Break the silence!

Why did I make the decision to walk 2.2 miles on a beautiful Sunday morning for Veterans Mental Health? This heavy question was asked of the large crowd this morning prior to our walk. I say heavy because both Mental Health and Veterans have been center stage in my life for the last 6mths. May was mental health month and I had wanted to write this blog in honor of that but my words finally came today as my eyes filled with tears at the thought of that question.

Please keep in mind as I share this blog, I am not looking for sympathy or a pat on the back, but simply awareness & help for those in need. I know there are people out there suffering in silence and feeling alone and I hope this message reaches them or perhaps they saw us walking today and can find a shred of hope.

For over 10 years my daughter has battled with extreme depression & anxiety. She has had numerous counselors and been on a variety of different medications. She journaled, exercised and did many other things to help her cope. Some helped but I know the struggle was still there and many times she dealt with it in unhealthy ways.

She graduated HS with highest honors and went on to get her bachelor's degree in Community Health from UWL, she worked full time in retail for over 6 years within the same company- she is currently studying online for her Masters degree in Public Health. If you looked at her you would never know that she is struggling with mental illness- she is beautiful, caring, intelligent, fit & well as her mama I could list every positive attribute there is. Many people also quickly judge & ask "what do you have to be sad about" not knowing this is so much more than just being sad. Mental health doesn't know any boundaries, look at the numerous celebrities that some would say have it all, but still continue to take their own lives.

Monday November 21, 2016 I received a text message from my daughter that shook me to the core. Suicide was all she could think of, every day for mths, several times a day, she had hit her breaking point and didn’t know what to do. I am beyond thankful that she had enough strength to message me and from there we sought help. I still feel the resources are somewhat limited in our area but I know the change here can't happen overnight. Please know if someone mentions suicide to you, it is a very serious topic and appropriate actions must be taken to keep them safe.

I would like to say that today she is "cured" but unlike a broken leg or the flu, mental illness doesn't just go away and for many it is a lifelong battle. She is managing it well and takes life day by day, she is putting in the work to heal herself and I am so very proud- We recently talked about it on Mother's Day and she remarked that if it wasn't for me and her family she wouldn't have made it- those words stick with me especially thinking of those that maybe don't have a strong family foundation. That is where we can have those open & honest conversations with friends and family to give them hope of recovery.

I believe my daughter’s own personal battle with this will allow her to make a difference in the face of mental health. She is currently a community educator at Coulee Council on Addictions and is making a positive impact on our community. As many times there is a connection between mental Health/drugs and alcohol. I wish I knew for certain if this was the correlation for my father, but at this point not sure it truly matters. But for the veterans today I hope they can receive the support and encouragement to discuss their mental health.

Many know my father passed away 4mths ago and he was a veteran of the Army and was actually deployed in Germany on the day I was born. I don't know the state of his mental health upon return but I do know he battled alcoholism up until his death.

We all know alcohol can be used to cope with life, and he was drafted at 20 & returned home to a readymade family with a colicky baby. Certainly no excuse but mental health wasn't even discussed back then nor did we have the resources available.

Today there are resources available, and we all need to be willing to have these conversations even if it makes us uncomfortable initially. Get over it, if you saw someone bleeding or having a heart attack you would try to help- this is truly no different, you just can’t physically see it.

I share this with you in memory of my father who did the best he could and in honor of my daughter who continues to fight for herself and inspire others.

Please don't be afraid to ask someone how they are & truly listen to them as you could save their life.

I leave you with the words today from my daughter- "I live so others will too!"

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