Tag Archives: mental illness

Fine! Suicide. There, I said it

Note from Noelle: Tribe, once again one of our guest contributors has a subject to share that is not often talked about— mental illness and suicide— my job is to give a VOICE to things that are difficult in a POSITIVE and uplifting way— this post does just that, it is the story of a Mother’s triumph over unexpected circumstances that life dealt her. She is truly a WARRIOR of the highest degree and I hope that you will be blessed by reading her words. I was.

XO, N.

“Your father took his life. Do you understand?”

No. They absolutely DID NOT understand. How could two young children, that just turned ages seven and nine, understand what that means? Yet there I sat with a Counselor next to me, watching my girls play with toys, as if somehow that would lighten the blow. Explaining to my beautiful, innocent girls that their Dad had “taken his life.” We can finally say the word SUICIDE. Dad committed SUICIDE. My husband committed SUICIDE. He didn’t just “die”. He committed SUICIDE, and it’s OK to say it. It wasn’t my fault. My words couldn’t save him, and my words didn’t do it to him. He was determined to do it one way or another, and I still wrestle with that concept and all the “what ifs?”

Let’s back it up a bit. Meeting my husband later in life, our romance was hasty with a very informal wedding on the golf course. Being my second wedding and wearing the “divorcee” title, we wanted to keep it simple, with the company of family, close friends, and 18 holes. Married on the 18th hole at the golf course we both volunteered, a round of golf, and a Washington Capitals game to end the day, I was granted the title, “Coolest Wife Ever.” I was completely blind to the fact, however, that he had an intense fear of crowds, manic depression, anxiety so bad that it physically hurt him to hug his wife, and one day, his daughters, and an overall feeling of helplessness that eventually lead to his suicide. Those were kept private from me, but eventually came out. I mean, we had our issues, but didn’t everyone?

My wonderful marriage was the beginning of a journey cut short, I didn’t expect to take. My late husband’s mental illness was exhausting. The endless problems, addiction to cocktails prescribed to “help”, (with warnings of “may cause feelings of suicide”) the insurance hoops I jumped through, his tragic suicide, and ultimately being a widowed mom at 41 with two AMAZING four and six year old girls was not the plan. Is it ever what we plan though? It was no longer my circle, his circle, and our circle. It was just my circle, lonely and scary.

The last time I saw him was a Monday morning. I woke up and he was packing his bags. I asked what he was doing. He admitted to bad thoughts and was ready to check himself in to the hospital. He so desperately wanted help. He wanted to get better. Later that morning, call it a mother’s intuition, I looked at my girlies at the bottom of the stairs as we started to walk out the door for Preschool and Kindergarten, and I said, “Go back upstairs and give Daddy an extra big hug and kiss, and tell him how much you love him.” They happily ran upstairs, did as I asked, and off we went to school. That was the last time any of us saw him. I had a feeling, and I was right. Our instinct or “gut” is pretty powerful. It’s such a long story what happens next. One that really deserves it’s own blog, so I’ll save the details. My husband left on a Monday morning and was found in a hotel, on Tuesday. Ironically, by a friend’s husband who’d just taking a Manager’s position at the hotel. It was all something that came straight off of the Investigation Discovery Channel. I’ll never forget the detective’s face that came to my house to tell me he was found.

There are many things that I won’t forget.

The following days were a blur. I simply picked out the casket and my family took care of the rest. I lost friends, and gained new friends. I received an email from a friend stating she was so upset because my husband was burning in hell. WTH?

I had to figure out finances, bank account passwords, and a million other things. At the advice of another widow, I searched for a support group, but couldn’t quite find my niche. There were older widows that lived a full life with their spouse, young widows who lost their spouse in the Military, and other widows whose spouse died from cancer or some sort of natural death. I was a young, widowed mother of two, whose husband died at his own hands. Those were hard to come by. Moving ahead a bit, it’s no longer painful for me to talk about his suicide. In fact, it’s cathartic. I can say the word, when for years I politely told people he died. My counselor looked at me one day and said, “He didn’t just die, you know that, right? Why do you always say he died?” Uh, shame, embarrassment, not wanting others to feel awkward, wanting to dignify his life…. I don’t know. She reminded me several times, he didn’t just die. He committed suicide. I just couldn’t say it. For years I lived in overdrive taking care of my girls, and not focusing on me and the trauma I was facing. My number one goal was making sure my girls were OK. I was terrified at the thought of them having any issues from this. I wouldn’t let that happen. Looking back, I wish I would’ve taken more time for me, but as parents we often make selfless decisions for our children’s benefit.

I am NOT the same person I was back then. I work full time outside and inside the home. I am tired. I can be rough around the edges. I work until midnight to meet deadlines because I have to stop and run my kids places, or feed them dinner. I’m needed in two places at once. I humbly ask for help, which I NEVER like doing. I’ve had dating disasters, run ins with alcohol, euphoric tattoos, regretful tattoo removals, wake-up calls, and countless counseling appointments. (Which let me say, counseling is wonderful and I went through three until I found the right one. She’s from Queens with a Sailor’s mouth and she makes me laugh and cry and see things from a perspective I would NEVER myself see.)Take the time to find the right match in a Counselor. Not everyone’s your cup of tea, and that’s ok. I’m a walking book and my story is still being written. Within these last nine years, I’ve said at least a dozen times, I could write a book. One thing remains the same. I have two amazing girls, and their hearts are filled with sensitivity for others. This has made us all better people.

Suicide has taught me not to sweat the small stuff. What, a silver lining to suicide? I don’t worry myself with insignificant things anymore. If my coffee spills in my car? Clean it up. If my house is a mess? I have tomorrow. If the laundry piles up? I get my girls to do it! lol What I’m saying is, that in my deepest despair, I’m still here. I’m alive, and I’m grateful for another day to live my life. A recent hospital stay, and being apart from my girls, made me realize how much certain things really don’t matter. What matters to me is raising my now teenage girls, and doing things that make us happy, and me happy. We’re not just moms. We love to say that it’s our most rewarding job, and it IS, but there’s more to you and there’s more to me. Being a good mom, for me, means taking care of myself, and taking time to do the things that make me happy, so I CAN be an amazing mom. I just started selling Scentsy on the side as something fun to do, and make money if it goes in that direction. I’ve started working out at the gym, although Covid said enough of that! I want to inspire others. When I was in the hospital, I prayed that if I got out, I would never take another day for granted. Emphasizing every single day, I look in the mirror and say, “You’re alive. You have another day. A friend of mine going through a terrible divorce asked me, “How do you know you’re going to come out of your rock bottom?” I shared that because in a week, a month, a year from now, she would be standing. And although she slipped and may have fallen, she got back up was standing.

So, my story didn’t end with my husband’s suicide, but a brand new adventure began. I waited a couple of years until I actually told my girls that their Dad “took his life”, but I’m so glad I didn’t wait. Suicide is a very common subject in our household, and when we hear the tragedies of suicide, the three of us have a certain sensitivity in our hearts for those who’ve suffered. Waiting to tell my girls that their Dad committed suicide was not looked well upon by my counselors, and once it was explained, it made sense. My counselor shared that my girls would have trust issues if I waited. They would be dealing with so many other things, and High School angst on top of everything, if I waited. I needed to tell them as soon as I could, if they already didn’t know from rumors at school, and neighborhood gossip. My seven year old came home from school one day and asked what asphyxiation meant. After picking myself up off the floor, I decided it was time. Did they understand? No, not really. But it opened up the conversation, and that’s what we needed. Our relationship is based on open conversation, and I’m so thankful I heeded the words to NOT wait to tell them. In all fairness, as mother’s, we think it best to wait to protect them. To think that they couldn’t possibly understand the concept of suicide until they are much older. Sadly we have seen children in Middle School committing suicide. Kids know and hear more than we think.

When I see someone on social media saying something like, “My sandals just broke, worst day ever!”, I have to giggle, but that’s their reality and I’m no one to judge. In my mind I think, wow, wanna know the worst day of my life? Telling my beautiful, innocent, naive girls at the freshly new ages of four and six that their Daddy died and wouldn’t be coming home. Second worst day, was taking them to see him in the casket with their letters and pictures they had made for him. Third worst day, was telling them he committed suicide… you get the point.

It’s cathartic to let it out. Yes, my husband committed suicide and it’s OK. It wasn’t my fault. My words couldn’t save him, and my words didn’t do it to him. Whatever you’re going through as a Mom; Single Mom, Widowed Mom, Step Mom, we all have commonalities. When you go to sleep at night, be grateful the day is over, and you did it! You got through the day, by whatever means, and you did it! Now when you wake up the next day, look ahead and be grateful that it’s a brand new day. One thing I’m reminded of is my kids really don’t remember my mistakes. Kids are amazingly resilient. Rejoice in that, and their unconditional love. We make mistakes, but they forgive and forget. We need to forgive and forget ourselves, too. And surround yourself with good people. My wise bestie told me when this all happened that I would be amazed at the people I thought would be there for me that weren’t; and the people I wouldn’t expect to be there for me, that were. So true, and how my circle has changed. It’s ok to change your circle. Be around positive, encouraging people. Stay close to people that don’t judge your grief, your story, your moment. I had friends walk away from me because I asked help from other friends more than them, and they were insulted. Even writing that sounds so ridiculous, but sadly it’s true. Sometimes we’re handed a really crappy deal that we didn’t sign up for, but that’s what makes us super interesting people! More to come!

We can make it through another day!

~Terese

Breaking Negative Generational Cycles

Breaking negative generational cycles…It will get better… right?
The other day during a normal, “how was your weekend?” conversation, my coworker asked me how my children were doing. Lucky for her, I had cried a lot over the weekend and honestly shit had been ROUGH. Perfect timing. With the stress of the weekend still weighing on me, I responded that my teenage daughter was having a really hard time, and in turn making things very difficult for the people close to her. “It’s probably a phase,” my coworker offered encouragingly. “It will get better… right?” Her genuine concern was evident. What else could she say?
“I hope so,” I replied. And I do hope so. More than that, I have faith that it will get better. But amidst that faith is a long list of what ifs that race through my mind every day. As much as I can hope for the best, I really don’t know how things will play out, and most days it feels like the odds are stacked against me.
You see, depression runs in the family. Anxiety runs in the family. Trauma, addiction, mental illness, and poverty all run in the family. On both sides. I haven’t seen up close and personal what it takes to create a stable, happy life and maintain it. Neither have my children. That is a truth that I can’t run from. A truth far too many people can relate to. And it’s scary.
I have poured my soul into fighting against these odds. I want nothing more than to help break the cycles that have kept my family from flourishing for generations, and I have spent countless hours obsessing about what I can do to create the life that my daughters and I deserve. I want things to get better, and truthfully I have made a lot of progress. Still, I have always fallen short.
I say that not out of self-pity, self-judgement, or pessimism. I say that because it’s the truth, and the truth can’t always be wrapped in a pretty bow. When it comes to my children, I have fallen short. They deserve more. I know that. They love me anyway, and so do I.
There was a point in time when I couldn’t forgive myself for falling short. I became angry at myself for having children “at the wrong time”, and I couldn’t come to terms with the idea that I didn’t fix every problem that came our way. I hated myself for it, but here’s what I have learned: no one person should ever be expected to rise to that challenge. No person should feel that they are single-handedly responsible for cleaning up the mess of entire generations, or picking up the pieces left by people who chose not to show up for the children they created.
Please don’t hold yourself to those impossible standards. If you are truly trying your best, that is all you can do. Be graceful with yourself.
Breaking generational curses is not for the faint of heart. It’s ugly and exhausting. It’s important to remember that the process is not supposed to be easy or pretty or comfortable. It’s even more important to remember that this is not a one person job. It takes effort. It takes teamwork. It takes faith. You will pour blood, sweat and tears into breaking from the ties that bind you. You will need endless amounts of courage to choose to love some friends and family members from a distance while they decide if they are going to heal and move forward or choose to stay stuck in the same patterns. It’s a long, complicated, exhausting and sometimes heartbreaking journey. But it will get better… right?
If we keep fighting, it will. It may not ever be perfect. Our children might have to bear the burdens of our mistakes, and their grandparents’ mistakes, and so on. But if we can lessen the burden and clear the path for them, even slightly, then the work we put in will be worth it.
There are moments when I can see it working. Sometimes I look at my teenage daughter and see my own broken teenage self staring back at me– but I can move forward with confidence knowing that her journey is different from mine. She wasn’t dealt a fair hand, but she has knowledge and support that I didn’t have. She has resources that I didn’t have, and a palpable courage that I couldn’t even fathom at her age. She has a grandmother who is the epitome of unbreakable, an aunt and uncle who left everything they knew to pave a path worth following, and many other family members who are determined to heal, move forward and set an example for the next generation. She also has a mother who will walk through fire to make sure she has a fighting chance.
If you are fighting for yourself and your family, keep fighting. Remember that you are not in this alone. Be patient with yourself. Ask for help. Take breaks when you need them. Forgive yourself. Have faith and remember; it will get better.
Alazia
Instagram @alazia.monique

Me, You, And My Medication

Me, You, And My Medication….

I slammed my bedroom door shut and pounded my firsts into my thighs repeatedly. Till finally my legs went numb and some sort of calm had come over me. I was 7 years old and had no idea this would be the first of many outbursts I would have before finally getting a diagnosis at age 27.

I have never been able to control my emotions; I have always struggled with extreme highs and lows my entire life. My depression was a huge part in both my divorces. I had to be medicated throughout pregnancy and post-partum with all three of my children.  I spent years of my life in therapy chairs looking for answers. It was blamed on my mother abandoning me at an early age, being molested, and divorce trauma. But I knew deep down something more was at play. It wasn’t until I met a doctor at age 27, I finally had answer.

Bipolar.

Such a scary word to hear. I sat numb in the doctor’s office for awhile before finally asking.. Will I have to take medicine forever? The doctor smiled weakly and said its recommended you stay on medication. I spent 6 months working with my doctor to find the perfect dose and perfect medicine to stabilize me and it was exhausting, I never thought I was going to feel a normal for myself and that’s all I wanted was a sense of normal. Bipolar explained a lot of my behavior but it didn’t excuse any of it. I made serious mistakes in my bipolar episodes I couldn’t just write off because I had a diagnosis. I had to learn how to live my life on medication and navigate the world. I ruined a lot of relationships during my bipolar episodes including an engagement to what I believe was the love of my life.

How could I fix that? How do I start over fresh?

I reached out. I reached out to family, I reached out to friends, I even reached out to my ex fiancé in hopes of making amends for what I done unmedicated. I had to learn it was okay to accept my mistakes and those around me forgave me for my behavior. Oddly enough my Dad told me he suspected all along I was bipolar. It was about learning a new life balanced out by an anti-psychotic. I take three medications now once daily for my bipolar, one once daily for anxiety and one I take as needed up to three times a day for my anxiety and they both help along with my monthly sometimes bi-weekly therapy sessions. There may come a day where I can overcome my anxiety but there’s not going to come a day where I don’t deal with my bipolar, and I’m learning to be okay with that.

There are times I miss being off my medication. The days I would feel high, on top of the world and get so much accomplished were amazing. I once redid an entire bathroom on one of my “good days”. But the lows were incredibly painful. I would go days without running a brush through my hair or even showering because I was so depressed. Being on medication has made me successful, I firmly believe I have gotten so far ahead in life being stabilized with medications. I may not experience the highs, but I no longer suffer the extreme lows.

I feel normal and that’s something I never thought I would say. I feel like I can accomplish things. I have learned to manage my emotions and control them better. I’ve been promoted at my job and I’m successful and I never though that would be possible unmedicated. I’ve learned that there’s no harm in being honest when you’re struggling with mental illness there’s a whole community out there of people who are ready and willing to be there for you, including me.

Serendipity

Having Faith In the Younger Generation

Having Faith in the younger generation…This past Saturday, I witnessed the high school graduation of my eldest daughter. I was so excited to see her get her diploma. Then, it was the feeling of: oh no, not another long and boring speechy occasion. You know the type. Superintendents, principals, student body, valedictorian, etc. I wanted to cry. Since my kids’ name is toward the back of the class, we had a long wait to go.

The salutatorian speech was everything that her parents could hope. Strong, fierce, determined. Justified with the fact that she is riding a scholarship from Stanford. Congratulations!

However, it was the valedictorian’s speech that really surprised me. This young lady had picked the very taboo subject of mental illness.

She talked about her struggles of dealing with depression during her high school career. The overwhelming sadness, not being able to sleep. Feeling like you just can’t get it. The drowning of everyday life and how sometimes you just can’t get where you need to be. Emotional pain and literally going thru the motions of life. This young lady stood at the podium and shared her story. I was literally blown away because she had the guts to take this challenge. A true mic drop moment.

We all have lessons to learn in this life. Whatever path we take, it’s ours. My lesson on this sacred day is to have faith in the younger generation. It called to mind that i am really not empathetic to the stars of tomorrow. How many times I curse behind them in the line at the coffee shop while they are adamant about watching the cell phones. Now, I will give a generous pause before I pass judgement again. Maybe the current generation knows more than what we give them credit for. This young lady certainly did. Just maybe, they could be a little bit better as well.

Striving for exceptional—-Tristen Ahlsey

My Personal Struggle With Addiction & Mental Illness

My Father is an addict to drugs and alcohol and suffers from mental illness. Or maybe it’s the other way around. My Father suffers from mental illness and is an addict to drugs and alcohol. A lifetime of ups and downs, highs and lows.  We have an unhealthy relationship from as far back as I can remember. I love my dad-love him more than I can put in to words.  Ironically, on our 30 day writing challenge I am suppose to write about something I struggle with, and dad is in the forefront again. I haven’t physically seen my dad in almost 2 years, and have talked to him on the phone maybe twice. Most days when he calls, which isn’t often, I avoid picking up and more often than not don’t return his calls.  He calls about about every 6 months for some reason and obsesses over it for weeks, and then won’t hear from him again for another 6 months. Whenever he calls he needs something…money, attention, for me to beg my mom to go back to him, an endless list of wants. Doesn’t ask about me, my husband, my kids. He does the same to my brother. Our phone calls usually end in arguments and his excuses. He doesn’t talk to my sister at all-not sure how long it has been since they have spoken but I would venture to say 8 or more years. He cannot remember my son’s name and doesn’t know my youngest daughter at all.  He lies, he steals, he’s been in prison.

He needs help, I know this. And not for lack of trying. My brother, husband and I have begged him to get the help he needs, have brought him numerous places and anyone who suffers through the pain of drug/alcohol abuse and mental illness knows how this plays out. Most days it’s everyone else that has the problems and not him and the rest of the days there is nothing wrong with him. We have brought him to the ER on many occasions. When he isn’t able to get illegal street drugs he will manipulate prescription drugs from many different Dr.’s. I have called these Dr.’s and the pharmacies. I clearly remember one of the last times I saw him-we took him to the ER for the delusions he was having and the Dr. needed me to go back to his house and gather all the drugs I could find. After having done a quick sweep of the house-not aware of his hiding spots-I brought back a gallon size zip-lock bag and then some of prescriptions drugs. Some I recognized, most I did not. What I do know is that he had taken enough of them that he thought he had gone to some land around the river with a back-ho and dug up enough gold to make us all rich. He already purchased a house along side the river and now owned some new cars. Legit-this was his story. NONE of it was true. Honestly-I have never felt so helpless in all my life as I have watched this man become something twisted, and unreasonable. I begged people for help in all directions..church, hospitals, Dr.’s, DHS, police departments, anyone I could think of. Always reached a dead end.

In my mind-most days-I have buried my Dad. For reasons that are all my own and that I will always have to live with-I am exhausted. I am pissed off, frustrated, sad, and desperate. I didn’t get to choose to be raised through this and for my children I choose that they will not. I am sorry for my dad to not to get to know my beautiful children and live our life with us. I am sorry for my children. I don’t have the answers and struggle daily wondering if I am making the right choice. What I do know is that I have tried, good lord, I have tried. I have set stipulations for Dad to be able to be involved in my life again-nothing hard, in my opinion. But I know he is sick-I just ask that he get this addressed by real professionals and not these prescription happy Dr.’s. I will go through this process with him-have told him this. I will offer him a “Dry” house, and take him to his appointments, his dog can stay with us if he needs inpatient care and I PROMISE I will be through every step of this with you.

He called Sunday. Sounded good. Talked to my husband. Said he has changed. Wants to be in our lives, is clean and sober, I inner battled and finally called him Friday morning-invited him to come spend however many days with us that he would like..3,4,21…however many. Get to know these amazing little people that are his too, relax and let me feed you well, just hang out. “He can’t, he has this piano in the house that has to be moved”…says the man who says he’s changed and wants to be in our lives, who hasn’t seen me in 2 years and doesn’t know my children. A Piano. I will never learn……

Love to All-Kim