Aftershock! My Daughter’s Journey through Mental Illness to Suicide

Christy

PART I

“I love you Mommy!”. ūüôā Those were the most beautiful words I’d ever heard and something my daughter, Christy, always said before we parted company. Even as she grew into adulthood she would still call me “Mommy”, as a term of endearment. Whether we were together or talking by phone, she was always sure to end a conversation with “I love you!”. You see, she knew how important it was to tell the ones you love, just that. And to say it often! We always said, “I love you.” when we ended a conversation or a visit.

So it made no sense to me when we got the call on Monday evening, July 1, 2013, around 7:30 pm that she had been found in a hotel room and had apparently died by suicide. She was only 31!!! How could this happen???? My precious, beautiful baby! My best friend, my advocate, my only daughter. Gone, without an “I love you???”. How could this be true? She was just here a few days ago…

My beautiful, precious Christy was especially gifted as a vocalist. Her style was classical opera. She sang the most heavenly, “Ave Maria” at her grandmother’s funeral. She also competed in many UIL competitions over the years, sang solo at weddings and in church choirs. Christy was smart and excelled all through her high school years. She was creative and witty with a flair for the dramatics! In high school she studied “Theater and Music” and loved to sing and dance. She was what you would call, ” A Triple Threat”, in the world of theatre. ūüôā She was very friendly and loving, with a wicked sense of humor. She held a special place in her heart for “special needs children” and devoted her summers volunteering. She always rooted for the “underdog”.

She had experienced some tough times as well. When Christy was 8, my husband and I separated for 2 years due to alcoholism, which ran in both of our families. I joined Al-Anon and learned about this family disease and what role I played in it. My husband eventually saw his part and joined AA. We were able to get the help we needed and happily reunited. We were very fortunate that we truly loved each other and were willing to reach out and accept the help offered to save our marriage and ourselves. It was a time in which I know, was hard on her and our young son who was only 4 at the time of our separation.

Christy was always strong-willed, resilient and determined. She had learned that life didn’t always go smoothly but, that you do your best. She struggled with bouts of depression and bulimia. She went into therapy and seemed to get better. She graduated high school ranking high in her class and was well-liked. She and I were very close, we shared the same interests and loved laughing and watching television shows together and sharing Chinese food for dinner. We had a close mother and daughter relationship for which I am forever grateful. She also had a very close relationship with her Dad and brother. We all enjoyed teasing one another in good fun.

When Christy started college she started showing more signs of depression and mood swings. She was officially diagnosed with BiPolar disorder when she was 19 years of age and started on medication management and therapy. Sometime, in her early 20’s, she started showing signs of unexplained physical pain throughout her body. She described it as a burning sensation underneath her skin and an overall general achiness throughout her body. She saw a number of doctors and specialists to determine just what was the cause of this. Each one testing her for a number of disorders including Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. They finally settled on, ” Fibromyalgia” as the diagnosis, for which there was no known effective treatment. (a term that seems to be commonly used as a catchall, for when they don’t know what to call it.) She was given medication for pain and told to do certain exercises to help eleviate the pain. Other than that, there was nothing they could do.

By now, we as a family, had joined NAMI, (the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). We were pretty active, including going to the capitol in Austin to lobby for better access to healthcare for the mentally ill. Christy, we thought, was really one of the lucky ones in that she had access to good healthcare and medication, but we felt everyone should have equal acess.
My family of origin was also active in NAMI for years since my brother had been diagnosed with BiPolar/Schizoaffective when he was just 18 years of age. (He is now nearly 57 years old and lives in a group home, since my parents died.)

Christy had graduated high school and had started college when she stopped singing and performing because of the stress it put on her. She no longer enjoyed that which she loved since childhood but continued to function as best she could in the workplace even though she was in constant pain and taking some heavy medication. She became a Recruiter and did her job well. Afterall, she was a great communicator and loved talking with people. We actually worked at the same company and would sometimes ride to work together.
At work, she met a man who had been married twice before and had three children from those marriages. Her father and I warned her that we didn’t think this was a good match for her since she had a habit of falling for the wrong guy. (She was very trusting and somewhat naive when it came to men.) She fell in love anyway and they started living together. He was 12 years her senior, she was 25. They had a tumultuous 2¬†year relationship that¬†ended up with her coming back home to live in 2008.

We were relieved to say the least. Now, we thought, she can get over this guy and focus on herself. She was by then, on so much medication that we worried she would become addicted. We knew all too well how easily people became addicted to a substance they relied on heavily. We had numerous talks with Christy. So many times she would listen and share and tell us what we wanted to hear, that she agreed and that she was going to change. Only to see her revert back to her old ways the very next morning. So many “I’m sorry’s” came out of her mouth. We would reassure her that she didn’t need to to tell us she was sorry, we just wanted her to get well. We knew she relied heavily on medication for both the BiPolar and her pain. We felt she needed an alternative. She started seeing a new psychiatrist closer to our home and she asked me to join her to meet the doctor so I could give her my opinion. As I mentioned before Christy was very smart and knew how to research just about anything through the internet. That was one of the reasons she was so good at her job, being a Recruiter, you needed to know how to research. She would find medical articles and bring them to her doctor’s attention and ask them to consider these alternatives, only to be told that they really didn’t believe that was her problem or know enough about the alternatives to look further into it. She was driven to find a solution to her pain and very frustrated with the reaction she was getting from the medical profession. Repeatedly, they would say or imply that perhaps she was just there to get more drugs. Over the years, she had already tried several medical trial studies and therapies to get relief. In one of the medical studies, she had even been put on “Suboxone” as an alternative to her pain medication, but it caused her terrible side affects and she had to stop the study. She even was being seen by a highly regarded Specialist at UT Southwestern University to determine if she possibly had “Lupus Disease” or Rheumatoid Arthritis, since it was noted that some of her relatives on her father’s side suffered with these. We were truly worried about her and were researching anything and everything we could find.¬† ¬†(to be continued…)

PART II

THE FIRST ATTEMPT

So, Christy was back home with us. ¬†ūüôā ¬†We were so happy to have her home where we felt we could help her. ¬†It was September 2008, Christy was very depressed and did not want to come out of her room. ¬† We knew this was serious. ¬† She was very disturbed by the breakup and would swing ¬†back and forth between depression and anger. ¬† ¬†She told us her relationship was over and that she was going to start anew. ¬† ¬†She became¬†interested in Paranormal studies and joined Meetups to be a part of Paranormal Investigations. ¬†She had always been intrigued by TV shows and movies about Paranormal Activity (ghost hunting). ¬†She met up with a group and quickly became friends with the leader and started going on investigations herself. ¬† Christy was very involved and focused on her new venture with renewed vigor. ¬†Our son expressed concern that perhaps she was getting too involved in her new interest. ¬†We felt it was harmless and a just a¬†distraction for her. ¬†Things started to smooth out and she seemed happy again. ¬†She was going to return to school to finish her degree. ¬†She was working and seemed to be back on track.

Then, in March of 2009, we were blessed with our first grandchild. ¬†Our son Michael had just had a baby boy, Oliver. ¬†We were delighted! ¬†He was a ray of sunshine! ¬†A beautiful¬†baby with a happy disposition. ¬† But then, about 3 weeks after his birth, Christy¬†seemed to be caught up in the depression again and took to her room once more. ¬†I was worried, and insisted she come outside with us to help with some yardwork, just to get her out. ¬†She was none too pleased about it, but she did it begrudgingly. Two days later I awoke around 6 am lying in bed, thinking about how I did not want to go into work that day. ¬†Suddenly, I heard a slam and footsteps running¬†down the stairs. ¬†Our son Michael, abruptly entered our bedroom, saying Christy¬†was lying on top of her computer in her room and making funny breathing noises and he could not wake her! ¬† ¬†We ran into her room and found her unconscious on the floor. ¬†We could not wake her, her¬†breathing was very labored. ¬†Michael had already called¬†911 and the Paramedics were there within minutes. ¬† She had just made her first attempt at suicide. Overdosed ¬†on her medication. ¬†My husband found a note on her nightstand. ¬†She was given an injection of Narcan, ( an antidote for overdoses) and rushed to the hospital where they pumped her stomach. ¬†She lay unconscious for most of the day in the hospital. ¬†The biggest concern we were told, was the possible damage to her liver from the amount of acetaminophen she had ingested. ¬†We wouldn’t know if she had any severe damage until all of the tests came back. ¬†We waited…late in the afternoon Christy awoke asking for a hamburger! ¬†She was hungry she said. ¬†I told her where we were and what had happened and she responded by saying she was sorry and she realized it wasn’t her time. ¬†I, of course, asked her why she did it and she told me the pain had just become too much for her to handle anymore.

Christy was kept at the hospital for a couple more days to be sure there was no serious damage and by the grace of God, there wasn’t, even though she said she took over 90 pills! ¬†Because she had clearly tried to end her life, state law dictated that she be¬†taken to a Mental Hospital for observation. ¬†She spent 2¬†days in a clinic and then was released into our care. ¬†The entire time she claimed she made a mistake and had really not tried to end her life. ¬†In the state of Texas, once your insurance runs out you are released, unless you are deemed a harm to yourself or others and she insisted she was never going to do that again. ¬†They really had no reason to keep her any longer since she showed no signs. ¬†She came home and we started looking for a new doctor. She promised me that she would never do that again.

A few weeks later she announced that she and Brian had reconciled and that they were getting married. ¬†We were shocked ¬†because we thought she had moved on, but apparently she hadn’t. ¬† ¬†They were married by the Justice of the Peace and she moved back with him. ¬†(to be continued…)

Part III

The Addiction

Christy had married and had moved in with her husband and his children from his previous marriages. ¬†She still kept in close touch with us, she only lived about an hour away and couple of years passed seemingly uneventful . ¬† She still had her ups and downs but was managing. ¬† At first, it seemed as though they were doing¬†pretty well together. ¬†We thought, perhaps they might be good for each other, afterall. ¬†We all celebrated birthdays and holidays together. ¬†They took a few trips by themselves while we watched the kids. ¬† ¬†But, there were issues between them¬†that we were not aware of. ¬†We¬†still talked often and she would relate her experiences with the healthcare system. ¬†Mostly, how difficult it was for her to get the the doctors to understand her pain and look for alternative solutions. ¬†She hated taking the medication and the side effects they caused, but when she would go off her meds, she would have mood swing episodes and that was dangerous too. ¬† Our main concern was the¬†amount of medication she was taking and we strongly suspected that she was self medicating with alcohol as well. ¬†It wasn’t long before she called to tell us she had gotten a DUI. We knew she was in serious trouble. ¬†By now, things were not good with her marriage and her husband wanted a divorce. She had lost her job and was falling deeper and deeper ¬†into depression. ¬†She and her husband once again¬†separated and she moved back home with us.

Over the next 13 months, Christy worked very hard trying to gain her balance but she had taken her losses extremely hard. ¬†One thing on top of another was happening. ¬† The DUI and subsequent court appearances were hanging over her head, the divorce proceedings were difficult for her to handle, because of her health she was not able to work and had applied for disability. Unbeknownst to us at the time, even her doctors were suspicious she was abusing her medication. Her feelings of rejection and unworthiness were overwhelming her. ¬†We tried to get her to talk to us, numerous times. She would talk to us, but what she wasn’t telling us was the real issue. ¬†She didn’t want to go there. She didn’t want to disappoint us. ¬†She was isolating herself and her grooming habits were diminishing. I had friends in the mental health industry and they had set up appointments for her to discuss options. ¬†She stopped going to them. ¬†She was angry that they wanted her to stop taking some of her medications¬†for the pain, saying she could not go without them¬†and she would not even consider going into a facility for drug abuse. ¬†We even set up therapy for her with a Mental Health LPC ¬†for weekly sessions¬†to encourage cognitive talk therapy. ¬†And she had a an upcoming appt. with a new psychiatrist closer to our home. ¬†We were trying anything and everything we could think of to get her to hang in there. ¬† We were very supportive of her efforts and encouraged her at every chance. We were hopeful and thought it was doing her some good. ¬†We also were trying to get her to realize that self medicating with alcohol was not the way to go.

Christy was upset¬†with the healthcare industry for not offering alternatives to medication for pain. ¬†All to often, she would go to her doctor appts. full of new¬†research,¬†carrying¬†articles supporting studies that showed a new test or treatment being utilized with positive results. ¬†Their reaction was to dismiss these saying, ” they didn’t trust those studies” or “insurance would not pay for the treatment.” ¬†She was frustrated that they would not consider ¬†anything new. She was losing hope that she would ever achieve some sense of normalcy. She was discouraged and tired.¬† ¬†She had been living with¬†chronic pain for over 12 years and saw no hope on the horizon. ¬† She thought she was broken and could never be fixed. ¬†We tried to make her aware of how much we loved her and that this was temporary and that it would not last¬†forever. ¬†She had received some good news or so we thought. ¬† After dealing with the divorce proceedings and the attorneys for her DUI for over a year, things were finally getting worked out.¬† She and her husband had come to an agreement and settled out of court. ¬†She would soon be able to put that behind her and move forward. ¬†We thought this would help her be able to see that things would work out for the better.¬† As close as we were with her, we were not able to know just how deep her depression really¬†was. She would put on a brave face for us and tell us she was looking forward to a new start.

It was the last few days in June when she came home appearing to be drunk. We had some words with her and told her she had to stop drinking. ¬†She was slowly deteriorating and we could not watch this go on. ¬†We gave her an ultimatum. ¬†She had to stop drinking or leave the house. ¬†She could no longer live here and continue to drink. ¬†She got angry and said, ” fine, I’ll leave “. ¬†Over the next two days she kept to herself and when I would knock on her door to see how she was, she would tell me that she was fine and just packing up. ¬†I decided to give her some space, thinking that she would¬†do as she had done most of her life which was to realize after awhile that we were right and come down to¬†apologize. ¬†But she didn’t. ¬†That Friday evening we were going out to dinner with our grandson and asked her to join us. ¬†She refused politely. ¬†I thought she was finally coming around because her demeanor had changed. ¬†At 10:30 pm we heard the front door close and knew that she had gone out. When she did not return home that night or the next we assumed she was staying with a friend for the weekend, thinking things over. ¬†Little did we know that she was planning her suicide.

After we were notified by the police that she had been found, we also found out that¬†she had left us a nine¬†page letter explaining her actions. ¬†To this day, I read it over and over. ¬†Ironically, because it brings me some comfort. ¬†In it, she apologizes to us over and over saying¬†she saw no other way out.¬† She asks for our forgiveness because she knew it was her time to go home. ¬†She saw no future hope for the treatment of chronic pain. ¬† She profusely ¬†apologizes for hurting us and tells us how much she loved us and what wonderfully¬†supportive parents we were to her and how lucky she was to have us. ¬† She also left a note to her brother telling him the same. ¬†She also informed us that ever since she was 7 years old, she knew intuitively that she was not long for this world. ¬†She believed we were all part of a ” Soul Family” , that had made previous agreements to come to earth to learn and experience this life together. ¬†And that we would all be happily together again in the next realm. ¬†She assured us that she was not gone, she would always be with us, just not in physical pain anymore. ¬†She ended her letter saying, ” I love you all more than words can express. ¬†I will always be here for you. ¬†Thank you for being the most amazing family that I was blessed to be a part of, ¬†I Love You!! ”

I have no other choice, I must believe her.  I will be looking for her when I cross over.

15 thoughts on “Aftershock! My Daughter’s Journey through Mental Illness to Suicide”

  1. Julie, thank you for sharing the story of your beloved Christy’s life and struggles. I have several family members that struggle with mental illness and the hart part is that they are often alone in their struggles because friends and acquaintances don’t understand and are threatened when they can’t make them better. I pray for you tonight in hopes that sharing your story helps you heal and that it will help others. I hope to see you again soon….XO

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    1. Thank you Kathy, for your love, support and prayers. I hope to bring some small amount of comfort to those who struggle with this illness. They are not alone and they most likely are fighting the same battle as one of their neighbors, but often in silence. Much love to you and yours…

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  2. Thank you Julie for sharing your story about your daughter. My 31 yr old son took his life on October 4, 2013.
    Their stories are eerily similar. Very gifted with chronic pain of unknown origin until 6 months before his death. I thank you for sharing your story.

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    1. Hi Janice,

      Thank you for taking the time to read about my daughter’s journey. I am so sorry for your loss. None of us ever expected to see their names on this type of post.
      Maybe Broadway, ūüėČ Yes, but never here. I am sorry your son suffered with chronic pain as well. Did they ever determine the cause?

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  3. Julie, this is beautiful. It is a nice feeling to read and feel almost like I have met Christy and been touched by her wonderful talents and qualities. Thank you for your honest sharing…it really touched my heart. I am glad to have met you and your husband through Helping Parents Heal. Peace and love to you…..

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