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Craig Lacy sat on his front porch with a loaded gun in his hand. The grass in the yard was nearly 4 feet high, almost hiding him from view as he contemplated taking his own life.
After 23 years of military service and leading a structured life of routine, Lacy found himself struggling, wandering and not able to find his way through life.
“I had nothing to do. When you go from being someone who is important to someone who no one needs anymore, it’s tough,” Lacy said. “I was alone. The only reason that I didn’t (kill myself) is because I was afraid I would not do the job all the way.”
Lacy experienced deep depression after retiring and being classified 100 percent disabled by the Army. He had served as a company first sergeant for several years and was in charge of hundreds of soldiers.
“There was nothing for me to strive for. Nothing for me to do anymore,” Lacy said. “I thought, ‘Is it over?’ This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.”
Depression like that experienced by Lacy can be even more prevalent during the holiday season, said Behavioral Specialist Mary Greiner of Kempner.
“There is an expectation of what life is supposed to be, especially during the holidays,” Greiner said. “When those (expectations) are not coming true, we find ourselves overwhelmed and anxious because we are not performing perfectly.”
Add an affliction called Seasonal Affective Disorder, where people do not get enough sunshine during the winter months, and it’s easier to fall into the downward spiral of depression, Greiner said. She recommended people take in at least 15 minutes of sun between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day and exercise.
She also recommended staying away from processed foods such as white flour and sugar, which lack nutrition and cause people to feel depressed.
“If you are feeling isolated, socialize with supportive people,” Greiner said. “Laughter really is the best medicine when you are feeling down. It affects us physiologically with our hormones and gets us going again.”
Greiner said humans need social support systems and having someone just listen can be very healing.
Lacy has come full circle and is now the listener to others experiencing tough circumstances.
He graduated college Dec. 13 with a bachelor’s degree in counseling. He is the veterans service officer with Copperas Cove VFW Post 8577 and is currently working with veterans through Bring Everyone into the Zone, a veterans services organization in Killeen.
Lacy also spends two days a week at one of Gatesville’s prisons counseling inmates. When he starts feeling down, he drives three hours away to East Texas.
“I see the same old things that I left behind to remind myself of the positive choices I’ve made,” Lacy said. “I now live one day at a time, and I enjoy life one day at a time.”