Mental Illness is not talked about enough. I lost my husband to mental illness. Truth is, I was losing him before he took his life. Mental illness robbed my husband of who he was. It robbed our marriage, it robbed our children and it robbed our family and friends.
There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness. I thought it was getting better, and it has, but not anywhere near where it needs to be. Just yesterday, my friend told me that part of the reason she didn’t start taking the medication her doctor prescribed her for her escalating anxiety was due to the stigma. It shouldn’t be this way. I applaud her for her brave and necessary step.
Our brain is like any other organ and it too can get sick. If you had an issue with your heart you would go to the doctor and do what you have to do. When someone has cancer, we encourage them to fight. No one would question it! There is no awful stigma attached to it. The fact is that our brain is treated like it is separate from our body. Like a person is just crazy if something is wrong with their brain. We need to change this way of thinking.
When I lost my husband I questioned myself. What did I miss? Could I have said something differently? What could I have done differently? I had some family members tell me it was my fault, so naturally I wondered could it have been? It took hard work, lots of therapy and life coaching to change my thinking. I did the best I could with the information I had and the situation at that time. Occasionally a question will still creep into my mind and I have to be mindful and change the thought train.
Truth is after he died I saw a glimpse of what darkness is. (Small spoiler alert) When I took my kids to see Frozen 2 Anna sings a song. She sings about grief! The song is called, “The Next Right Thing”. It begins like this:
“I’ve seen dark before, but not like this.
This is cold, this is empty, this is numb
The life I knew is over, the lights are out
Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb.”
The tears started streaming down my face. Now don’t get me wrong, I have cried my fair share during a Disney movie…….or 2 or 3. However this time it was like a stab to my heart and Disney had peeked into my soul! All the words touched me to my core! I would have ugly cried had I not been in a crowded theater surrounded by mostly strangers! Whoever wrote that song has truly suffered a loss in their life. The darkness Anna sings about in that song, I know it. I have been there before. That first year after my husband died was such a blur. I don’t even remember a lot of what happened. Although, I do remember feeling my absolute lowest, overwhelmed, foggy, and lost. At one point I had a thought, just for a very brief moment, but it scared me. I thought I could just slip away and end the suffering. Thank God it was a brief and fleeting thought.
I was able to also find some comfort when one of our very dear friends offered her experience. She had attempted suicide in previous years before we met. Thankfully she was unsuccessful. Bless her heart for letting me literally pick her brain with my many questions because it was the closest I could come to being able to maybe see why he chose this. Why did you think that was the answer? Did you think about your husband and kids and what that would do to them? She answered all my questions and said, “Celi, I promise, you could have done nothing to stop him”.
I also remember having to make the decision to consciously want to put one foot in front of the other. I realized God wants me here and He wasn’t done with me yet. Therefore I decided to get a tattoo with a semicolon in a heart to represent my husband and remind me that my story isn’t over yet, even though his is. One foot in front of the other, the next right thing.