We need to share our stories about addiction, mental illness, grief overdose and suicide. We must talk about our family’s pain as it relates to the illness of addiction and mental illness because it’s a family issue.
The stories shared with me to post here on emotionally naked this past two weeks have been amazing. I had some prior to that that I included on this page.
You think no one cares or wants to listen?
You’d be wrong.
Visitation to the site has quadrupled lately and we will soon reach 200,000 people reached since Feb 2016. People are interested. And the courage of the women and men who have shared their stories so far has reached tens of thousands.
I have more coming. But if you are not quite ready to share yours completely, consider posting a comment here and tell in a paragraph. Just one step to get your feet wet. You don’t have to use your real name or your whole name.
Thank you to those who’ve written their stories so far and I’m honored to have gotten to know you as well as the ones we’ve lost.
I hope one of these inspires you to write that one sentence or paragraph of your story in the comments.
Billy Derr’s Story
Billy was a lively guy. Funny, zany, smart and full of life. His mom tells his story about how he died from overdose at a time when it appeared he was doing so well. Her advocacy in the face of tragedy will inspire you.
Kelly’s story about her son Aubrey
This is a story of hope. Aubrey was not doing well and by all accounts, it seemed he was not going to make it. But he has turned his life around. It can happen.
Dawson Pettit’s Story
Dawson who had a heart of gold had struggled and like Charles turned to heroin to ease symptoms of depression. Laurie tells the story of how she lost him to overdose and how she copes with the loss by stepping outside of her comfort zone and tells her story.
Neico Hayden’s amazing story of surviving a suicide attempt
Few live through an attempt with a firearm. Neico not only lived he told me he was glad he was alive. While he can’t see, he can walk, eat, talk and I saw him cry.
Joshua Giannini leaves video suicide letters of love
Diane, who has just recently lost her son Joshua, shares the remarkable videos he left behind. If you’ve never understood addiction and suicidal ideation, these may help you understand that temporary, irrational state of mind and the despair of that moment in time.
Suffering from suicidal thoughts since age 12
Michael was a special needs child and wrote this post for the site. He also wrote many lovely emails about Charles. A truly thoughtful young man who found a way to manage his thoughts of suicide with multiple strategies including a strong faith in God. He tells of struggles with mental health professionals, struggles I can relate to as we ran into that in our journey.
Two teens will tell their story of depression on Channel 12
I met Haley Brennan and Charles Shelton at Godwin High School. Both are remarkable in how they have leveraged their experience to help others.
It’s messages like these that keep me going
Becca Hagan writes me a message and gives permission to publish it. It is so incredibly brave for someone with lived experience to allow themselves to be so vulnerable.
Godwin High School Teens Speak Out!
These teens have formed a student-led group at their school called “No Eagle Left Behind.” I can tell a marked difference when I walk in that school compared to others in terms of how open they are about talking about taboo subjects. I feel it has changed the atmosphere at this school in a positive way.
Teens wiping out mental health stigma
Alex Chaffee speaks up and takes on mental health at her school to create buzz about the #umatterchallenge.
I’m running out of time, the feeling of despair is unbearable
Luis tells me how he feels at that moment of unbearable and unrelenting emotional pain.
This is my mental health story
A 15-year-old from Germany who found this blog from Google, writes her story.
The insanity and emotional drain of a loved one’s addiction
Connie tells us how she suffers through her son’s severe substance use disorder and the seemingly endless cycle of this disease.
The Emotional ICU known as grief
Tamara tells us how she is coping with the grief of having lost her son Logan who died in a car accident but suffered from an eating disorder.
The invisible kid
Devin’s story of how he has struggled with thoughts of suicide and how having no friends impacted his illness.
A story of hope: I never thought I would be alive to see graduation
Carly Stansfield’s naked confession of her struggle with multiple mental health challenges including the most deadly, an eating disorder.
When suicide comes from out of nowhere. Remembering Maggie Moyler
The story of a young lady who appeared to have everything going for her and the shock of her suicide which impacted the entire community of Williamsburg.
The roadblocks we faced trying to save our son from suicide
Buddy Terrell’s heartbreaking story of losing his son to suicide and the inspiring art he left behind that told his son John’s story of living with bipolar disorder.
15 thoughts on “Speaking out takes courage. Tell your story in the comments”
My heart is just busted open with feeling the pain here… but also the pride in the brave and honest ways so many are sharing. Wow. Just wow. 💙
My story. I’m not even sure how to sum it up in a comment, but if I had to choose a phrase that encapsulates my story and the pain and suffering I’ve experienced, it would be: “collateral beauty.”
I found this blog and Anne, due to my personal experience with suicide loss. Several years ago, I lost my best friend (who was also my roommate) to suicide. It turned my world upside down. There are no words to explain the devastating grief that washes over you after a complex loss like suicide; it’s as unpredictable and relentless as waves crashing over the seashore. I wrestled with the never-ending questions and the monstrous-of-all questions, “why?” I broke time and time again over the feeling that I somehow failed her and didn’t love her enough. I wanted to be angry with her for leaving me that way and giving up. I wanted to be angry with her for leaving me to pick up the pieces of her life. I wanted to even hate her, at times, because I just hurt so.damn.much. But as much as I wanted to hate her for it, I never could…because the reality was that I loved her so much. That’s why it hurt so.damn.deeply. In my every day life, I wanted to talk about her, but felt the unspoken and awkward silence of those who couldn’t bear the darkness. I felt the influence of shaming stigma, though every ounce of me knew that the way she died did not define her, or speak to the wonderful person she was. Without preparation, my world was forcefully exposed to the nature of “complicated grief” in suicide loss. And through my grief and love for her, I started to find a passionate voice inside of me- a voice that desperately longed to make a difference.
I relate to this blog post prompt beyond just my experience with suicide loss, specifically. I have also battled my own personal wars with depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and trauma. There were seasons in my past that, truthfully, I should not have survived. There were seasons where I felt the darkness would surely overtake me. Seasons of deep loneliness, desperation, grief and loss, defeat and hopelessness. Seasons where the light at the end of the tunnel seemed like a cruel joke of a dangling carrot on the end of a stick.
I found help through therapy and treatment, yes. But for me, my healing came through my faith, and is knowing the Lord. He truly changed my darkness into light before my eyes. And it was then that I witnessed just how beauty can truly come from even the most desolate of ashes. Was it easy? Hell, no. It was a journey of strenuous mountaintops and a hell of a lot of valleys. But through the journey, I was able to see that we are stretched the most-and can tap into our passion/purpose the most-in those valleys, where we are the most vulnerable and the soil is most fertile.
It was a hard reality for me to wrestle with, though – that beauty can come from pain and suffering. In regards to my best friend’s suicide, I struggled with accepting that… because it felt like embracing something beautiful would equate to me saying that her death was okay. And it wasn’t okay; it never will be. But I’ve learned that both suffering and beauty can co-exist. I’ve learned I can simultaneously know that her death was not good-that it was devastating, wounded me deeply and changed me forever- while also knowing that there can be collateral beauty from it.
For me, that collateral beauty has been many things- big and small. A big thing was the opportunity I was given to help write a book on surviving loss by suicide, and another book on how to help the newly bereaved. I also launched a community in my city (a branch of a larger, international community), that creates a safe space and point of connection for young adults who’ve faced significant loss in their lives.
Through my own struggles with trauma and depression and anxiety, I’ve felt compelled to seek out ways to help others who are suffering. And I’ve found even more healing, myself, through that. Because I’ve learned how much our stories matter; our stories have the power to help others.
I’ve volunteered with a ministry that helps survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. I’ve mentored middle schoolers and made it my mission to love on the ones I could see were hurting and struggling. I advocate/write about things I’m passionate about making a difference in (grief, suicide, mental illness, addiction, trauma, relational support, faith), hoping to do my part in starting conversations that matter. I recently started volunteering with an organization that combats sex trafficking in my city and helps rescue victims from trafficking.
Sharing all of this is in no way an attempt to toot my own horn, because most of the time I truthfully feel so inadequate and ill-equipped to do whatever it is that I’m doing. I share all this, because I want people to know: no matter what we have gone through and experienced, there IS hope for healing and purpose, through our pain. And healing does not equate to moving on or forgetting. I look at healing as certain ways that we are able to continue living, while using the pain we’ve experienced and honoring the memories of those we’ve loved and lost.
God has shown up in my deepest depths of darkness, and shown me that there is always hope for me, no matter how broken I feel. And the greatest gift I’ve been given-the collateral beauty-is seeing that my story matters, and can help encourage others who feel they are too broken to ever truly live or see beauty, again.
Damn that’s good. What a story of inspiration. So much of what your said here reminds me of myself. The part about giving back. I, too, have to do this to survive. To feel whole. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve struggled with depression since high school. I gave my life to Christ when I was 16. After that, I had about two years of not struggling so much. I’m now 23. I developed an anxiety disorder, some depression came back, but it’s not the same darkness as it was before. I had suicidal thoughts in high school, but now, it’s made a come back, and it’s worse. I’ve been dealing with that for about two years. I’m currently being treated with medication and therapy. Mental illness is a challenging road, but I’m still here fighting.
Melissa. Thank you for that insight. And for fighting and bringing us hope. You are a beacon of hope and perseverance. I want you to know that I have found those that suffer as you have to be such empathetic and loyal people. Typically talented and gifted. I am honored you shared your story here
I have been asked several times to share my story and to be honest, I always hesitate. To me, my story is getting pregnant at 19, going through a divorce in my mid 20s, remarried at 28, surprise twins at 30, spontaneously opening a boutique in my late 30s and the list goes on. It has chapters dealing with decisions, growth and sleepless nights. It is filled with both sadness and joy. And, although it mentions suicide, that is a chapter I tend to skim. It is the only chapter that I protected and one that I never felt comfortable telling 100%. But today, 19 years later, I am sharing my side of suicide. The pain, the tears, and the wondering whys.
I remember April 19, 1998, like it was yesterday. From the black cat darting in front of my mother-in-law’s car on the way to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Kelly and Paul to the thoughts that raced through my mind as I walked home from the Huddleston’s that evening. It was a day filled with uneasiness, heartache and uncontrollable tears. And, to this day, I can still say that dreary, rainy Sunday is the worst day of my life. That Sunday, my life changed forever. My brother, Brett Marshall Hunter, died by suicide.
Suicide was a word you did not hear often and one that I never thought I would associate with my family. But, I was wrong. That Sunday, I heard that taboo word come out of my aunt’s mouth as she looked at me with tears in her eyes. What had she said? My brother committed suicide?!? There is no way. This had to be a joke, a misunderstanding or maybe a bad dream. He just got home from his senior spring break. He was the family favorite. The life of the party. Is she sure? Where is my mom? My dad? How? Why? OMG, this can’t be happening. But, the nightmare had just begun.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of events I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I stood there in shock and silence as my mom walked into my aunt’s and was told the horrific news. I witnessed the heartbreak as she fell to the floor and I immediately knew she would never be the same. None of us would. How would we survive this?
I survived that day and the week ahead, by trying not to leave my mom’s side. I went to the hospital with her because she needed to see his body and to say goodbye. I went to my dad’s with her and tried hard not to stare at the place where the carpet had been removed. Thoughts racing through my head as I patiently sat there wanting to leave. I went to the Huddleston’s house with her to see all of Brett’s friends and I remember thinking he would walk in any minute and then getting angry when he didn’t. And, I went to the cemetery with her to pick out his plot. This is what I did to survive. And, I know I did it more for me than for my mom. For I, did not want to be alone.
As only my mom could do, the visitation, program and funeral were perfect given the circumstances. From the casket that people were able sign. To it being open so that people could drop in gifts and say their goodbyes. To my ex-husband singing “Friends are Friends Forever”. To balloons being released at the gravesite. She made sure these two days were for everyone but her. Two days that hundreds attended and will never forget.
The days, weeks, and months following death are always the hardest. Especially with suicide. For months I went to the cemetery every single day. I was lost, I was in pain and I was alone. My friends didn’t know what to say, so they stayed away. And, my family was also mourning so how could I burden them with my feelings? It sucked. Death should bring people closer, but in this case, it was tearing us apart. We all lost someone we loved. We all felt guilty. We all had unanswered questions. We all were struggling. And, we all were dealing with it differently.
Nineteen years later and I still feel empty. Time does not heal all wounds. I may not visit the cemetery as often, but all the questions are still there and the pain and heartache has not gone away. Suicide has changed me. I parent a little different, I am a little more reserved, and I care a lot more. It’s a chapter that has lead to so many other chapters of my story. It is also a chapter that haunts me, a chapter that helped define me, a chapter that has left me vulnerable and a chapter that people judge. It is not a pretty a chapter. But, it is one that needs to be written. One that I hope people read. And one that I hope will help someone. For suicide kills the entire family…..no one survives without damage.
Leah, this is so soulful and so emotionally naked. I read every word. “I witnessed the heartbreak as she fell to the floor and I immediately knew she would never be the same.” I felt that sentence in my bones. When the police answered the question, “how did he die? I watched my husband just fall apart. To witness another in their most agonizing moment of their life is so heartbreaking. I am so very honored you shared your story here. A loss by suicide is truly unlike any other.
It has now been over 1 1/2 years since my son died from suicide. What a shock! We saw him just days before and he seemed “on top of the world” with great plans for his future. Together with family, we awaited his arrival home yet he did not come. Then the call no one should have to take…” Your son is deceased. He has passed.” I sunk to my knees paralyzed. NO! NO! NO! This cannot be!
I moved in a fog…not wanting to believe he was truly gone…”that would be way too awful…”. Seeing him at the funeral parlor, he looked the same, yet asleep. Strange to stroke his face, touch him. He did not like to be touched. I must just awaken him. Yet he remains still.
As I visit his grave and feel his precious birth date etched on the hard granite stone, then my fingers touch the date of his death, my mind says, “He is not coming back”…yet my heart does not want to accept it. Twenty-three years is way too young. He was ready to start his next phase. He was ready to launch and soar to his future. His love for astronomy just grew and grew. I even learned some of the basic constellations. He had great plans even after accomplishing many of his personal goals.
People say I should be “over it”. How can I get them to realize I am JUST STARTING to grieve? Stark reality is translating the messages of my mind and seeking to convince my unbelieving heart that he is not coming back. How does one speak to a heart forever torn in two with the loss of a best friend, my son?
Why could it not have been me? My life is okay, yet I struggle daily. Depression has taken its toll on me. He had so much more to offer. I plead, “God, please let me exchange my life for his! It is not supposed to end like this!” We had dreams, plans, hopes for him. As I hear and watch other parents see their children graduate high school, college, it is bittersweet. I will not get to see him reap the harvest of his studies and labors. All is cut too short. I learned much about him after he passed. He sought his independence and kept me distant as he was becoming his own self. I am so proud. Wished and hope he knew how much he was loved. I am comforted that he knew he was loved by me, by dad and by his teachers.
As I view the night sky, I cannot help but think of him and my heart achingly whispers, “Shine on my Bright Star!”
I totally understand. I was in shock and disbelief, in the bowels of hell for 18 months. Then I started to flounder and try to move forward. People think you’re done and ready to go on. Sometimes you’re just getting started….
I can so relate to the fact that hopes and dreams just evaporated in an instant. Thank you for sharing your story Sandra
I knew since he was little that he could be depressed at times. If he liked something, he’d immerse himself in it and couldn’t stop. If he wasn’t interested, he’d drop out and nothing you could do would convince him to try. Stubborn, smart, intense, anxious and difficult are all adjectives that would describe him. When he was in his teens, drugs and food helped him self-medicate. They still do. School was never his thing. He is still with us and for that, I am grateful. One of the things that has hurt the most over the years are the negative comments I’ve heard about him (from people who should have cared the most). One psychologist even told me I was the one with the problem. I should have asked him why then, has my other child turned out just fine? We will soldier on because love and hope keep us going.
Oh Carol. If we had a nickel every time someone in the mental health system humiliated us and took us down another notch, we’d be rich. We will soldier on. And in the mean time, we develop a pretty tough exoskeleton. I saved these comments until I could fully pay attention because your stories are so important to me I wanted no distractions.
I did not mean “threaten” when I was writing this early today. I meant to use the word “convince” (or bribe — LOL — we did quite a bit of that). One could never (to this day) make him do ANYTHING he did not want to do. He is truly a rebel. It does seem to run on both sides of the family, as (sadly) does the addiction gene. One one hand, I want him to regret the choices he has made. On the other hand, I seriously doubt he would EVER admit he needed help. I have been disappointed in him, yet if I gave up on him, who would take up the slack? Doesn’t every child deserve his parents’ defense and unwavering love? I want him to be healthy, happy and safe and to hell with being “judged” for our parenting skills.
Carol – I can edit that word for you.
Maybe you should, thanks.