This is not just my story but my Mother’s, Father’s and my two sister’s.
I have one older sister and one younger. Growing up with an older sister was fun for me. I received hand-me down clothing, makeup and everything else. I remember wanting to be just like her. Older, smarter and get more privileges. But.. Jealousy was a huge thing that surrounded our friendship. It ate at her every second of her day, and still does to this day. She would say to me “You’re the prettier one, smarter one, and Mom and Dad love you the most.” I hated when she said those words. I couldn’t understand why she felt that way. During that time, she had an abortion which sent her spiraling into a dark world of depression. She wrote a suicide note and hid it from us in her dresser. My parents found it and shamed her, she was called “stupid, pathetic and hopeless.”
My younger sister was funny, upbeat and full of life. That was until she turned 14. She died her pretty blonde hair black and began dressing in all black, withdrew from her friends and family. Her grades began taking a hit. My parents said “it’s just a phase” and that she will “snap out of it”. She came home from school one day and told us she had a girlfriend now. My parents disagreed with her decisions and threatened her. A year later, my baby sister came out to my parents letting her know she had been raped. Prior to her girlfriend, my sister would find men on dating websites and sneak out late at night and meet these men. At one point, one of the guys had forcefully taken advantage of her. She didn’t tell anyone until a year after it had happened. My parents didn’t believe her and chalked it up to be that she just wanted attention. My sister began to further withdrawal from the family and would cut her wrists and burn her arms. She too contemplated suicide, she came up with a plan but could never follow through. To this day she battles major depression.
My Father was always hard working. His family was priority and always provided. He put his needs last, and that’s how he preferred it. He was a mechanic for 30 years and won numerous awards for his talent and skills. That was until he developed carpel tunnel syndrome in both hands. The doctor told him he would not be able to work on cars ever again, even after the surgery. He was out of work for 3 years following surgery and spiraled into an irrational, dark place within himself. One day my Mother was working and my sisters and I were at school. My Father put a gun into his mouth and wanted to end his life. Fortunately for us he never pulled the trigger. Several years later he did suffer from a stroke. The effects are still very real today. Irrational and illogical thinking, risky behavior and selfish acts is how I see my dad now.
During the time of my dad’s stroke my Mother was unable to handle all of the stress and decided to take a whole bottle of prescription pain pills. I had to take her to the hospital where she was Baker Acted. I had to feed, bathe and clothe my dad. I made sure his meds were taken and he attended every Dr. appointment. My Mother was put on suicide watch for 3 days. I didn’t know what a Baker Act was until I arrived at the hospital. They don’t teach you this in school, and you are never prepared for this kind of stuff. I was afraid they would take her and lock her away forever. It seemed to have helped, she spoke to a doctor and they watched her those 3 days. I think what she really needed was to get away from reality. I am sure we all feel like that at some point in our life.
Only being 19 years old, I wish there were more resources or people I could have talked to about what I was going through with my family. I was afraid I would be shamed for having a dysfunctional family and no one would want to be associated with me. I barely knew exactly what it was I was experiencing with all of this. Mental illness was the last thing that came to mind, looking back it all makes sense now. If I knew about NAMI back then, or what a CIT office was, or even that there were facilities I could go to for help, would have made my life 100x better. I felt all alone, didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to. Working for NAMI I now have a huge appreciation for everything that CIT officers, educators and facilitators do for the community.