Mental Health+Addiction, does it have to=Death?

These subjects are not only personal for me, but changed my life forever.  Having an addict in your life is truly one of the toughest things to understand, comprehend, and accept.  My sister was 48 when she took her life in June of 2017.  We don’t even have the exact day of her death as it was weeks before she was even found in her apartment by her landlord.  She laid there with pill bottles surrounding her and the cat she rescued and loved.  Did this really have to happen?  Are there people in this world who just never get better, never win the battle over addiction and mental health?   No this should not happen and yes sadly many people in this world find taking their own life is the only way they see out of their pain and suffering.  I could say maybe my parents should have done more when she was in her childhood, teen years, and even when she went off to college, but at the time, there was literally no talk of mental health.  Those were words that were never spoken.  Looking back, the writing was on the wall, she was a depressed, unhappy soul.  My parents knew she wasn’t happy, but never understood why and I know my mom always thought she should have done more for her.  I used to truly believe she was just a lost soul and there was no hope for her, that she should have known the difference between right and wrong.   There again, because the lack of the words mental health,  that were never spoken of.   It took me many years to be good with all that I did and did not do for my sister.  I realized you can truly never help anyone who does not see that they have a problem, nor want any help that is offered to them.  My sister was a bright, smart, funny girl, when she was happy, she was happy, but, when she was down, it was way down.  I truly never understood, nor could wrap my head around it all….   From the time I can remember, I always wanted to be around her, even if she thought I was the pesky little sister getting in the way.  I adored her, I loved her so very much.  I didn’t understand her unhappiness and if anything pushed it away and saw her for who I believed her to be.  When she went to college, I noticed a change in her, she seemed happy!  She had great friends, was skinnier than she had ever been and she met her future husband.  After she graduated with honors, she got married and moved to Omaha, where her then husband was starting medical school.  These were hard years for me as I was left at home to take care of our mom who was sick.  We started growing more and more apart, she wasn’t seeming happy anymore.  When her husband started his intern process they moved to Eau Claire, which was a breath of fresh air as it was only an hour and a half drive from us.  She got pregnant and had a baby boy, she seemed SO incredibly happy!  She was achieving a life she had always wanted, her dreams were coming true…..   Once her husband finished the intern process and graduated from med school, they moved back to Omaha.  She was staying at home raising her son and soon her daughter that would arrive.  She lived in a beautiful two story house, on a cul de sac, living the american dream, married to a doctor, and having a son and a daughter.  She had her happiness, so I thought.  Everyone knew something was happening with her, so many abnormal things she was doing, saying, it just wasn’t her.   When it finally came out that she had been taking prescribed pain pills, she entered into Hazelden, but sadly this would not be her only visit there.  She went one more time along with another place in Omaha.  My sister was a smart girl and at this time, she knew how to talk to doctors, to make it seem she was good.  She was diagnosed with bi-polar, but to be honest, I don’t know if she took her pills, I do know however she would go from doctor to doctor and get prescribed drugs.  Yes, it was that easy to get someone to write a prescription to a drug addict, like I said she was smart and knew how to beat the system.  I so remember feeling helpless, not knowing how to fix this, wondering why she could NOT stop doing it.  Her husband finally divorced her, she signed away the rights to her kids and from then on her life was a constant roller coaster.  Never once did I really think about mental health, I was just too focused on the drug addiction part.  Never did I think, they were hand in hand, one feeds the other.   I will never forget the day that I finally told my sister I did not want to talk to her again, that I could NOT have her in my life anymore.  It had finally come to the point that I said enough is enough.  For too many years, I endured calls where I could not understand a word she said, too many times, I heard her say I am clean and she wasn’t, it was a constant dramatic life that I could not be apart of anymore.  There was nothing I could do anymore or say to make her better, or for her to want to get better.  I held that to the day she died.  She for many years would call, reach out, wanting me to come back into her life.  The last time I saw her was at our dads funeral, which would have been Jan of 2012, I barely spoke to her, I did not know who she was.  She was still not healthy and there was nothing that I could do to change that.   My loving, kind, forgiving spirit could NOT give her anymore chances.  I healed myself, because I had to, I knew the day I said goodbye to her, was what I had to do, for ME.  It took time to be good with that, it is never an easy decision to say enough to someone, to know that you truly can not change that person, help them, heal them.  To watch someone throw away an amazing life is one of the hardest things to go through, it is like watching a train wreck and not being able to do one thing to stop it. The last two months I have been feeling her, thinking of her so very much, and I have finally forgiven her.  No one should ever die, believing this is the only way out of their life.  Today, I have happy thoughts of her, loving times, and peace knowing she is no longer suffering, being tortured in her life of addiction and mental health.   I write this for many reasons.  One, I had a beautiful sister who made such an impact on my life, good and bad, but at the end of the day, taught me many things that I am truly blessed for, even if I went through hell and back.  She has allowed me to look at people with mental health and addiction very differently.  She made me see that there is no race, gender, level of success or status when it comes to someone with these issues.  I am a better mom and person for her being in my life, all that we went through, has been teaching moments for me and my kids.  I have been lucky enough to be more aware of issues, having my oldest girl in counseling and on meds for depression.  I saw the signs, all because of my sister and knowing that I need to be a proactive person, not one who hopes that something will change.  I know back then there wasn’t much talk or action when it came to mental health, today, yes there is, but what about the drug addiction, the fact that these do go hand in hand.  No, not all people with mental health are addicts, but I would bet there are many that are.  No one should ever lose a person to suicide, because they believed there was no more help, no other way out of their life.   I thank God, that my parents had already passed when she took her life, because I know they would have never been able to get over that.  If you think someone has a problem, don’t look the other way, take action, do whatever it takes, educate your kids, be kind to people, you never know what is going on in someone’s life.

I posted some pics of me with my sister and my family, my three angels who watch over me every single day. :).


5 thoughts on “Mental Health+Addiction, does it have to=Death?

  1. Thank you for sharing. I just had a discussion last night with someone very dear who’s father is struggling with an addiction. He has hurt her very badly with rejection, and overall terrible behavior towards her efforts to help him. It is difficult to help someone see light when they have shrouded themselves in darkness.

    1. Thank you for reading. Having a family member struggle with addiction is a very tough road…. I learned you truly can not help someone who does not see and does not love themselves enough to. Thank you for your comment and sharing.

  2. Rachel, my heart hurt when I read about Sheila’s passing (5 months after I saw you at our 25th HS reunion). I am so very sorry for your loss and for how you lost her over an even longer period of time prior to that. It seems unreal that her life could have taken such a turn. Like you said, she was essentially living a dream life most of us would have attested to. But as you describe, so many people deal with addiction and mental health issues daily. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. That’s the stuff that doesn’t get posted to Facebook. Now is certainly an easier time to be able to have a meaningful and directive discussion about these diseases publically. This certainly seems true anyway as we have recently seen American icons like Robin Williams and Whitney Houston succumb to their demons, and many others. We do not always understand why things happen to us in our lives, but clearly you have grown stronger through your personal experience and sensitive in a way that you can support your own children better. For that, I am truly grateful. Great to see your family pictures and excited about your current path, neighbor! 🙂

    1. My neighbor❤️. Thank you for your kind words!! Means more than you know…. yes, such a difficult path to have gone through but I have always tried to see the positive in all the negatives that have happened in my life. I believe there is a reason for everything that happens in our lives. Good or bad. I just hope it makes people think, take action, be better to each other. There is TO much judgement and not enough positive. I couldn’t save or help my sister, but I know I can and have my kids. Maybe even someone else out there, or at least give someone some comfort. Thank you for reading and saying something. So many fond memories of you!

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