Trigger warning If someone you or someone you know has struggled with suicidal ideations or attempts, this content is not for you to read! Please, seek help! “Today, “988” is the three-digit, nationwide phone number to connect directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect with mental health professionals with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can press “1” after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.”
When you hear the phrase “Juneteenth” what comes to mind? Honestly, for some, nothing comes to mind of significance. Then there are others who revere and celebrate this day. According to Wikipedia, “Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Cel-Liberation Day, is an American holiday celebrated on June 19. On June 19, 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation— which had been issued on January 1, 1863— was read to enslaved African Americans in Texas by Gordon Granger. That is a HUGE deal! For me, I celebrate knowing what it means to my son, my nephews, and those I love…however, this day is also a dark day for me, personally.
Loss and Grief
On June 19th, my friend passed away. She was a firecracker. LA was loud and her laugh could radiate throughout a room. She loved her kids fiercely and she was a fighter! LA was loved by so many yet didn’t feel that love at times. She struggled with guilt and addiction. My friend loved Jesus, her dad’s mini pecan pies, her children, dogs, rabbits, and that smelly turtle she had in a tank. I loved her so very much.
Grief ebbs and flows. For a while, you are so thick in grief that you can hardly breath. Then, you find out how to live life again but the nightmares come in and rock you to your core. Lately, it has been fleeting memories where I can smile and the nightmares having subsided…for the most part.
The Ghost of Juneteenth
Today, while I was at work, I headed into the clinic and I see all these beautiful smiling faces. I have come to love these faces. They are full of joy, hope, some sadness, and lots of grit and determination. As I was looking around seeing who I would snag first, my eyes landed on a new person.
I caught myself inhaling sharply as I glanced over and saw hot pink from head to toe. The hair, the eyes, the clothes, the voice was all LA. I swallowed hard and took a seat next to a familiar face while I gathered myself. From that point, I took the bull by the horns and did not make eye contact LOL.
My rounds were done, I had checked on all those I had intended and there was one left. I pulled her aside and said come on. She hopped to it, all smiles and chatting along as we walked outside to the fresh air. We headed into the office and I sat, mostly silent, throughout the time we had.
Towards the end, I could feel myself choking up and having an overwhelming sense of love and protection for this person. Quickly, I just let it slide and I got up to open the door. About that time, she hugged me so tightly and in that moment, we both sobbed. She couldn’t control her sobs and I let mine flow.
In that Moment
That very moment, I flashed back to the slab my friend was laying on as I was wiping the dirt off of her body. I was brushing/braiding her hair and talking to her telling her how worthy she was and how loved she was by so many people. That moment, on June 19th, 2018, I was tending to her body to prepare her for her mother, brother, and children to see for the last time.
Today, in that room, I felt like I was hugging her, weeping for her and with her, sharing with her that she is worthy and loved. I wanted to hug her for so much longer! I wanted to talk to her and let her know about her children and grandchildren but I remembered this was not my LA.
The Lord has stirred up my grief and this is something I am going to have to deal with for the next month. In that month, I pray that He will heal my mind and my heart. I pray that He will comfort her children, brother, and grandchildren. In that month, I pray that I can make a difference in this person’s life.
LA, I loved you fiercely in life and I love you now. I am so sorry that you were alone and felt unloved in those final moments. I can close my eyes and see your smile. The smell in your hair, your fresh tattoo, and the smell of your detergent on your clothes. I can still hear the voices of your children, mom, and brother on that day. They loved you so much and still do. I want you to know that you are worthy, loved, and the world was better with you in it!
There are so many types of mental illnesses! Yet, they are rarely spoken (hence The Elephant in the Room) because it is construed as showing weakness when you can’t handle your crap. Here is a list of the main groups (or classifications) though there are probably a hundred more that can be added.
According to the DSM-V, each category of depression has specific “criteria” to meet. I am not here to argue with the authors of this book. Frequently, I have had to pull this book out to see things, and I use it as a solid guide. Yet, no two people who struggle with mental illness are the same.
That is where my thought process may not line up with the professionals. I guess that is just splitting hairs. If you or someone you love is struggling, PLEASE reach out. Reach out to a pastor, counselor, friend, family member, anyone!
I have struggled with depression for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I remember thinking I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t look like other kids or think like other kids. We didn’t have the money to buy things that others had. Don’t get me wrong, I was loved, and I was loved fiercely. So many people do not come from good home lives. I did, and I am thankful.
As I got older, things got harder. My grandpa died when I was 14. That was the first death of someone I loved, so I took it hard. So hard that I was physically ill. I remember having to stay at Susie and Frank’s house (my “other” parents) during most of the mourning time. It was just too much for me, and I didn’t know how to process it properly.
I remember when my sister and I were in the car with my mom. That moment was so deep in my sadness that I couldn’t see out. I looked at Martha and said something eluding to suicide. That is the only time I remember her smacking me across the face.
The look in her eye was fear; now, as an adult, I can see that. I remember her asking me what Granny would think and how mom could go on if I chose that path. Her tears flowed freely. Again, I was fiercely loved. I couldn’t see it because of this haze that I lived in within my mind. Never have I spoken or thought that again. Her face is burned in my mind. We went for ice cream after that interaction. From that point on, we never spoke of it again.
Diagnosis, Sort of
When I was 19, I started having health problems. I was skinny because I didn’t eat (I wanted to fit in). This was my first year in college (stress), working full-time and catching the attention of inappropriate male humans.
At that time, I was diagnosed with chronic high blood pressure (which ran about 240/120), high cholesterol, Meniere’s Disease, and clinical depression. All had good times! I was shocked, as were my parents. The meds for the “medical” part started, but I was told to buck up and be quiet for the mental aspect. There wasn’t anything they could do for me. I would be fine.
Let’s Add to our Fun
When I was 20, I placed myself where I should have never been. Now, that does not mean that what happened was something I brought on! It was an active choice of another, and I have lived with that for a long time.
Depression, self-doubt, blame, shame, and all the other negative words you can think of piled on top of me. For YEARS I blamed myself. Like I could not function. I felt dirty, unworthy, and unlovable all because of an action of another. It was horrible. I genuinely do not know how Big Daddy fell in love with me. Honestly, it wasn’t very good.
One day, after I had had V, I got up the nerve to call a crisis center. It was anonymous and before the land of caller id. I knew I could safely call, relive everything, and get a straight answer. My family knew nothing. My husband knew nothing. I kept this to myself for YEARS.
I used all my words. Then I used more words. I can recount every detail like I was reading a book. There is also no more emotion attached to it. I had completely detached myself from this memory.
What she told me stopped me in my tracks and began my healing. Did you know that 8/10 people are sexually abused by someone they know? At the time, I didn’t know that! I thought every case was this violent, horrific act you see on television. Nope. I was so wrong.
I will be forever thankful for the person on the other end of the line. Thankfully, I have been able to heal emotionally, talk openly, and get the needed help. If you EVER need to go through YOUR scenario, please call 1.800.656.4673 for 24/7 help!
So many other things in my life. Death, loss of children, threats of losing children, difficult children, loss of jobs, and marriage difficulties. My depression has deepened to the point of frightening my husband and family. Thankfully, I can use my words and communicate my needs.
There is NO SHAME in medication! NO SHAME in therapy! There is NO SHAME in admitting you are not okay! There is NO SHAME depression! It is a disease just like cancer and diabetes! You medicate for those things, and you can medicate for a chemical imbalance in your brain or a circumstantial period of your life.
End the Stigma
Mamas with postpartum, people with PTSD, people with brain damage, trauma, sexual abuse survivors (we are NOT victims), soldiers, police officers, EMT workers, pastors, and people in general!
I see you! You are okay! God is bigger! Help is waiting for you! You are loved! Treasured! Accepted! A child of the King!
Do not be ashamed. Fear is a liar. You are a hero! I hear you and feel you. Medication is OKAY! There are days when I’m good. Like, I’m great! Then, there are days when I want to stay in bed and cry. That is okay as long as you don’t stay there by yourself.
Words of Wisdom
I will NEVER forget my sister saying this in the depths of one of my painful periods. “Brandi, you can let the bird fly around your head all you want…just don’t let it make a nest in there.”
I have learned self-care: I have great doctors and a med that works well with me when needed. Jesus and I are talking again. He is good all the time, and all the time, He is good. My husband has stopped trying to fix it; now, he listens to or hugs me.
You are okay, and if you are not okay, that is okay too! Soon, you will be okay! I hope this has helped someone somewhere. If not, it sure was helpful to me! Onward and upward!
In The Reality of my Nightmare, my guest blogger writes about her interpretation of the trials that surrounded her. She writes it as if she were me. I read it the morning of my friend’s funeral. She is pretty spot on in all that she said.
Writing this seems like a nightmare
I am waiting to wake up from this nightmare because of how real it feels. But when I open my eyes, it will all go away. No. This nightmare is real. I can’t believe this is happening to me. Why? Why me? What did I do wrong to cause these people to knock on my door? Who has been watching me and observing my every movement?
I am afraid
Afraid to raise my voice even the slightest bit because someone might be watching. Also, I am scared to take my child to the other room for fear that someone might think I will punish them. Afraid to go out in public with my child for fear that someone will judge me the wrong way and call them again. Why me?
Raising kids is hard, especially 7 of them. They are all so different in so many ways. Yet, I would not change a single hair on their head because I love them so much. I love my kids with every fiber of my being. I would gladly take any strife or burdens off their shoulders. I will put them on my own if it helps them and their future.
My kids are special.
Some have mentally challenging issues. Then, others have some physical problems that need my constant attention. Being a mom is hard. It is tiring even. Yet, I am glad God chose these beautiful children to be mine.
I love fiercely and will do anything in my power to protect them from the world and its temptations. Sometimes, I help others before I think about myself and my needs. I have run ragged, going in different directions to help those in need as God calls me to do. Honestly, I try to open myself up to other moms in various clubs and organizations my kids participate. I try to help them and converse with them when they need a friend or a shoulder to cry on.
You took care of my child when he played sports on your team. He became best friends with your kids. I thought you loved him like one of your own. He stayed at your house and slept over so many nights. Every time, he had a blast when he came home beaming from ear to ear. He would tell me all about how fun it is at your house.
Invitation then Betrayal
I invited you into my home, which we manage to keep clean amongst the chaos of having multiple children and animals in the house. And yet, you betrayed my trust by calling them. Why? Why me?
You know my child is well-fed. We give him clothes and things to toys. Furthermore, we keep him involved in sports. Importantly, we teach him the love of Jesus in everything we do. We fight for him daily because he is different. And that’s okay because I love him so much.
How Would You Feel
You are a mother with kids of your own. How would you feel if someone called them? They showed up at your doorstep asking to be invited in. Then ask you probing questions about your home and relationships with your kids? And what if you found out that it was a supposed “friend” who called them on you.
How would you feel?
I should hope so.
That is how I felt.
The terrifying agony that my kids could be ripped away from me with no warning. Sadly, the wailing and uncontrollable sobbing happened in my car when I got the call. My heart can’t take it anymore. I am so tired of having to justify myself to these people. Justify every action that I do and every word that comes out of my mouth.
How would you feel?
Would you demand an explanation from your “friend” and say some nasty things to them in retaliation? Would you constantly look over your shoulder to make sure no one was watching you if you ever had to punish your child in public? Or are you one of those parents letting their children run amuck and do whatever they want?
Either way, I want you to know that it is understandable if you did not know the family or had never been in their home and seen how the family operates. It would be understandable if you didn’t know my son or me.
But you did know us.
I was at every game. I talked to you all the time. And yet, you still called. I could trust you. You have betrayed my trust. But I choose to let God be in control of my situation. I prefer to let God judge your actions when you get to Heaven instead of judging you, which I am not called to do.
Honestly, I choose to love like Jesus with skin on and be the city on a hill for you. I prefer to let God listen to my sorrowful prayers and collect my tears in a jar. Furthermore, I choose to let God pick me up and comfort me because he knows I am the mom He called me to be. I am not perfect. But God does not call us to be perfect. He calls us to be his disciples and to love our neighbor in his word.
My house may be messy sometimes, and my kids may drive me crazy most days, but in what reality is home always tidy and the kids always clean and well-behaved? I would love to meet those people and that family.
Haven’t you ever made a mistake as a parent?
Because if you say no, that is a bold-faced lie. We fail daily at things. The key is learning from those mistakes, moving on, and leaving the past behind us. Those failures are also successes. I have put several of my kids through a full education (and I have homeschooled them for many years as well). Two of them graduated with honors, which is a huge accomplishment.
One of my kids is married with a baby on the way. I could not be happier for my sweet child. My smallest child is excelling at what doctors told us would be impossible. Yet, with me by his side, he has survived those odds.
The moments of pride I feel for the children I raised surpass the moments of sadness I think when things like this happen. I choose to find the beauty in the ashes. I will stand tall and not be shaken by people’s opinions of my family and me.
So I will also choose to continue to stand by my children and attend every activity, club, and sporting event they are in. And if you other moms judge me or whisper tall tales about me that are not even true, I will smile and turn the other cheek as God has called me to, even if it is the hardest thing I have ever done.
Cruelty of Others
People can be so cruel nowadays, and they always look at the plank in someone else’s eye rather than focusing on the speck of dirt in their eye. Words can slice through a person and bring them down when we should be standing together as moms and supporting one another rather than bringing them down and jumping to conclusions by calling the organization before they have the facts straight.
No, we moms are not perfect. But we are doing the best we can with the circumstances we are currently in and the children with whom the Lord has blessed us. I will continue to be the city on a hill and shine my light bright for my kids and you.
And I know deep down in my heart that God will be pleased with my strength and integrity, and when I get to Heaven, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I can not wait for that day to come.
In the meantime
I will continue to be the most fantastic mom to my kids and a faithful spouse to my husband. I am showing them the light of God. Continuing to shield them from the world will be a lifelong journey, but I would not change one thing about it, not for you or any other mom who says a spiteful word towards me.
I will pray for you even though it is painful. Because in my darkest moments, I cling to Jesus the most, and when my faith is tested, I come out stronger than ever because my Redeemer is with me. No more hiding. No more fear. I will not be afraid.
I started writing this on October 6, 2021. It has taken me all this time to finish because I have needed to grieve, process, sit in the quiet, remember, and honor those I have lost that was so dear to my heart.
I have been doing and posting a lot of reviews and having a ton of giveaways lately. It has been good to see some positive, heart-changing things on the big and small screens. Yet, it is also a way for me to dissociate and remove myself from being vulnerable or sharing anything that is truly painful.
So, here I am, not posting a review or giveaway. I am sitting in my new dining room, listening to a fan dry the mud from the drywall where we had a flood in our new kitchen, looking at my cat, who appears to want to murder me, and pondering on how this month has been affecting me.
Fall. I love this season. With the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves, the world is preparing for everything to die in the winter, only to regrow with beauty and new life in the spring. I love it. Yet, this month, in particular, brings tremendous sadness and grief.
October 1 is the fourth anniversary of my Lady’s death. That day never passed without me reflecting on our friendship and what she meant to me. How I miss her and how I have never really mourned her loss. I just push it down, push it down, WAY down. Thankfully I had a sweet distraction on that day. CM was here to love me and keep me extremely busy. I simply can’t wait until my next grandbaby makes a grand entrance next year. Grandchildren are God’s way of saying, “you survived raising children, now enjoy the fun part.”
Yet, today, I find myself struggling again. Today is my friend’s 62nd birthday and her first birthday in heaven. We met years and years ago; she was Leigh Ann’s mom, my friend that passed away a few years ago. I would not have made it through Leigh Ann’s death if it weren’t for Donna. I should have been a rock for her, which I was when she needed me. Yet, she was my rock in coping and reminding me of the fire that was Leigh Ann. A few years before LA’s death, Donna lost her husband to cancer. David was a sweet man. Quiet in nature unless you ticked him off, and then BOOM, he would explode. Those episodes were few and far between. He was the love of her life. Donna and I became incredibly close after the death of her daughter and my friend.
She was in the thick of raising LA’s kids and her grandchildren, and I was raising kids around the same age. We bonded over the silliest things. There were things we disagreed on, there were things we debated together on, yet our foundation was strong. We could love regardless of those differences. That is what friendship means.
We talked every night or every other night. I would watch Detail Geek and describe it all to her. She watched it vicariously through me. We would solve the world’s problems, discuss our day, and she would make fun of my suppers. She called me the Casserole Queen. That woman never made a casserole, and I made one every night.
Donna had not been feeling well since her granddaughter’s hospital stay. We both thought it was just stress, exhaustion, and adrenaline from what we thought was cancer which ended up being a severe kidney infection. The kidney infection led to the removal of her granddaughter’s kidney. She wasn’t eating well, drinking anything but soda, and smoking. Man, we mama’s can live off of anything in a stressful situation.
I encouraged her to go to the doctor, but she refused. She had a fear of doctors. You go in and never come back out was her mentality. We talked about her quitting smoking, which she did because the cough got to be too much. She began having dizzy spells and not being able to keep food down. All of these symptoms started in about March, I would say.
We thought maybe it was Co-Vid and that she just had a horrible case. Still, she wouldn’t go. She was just going to wait it out. Then, when it didn’t go away, we thought grief was beginning to settle in her. She never really had time to grieve her husband and daughter’s loss. Grief can, quite literally, kill someone.
She lived with the age-old question, “Is it better to know someone has something terminal, so you can prepare yourself and say all the things you need to say? Or, “Is it better for it to be quick, so you don’t have to see your loved one in pain?” She experienced both in a very short amount of time. Frankly, they both suck.
Then, she began losing weight. She had no appetite. She would say that nothing tasted good and she was just so weak. Nothing her son, her grandchildren, or I could say to her could get her to eat. She quit smoking and mainly just slept. There were times I could not understand her talking on the phone. That’s when I knew. I knew something was wrong, and I had to try again to get her to the doctor.
On her birthday, I surprised her and popped by her house. I knocked on the door (much to her dismay) and heard the dogs. Then, I heard Lexi running to the door. She opened the door, and I hugged her sweet little neck. Lex quickly disappeared back to her dungeon (LOL). As I walked in, my heart sank.
One thing those closest to me know is that I do not show emotion. Also, I’m a rockstar in stressful situations. When I am alone, that is when I process and stuff emotion. Healthy? No. What I do? Yes.
I turned to look at Donna lying on the couch. She was nothing but bones, and she was so jaundiced that the whites of her eyes were yellow. She had lost more teeth and had no strength. I stood in the doorway. Frozen. I put my head down, and the tears flowed freely. I could not hold them in.
She first asked me why on earth I knocked. Family does not knock. I still couldn’t move. Then, I heard her say, “Brandi, come here.” I walked over and sat next to her. I lay across her frail body, weeping uncontrollably. She just stroked my hair and said that things would be fine. She said she drank some that day and hadn’t thrown it up.
That moment froze in time for me. Again, here Donna is, knowing what she knew, and she was comforting me. See that day, she had called me earlier and told me that the good news was she did not have Co-vid, but the bad news was that she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
You don’t realize it until you see it. I knew Donna’s time was limited. She was going to fight and do all the right things. She was going to drink more water, eat more, and do whatever the doctor said, but by then, it was too late. She knew. I knew. We all knew. Yet, we hoped that it would be different.
I begged her to let me take her to the ER just to get some fluid. Her belly had begun to swell, and I knew she was hurting from losing so much weight and laying in one position. She refused. Every day I would go over there and stay for as long as possible. Most of the time, it was just us. Sometimes her grandchildren would come in and out of her son. They all lived with her.
With each passing day, she would get weaker. One day, she wanted me to brush her hair. One day she wanted me to rub her feet and legs. They were so swollen, but the pressure of me rubbing her feet made her feel better.
There were some days when her older sisters would come. One lived in Michigan and came home to be with Donna as much as possible. I tried to lift as much of the burden off of them so that they could spend good quality time with her.
Hospice had been called in, and Donna told them to get out out out. She refused them because she knew what that meant. I know David was flooding her mind in the last few days of her life. She knew hospice meant death. She was not ready for that. Her sisters bathed her, which seemed to exhaust her yet refresh her. Her great-granddaughter also came for a visit, which lifted her spirits; plus, she was expecting her second great-grandchild, a boy.
We had some excellent conversations once we were alone. A misunderstanding for a season took us apart for several years. That was the first time that Donna ever said she was sorry. It took me back because I had let that go years ago. She said that she remembered saying all those things, and then Donna looked into my eyes and saw the hurt and pain of what she had just said. Also, she stated that she couldn’t bring herself to talk to me because she was so ashamed of herself. That touched my heart and humbled me.
We talked about her daughter and all the things that come with her. It was so healing. She spoke of David and the plans she wants for her son and grandchildren. I have never really spoken to someone with such clarity towards the end of their life like that. We talked about the worst-case scenario and what we would do when she got better. Everything was covered.
Then, it was the afternoon of chaos. So many people had come in and out. I had found out some things I never knew and made phone calls I never wanted to make. Her granddaughter was overcome by it all and was acting out due to the trauma. I was called, and she was in the back of a cop car. It took me an hour to calm her down. I had to remind her of my love for her. L needed to know who she is in Christ. I am so glad the officers understood the situation and showed her grace upon grace. These kids have been through more in their lives than most adults will ever experience.
On October 15, 2020, As I walked into the trailer, strangers (to me) were there. They didn’t stay long; eventually, it was just her grandkids, her son, and her sisters. Donna was very uncomfortable. I rubbed her belly, legs, feet, head, hair, anything she wanted, but I couldn’t get her comfortable. I begged her to let me call 911 because her belly had so much fluid on it. I explained that I would go with her if she went, and she would not be alone.
Finally, she said yes because the pain was unbearable. I called, and we immediately moved things around to make it easier for the EMTs to get in with the stretcher. They got there and realized that the stretcher wouldn’t fit, so they had it out by the bus and brought in a wheelchair-type thing that she could be safely strapped to. I informed them of her bed sores and her protruding tailbone, and the discomfort that she was experiencing. They were so gentle with her.
As they were picking her up, she was screaming in pain. She was afraid she would fall out of the chair. I was holding her hand and explaining that they were going to strap her in, and I promised her they would not drop her and she would not fall. That I was right behind her, watching and monitoring the situation.
They got her down the three steps, and then I saw her arm fall off the side, and her head dropped. I screamed her name as the EMTs rushed to get her on the stretcher and get her O2. I could hear her grandchildren screaming. Her son with a panicked look on his face. Her sisters. There was no time for me to console them.
At that point, I jumped into my van with Stevie (her son), and we beat the EMTs to the hospital. Her sisters were not far behind. I parked and ran to the bay as they pulled into the bay. I feared that Donna would be gone. She wanted me beside her when she died. Donna didn’t want to be alone. She wanted to be with someone who loved her.
As they backed in and got to the back, I saw them drop her legs to the stretcher. I stood in fear with her sisters and son beside me. I looked up and saw Donna wave at me. At that point, I dropped to the ground. It was like my legs had no bones, and I wailed. That was not crying that came out of my mouth. I felt sick, scared, relieved, and like someone had taken an iron skillet to my body. I couldn’t move. Her sisters just stood there, trying to help me.
Finally, I pulled myself together, got my mask, and ran into the ER. They let me back (only because her family asked me to), and I stood/sat by her bed there. I was watching her. She looked over at me and asked me if she was going to die.
I told her yes. We talked about her salvation, and then we talked about what she wanted for each person in her family. After she had settled all that, and the doctors couldn’t do anything, they left us for a moment. She looked at me and said, “Well, we have got everyone figured out. Now, what about you?” I asked her what she meant, and she wanted to know if I would be okay and who would take care of me. In awe, I just looked at her and told her I would be fine. I would miss her every day and would keep an eye/ear out on her family and always be there if they needed me. I thanked her for her love and friendship. Without missing a beat, she said, “There’s room in the bed…I will scoot over, and you can lay down with me.” My heart. She knew that that was my comfort.
I told her they would probably kick me out if they saw me do that! Then, I asked if she wanted her sisters and son to return. She did, so I went to get them and let them have quiet moments with her without my intrusion.
They released her from the hospital because there was nothing they could do, and she wanted to go home. Stevie and I watched them pull out, and we beat them home again. We got the couch ready. By then, some people had begun to stop by again.
I was trying to stay out of the way and let those who needed to be by her side. At that point, she was not awake. Not long after I had gotten there, it was late into the evening. Bart called and said I needed to come home now. There was an emergency that could not wait. When he explained what was going on, I lost it.
I wanted him to try and explain to the person waiting for me that I was at an end-of-life friend’s house and couldn’t leave. They didn’t care. I hugged and kissed Donna. I told her I would be back shortly, and I flew home.
I can’t even with what happened at home. I do remember, after talking for what seemed like forever and completely losing myself, where I had been. I told her I had to go and she could come back or follow me. She let me leave.
As I was flying back to Donna’s, her sister called and said to hurry. I did the best I could. She took her last breath right before I got there. I walked into everyone sitting around, not knowing what to do.
As I did a week prior, I stood frozen in the doorway. I looked at my friend, and I went and laid down beside her. It was hard for me to catch my breath. She was gone, diagnosed precisely a week before. She went from okay; I’ll fight this to meeting Jesus and being reunited with her husband and daughter.
After I collected myself and the coroner came and took her body, I sat in the big chair. Her sweet granddaughter came and curled up in my lap. Grief had overtaken her, and I was the warm body that she fell on. With me, there has been nothing but love since she was 3. I had been there through it all, and I was again comforting my sweet girl.
I have been faithful to my word. I miss Donna daily. There are days when I miss her more and some days when I don’t think about it until the night. That is when we would chat. I have not watched Detail Geek again. Her son is okay, as okay as he can be. Her grandson is a father of 2 and working. Her granddaughter is living with a relative, and she is doing well now. She is working on school and has a goal for her future. We chat as often as a teenager wants to speak with a 49 yr old woman 🙂
I am ready for this month to be over. I am ready to heal. I am glad to remember the good times instead of the end. One day. Maybe when I see her again in heaven!
Ten years ago, I met a brassy blond girl at a ballpark. She had a crass mouth and a nasty smoking habit. She was loud and obnoxious. A person people moved away from when they saw her. She did not dress the part, talk the part, and certainly did not behave the part of what society deems “normal.”
Yet, I was drawn to her. I saw myself in her—the girl that no one wanted to be friends with, the outcast. I have a deep love for those who seem unlovable. I see through the facade of what someone presents. I see their heart—that deep desire to fit in, yet the complete inability to do so.
Seeing a Bit of Jesus in Her
In my mind, I can close my eyes and see all the bright dots of Jesus throughout her. I just knew when those dots connected; she would be an unstoppable force of nature for the Kingdom.
I fell in love with this girl, her children, her brother, and her parents. We were a tight-knit group of misfits. I was blessed to be able to lead her to Christ one spring day. After she accepted Christ, I gave her a hot pink Bible. It was her favorite color. She loved Jesus with all her heart.
She also struggled with mental illness. Despite her love for Jesus, she had good days and bad days. What bonded us was that I, too, suffer from mental illness. I have clinical depression. She had onset bipolar disorder.
One thing I want you all to hear is that you can still love Jesus without abandon and still struggle with different types of mental illness. That does not mean you love Him less than someone who does not struggle.
How Did She Change My World?
She taught me how to accept those who were not “normal.” Also, she taught me to walk towards the waves instead of away from them. Live life without fear of abandonment and to hell what people thought of you.
Did I change her world? I hope I did. She made me a better person, and I hope I had some effect on her. Her mom always said that I did. I sure do love her children and now grandchildren. We were good for each other, for the most part.
Does it Change the World to Stand in the Gap?
Yes, it does the world when you brush and braid a friend’s hair for the last time? Also, when you begin painting her nails and toenails her favorite color? Does it change the world to wipe the ants off of her body while you are bathing her? What about closing her eyes for the last time?
Yes, it does change the world. It changed for Leigh Ann’s children, her mother, and her brother. It also changed me. It showed me what the phrase “be Jesus with skin on” really means. Sacrificial love and service for her and her family.
Leigh Ann, you are loved, thought of, and missed daily.
I’m hosting a pity party this year on your behalf. It is just now beginning, and it won’t end until, I don’t know, Jesus returns. I want to love this time of year. Basketball is in full swing, and oh, how you LOVED to watch your kids in sports. So loud you were so loud at the games. God bless those children.
This month is B’s bday month, Father’s Day, my anniversary, and yet, it makes my heart heavy. I wish things were different. In the end, I wish it didn’t even happen. Your children are healthy yet struggling. You are grandma times two! I can’t even fathom you and me being grandmothers! Seriously, how did that even happen? We aren’t old enough.
It’s the Month
The month. The month that changed me forever and a day. That phone call, the screams, your children’s faces. Your face. Your eyes. The smell of your freshly washed hair. It was still damp when I took it down. It had gotten so long. I don’t remember where the hair tie went. What did I do with it? I don’t know.
Honestly, that is now going to bug me. Maybe I used it to tie up the little bit of hair I snipped off to give to your mom, brother, and kids. I don’t know. I just had to call a friend and check in because my mental status is not good right now.
Honestly, I went to call your mom to ask her, and it hit me. She is gone too. Your kids will only have each other, their uncle, and me. In reality, I don’t even count. I’m going to have to stop now. I can’t finish.
Be at peace, my friend. Dance with the angels. Smile your smile. Talk your loudest. I miss you, and you were loved. Your life meant something, and I’m sorry you lost sight of that for a moment.
I have struggled with depression my whole life. There are short seasons; there are long seasons, then there are ** long seasons. A couple of times, I missed a year because I could not remember due to my depression. Some seasons are circumstantial, and my sad cloud leaves once those circumstances have been resolved. The other seasons are just plain ole crappy.
I withdraw, sleep, do not get out of my house, do not change my clothes, or get out of bed. It takes too much effort. My husband does not know what to do with me. In our early years, he was oblivious because I was great at placing my mask. He recognized and then tried to fix the problems in our middle years. Well-meaning spouses cannot cure depression.
In Later Years
In the later years, he sits and loves on me. He lets me be me, and he loves me through the valleys. We have come a very long way. I have learned to take off my masks and ask for help through lots of prayers, Jesus, therapy, and medication. He has learned to stop trying to fix me and to stop trying to understand the darkness that can consume me.
In 2015, I was struggling with a hard season of depression. There were days when I struggled to get out of bed, get dressed, brush my hair, etc. I did the best I could, but at the end of the day, depression won. I would sit in my bed, sobbing about being a failure as a believer, wife, mom, daughter, sister, and human being. Deep down, I knew my worth in Christ. Sadly, I listened to what the evil one was whispering in my ear. Instead, I should have been listening to the Truths of my Jesus.
In Walks My Lady
On a Wednesday night, my family and I went to church for dinner and our classes. We got there, got our food, and sat down to eat. The side door opened, and my Lady walked through the doors. She is a fantastic lady, and she has taught me so much, and I knew, regardless, that she loved me.
I got up from my seat and hugged her while my son ran and grabbed her some dinner. She cannot only look at me, but she can also look THROUGH me.
That night, she looked through me and asked me what was wrong. Tears rose in my eyes, and I said, “I don’t know, I’m really sad and I can’t shake it.” My Lady looked at me and firmly said, “well, get over it. You have a life to live, a husband who needs you, children who need you…now get over it.”
I think you could have knocked me over from the shock of that statement. There has never been a person, over my long history with depression, that has ever said anything like that to me. I almost let it hurt my feelings. I almost listened to the evil one saying, “she does not love you, she does not care, that was mean.”
Instead, Jesus took me and shook me that night. With Jesus by my side, He flicked satan out of my ear and said, “I sent her to you. She is my gift. This is your kick in the pants from Me through her. Now, get over it!” I walked around in a bit of a daze that night.
Purposing to Follow-Through
The next day, I got up and proposed to do a few things to better myself. I am well aware of my deficiencies in the “follow-through” department. There is also the thought of wanting to succeed at something, and if I set my goal too high, then I will not follow through, and I will fail. I put the bar VERY low.
My first set of 30-day goals was straightforward. The first thing was to brush my teeth every day. The second was to put a bra on every day (you laugh, girls, but you know what I’m talking about, especially being a homeschool mom).
I also purposed to read 1 chapter of Psalm and 1 chapter of Proverbs daily. I did this by starting on whatever day of the month it was. It made it easier for me to remember. I had just received a great study bible, a new journal, highlighters, and pens for Christmas. I was set. In my journal, I listed five blessings first. Next, I listed prayer requests. Then, I would read my chapters, highlight the verses that meant something to me, and write them in my journal.
I made it through that first month! I was so proud of myself, and the Lord revealed SO much through His Word. I also maintained my two tiny goals of brushing my teeth and wearing a bra.
The following two goals were pretty simple. The first was to take my medicine regularly (always take your meds as prescribed by your doctor) and not wear my husband’s clothes but my own. Again, you people might be mocking me, but my husband is a big man, and I feel skinny when I wear his clothes. I like to feel skinny!
I had powered through Proverbs, and I still had a ways to go with Psalm, so I thought I would add a short book of the bible to make myself feel good about accomplishing something again. I still kept my journal, but I was on a new journal because I had filled the first one up!
Getting Wild Up in Here
This time around, with my prayer request, I got wild and mixed things up! I went back through my prayer request and highlighted the answered prayers, dated them, and wrote how they were answered. In my dark times, I could flip through my journal, and I could physically see the answers and that God still moves even when I feel He is not moving.
I also began branching out with my prayers. When I felt myself closing up and moving inward with sadness, I forced myself to look to someone else. I texted people in my contacts about how I could pray for them. The replies to my texts were humbling.
My friends would say, “How did you know? What do you know? Who told you? I was praying about that, and I feel I have confirmation. In my darkest, you reached out.” Oh, my goodness. The reaction of others was a source of light and comfort for me. The Lord was using my depression to further His Kingdom!
My Prayer Journal
My journal filled up quickly, and I had to upgrade to a notebook. I asked each person how I could pray for them; I gave them their page and added any requests. I would follow up with their requests to see if the Lord had answered them, and when they were answered, I highlighted and dated that request.
Eventually, I branched out even further and extended prayer to my friends on Facebook. The responses were overwhelming. I was and still am humbled to stand in the gap, with prayer, for people. My notebook got full, and I have since moved to a binder! I love my binder. It is never far from me, and I have my pens and highlighter ready.
What I Learned in my Season of Depression
In this season of depression, I not only learned how to pray, but I also ended up reading through the entire bible in about a year and a half. There were the dreaded books of the bible that came to life because I was reading it through a new set of eyes. The Lord revealed so much that I started sending out lessons I had learned along the journey. My season lifted because one person spoke what I needed to hear. “Get over it!”‘
Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness
Depression is real, and it is not talked about in society. Please, I am urging whoever is reading this to seek counsel. If counseling does not help, go to your doctor and look to get on medication. There is no shame in that. I have been on medication, on and off, for several years.
There are seasons of your life when “get over it” does not cut it, and you need more help. I hope that the stigma of depression and other mental illnesses is eradicated and that we can talk freely, get support, and become free from this disease.
If you, or someone you know, has any mental illness and are afraid they may do the unthinkable, the Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. People are there 24 hours a day. Never be ashamed. Never think you are alone. Know your options. Reach out! Live! Teach others! Through your ashes, beauty will be found.
In Lockup: Extended Stay, I just completed a four-day stay in the hospital because of my mental health. I am not ashamed to say that’s why I was in the hospital. I needed help, and I can admit that now.
Things have been bad for me for basically a month, and I had nothing left to give. It started with me realizing that even though I had forgiven myself for my brother’s death, it didn’t make it any less painful than I was expecting. I thought that if I had forgiven myself, the hole in my heart wouldn’t feel as big.
On top of that, I have started remembering things from ten years ago, which just hasn’t worked out in my favor. I also had anxiety about what to do with the information I remembered. Do I report this even if it may ruin my family?
Do I report it even if I will have no biological family afterward? The decision was made for me. Now I’m dealing with the anxiety of waiting to hear from the police. Every time the phone rings, it’s like my world stops. I start shaking, and I get nauseous. I hate this feeling.
First Few Nights
My first few nights at the hospital were very lonely. I didn’t even start to make friends until the night before I left. I only knew those people for a short time, but they made a massive impact on me. I can’t help but think about where they are in the world.
Did Katie and Michaela get out today? Did Jamie’s mom ever pick him up from the hotel room? Did the other Katie get the Job she interviewed for right after she got out? Did the girl with super long hair throw a chair through the window? Where are they now? Are they doing okay?
Dawn, the Night Nurse
My night nurse made the most significant impact on me. Dawn deserves a raise because she doesn’t make enough money for what she does. From the moment I met her, she was nothing but caring. The nurse answered any question I had. She got me food from the fridge when I was too anxious to do it myself. She treated me like I was her child.
On my last night there, she shared something with me that she had never shared with anyone. I won’t say what it was because that’s not my story to share, but it made me believe that I could talk to the police. I am strong enough to get through this.
I am Home Now
Now that I’m out, I feel like there’s this pressure that I have to be good now. Like I feel like I can’t be anxious or depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I am the best I have ever been, but it’s still not great if that makes sense. The bar was literally on the floor before now. I now appreciate the people around me a little more.
Looking back, I know I wouldn’t have made it through the past month without them. That’s not something I’ve been shy about, either. I’m so grateful to Bart (you guys may know him as “Big Daddy”) and Brandi. They have completely changed my life. I love them wholeheartedly, and I could never thank them enough for what they’ve done for me.
This was written by one of my favorite people. She is so precious to my soul. I am so encouraged by the strength it took for her to admit that something was not quite right. There have been so many days and nights that I have seen her struggle to maintain. The dam broke. Without the help of her medical provider, his nurse, and my son, she would have never had the strength to stand up for herself. She would have never sought the help that she needed.
Since doing that, it was discovered that she has Serotonin Syndrome. Many symptoms range from excessive sweating to goosebumps. All of this is caused by an accumulation of serotonin. Antidepressants cause some your body produces and some.
Thankfully, she is on the proper medication. She was on too many SSRIs and has completely leveled out. There is no shame in getting help. Had she not gotten the help she needed, she would have never discovered the meds to help her were hurting her.
Open Letter to A Brother Who Left This World Too Soon
In this Open Letter to A Brother Who Left This World Too Soon, my guest blogger remembers her brother, who died of cancer six years ago. What a thing for a family to go through. The loss of a child, grandchild, brother, and friend. He was a few days shy of turning 19 when he met Jesus.
Lord, bless this family. Bless them with peace and sweet memories as they navigate this difficult week as they remember this sweet boy. Please give them the knowledge that he is healthy and happy and hanging out with your Son, Jesus. He is waiting for them to all be reunited one day.
It has almost been six years without you, and I don’t feel it has gotten any easier. This wound is taking forever to heal. I miss you so much, and naturally, I wish you were here with me. This is my least favorite time of year. I know you are watching over me and taking care of me.
I Wish You Could Answer Me
I’d give anything to have one final conversation with you or give you one last hug. If I could go back and change things, I would. I would have stayed by your side through it all. I think about that all the time. Does it make me a bad sister for leaving you there? I could have taken whatever our stepfather threw at me to stay with you.
Missing All The Things
My mom told me a few years ago that you asked for me every day. You asked when I was coming back from dad’s. You know I like to take care of people. I took care of you for the longest time. Honestly, I miss waking up at 3 in the morning to refill your feeding pump. I miss helping you walk around, even though you protested the entire time. For six years, I have been waiting for you to appear in front of me. To give me a chance to tell you my final goodbye. To tell you I loved you just one more time.
It Hasn’t Happened, so I’ll Keep Waiting.
I think I can finally start to let go of the regret I’ve had for the past six years. It’s time. You know I love you more than words could ever describe. I know your biggest fear of death was being forgotten, but you are unforgettable. You made an impact on everyone’s life. I will never forget you or the things you did for me.
You were one of my best friends. I promise you my kids will know what a fantastic man you were. They will know how strong you were and how hard you fought. They will know that you are my hero, and I aspire to be as strong and brave as you were.
After Six Years, I Can Let You Go and Let You Rest in Peace
That doesn’t mean I will forget about you. It means I don’t have to worry about you hating me for leaving. I know you loved me as much as I loved you. I know you weren’t upset about us leaving Mom. I’m just upset she wouldn’t let you stay with us.
I am letting go of my regret because it wasn’t my fault you got sick. I was a child, and I know it wasn’t my responsibility to take care of you. I am moving on and trying to start the new year off right. Thankfully, I know you will be with me and watching over me every step.
In this piece, my guest blogger talks about how she is healing through anger. Anger is a valid emotion, as Jesus was angry when He turned over the tables in the temple. Anger is secondary to fear and/or sadness. In this piece, you can see her fear. Also, you can feel her sadness. Please pray for this young girl as you think of it.
I Am So Angry With You
I have said it a million times, but I am so angry with you. If I were in the business of hating people, you would be first on my list. The thought of you makes my blood pressure skyrocket. Why couldn’t you be a normal stepfather? Seriously, why did you have to abuse me? Why me? I was a child. What kind of man likes children?
I wish my mom would have never met you. Honestly, I wish I did not blame myself for what you did. I know I was young, and it was not my fault. It’s yours. You are the one who abused me, not the other way around.
Tell the Truth
I have had a few opportunities to tell you the truth, to say whatever I wanted to you, but I did not. Part of me wishes I would not have been such a coward. I want you to know how much you hurt me. The other part of me knows that what I said would not matter; you would not care. You would enjoy the attention; you always like all the attention on you.
What I Want to SCREAM
I want to scream at you and tell you that you hurt me. I want to tell you that you traumatized me. I want to tell you how I cannot even change clothes in the comfort of my own home without feeling uncomfortable or like I am being watched. To yell that you took my childhood and my innocence away from me. That is something I will never get back. I cannot go back and act like a child again. Not all of that is your fault, but a big piece of it is.
I am never a violent person, but I would like to punch you in the face after a few good times. I bet that would help me release some of my anger. That sure would make me feel better. I do not understand how you can have four types of cancers and still be alive. I guess that is just how my life goes.
Papa T is Crossing the Line
I heard a phrase today that I had not heard in a long time. A phrase that makes me nauseous. “Daddy T,” I never understood why you made us call you that. Mom does not understand why that name makes me uncomfortable; honestly, I don’t completely understand it myself. All I know is the name makes me physically sick. My sister told me today that you want her daughter to call you “Papa T,” It incited some rage in me.
Yet, That Baby is Safe From You
Luckily that baby lives far away now, so you cannot get your hands on her. I could promise you that you would never meet her if she were still around. I would go to jail before that happened, and I would be okay with it. You will never get the satisfaction of her calling you “papa T,” which I feel is WAY too close to “Daddy T.”
You will never get the satisfaction of taking that baby’s innocence away from her, which brings me just a little bit of you. Your abuse ended with me, and I will do everything I can to ensure it goes no further.
Working on Forgiveness
I know it does not sound like it, but I am trying to forgive you. It is just a slow process. The thing is, I am not forgiving you for you. I am doing this for me. To heal. I am doing it to put you in the past and finally move on. To better myself and be the best person I can be. I know, in the end, you will get what you deserve, and I will not even have to lift a finger.