Kelli reached out and asked to write an entry on her website back in February. I had heard about her sister passing away and reached out to offer support and let her know she wasn’t alone. I automatically said yes when she asked me to write my story, however I didn’t realize it would take me over 6 months to put words to it. I thought a lot about it, I played it over and over in my head. But I couldn’t write it, I put it off, I procrastinated more than I ever had before. I tend to be a private person, I don’t post a lot on social media, I don’t share very many pictures of my kids and I definitely don’t share my family struggles. So here it goes…
I am writing this on Oct 3rd, almost 6 years ago to the day, my sister passed away. What did she pass away from?? Well, it depends who you ask. I don’t like to say she committed suicide, there is so much more to it. She died from an illness she had for at least 20 years, but really her whole life. My sister fought for her life for 20 years and finally could no longer do so and took her own life. The point of this story isn’t to get into the details of how she died and how it happened, but for people to understand why and what an amazing person my sister was despite her illness.
My sister was 35 when she died, I have now surpassed how long she was alive. There have been many people who have committed suicide both through friends and publicly where they didn’t have any warning signs, it was a total shock. For me and my family I wouldn’t say it was a shock. Although we knew it was a possibility, it still hurt and I was unprepared. My sister struggled with mental illness since high school. That was at least when it first presented itself and our family was first aware. I remember her telling me she was on antidepressants and not to take them. From then on it spiraled into many things beyond just depression. There was self-harm, eating disorders and various mental illness diagnosis. My sister spent her 20s and 30s in and out of hospitals, treatment centers and saw a multitude of therapists. I am not sure by the end if they ever truly knew why she was so sick.
She also spend her 20s and 30s going to college, getting her bachelors and a master’s degree in computer science. She loved the outdoors and hiking, she loved to travel and spent time all over the world. She was a kind and generous friend who loved to bake cakes for people. She had a cat and a dog that she loved dearly. Although she suffered personally, you wouldn’t always have known. I was amazed at her funeral to hear all the stories from her friends and all their experiences and how much they loved Nicole. Sometimes family tends to see the worst in people and I am jealous I didn’t get to experience some of those good times. There were good times, but there were also a lot of bad times.
What I do know is that my sister was a fighter, she fought that disease harder than most people fight anything. She went to counseling, hospitals, treatment centers, she probably knew more about the diseases then most doctors know, she lived it. She wanted to get better, she tried for so long. She even went through electric shock treatment. Can you imagine shocking your own brain so that you can get better, knowing the side effects?
As I said in the beginning, it wasn’t a total shock. My sister had tried to commit suicide numerous times, sometimes someone would call an ambulance, and sometimes she would call an ambulance. She didn’t want to die, but she didn’t know any other way to live. She had fought so long and couldn’t see a way out.
I miss my sister every day. This time of year is especially hard, her birthday is the end of Sept, and she died beginning of Oct. She never met my kids, she died 1 month after my daughter was born. She didn’t get to be the awesome aunt I know she would have been. Life goes on and the pain gets better, but she will always be a part of me. It is the awkward conversations when people ask if I have siblings or if I am the oldest. Sometimes I explain, a lot of times I don’t. Not because I don’t miss my sister, but because people don’t want to hear sad stories, it is uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say. I get it, it is sad, sad for my family, sad for everyone that knew my sister.
She was depressed, but that doesn’t mean she sat curled up in a dark room sad all the time. She lived life, she traveled, and she had lots of friends. She had boyfriends, she had passions in life. She was so smart and had a witty sense of humor. I admired my sister in a lot of ways, she was strong and knew who she was.
If you can take one thing from this and one thing from Kelli’s work, please don’t pass off mental illness, treat it as you would if someone told you they have cancer or some other disease. It is so hard to understand, but try. Sometimes just being there for someone is all they need.