Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Am I Strong Enough?

Brave. Courageous. Strong. Selfless. Since my blog first appeared, these are a few of the words friends and family have used to describe me. I am so grateful to all of them. However, as each day passes, I keep asking myself am I brave enough? Am I courageous enough? Am I strong enough? Am I selfless OR am I selfish?

The fact of the matter is this Chantix induced psychotic “event” happened to me over two months ago. It was December 15, 2009, the day that changed my life forever. Was I really brave and courageous? Up until the Channel 2 news story was about to air, I had not widely shared my story with some of my closest friends and family. There are several reasons. First, where do you begin to tell someone you were “locked up” for 5 days in a psych ward? Secondly, I believe in my heart that people that love me will always look at me without judgment, but what about others? Will they look at me and wonder if I’m really back to “normal” or about to break down? Or will they look at me in judgment and think that in some way, I was responsible for what happened to me?

So am I selfless or am I selfish? I would say that telling my story is an act of selfishness. Why? Because sharing my story is in many ways all about healing. And letting people know that I am a different person today than I was on December 15, 2009. Many people have a moment in their life that will forever define them. Of course, there are the happy life-defining moments, like for me, the two days that my beautiful daughters were born.

But what about the deepest darkest moment in one’s life that defines us? Mine was December 15, 2009. When was yours? Or have you experienced it yet? Was it the day your dad had a heart attack and never woke up? Was it the day you learned your child had a brain tumor? Was it the day you stood over your mother and watched her take her last breath? Was it the day you were sexually abused by a loved one who you trusted with all your heart? Was it the day you found out your brother was dying of lung cancer? When was your defining moment? Mine was December 15, 2009. Perhaps you haven’t had it yet – but one day, something may happen so dark that it will define you.

So how can I possibly compare my defining moment with someone with a child with a brain tumor or someone who has been sexually abused? How dare I! How dare I say that the potential side affects of the drug called Chantix are more harmful that dying of lung cancer! How dare I! Am I selfless or am I selfish?

Let me take you with me, just briefly into my defining moment. Let me share with you only what I am strong enough 60 days later to share with you … the rest will remain in my head until I’m ready to let it out through my own selfish act of healing.

On December 15, 2009 my dad died. And I cried like a baby for hours and for days. My dad -- my rock -- he was gone- taken from me forever. I would never see him again, and I was trying to be strong. I had to be. I’m the strong one in the family and I had to be there to hold up my mom. Dad kept winking at me, and saying “don’t worry about your mom, she will be ok.” And when my dad hugged me, I felt better because I was in his arms. But it wasn’t really him, because he was dead. He held my hand in the ambulance to the hospital. He was the only one that I would let ride with me. “Dad, it’s ok” I said, “I am strong enough … as long as you are holding my hand, I am strong enough.” I thought to myself, I know you are dead Dad, but I am strong enough to let you go. “I will take care of Mom.”

My husband wanted to kill himself. Oh my God, how could he do that to me and the girls? How could he be so depressed that he would take his own life? I knew that things had been really hard for him, losing both his mom and his dad within the last few years. Just like a typical man, he’d been holding it in all these months, but now, he can no longer deal with the depression. Going from his parents dying to my dad dying will be way too much for him to handle. Then there’s the situation with his job. I have to be there for him. “Please dear, please don’t kill yourself” I begged of him. “I am strong enough and I will be there for you to hold your hand and get you through this!”

Then there was God’s voice, which I was hearing over and over again in my head. He was telling me He was walking with me and that he had saved me. “Thank you God for saving me” I said. I told my sister that I had been saved and I felt high on life, yet I was crying when I told her the news.

Have you ever hallucinated? Do you know what it feels like? Have you ever been locked up in a psychiatric ward for 5 days? Do you know what it feels like? Have you watched your mom take her last breath? Do you know what it feels like? Have you had a defining moment in your life? What did it feel like?

As you’ve likely guessed, my dad is still alive and my husband was never suicidal or depressed. But on December 15, 2009, I believed these things were happening, and to this day, I believe God saved me that week and He was talking to me.

And with that said, let’s spend less time in judgment of others and more time helping others. Let’s spend less time being selfish and more time being selfless. I do not have the right to judge you and you don’t have the right to judge me. God does.

The reason people that are sexually abused don’t tell others, is that they feel they were in some way responsible. My dear friend, you are not responsible. Was I responsible for what happened to me? No, I was not. And neither are you. Tell your friends and family what you are going through. We are all struggling with something right now. Be there for one another. Listen more than you talk. Be selfless not selfish.

There’s not an hour that goes by that I don’t think of what I’ve been through and wonder if I will ever be back at 100%. But one thing I know for sure is that my life is better today that it was before December 15, 2009…because I love stronger and have reprioritized my life. And if I were truly a selfless person, as I hope to one day become, I would realize that this isn’t about me at all. It’s about a mission and I am just a voice. I keep telling myself to realize that no one is looking at me. No one is judging me. And that I am strong enough.


  1. Tina, thank you so much for sharing more details of what happened to you that day. It is heartbreaking that you have to also recover from believing you were losing your loved ones that day. You ARE strong. And you already do have a selfless heart or you wouldn't even give thought to the struggles or losses of others. Your friends' events do not make your event any less horrifying or difficult to overcome. When you have the strength to show compassion & just listen to those friends in need, then God love ya'. But on days when you may not have the strength to take on their tears, its completely ok to step back & be selfish & take care of you and your family. Keep up the mission! go Tina!

  2. Hi, Tina. I could've written this story. I am a 55 yr. old wife (36 years); mother of 2; na na of 6; love my job (23 years); and my life!! Doesn't get much better than this!!

    Was a closet smoker, 2 - 4 per day. Decided I wanted to dance at my grandchildren's weddings. Took two complete scripts of Chantix between Oct. '06 - Oct. '07.

    Two hospital stays in '08.

    Jan. '08 - - taken by ambulance in middle of nite with heart attack symptoms, debilitating headache, fever, stomach spasms that felt like contractions and total shortness of breath. Put on morphine, oxygen, antibiotics, 24/7 for a week. Released w/diagnosis...possible virus.

    May '08 - - as usual, had great day at work...daughter called when I got home, said, "mom, you've changed...everyone wants to know what's wrong...?" Smiled to myself, hung up, picked up car keys, took long drive to rural area, picking up 3 bottles of sleeping pills and mini-diabetic razors along the way at local Walgreen's. Wasn't mad, sad, glad, nothing...just flat. Parked on closed used car parking lot...wrote short note, "it's been real..." woke up six days later when being taken off life support...surrounded by sad loved ones and clergy. Spent time in psyche unit, intense in and out-patient therapy, individual and group therapy, still see psychiatrist and therapist on a regular basis.

    Do I know what hallucinations are?? As a teen, no a post-menopausal, flat chested, German girl, 55 yrs. of age...yes. Deceased loved ones came to my room at nite and tried to convince me my job was done here and it was time to go. They said heaven is a blast! It's nothing like you would think!! They were sooo happy...healthy...and convincing!! After May 22, 2008, my life as I knew it...came to an end. I lost all credibility w/those closest to me. No one can understand how someone who had so much...could just throw her life away on a whim.

    Trust me, was no whim. After months of running on empty, I thought my job WAS done here and I was ready to move on. For me, Chantix was a lobotomy by mouth. I pray for my day of vindication.

    Blessed to still be here!!

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