It all started five years ago when I lived with my mother-in-law and husband and took care of my mother-in-law until her passing. at this time I was working at a hospital as a nurse case manager coordinator so you could imagine how stressful life could be a times. I had a great relationship with my mother-in-law for 18 years until it got stressful and ugly with some family members. My husband and I moved to an apartment to start fresh. About a year later we finally took that vacation we needed so desperately. On our last night my mother called to inform me that my beloved cousin who was late forties was found dead in his apartment. His fight with his life was lost to alcoholism. The very next morning, our last morning on our vacation my husband received a phone call from my brother-in-law; actually, it was a voice message. My husband looked white and shook his head and I asked him what is wrong? He stated he thought he heard the message wrong so he listened to it again. We found out my 40 year old baby sister who lived in the same flat for over twenty years went out in the middle of her street outside her flat. She poured gasoline over herself and lit herself on fire. Many of her neighbors and a full restaurant saw this transpiring. A good samaritan tried to put the flames out but according to the man who tried to save her my sister responded let me die don’t help me.The neighbors told us that you could hear her screaming several streets back. My sister worked at a law firm for many years and became an accomplished artist in the San Francisco area. She also had bipolar disorder that turned into schizoaffective disease because she did not get the right treatment and when we cleaned out her apartment, we found bags of loaded medications never touched.
Obviously,she had a stigma about her disease and when she was in the psych hospital, the revolving door put her out after 3 days stabilizing her condition. Most of us know who have loved ones fighting illness are not inpatient and need much more rehabilitation for a fighting chance. A few months later, I started having severe abdominal pain so my husband took me to the emergency room and they found three incidental tumors, one looking like lymphoma. I had major surgery done in 2012 with the tumor removed and waited two weeks to get pathology back finding out it is a rare disease associated with lymphatic diseases. I had many organs removed and 4 years later I have not recovered. I have seen 10 specialists PT therapist, which has helped me the most. Unfortunately something went wrong in surgery and cause muscle tearing non functioning bowel digestion disorders that causes pain 24/7. Before this surgery, so took occasional over the counter meds but post surgery 4 years out I am on approx 20-30 meds a day. I spoke to malpractice attorneys but it was just too convoluted and I just wanted to move on with my life so I did not sue the doctors and surgeons.
I have had a good health care team the last two years unfortunately during the time of the surgery I had surgeons and doctors that were in denial and probably just did not want to get involved with my post-op complications still flourishing to this day. I do wonder how much stress emotional stress from my sister’s suicide could have made my surgery worse. I have seen a good psychologist for two years, not such a great one the first year. I was diagnosed with PTSD. My other sister and I were tested for bipolar and other mental illnesses but we both came up negative only having some depression and diagnosed with PTSD. Of course if we were dealt the hand of mental illness it would have been hard but nothing to be ashamed about. My sister and mother have done great grass roots political work in educating about bipolar, which has a heightened suicide risk if not treated appropriately. It is a very challenging thing to get a person with bipolar to take their medications, especially in mania.
Unfortunately my baby sis closed herself off to our immediate family several years before she committed suicide, so I have a deep grief that I never got to say goodbye. Most everyone has tried to comfort me and I think the best comfort was when a friend would hold my hand and just be there for me with no judgement or lectures. I do not put anyone down that has tried to soothe my pain. I then got judged that I was addicted to painkillers but that’s not the truth. I only take prescription medications to help me with the pain and I never had an addiction history. My psychologist explained that there is a difference between being addicted to medications/drugs compared to having a dependency and minored closely by pain management MD’s. Not only is there a stigma for mental illness but there is stigma associated with chronic pain. I understand the reasons why we need to carefully watch and to lessen overdoses, however; just go to an emergency room and many physicians do not want to deal with chronic pain issues. Now, the ER doctors know my situation and treat me very well when I go in for nausea vomiting and pain like level 10. I guess I am bringing all this up to make a correlation that I can’t prove my sister’s suicide caused all this of course; it didn’t, but I believe it has made my healing a much longer process.
Sometimes I catch myself getting mad at myself for not getting over her suicide and then I stop myself and let myself walk through the pain, especially when a trigger sparks off a memory. PTSD is nothing I could have imagined or I experienced. I would bet fathers, mothers, and siblings losing a family member to suicide can cause them some trauma. Sometimes I can go weeks or months feeling as though I find peace and other times such as tonight I smelled the perfume she used to wear and it sent me into crying uncontrollably for hours off and on. Thank you for letting me share my story, as it is comforting.