July 13th marks 15 years from the day we found out you had left this world. In 2005, Mom, Danielle, and I were on an airplane coming back from Paris, France. We had a hell of a flight that day and I remember being exhausted and just ready to be home. When our plane finally landed that night, it was 10 or 11pm and we were beyond tired, and the 6 month old was beyond exhausted from little to no sleep on the airplane over the past 2 days. Once we got our bags, we went outside to find my Grandma and aunts in my grandma’s suburban, and mom and I instantly thought something had happened to my Pop. My grandma pulled my mom to the third seat and told her what had happened and I couldn't really hear them, but I could hear the complete devastation in my mom’s voice and crying. Shortly afterwards they told me my uncle had passed away the day before, but I was still in the dark of how.
I remember somehow finding out he had shot himself, maybe from eavesdropping to their conversation, but I am not really sure. At 11 years old, that didn’t really register. What does that even mean really? Why would he leave us voluntarily? How do these things even happen? I remember my heart was so heavy all I wanted to do is kiss my Pop. It was past midnight when we finally got home and I crawled in the bed with my Pop and kissed him and told him I loved him, I just felt like we both needed it. I know I certainly did.
After that we went home, my mom was devastated and I was confused. I got on the end of my mom’s bed and curled up and cried myself to sleep. I remember it so vividly as I had never cried myself to sleep before and I remember just being so upset and then waking up the next morning having not moved.
The next few days are a blur, I don’t remember much. I remember seeing my daddy and crying all over again. I remember my grandma being a dazed and confused blur. I remember just everything being so weird, and death is sad, but this, this was different, this was a different kind of sad and hurt and it was surrounded by confusion and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
My Uncle’s funeral was the saddest and most heart wrenching thing I have ever been to. I remember it so well, the songs, my Aunt Debby’s poem, the words spoken, the pictures, the flowers, the dumping of his ashes, it is all such a vivid memory to me.
Fifteen years later, what a new and different understanding I have of his death and how my family felt and reacted during the days after his death. I feel like I know all too well why he decided to end his life, and I also have the understanding that it has absolutely nothing to do with us, how much he loved us, or anything we could have done. His death was another statistic, his death was another win for the Brain Demon. My Uncle’s death was due to a mental health disorder that stole his joy and took his life. Sometimes no matter how much fight you have in you and things you have to live for, the Brain Demon is bigger than all your tactics for survival. There were many other pieces of the puzzle put into his death, but what it boils down to is a failing health care system that is unable to take care of those who have mental health disorders in time to save them or listen to how they are being affected by their medications.
One of the myths I feel like I have busted, at least in my own mind, is that suicide is the “unforgiveable sin”. The only person that can say that is one that has never suffered from a mental health disorder. When you don’t know why you feel so bad every second you are alive and you are struggling for rest and peace, you understand how one could take their life. I also busted a myth that suicide is selfish, yes, I understand that others will have differing opinions, and we all do and that is perfectly okay, that’s what makes us all awesome, but those who commit suicide are not thinking of those around them and how it will or won’t affect them. They are thinking about getting rest, peace, a break from the constant hurting internal or external, they are looking to just find some kind of resolution to their constant heartache and struggle. Suicide is not a means to end a life that is worth living, that is not how we see it, suicide is a means to take the burden off of our families we feel like we are creating by having this disease of the mind. Suicide is a means to getting some actual sleep, a rest from the constant barrage of thoughts and urges to die. Suicide is a means to stop being the piece of shit the Brain Demon has made you out to be. Suicide has nothing to do with any outside factors, it is an epic battle between your soul and your brain and honestly, sometimes the fight is too hard to bear.
I don’t know the pain my Uncle was going through. I don’t know what his Brain Demon told him or how long he had been searching for peace, but what I do know, is he was and is LOVED! His decision to end his life changes absolutely nothing or in no way how I feel about him! I miss him dearly, I wish he was still here to see his grandchildren, but do I blame him for ending his life, absolutely not. I love and respect him and scarily understand his decision. I pray that the fight he ended, I can continue to battle. I hope that through him losing his life to this disease, I can spread awareness for us about our disease and share it with the world to help bring awareness and understanding. I hope that through his untimely death, I can show others exactly what it feels like to be a family that rallies against this disease and fights to help prevent more deaths.
I will always remember his laugh and his smile, how we always played “Monster Under the Bridge”, nights drinking sugar filled Koolaide while hanging out at his house, our last family vacation together in Florida with his wild Hawiian shirts that were absolutely perfect for him. I cling to these memories of laughter and love, especially on the days I miss him. Yesterday being 15 years since his death, I spent time on my bicycle just remembering him and pedaling out of love and a little sadness. I will continue to speak for you, I will continue to fight for our disease, and I will give my all to break the stigma of mental health disorders and find a cure or at least a way of helping those like us to fight harder.
We love you, we miss you, and we fight for you!