe even invite someone else you know is struggling to join you. No one ends their life when they have a purpose to fulfill. No one numbs out life with addiction when purpose makes reality worth experiencing.
So the biggest question is: "What, then, is my purpose?"
Your purpose is to share your story. Why?
Because someone else needs to hear your story, and you need to hear theirs.
More of your purpose will unfold from there until eventually you have context for what you are feeling today. One day, it will be awesome to see the redemption in your darkest moments when it brings light to someone else's dark moments.
And you are not alone. Almost every military spouse, service member and veteran I come across has told me that they are willing to listen, to be the example of the best of what humanity can offer if you need it.
What makes me sad is that someone reading this still doesn't trust that their story will evolve. If that is you, listen to Mantz's story.
Or listen to Tiffany Smiley's story; she is a military spouse whose husband returned from Iraq blinded by an explosion.
After 10 years of taking care of her husband, Scotty, she hit bottom before she realized she, too, had purpose beyond her calling as a caregiver. She is now teaching other spouses how to write their stories.
If you need help, reach out to someone you trust.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call 911 immediately.
There are still wonderful chapters of your story left to be written.
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