Det här är en berättelse av en fantastisk kvinna och vän som har upplevt psykisk ohälsa från olika perspektiv. Den handlar om smärtan och skulden efter ett självmord och om styrkan som kommit av den egna kampen.
Thank you Jackie for letting me share your story.
The hopeless feeling
I have more experience with mental health struggles than I ever share about publicly. The hopeless feeling of watching those you love be in deep dark places can be excruciating. It wasn’t until I started to experience panic attacks a few years ago that I actually awakened to the severity of mental health issues. I had absolutely no reason or circumstance that I could point to that would explain what was happening to my body. I had always been able to “handle anything”. Past traumas had snuck up on me at 45 years old and I was totally blindsided at how ill equipped I was to deal with it.
Ultimately very few of us are equipped to deal with our own trauma let alone someone else’s. Oprah shared it so well when she said “I had no idea what I was dealing with” when it came to a young girl she was trying to help.
“just get up, get dressed and DO SOMETHING”
When Ken, my first husband and Oliver’s father, was depressed I would say “just get up, get dressed and DO SOMETHING”. I still cringe when I think of how my “tough love” must have felt to him. I had no idea what he was experiencing and how to help him. I was so frustrated and thought he was “feeling sorry for himself”. From the outside no one could see his suffering. From the outside everything was fine. But in his mind was a literal hell…for far too long. Even doctors and medicines provided no relief but somehow I thought, as his wife, I should be able to make it all ok, being a father should make it all ok. I could not relate to any of his worries, logic, fears, anxiety, insomnia etc. Its the time in my life where I experience the MOST guilt and shame over who I was and that he died by suicide thinking he was unloved and that we would be better off without him.
He never shared with me what his trauma was about, but then again I wasn’t exactly a “safe space” for that kind of sharing at the time. I have so many dreams/nightmares 10 years later where I am sobbing and begging him for forgiveness. Sometimes in those dreams he is calm and quiet, sometimes he is loving and forgiving, he’s never judge-mental or angry, he’s never anything but compassionate.
I like myself much better this way.
Nightmares are one of the worst parts of my own PTSD. They are frequent and repetitive and wake me up many nights unable to shake the overwhelming emotions of grief. I don’t know that if I were more compassionate, understanding, patient, loving and supportive, he’d still be here, but I do believe that maybe I could be free from the guilt, shame and regret I am left with.
Now I am raising a son with similar signs of mental health issues. I am patient, loving, compassionate, understanding and supportive. I like myself much better this way. I now take a small dose of anti anxiety medication daily however my daily practice of meditation and mindfulness are the most beneficial to my mental health along with rigorous exercise.
I was terrified to leave the house
I do believe we can be totally healed from trauma and live life completely free from anxiety. I also believe it’s an individual journey that is each persons own path to navigate in whatever way works for them. I used to believe medication was “the sissy way out for weak people”. I now know that is the complete opposite for many. I suffered unnecessarily for way too long because of that opinion. I have also leaned, that for me, it’s a bridge to help me heal and one that I won’t need to be on forever.
A few years ago, I wasn’t so sure, after panic attacks became frequent and debilitating, sometimes lasting days. I lost 30 pounds in 6 months because I could not eat. My body would shake and sweat uncontrollably. Vomiting and Diarrhea were frequent as well as insomnia. I was terrified to leave the house many times and found myself on my knees daily begging God to heal me.
I am lucky enough to have a husband who is patient, loving, compassionate, understanding and kind. This has made all the difference. When I couldn’t go on an appointment, he would go. When I couldn’t take a call, he would answer. When I couldn’t travel, he went without me. When I couldn’t be there for Oliver, he was.
When I felt like a complete waste, he reminded me who I really was. This has made ALL THE DIFFERENCE FOR ME.
I’m sharing all of this as a way to make a difference for others. It’s very awkward to reveal this personal and likely “unflattering” aspect of my life. I have never wanted pity for anything that’s happened and in general we, (Oliver and I), have recovered amazingly well. I am very high functioning now when it comes to anxiety and BELIEVE I will live an anxiety free life with time.
Just be with us from love
What I also BELIEVE is that LOVE, COMPASSION, PATIENCE, UNDERSTANDING and KINDNESS is what those suffering from mental health issues crave. It’s free, and it feels so much better all the way around. I know it sounds simple and it is.
Sometimes we just need a little bit of “space” to not be ok. Don’t fix, advise, agree, shame, guilt, force or pressure people who are depressed, addicted, anxious etc. Just be with us from love, compassion, patience, kindness and understanding. Let them know “this feeling will pass” and no one will judge you for it.
/ Jackie Little