Warning:  If you struggle with self-harm or suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the National Suicide prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741.

Growing up in ultimate survival mode– my father was a Vietnam veteran Air Force pilot– and still living in survival mode is sometimes very overwhelming. When I look back at my life, all I see is that I have been fighting for my entire 32 years of life. I am starting to believe that suicide may have a genetic aspect to it.

Losing my six year old brother when I was only 11 years old due to a genetic heart defect that has been in my family for four generations has really taken its toll on me and my life. But losing my father to suicide only three years later when I was 14, was the hardest hit on me. I thought that was the end of the world, the end of my life. My whole world shattered that day. What I didn’t know was that things were about to get even worse.

A full-blown disaster was right at my doorstep. After losing my younger brother, I started to have problems sleeping because I would see him whenever I closed my eyes. I was hearing his voice calling for me inside my head and, at the time, I didn’t know any way to silence those voices.

Then, I met drugs. I know most of you will think 11 is a very young age to start taking drugs. Unfortunately, sometimes you just find it while searching for anything… Anything, that will give you the comfort of not feeling, not thinking, even if it was just for a very short time. At that point, I wished I could sell my soul for even a few seconds of not thinking about my problems. What I didn’t know was that this was only the beginning of my descent.

I quickly got to know that alcohol and drugs don’t get along well, causing my first incident of drug/alcohol related hospitalization. I was not in good mental shape; I was dealing with eating disorders and self-harm. Being deeply lost in that mindset, it didn’t take me very long to come to the point where I attempted to kill myself for the very first time. After, I felt like my first attempt was an epic failure. At only 14 years old, I had already been hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder and major depression. When I turned 15, I was beginning to show signs of PTSD, something shifted then and I decided to change my life.

Maybe I just thought that it couldn’t be worse than it already was, so I may as well try to change for the better. I kicked off all drugs and alcohol and I applied for the Air Force Academy. My passion for the sky is like a poison and I was already injected from birth, having being raised by an Air Force Pilot veteran; it runs in my blood. I got accepted and for the very first time since I lost my younger brother, I was feeling way better.

I can say I had the best three years of my life in the Academy, but on the fourth (and last) year, everything went to hell again. Some high-ranked commanders walked into the classrooms and started to call out our full names. At first, we had no idea what was going on, but within 2-3 days we found ourselves on the way to Iraq. When we arrived, the battlefield was a living hell. However, as we are trained to do, we adapted quickly. Four years went by with so many people lost; some being my close friends. When I returned to the US, I just wasn’t myself anymore. The images of my comrades being blown up as they stepped on mines… being almost shot down by an anti-aircraft missile while I was executing a crash-landing… it still lingers when I close my eyes. I get flashbacks and nightmares and voices. They are vivid inside my head.

Up until this point, most of you probably thought I’m a man. But to everyone’s surprise: I’m a woman in the Armed Forces. Sounds unrealistic, right? Don’t worry, I get that reaction all the time. Most people don’t even believe me, so I usually don’t talk about it.

Getting back to the main subject: yes, with the symptoms of PTSD kicking my a** hard, I went back to my old friends: sedatives and alcohol. I lost count of my suicide attempts as I kept trying to die but always remained alive. After thinking a long time about the things that happened back in Iraq (being only one breath away from death constantly for the last 4 years), I realized I really wanted to start a family and have children. I felt like I wouldn’t have another chance and I was with my soulmate/love of my life since I was 14-years-old. So… why not?

I tried to kick off drugs and alcohol a few more times. I had 3 miscarriages, and finally I found out that I was pregnant with my first born. This time, I was so determined to do anything in my power to keep him safe; I checked myself into a treatment center– cliché, I know– and spent a few months there. In the meantime, my older brother was deployed for a few months. The endless waiting to hear from him and mini heart attacks caused by each phone call or doorbell ring made me feel like I was losing my mind. Thankfully, he came back safely, but he wasn’t himself anymore either. And… just like me… he refused to talk about what was going on inside his head. In 2009, he ended up taking his own life. Only three months before my son was born.

Right when I thought my life was starting to get better, my whole world collapsed in on me again. Losing him was like losing my father one more time. Because ever since my father died, my brother had been like a father to me. I barely got back up from that fall. It took its toll on me and my life. But slowly, things did start to get better. I got married to my soulmate and had two more children. Really, those last 2 years were almost perfect until the day my whole world seemed to collapse again: I was being deployed and somehow, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be coming back alive. Then my soulmate, father of my kids, my husband of 4 years, filed to divorce me. He took our kids and filed a restraining order against me.

I arrived in Turkey and started active duty on January 1, 2017. Within a month, I received horrible news: my soulmate and 5 year-old-son were killed. Since that day, I’ve been trying so hard to hold on. I know I must hold on for my two kids who luckily survived the event that killed their father and brother.

I have never been able to talk about what’s going on inside my head. However, when I saw this website, I thought I would share my story to hopefully give hope to someone else. Please never forget: the day surely shines even after the darkest of nights. Please try not to lose your hope. Try to reach out because keeping everything inside makes it so much worse. I’m sending lots of love and hope to everyone.

For anyone who would like to contact me, whenever you just need someone to talk to, my e-mail address is effy.mcguinness@yahoo.com.

Please feel free to contact me if you need someone to just listen.

Thanks a lot,