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How Mental Health and Loss Can Affect A Family

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For the past 10 years our family has been struggling.  Struggling due to mental health.  My husband has decided that he is at a point in his life that he is ready to open up and share his story, his mistakes and the effects of loss and mental health on a family.  For those of you that have been following us, you know this is no secret, this is just the first time you get to read his story, from his mouth in hopes that he can help someone else who is struggling as well.  His words are below.  -Laura

How Mental Health and Loss Can affect a Family

I’ve never been one to open up, so this is hard for me to do. What I am about to share is my past and is what I thought was the right thing to do at the time.  -Jason

The Backstory

It is important to know where my issues with mental health started.  I was a little kid when I experienced my first major loss, with my dad’s passing. I was never close to my dad and my parents divorced before I was born.  As is with most divorced children, I would visit my dad’s place to stay on some weekends. I was treated very badly and there was abuse (physical, mental and sexual) happening in his home.  As a child, I would sometimes be locked in the closet at his house, which as an adult has lead to some issues with claustrophobia. To get away from that situation, I always called my mother because I wanted to go home. My dad did not like this and would retaliate with mental abuse. 

When I was eight years old, my dad was staying at my uncle house due to him being suicidal. You should know that my mom and dad have identical twins and that my moms twin married my dad’s twin.  My entire family had been over at my uncle’s house the morning of my dad’s suicide.  We all chose to go to lunch, but my dad decided he didn’t want to go. When we got back to the house, my dad was nowhere to be found.  So my mom, myself and my cousin went looking outside. The garage door wouldn’t open. We walked around the house. There was a big glass window. This is where my whole life changed. There my dad was, laying dead, from suicide.

I was little and yes it hurt to lose my dad, but I continued to be a kid. I never dealt with my dad’s death. I pretended I was okay and everyone went along with it. But I wasn’t ok and to this day don’t remember a lot about my childhood because of this one event.  

After the loss of my dad, I grew even closer to my mom and her parents. My mom was my everything. I talked to her. I told her everything. (Well, I thought, except I needed to talk about losing my dad). My grandparents were also always there for me. My grandpa was like my father. He would take me fishing, camping and even put me in baseball. He made sure to make every practice and game and was my biggest fan. This felt amazing. I continued my life as if nothing was bothering me. I held my dad’s death inside and I always thought I was fine, so I never said anything to anyone about my feelings. But I wasn’t ok and things were about to boil over.

12 years after losing my dad, I met the love of my life Laura. I went home after meeting her that evening and I woke my mom up and told her about Laura and how I was going to marry her. Eight years later we got married. I was the happiest I’ve ever been. 

A few months after our wedding, my mom started to get very sick. This was hard on me. My amazing wife was there for me. My mom always wanted grandchildren. One day, we found out Laura was pregnant. We were so happy. My mom was excited for us too, but then we had a miscarriage. My mom was getting sicker by the day and although we tried to get pregnant again, it just didn’t happen in time. A few short months later, my mom entered in home hospice and then the day came when my sister and I had to make the hardest decision.  After watching her struggle to breath for years it was best to take the oxygen off our mom. My mom passed away surrounded lovingly by our entire family and with her went a piece of me. 

The Effects of Loss & Mental Health

Laura was there for me. She is a wonderful wife, and my best friend, but I didn’t know how to talk to her about my loss. So because I felt like I was  a strong person, I held everything inside. This was the worst decision I’ve ever made.  Not to opening up to the love of my life and inadvertently pushing her away.

We got pregnant again just days after my mom’s passing. We were both so excited, but I felt like I had nobody to share my excitement with. Laura had her parents and we had each other, but again I was missing my mom and no one could fill that void. In addition, we had been looking for a house and we finally got word we were going to get our first home together. This was a lot of change in a short time. 

I felt so hurt, and broken inside and I didn’t feel like I couldn’t open up to Laura, so I pushed her further away.  I had to talk, but I didn’t know who to talk to, or how.  So I went to a chat website. I talked to random people I didn’t know, thinking this was healthy for me. The day we were going to sign on our house, Laura found out I was talking to other people. We had to decide, do we sign to buy a house together or not? We decided to sign the papers, and it wasn’t a great experience for either one of us. We talked and worked through it at that time but I still felt like I couldn’t open up to Laura.  This was not her fault. 

A few months later, we went to the hospital to have our son. Her pregnancy was not easy and the hospital stay would be very traumatic for us. After a very rough labor and delivery my wife and son both almost die, due to complications.  By some miracle they both make it through. I should be the happiest guy on Earth. I have a family again. We just had an amazing baby boy join our life. However, I’m still hurting, and scared, and I don’t know how to be a father. We have all these amazing things going for us, we bought our first home, we’re living the dream, but again I shut down. 

Then comes the cascade, Aunts, Uncles, friends and then my beloved grandfather.  All of them passing within months of each other and no real break to cope or work through the pain. I talk to Laura, but I still can’t open up to her. My grandfather was sick for several months before he passed away. I was a total mess but I was trying to be strong. Laura is there for me, but again I push her away.   

When we got pregnant with our daughter, my dream of completing our family came true, but I still would not open up. In March of 2013, we had our daughter and compared to our son’s birth, this went so much easier. It was nice and but I still felt alone and really like I had no one to share my happiness with. 

Coping The Wrong Way

I wanted to be happy, I wanted to feel normal again and so I thought that I needed to find something to keep me busy and have some sort of a hobby.  I found a game on my phone that was really fun to play and I hoped that it would keep the negative out of my life and distract me. I started to chat with the people who were also playing the game around the world.  In doing this, I was also pushing everyone I love away.

Playing this game became an obsession and caused me to make choices that were not in the best interest of my family.  I worked graveyards and I would lie about going to work and instead I would sit in a parking lot and play this game all night long.  Truth be told, I felt like I couldn’t work.  I was constantly feeling so depressed and anxious. I couldn’t sleep and I would come home from being at “work” and I lay in bed all day even with my wife trying to get me to participate in our family. I continued this for months.

My wife knew something wasn’t right and I was worried she would catch onto our finances declining, so I made up elaborate lies as to why my paychecks were smaller or why I was having to be paid in cash.  Truth be told, I was taking money out of our CD savings to put in our account and she was not monitoring this account because it was not connected to our online banking.

Through all of this Laura talks with her family, she gets advice, she tries to problem solve the issues that are supposedly happening at my job so that I can get paid correctly. I still am not talk to anyone in our family. I’m constantly feeling like I’m being judged and I’m feeling worthless, because I can’t make myself go to work.  I am at such a low point in my life that I even thought about just walking out on my family. 

At this point I am complete mess.  I hardly get out of bed and I do not talk to my family. I rarely shower or change my clothes and it is pretty clear that I have hit rock bottom to everyone around me. I do not even realize what I’m doing or how the choices and behaviors I am exhibiting are affecting the relationships in my life that matter so much.  Instead of talking to my wife and fostering that relationship, I continue to talk with the people in the game. 

When my wife realizes what is going on and finds out about the chatting and the lack of work attendance she thinks I’m cheating on her. At this point, I honestly don’t have a care in the world. I’m like a lost soul. My amazing wife knows that I am not mentally in a good place and does her best to support me and find resources and help US work through this. I continue to tell my wife that I am not cheating on her, I am just talking to people online.

I do utilize the resources that she finds and I get help. My doctors start me on depression medication and although it helps a little, it is not the solution. Regardless of what I do, my marriage is shit. Not only are we dealing with my choices and depression, but since I was pushing my wife away, she pushed back and we lost all the intimacy in our marriage.  In addition, she is dealing with female health issues that amplify this.  

We do make another attempt at counseling and strengthening our marriage.  My medication begins to get straightened out, Laura and I start communicating more, she has a hysterectomy which helped our intimacy and it seems as though things are going better. I however, was not being completely truthful with her and I begin having conversations outside our marriage again that I know my wife would not approve of.  I am not cheating, but I am also still not communicating honestly with my wife. 

Rock Bottom

She finds out about these messages and we had a massive fight. I decide that evening that I am finished with everything.  I couldn’t deal with life, my depression, and my family, so it was best I moved out. We separated and I moved in with my aunt. At this point, I have now lost my family, I am on rocky ground with my work and I have pushed so many of my friends and family away that I have no one to talk to. 

Through the separation, I work and then I go to my aunt’s place. All I can do is think about everything that has happened and this is causing me not to eat or sleep. I have totally messed up our lives and Laura and I are not really talking. I do talk with my children and everyday I’m away from them, hurts me. I know that this separation and break in our family is not what I want and that I can’t be away from my wife or kids. I love them with all my heart, I just don’t know how to show them. Laura and I do begin to talk and after two weeks of living with my aunt, she allows me to come home while we figure things out, but I have to stay in the basement. 

I agree to start therapy again and we start working on our marriage while I address issues stemming from my past. Things are getting a bit better between Laura and I.  I am being honest, and working and really feel like I am starting to communicate and be a good husband and father.  It is not easy and I do still struggle, but there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. 

Then BOOM, out of nowhere, I started having seizure like episodes. This goes on for several months and after passing out at work and home, my doctors realize that one of the medications they have me on is likely the cause of these episodes.  There is yet another medication change and this does cause me to struggle through my depression symptoms and miss more work. I knew that I was not in a good place and I tell my wife this.  She tells me that she sees it and that our kids are seeing this as well.  I try to work with my doctors to get my medications changed, but these things take a while in our system and I am not working.  All this time to myself, pushes me further into a bad place mentally and I make more bad choices to communicate to people I should not be chatting with.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Laura finds out again.  She has been so patient and understanding, but this time it is different.  This time she gives me an ultimatum and I have a real choice to make.  She tells me that she will help me, but we are going to do things differently.  We both realize that part of the issue is my job.  I work with a population of people that are going through bad situations themselves and the environment as a whole is depressive and negative.  My therapy through our insurance is spotty at best and my medication is clearly not working correctly. 

Over the next several weeks, we find an amazing PTSD therapist, we switch my medication and I begin to work on myself.  I am feeling better and I am learning that my past is my past.  I spent years of my life worrying if my dad sexually abused me, questioning if my sister and I made the right decision to remove support from my mom and being angry with myself for leaving my grandfathers bedside to shower and see my family, and in doing so, missing his passing and my moment to say goodbye.  

Through weeks of counseling I now know that it doesn’t matter if my dad touched me. His actions, or lack of, towards me do not make me the person I am today. I recognize that my mom was amazing and I could tell her anything, but I cannot shut down and stop communicating because she is no longer here.  I am missing the biggest part of my life with my wife. She has been the one person who has been by my side through everything. These realizations have helped me open up and feel like I can talk to her. 

When it comes to my grandpa’s passing, I realize that it is okay for me to be angry at missing his passing, but I need to focus on what he gave me in his life.  He valued his wife and his family above all and he showed me how important it is to do the same.  He gave me so many life lessons and taught me to be a good man.  I am comfortable in saying that I am the person I am today because of my past and that is ok. It took me 30 years to finally see what’s important to me. I love my family more than anything and I am thankful they stood by me and helped me through what has been the darkest years imaginable. I look forward to our future and the memories we will make and am lucky to live this life, with these people. 

A Note from Jason

This was not easy for me to write, but I needed to do this. My hope is that by reading my story, someone else that is going through depression can recognize the signs, get help and hopefully make a difference in their life for the better.  I am glad to share my past as I know I’m not the only one who has depression and has struggled. I urge you to share this with someone you know that may be dealing with depression and anxiety and I want to encourage you to please talk with your spouse and family and seek help.  There are a lot of resources out there and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. 
Jason

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Shirley Wood

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

Laura, I know this was a bold and brave move to publish but I'm so glad you did because it is so important for people experiencing the same thing(s) to understand they are not alone. Jason, thanks for being so brave to share your story. Truthfully, you will never know how many people you help by being so open because most of them will never tell but rest assured, this helps lots of folks just like you. All marriages are worth saving and I'm so glad you two braved the rough times. You are stronger for it as are all of us who hung in there.

Laura

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

It was nerve wracking to publish but I fully support my husband and I know that mental health and marriage and family is something that is really not talked about and can be very taboo. My husband is so brave for speaking up and we are thankful that our community has been so supportive. Thank you so much for your support!

Michele Brosius

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

Thank you for sharing your story, Jason. I hope it helps others see that mental and emotional health struggles are real, even with men. Our society needs more people to speak up. I wish you all the best in healing yourself and your relationships. I hope you find the happiness you are seeking. Best, Michele

Laura

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Thank you. I really want to help others get through these hard times in life.

Debbie

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

Thank you Jason for being so brave! You are not alone, for sure! Your sharing this, as difficult as it is, will be someone's map to digging out. Thank you again, and God Bless you!

Laura

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Thank you. It took me a long time to learn that I am not alone and I really hope it helps others.

Jennifer

Tuesday 18th of June 2019

Thank you Jason for this! It is truly touching and I myself needed to know how to deal with similar issues. You are an inspiration!

Laura

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Thank you for reading. I hope it helps you get through the tough times.

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