Today marks 4 years since Sean made the choice to take his life. I can personally tell you that death by suicide adds another dimension to the mourning process. The questions it raises and the overwhelming feelings of unnecessary loss and abandonment is planted deep with those still alive.
I don’t want to take away from what happened but every year I mourn this date and emotionally it hurts. However, I was given a gift that day and that is what I want to share right now.
We have all heard the stories and seen the movies how people have had near death experiences and all of a sudden they appreciate life differently and it encourages them to change directions. The Bucket List is a movie that comes to mind for me. Some of you might not know but Sean was really sick mentally. All he wanted was to get help. In his words:
“I feel like Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. It’s like there is another person in me and I can’t control him… and when he goes away I’m left with the damage that’s been done. I feel like that sounds like a huge excuse, that I’m not taking any responsibility for my actions… but the fact is, I can’t control it… and it is time I learned to. I’m hoping the meds will mellow me out a bit, and I can then assess the situation through other means. “
He had 5 days till his appointment with the VA to get help. An appointment he had been waiting on for WEEKS!! He asked for help and they made him wait what I am sure seemed like forever to him. The respect our veterans get is a whole different issue. It really breaks my heart to know he was so close. I am not naive to think it would have saved him, but is showed his will to live. He wanted so much more.
My fear with Sean is that I knew when this “other person” took over, my own safety was at risk. I the longer it was taking for him to get help, the more my life was also at risk. One of the last things Sean told me minutes before his suicide was “I thought about coming after you first, but I didn’t. Now you can live your life and be that happy person you are but not you get to live with this for the rest of your life.” I lived in fear that if he decided to go, he would take me with him. That fear was reaffirmed for me in that moment.
I say all of that because through my efforts to rebuild my life and to figure out my coping strategy to overcome his death, I had to reevaluate everything my life was and had been. My goals shifted from a extrinsically motivated towards an intrinsic life of personal growth and rewarding interpersonal relationships with those around me. I left my world that I knew to explore a world of unknown. All I knew was that there had to be more, and there was. The love and the life that I have now, I could have never imagined and I am so incredibly thankful for all of the moments I have. Even my struggles.
During the first few months after Sean’s death, I let myself grieve a lot. If I wanted to sit at home in my misery, I was ok with it. However, I relied on my friends to monitor me and if I did it too many days in a row, they came and got me dressed and pulled me back by reminding me what life was about. I blogged about life and I reached out to my friends and even tried to reach out to his friends and family. I embraced the memories and moments of my time with Sean. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t just feel pain but that I responded to it and that I gave my pain a voice. The same voice that is writing this now.
In remembering who Sean was and how much he wanted things to be different, I find that I push myself to limits I never thought possible. I challenge myself constantly (hence my attempts at running a marathon). Something happened to Sean that I will never fully comprehend but I will carry it for the rest of mine, he was right about that.
Through the journey of these four years, I decided to take the perspective of feeling the pain and to understand that life challenges do not have to break us. When the waves roll in and strike us from every direction, one can find the will to stand there strong and rise up again. My gift that day was a new view on how to embrace life and celebrate it by living it to the fullest. With this experience I learned the true meaning of “life is short so live in the moment and give it all you got”. Today it is my choice, and I choose to celebrate life.
I write this because I want to share my journey and an opportunity to reflect. Please take the time and watch the video below. It is a song about a couple’s struggle with mental illness. I can tell you that it is a very real look into my personal experience with mental illness that resulted in a tragedy. We need to change the culture of mental health and how it is viewed and that is what this video aims to do.
Sending my love to those in my life. XOXO