Two Interventions saved my life, now I help others

Have you ever spoken to someone who has died? What about someone who died twice?

Because that’s exactly what anyone is doing when they speak with me.

In 2010, my life turned upside down when my teaching career came to a screeching halt. I spoke up when no one else felt they could about an issue at the time and I found myself very quickly on the outside, looking in. Having the thing I’d worked for my entire life come to an end was a powerful blow that pushed me into spiral that I couldn’t possibly imagine. Negative thoughts began to grow and slowly take over how I viewed myself. All I heard were thoughts like, “You’re a bad husband, father, son, brother, friend, and soldier. The only value you hold is the life insurance your family gets when you die.” And so that’s when the planning began.

Without a teaching position, I searched for a job for months. Constant rejections, an insane number of applications (406 to be exact), and too few interviews led me to jump into a new field with zero experience and even less expectations. All the while, my brain building up steam like a runaway train. I landed a position with a local company after 6 months of job searching and finally had a way to contribute to the family finances. I had value again.  

The new job wasn’t that bad, certainly a challenge, but just enough of a challenge to ensure I could focus on getting better at the job and not think about myself. It supplied a distraction from my own problems and allowed me to focus on those that I was serving by selling security systems for their homes. I excelled at this job and found that my performance was rewarded with a good paycheck, prizes, and even a trip to a much warmer place than Kentucky in January. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on which version of me you speak to, the overwhelming negative thoughts came back with a vengeance. 

By January of 2012, I fell back into the mindset from before and the plan brewing in my head for so long was complete. I’d committed to using the winter snow, my small white SUV, and the ravine on the side on I-75 North at mile marker 51 to take my own life. On my way home from my Army Reserve duty, I would drive my car straight into the ravine on the side of the highway, shut the engine off, and allow the snow to cover my car so quickly that no one would find me. This plan would make sure no one I loved would continue to suffer because of me. My death would give them a new life. 

There is no scientific evidence I can present, but I feel once a plan is made to take your life, that is the moment your life ends. Without intervention, it really is over. The military in 2012 still wasn’t open to the idea of a soldier with mental health issues to serve so I felt I had no choice. Dying at this point was acceptable because my family would benefit from the life insurance from the Army once I was gone. There was, however, an intervention in the works, and I couldn’t have been less aware of what would happen next. 

A gentleman by the name of Brian stopped me as I was leaving the Friday before Reserve duty that weekend. “Jason,” he said, “I know what we do is challenging, and many times goes unrecognized. I just want you to know that you’re doing a great job. I love you, be safe, and I’ll see you Monday.” Brian and I had developed a great relationship, much like that of brothers, and we had these types of conversations often. What Brian said, as normal and unassuming as he thought it was, hit me so hard. Before I knew it, I was home on Sunday evening and resting on the couch before I realized I had driven past where my life had ended. Without realizing it, Brian’s intervention had allowed me to have a second life. 

I dove back into reading and working on myself. In the two years that followed, I read over 80 books. Most of these focused on working harder on yourself than I did at my job (thanks Jim Rohn)! I learned how controlling your mindset could help to have power over your day. Developed a leadership philosophy focused on serving others, and not promoting myself over the team. Partnering with various leaders, I worked on my ability to coach and develop others and tried so very hard to get physically fit so that I could reenlist in the Army Reserve for one more contract. All this work helped in many ways, but I never took the time to address the issue at hand. 

Without seeking mental health assistance, I crashed again. “You’re nothing. You’re no one. No one loves you and you bring nothing to this world. Your wife hates you and so do your kids. Why are you here?” All the thoughts came racing back and so I planned again to take my life. I asked my wife for a divorce and set the plan in motion. I knew that the life insurance for servicemembers had increased to $400,00. I knew that money would change the future for my family. And so, on the day of the court proceedings, I planned on running that same little white car into the Ohio River after I left the courthouse. My second life had ended. 

I needed only to turn left after leaving the parking lot and I’d be on the road to my final destination. Something unexpected presented itself as I grabbed my phone from locker at the courthouse. I had a voicemail from my dad asking if I could come over after I was finished. Little did he know, and to this day still doesn’t, he saved me with his 15 second message. I turned right when I left the parking lot and drove straight into the 3rd life I should have never had. 

The next 18 months really is a blur. I shared my struggles with a doctor for the first time. Having been a military physician, he understood the importance remaining in the military had in my life. It wasn’t until Dr. Littrell said, “We either going to deal with this or you’re getting a new doctor,” that I knew my life was changing. I sought treatment, both physically and mentally. I spoke with him and counselors who helped me verbalize what I was feeling, ultimately ending up with a diagnosis. I had a name I could place on what was happening in my life…


Having a name to what I was experiencing was a catalyst. I dove into the research behind my diagnosis, made it a point to begin moving towards treatment and help, and began living my 3rd life. I controlled the choice to seek help, and so I have been able to OWN my 3rd life; the one I’ve been designed to live. I don’t have things completely figured out, and still fight with impulse control, constant dynamic changes in mood and mindset, and recognizing in the moment when my thoughts are changing… but I’m still here to fight it all and what I’ve come to realize is that I have control over so much more in my life than I’ve ever had.

Knowing what’s happening is powerful. I can work to approach my days with a positive mindset and point out the good things that are happening for me, and not the bad things happening to me. It’s not about being optimistic though. The challenges I face each day have helped to build me into the person I was designed to be. The battle isn’t over, and I learn each day new ways to address my cyclothymic disorder in healthy ways. Mostly, I’ve learned that my battle was meant to put me in a place to help others. I use my day job to serve others, I work to incorporate my leadership philosophy into serving others and their mental health, and I share my story openly to help others know that they are worthy of the life ahead of them, and their past lives do not dictate the life they weren’t designed to live.