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  • Writer's pictureMatt Gray

When a Warrior Falls

Yesterday my heart broke a little bit. Someone I care about lost her battle with mental illness and addiction. We didn’t speak often, but the last time we spoke privately was a very significant conversation to me. She opened up to me about her own struggles, and wanted to hear about mine. She spoke about mental illnesses, and briefly about her time in the army. She was dealt a cruel hand in life.

I don’t know very much about her time with the Armed Forces. I do know that she was a soldier, and I know that even after she left the forces she was still a soldier. She was a soldier fighting a war inside of herself every single day. In that conversation that we had she told me that she wanted to get better. She told me that she wanted to be better. I know that she did. I know that these were not just words, because I know her feelings. I know because I share those feelings. She was a warrior till the end. She didn’t give up, she didn’t run away. She fell. Her disease killed her. She died alone. She died judged by so many people in her life.

Anytime you participate in war, you have an enemy. I don’t wish to compare any of this to the horrors of combat, so please don’t think that’s what I am doing, but mental illness can definitely be an enemy. A cruel enemy. This isn’t fair what happened. It’s unfair, it’s cruel, it’s tragic. To me, the tragedy is that she died being something she knew she didn’t want to be. That she will never have the chance to mend the bridges she burned. It breaks my heart that the only end she found to her suffering was in death. She deserved to live without suffering. She deserved the chance to get to be who she wanted to be – who she really was inside.

Who was she inside? She was a warrior, a protector, a healer. That is how she should be remembered, and how I will be remembering her. I will remember her heart. It was beautiful, loving, and kind. I take some comfort knowing that even through her struggles, even when she was hard to love, she had somebody that loved and saw her. I am happy that she did get to spend the last ten years loving someone, and being loved.

Every time a fighter falls it hits us a little bit harder. Seeing strong people whom we admire lose the same battle we are facing is like being kicked in the face by a horse. This is the third member of my family to lose this battle, and it gets pretty hard to take. It’s a reminder that the stakes are high. The highest stakes of all; your life. Your life. My Life. His life. Her life. Their life.

If you suffer, please don’t suffer alone. I am always here. I am fighting my own battle, and sometimes it’s tougher than other times. It’s never too tough that I can’t help you.

Healing is easier together, so don’t be alone.

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