Thursday, 8 September 2016

R U OK 2016 Kimberley's Story

Hello again my lovelies, I'm back for a not so fun, but super important discussion today. As some of you probably already know, today is R U OK day, the day where we shed a light on suicide prevention and remind people to look at the people around you and make sure you ask R U OK if you're worried about them.

I spoke about this day last year  and I took some time to share some of my own story with you guys. this year I'm doing something slightly different and I'm sharing someone else's story. (With their permission of course.) I mentioned back in the July Fly on the Wall that my baby sister Kimberley had come to stay with us for a little while. I didn't mention the specifics simply because a Fly on the Wall really isn't the place to discuss a story like this, but given the day I thought now would be a good time, and Kimberley agreed. Now there are still some specifics of this story that I am not 100% sure on, so there may be edits in the future, but I'll make a note of them if that does happen.

Kim has always been a special case as far as our family goes, because she always seemed to have the worst health. We always joked that she got all the defective genes given she was the last of 6 kids, but whatever the reason, she has spent her life dealing with a slew of physical and mental problems. She's always been a little bit OCD, a little bit of a germaphobe, and a little highly strung. On top of that she also has asthma, allergies and eczema. She really is the genetic dud of the family, but we love her anyway. We've all just accepted her personality quirks as being part of who she is, given how deeply ingrained mental issues are in our family it was inevitable she'd have something. As Kimberley got older however the issues got more serious. Kimberley became bulimic when she was a teenager. She also began drinking pretty heavily. My big sister Sam started suspecting that there was a serious problem when Kimberley was about 19, but confronting her was never going to be a good idea, so Sam tried the next best thing and asked Kimberley's high school boyfriend. He was more aware of the extent of the issues Kimberley was dealing with at the time, but being young and stupid he thought he could handle everything on his own and lied to us about there being anything worth worrying about. He then told Kimberley we were starting to suspect something so she became better at hiding her symptoms from us.

Fast forward another year or so, Kimberley had moved in with a new boyfriend by now, and was starting to struggle to hide her problems as well as she had in the past. We didn't realise it at the time, but it was because she was trapped in a super abusive relationship and the pressure of keeping up appearances coupled with her already pre-existing mental problems was becoming too much. Her boyfriend kept coming to us with scary stories like the time she tried to throw herself out of a moving car speeding down a freeway, or telling us she was constantly drinking to excess and acting impulsively in the most terrifying ways. He seemed genuinely concerned for her, and he appeared to want to help her, so we accepted his stories and tried to support them both, but nothing seemed to work. Kimberley ended up in and out of hospital during this time, her bulimia got so bad she ended up with a stomach ulcer, her drinking was completely out of control and her physical and mental health were declining rapidly. Eventually she got so sick she had to stop working and ended up living in bed. During this time I had hundreds of conversations with mum and with Sam, we were all worried out of our minds as to how to make Kimberley better, but there was nothing we could do because Kimberley didn't want to be helped. I hated having to tell them we had to sit back and wait but it was honestly all we could do until Kimberley was ready to admit that there was a problem and wanted out of her current situation.

It took 2 years for that to happen. None of us know really what Kimberley's ex was doing to her that whole time, as she still isn't ready to discuss the abuse with us, but we know it was bad. When Kimberley finally came to us she had been the victim of a physically and emotionally abusive man for over two years. The damage that man had managed to do to her over the course of that time was just mind boggling. He broke my baby sister utterly and completely into a million tiny pieces, and we now had the job of putting her back together. As the days rolled by Kimberley slowly started telling us tiny pieces of the story, we heard of the day she'd had enough of her life and tried to overdose on pain killers but ended up just sleeping for 24 hours straight. We heard of the day she decided she'd walk in front of a train, only to be stopped by a concerned stranger who noticed her pacing across a level crossing and stopped her. Luckily that day there were no trains for some reason, but I still thank the stars someone spoke to her. That tiny act of concern snapped her out of whatever was going on in her head and it wasn't long after that that she finally found the strength to leave.

We spent weeks helping Kimberley heal. When she first came home to us she felt completely and totally alone. She was unable to see the support network she had sitting around her at all times simply because life had become so hopeless for her she was blind to any signs of hope. Even our dad was right there by her side the whole time, and he's never been able to cope with hugely emotional situations. (A cynical person might say that was just evidence Kimberley was his favourite, but we're not cynical are we?) We seemed to be getting through to her, she was back at work, she was back to visiting friends, she looked like she was slowly coming back to us when her ex found a new girl. Kimberley crashed and burned and we took giant steps backwards in our progress. Then a friend died in an accident while on holiday and Kimberley started saying she didn't want to live anymore. And she kept saying it over and over. Mum was out of her mind with worry, my other sister Natalie was out of her mind with worry, Sam was out of her mind with worry, and I was stuck listening to everyone worry and stress and not know what to do.

I ended up reaching out to Kimberley, desperate to try to keep everything together. I wrote her a letter telling her all kinds of lovely and encouraging things about her, but also telling her suicide wasn't the answer. I was completely honest and possibly a little harsh with her and some of it was hard to read, but I was desperate. Being kind and gentle wasn't working so I figured being brutally honest couldn't hurt. I know she's read the letter, but we've never spoken about it. But it was the last time she's mentioned wanting to die. And shortly after that she turned a corner.

Now Kimberley has been home for three months and we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. She's not completely cured, not yet anyway. She still has bulimia, she still has a whole heap of physical issues which are going to take years to heal, and she is still dealing with her trauma, as she is going to for a long time to come. As of writing this we have just come through a low period with lots of crying and conversations about horrible topics, but it's different now. She knows that there is hope and she knows that there is love all around her, even on the days when her brain betrays her and makes everything seem dark again. I don't know that the worst of it is over yet, but as long as we keep reaching out to her when things get difficult, I know we'll get through this, just as we have done before.

And that is why I say it is so important to reach out to the people around you. I hear too many times the stories of families of suicide victims who say they wish they'd had a chance to help their loved ones, if only they'd known that something was wrong, if only they'd spoken up about how they were feeling. If you suspect that someone you know is not doing ok, then speak up. Let them know you see them, let them know you care about them, and let them know that help is available.

If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide or depression, please know that there is help available for you, There are thousands of resources at your fingertips on your computer, tablet, phone or refrigerator that you are reading this on right now. Don't give up, because if my mutant of a baby sister can survive going to hell and back, then so can you.

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