By Jodee Prouse
Celebrity Ricki Lake posted on her Instagram on February 14, “It is with a heavy heart that I share that my beloved soulmate, Christian Evans has passed. He succumbed to his life long struggle with bipolar disorder.”
Instantly I knew what she meant. And how she felt.
And then I remembered the flood of comments, mostly supportive: “Love, best wishes, sorry for your loss.” But, as all of us entangled in this complicated world of mental illness and addiction know, the lack of understanding or compassion toward our loved one will rear its ugly head.
As soon as I began reading “selfish” and “no one dies from bipolar,” I stopped reading. After all, I know how it goes.
I disagree. People do die from bipolar disorder and other illnesses every day. Personally, I don’t think anyone dies from suicide.
I have spent my entire life surrounded by alcohol addiction; it exists on many branches of my family tree. Just like Ricki Lake, I loved someone so very much who struggled in this life but lost his brave battle in March 2012.
I spent over six years, six long painful years, obsessed and determined to save my younger brother from addiction, both he and I making many mistakes along the way. By 2005, this had become such a crazy, out-of-control series of events that I started keeping notes; I didn’t think anyone would believe this could happen from “just alcohol.”
While most stories of its kind give you just a partial glimpse of what goes on, it became my intent to tell the whole story, without shame, beginning with our childhood. We know now – and what I didn’t know then – is that childhood trauma can cause anxiety, depression, more severe mental health issues, alcohol and drug addiction, and yes, even suicidal ideation.
When my memoir was released, in March, 2017, it instantly hit #1 on Amazon in three categories: Alcoholism, Adult Children of Alcoholics, and Dysfunctional Relationships. Within a couple of days, I got my first newspaper interview. I was grateful; I can’t spread this important message of change without the support of the media. My brother and I together are going to save lives. Create a conversation. Eliminate the shame and stigma. And encourage the families to ALL get the help they need.
The article was published the very next day, but when I read the second sentence, I lost my breath. It was a reminder of how powerful and influential the media is when reporting on a story. “ENDED WITH HIS SUICIDE.” What? His suicide?!
Those simple words threw me off. And I started to cry. I had spent over three years writing this memoir, a girl on a mission; calculated and precise. I knew exactly how I wanted to tell this story. It was always my intent that no one know the ending in advance. Not because I am hiding or ashamed or trying to pull a fast one, but rather I wanted to allow everyone to experience my brother’s and my journey, just as we did. I wanted to allow everyone to experience what it really ‘feels’ like while also giving knowledge, courage, encouraging compassion, empathy, and most importantly, hope.
The World Health Organization estimates that over a million people die from suicide each year: 30,000 in the USA and 3,800 in Canada. As long as we continue to zoom in on just that one word we will not be looking in the right direction. We will be losing sight of the issues at hand—the causes and help for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, addiction, and all the other things that lead to someone taking their own life.
I have watched a loved one pass away from cancer. Someone who was once a strong, energetic, virile man gradually became confined to a hospital bed, with feeding tubes; he was unable to speak, had suffered weight loss, and become a shell of who was once a man. No one would ever say that he died from heart failure when finally his heart could not take it anymore.
My brother did not die from suicide.
My brother died a slow, painful, agonising death from alcoholism. Did he take his own life? Yes. But that does not change the fact that alcoholism was the disease that led to his death. Had my brother found sobriety and help for his mental health issues, he would still be anxious, uncomfortable, and have to find the strength within himself to work through his pain. He would have had complicated struggles with his family and with all of life’s difficulties, in the way that we all have. But he would be alive today.
And had Ricki Lake’s beloved ex-husband not struggled with bipolar disorder, he too would be alive.
Jodee Prouse is a speaker and outspoken advocate for eliminating the shame and stigma surrounding addiction and mental illness from a family perspective. She is the author of the Amazon best seller, The Sun is Gone: A Sister Lost in Secrets, Shame, and Addiction, and How I Broke Free. To learn more, visit jodeeprouse.com.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here
If you enjoyed this article please share it using the buttons below…