2020 was a difficult year for me, and I’m not talking about the pandemic. With everything going my way, I had only one item on my bucket list…to save a life. The way things turned out, the very same life that I saved in 2019 was the same life that I lost in 2020. Be careful what you wish for….
My sister had been struggling with depression for years, but it started to become noticeably worse when she also began experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder with schizophrenia after the age of 50. After one particular psychotic episode, she began to seek help through psychotherapy and medication. Due to her own crippling anxiety and depression, she was unable to hold a steady job, and my husband and I were able to offer her employment with our family business.
She was living with our mother at the time, but was very unhappy and stayed locked in her bedroom most of the time. We made an attempt to help her establish her own residence by offering her a place to stay, rent-free, at a property that we owned while she took some time to get back on her feet.
Things began going so well that she stopped seeking therapy and discontinued her medication, opting to seek an alternative therapy, and began taking CBD that she purchased online. In October 2019, after a failed relationship, she made an attempt to take her own life. But, because I was aware of her renewed depression, I went to her home to check on her and found her in time to save her life with an emergency call to 911.
She spent a week in the hospital and then another week at a mental health hospital, but was discharged suddenly, and I was called to pick her up. Even though she said that she was taking medication again and seeing a therapist, I continued to check on her daily for weeks, hoping and waiting for her to show signs of recovery. But, when I tried to encourage her by saying “things will get better,” all she could reply back to me was “no, it’s not going to get better.” Then, shortly after Christmas, in January of 2020, my sister made a decision to take her own life again, and this time she succeeded.
Even though it is heartbreaking, I have been inspired by the discovery of the poetry, paintings, and journals that she left behind. I was blindsided by my sister’s passing, as well as the pandemic, but I have found time to develop my own new hobby of writing. It has helped me to heal as I continue to discover a talent that I shared with my sister.
I started participating many years ago in the Walk for Hope as a fun activity that raised money for a great cause. But, as mental illness touched a member of my own family, I now have a greater purpose to walk. There is still life after loss, and I will continue my walk for all the family members who hope to find better treatment of mental illness for their loved ones.