And Then There Were Four

By Eric Beasley

Four. Not 44,193. Not 8,030. Not 22 a day.

Four.

That’s how many brothers and sisters in arms I have lost to suicide in my short 31 years.

These numbers that we recite about suicide are just that, numbers. A little number on a page that does not tell a story. The story of a life ended too soon, the story of friends and families left behind to pick up the pieces. Four is the only number that matters to me, because instead of statistics, they are real people. People that I knew, people that I worked with, people that I spent time with, and people that are a part of my life.

That’s what these numbers never tell you. There are friends, and then there are friends. Never can a civilian understand this bond, as this friendship and camaraderie was created in the fiery pits of hell, unseen since the days of Dante.

You know the funny thing about this friendship? You don’t even have to have been there in the fiery pits of hell with them. You just have to know that you have both been there and done that. That’s it.

Veterans all share this common bond. We signed up to go to the worst places on the planet, in the worst conditions imaginable, and fight wars. In other words, we do the worst things in the worst conditions in the worst places. We made this pledge knowing full well that we might not come home. But what happens when we do come home? What happens when the war is over, when we have passed the reigns on to the next generation?

Nightmares, depression, sleepless nights, persistent hyper-vigilance, and explosive tempers. That’s what the DSM-V says about us. Again, just like the statistics, those terms are meaningless. Just more words on a piece of paper.

What about the people who suffer from all of the above? We are called weak, crazy, assholes, jerks, or unhinged. Oh yeah, don’t forget about the dark sense of humor that probably caused you to call us all of the above.

This is the stigma of PTSD. The leftover scars from that fiery pit of hell.

Those four men and women all had PTSD. Those four did not seek help. I don’t necessarily mean calling the Suicide Helpline (1-800-273-8255, by the way), I mean just having someone to talk to. It doesn’t have to be some deep, emotional, cry fest. It could be something as simple as sharing a beer, moving a couch, or lighting things on fire. “Help” is whatever it takes to feel human again.

My name is Eric. I am a blogger, radio host, Vice President of the Republican Club of Frederick County, perpetual nuisance to both political parties, former candidate for Brunswick City Council (first loser in that race), and former volunteer for Bongino 2014. I have a successful career at a great company and a wonderful wife who is a great mother to our two young boys.

My name is also Eric and I have PTSD. I have nightmares once a month. I go through times of depression. Just a few weeks ago, actually. Some nights I stay up until 4 am running the events of the past through my head, wondering how my life would be today if something different had happened. Last night, January 11th 2017 and December 4th 2016 were the most recent sleepless nights (thanks Fitbit for empirical data). I can’t enter a building without scanning the perimeter, identifying entrances, and counting how many people are there. I avoid urban areas like the plague. I can only attend public events like Railroad Days and In The Streets if someone I know will be there, allowing me to zone out the crowd and focus on them. Likely, if you read this blog you have seen my temper sprout up somewhere, so we don’t really need to expand that one out.

I started writing here that I was not ashamed of having PTSD. But we all know that isn’t true. I go through great lengths to hide my symptoms, methodically and carefully. I know the symptoms and warning signs that we’re taught too look for, so I make sure that no matter how bad I am really feeling, that you wouldn’t know it. The same as everyone else who suffers in silence, afraid to admit their weakness.

Often times, the people who lived with someone suffering from PTSD have a sixth sense about it. Unfortunately these folks are rare, but I do count myself lucky to have a few as friends. There is something powerful about a casual acquaintance seeing past my bullshit defenses and recognizing what is really happening.

My name is still Eric and I have PTSD. I have lost 4 brothers and sisters in arms to suicide. Each one had their own unique story, a life that was left behind.

Number Four is different. For the rest of my life, he will be the person who captured an important moment. The days before Zane was born. At Harper’s Ferry WV, using Instagram to search “maternity photos,” and some creative coaching like “look at her with the f— me eyes.”

Until Valhalla, brother.