Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Remembering Britni: One Step at a Time

By Becky Wright

Thirty-two years old is too young to die.

I am 32 years old, and I think so. My sister-in-law, Britni, died almost a year ago. She took her own life battling with mental illness. We are the same age. She left behind a husband and two beautiful children.

Britni suffered and struggled for seven long years with bipolar disorder. Nobody knew how much pain she really was in until it was too late.

Britni had a very loving family with a husband, two kids, parents and three brothers. She was a happy, outgoing person who had lots of friends. She was popular in high school, participating in cheerleading and various other activities. She loved reading, camping with her family, antique shopping and going on walks.

When I married her older brother, Britni and I became fast friends. I was glad to call her my sister. She was fun, silly and always made me laugh. She was the kind of person who was fun to hang around. She loved dressing up and always was the best-dressed, with the most matching accessories. She was a good aunt to my kids. They were guaranteed tons of fun and spoiling if she was around. They loved her like I did for the genuine love she showed all her family and friends.

The painful part to talk about is when things got difficult for her and the family.

When the symptoms of mental illness started, she would be in and out of psychiatric facilities, struggling with depression, self-mutilation and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. The family cried with her, took care of her children and prayed for her to receive the help and care she would need to feel better. She had a strong support system of family and friends around her that loved her and wanted her to succeed.

She tried many different options of treatment, but ultimately took her life on July 9, 2011.

After the funeral, I wanted to show Britni how much she meant to me. I wanted her to know that she had a sister that loved her. I felt a great need to do my part to raise awareness of mental illness.

I set a goal to run the Surfside Beach, Texas marathon in memory of my sister-in-law this past February. I finished in first place for all women and eighth place overall. My marathon time was 3:26:52.1 (7:54 pace). I wore a grey ribbon on my running bib—a symbol of mental illness awareness.

Becky, left, with her sister-in-law, Britni.

It was the hardest run I have ever completed. The marathon was 100 percent on the sand (not the easiest surface to run on!). The weather was rainy and stormy, and I was completely soaked to the bone! I felt added strength, because I was running for Britni. I knew that I had to finish the race for her.

As our family has struggled with our loss, we have continued to educate ourselves about bipolar disorder. It is so important to share with my own children and others that it is okay to talk about this subject. This may help them find the assistance they need if or when they may need it.

I am trying to increase my knowledge of mental illness, by learning the signs and coping skills for families and those diagnosed. I realize that I need to keep on doing this one step at a time.

10 comments:

CerinaDarkFaerie said...

Becky, I am sorry for yours and your family's loss. I too, suffer from Bipolar as well as Borderline personality disorder and self harm. It's certainly not something I would wish on even my worst enemy! I call it "my own personal roller coaster from hell". I've been married and divorced 4 times....have 2 beautiful (and very stable) children but I am very difficult to live with and to love. I have yet to find that unconditional love. I suffer from Bipolar with rapid cycling...which means I can go from manic to completely depressed in a matter of hours or days.
I appreciate your efforts of educating others on mental illness! I was diagnosed in 2000 but have been suffering the symptoms since I was a young teen. I am now 42 and fight the urge every day, not to cut, self harm and even take all the pills I have just to end my ride on my roller coaster from hell.
So please, keep up what you're doing!! Hopefully people will someday understand that a person with mental illness needs love and understanding and DID NOT create the illness or bring it on themselves. It just is.
Thank you Becky.

CerinaDarkFaerie said...

Becky, I am sorry for yours and your family's loss. I too, suffer from Bipolar as well as Borderline personality disorder and self harm. It's certainly not something I would wish on even my worst enemy! I call it "my own personal roller coaster from hell". I've been married and divorced 4 times....have 2 beautiful (and very stable) children but I am very difficult to live with and to love. I have yet to find that unconditional love. I suffer from Bipolar with rapid cycling...which means I can go from manic to completely depressed in a matter of hours or days.
I appreciate your efforts of educating others on mental illness! I was diagnosed in 2000 but have been suffering the symptoms since I was a young teen. I am now 42 and fight the urge every day, not to cut, self harm and even take all the pills I have just to end my ride on my roller coaster from hell.
So please, keep up what you're doing!! Hopefully people will someday understand that a person with mental illness needs love and understanding and DID NOT create the illness or bring it on themselves. It just is.
Thank you Becky.

Anonymous said...

Becky, thank you for sharing this rememberance. I was diagnosed with bipolar 19 years ago; few peole can undestand the pain and lost self-esteem. On bad days, a person has to fight against suicidal ideations. I am sorry for Britini's stuggle and your loss. What a beautiful picture of the two of you. Keep remembering the good times.

Lea said...

Becky, my condolences and prayers are with you and your family. Congratulations on finishing strong in the race! It sounds like you were a great support system for your sister in law.

Mariah said...

I think mental illness in general, but especially bi-polar disorder, is so prevalent to varying degrees. So many have to struggle alone, I'm glad Britni had good support and family and friends that loved her. This was a beautifully written post. Congrats on the great finish.

We just moved into Countryside...sure wish you were still here. It would've been fun.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Becky. Your story made me feel not so alone. I love a wonderful man who is bi-polar.

Nell said...

Wow! Congrats on the marathon! My sympathies are with you and your family for the loss of Britni. I was relieved to see that your family is aware that the children need the information and openness so they can reach out if they need help someday.

Anonymous said...

Including your finishing time and pace seems out of place in the article. As a fellow marathon-runner, I get that you want to stress the hardship of the race, but it doesn't add anything to your point. You might consider leaving it out of future articles.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. The result of the race adds something to the accomplishment, gives it a name. It would have been the same even if she placed 103rd. I have a son who is mildly MR and runs. In his second to last race in high school he finished near the end of the pack. In his last race (very different competition) he won by a wide margin. Both times the first thing he said to me was "I beat my best time!" I realized then that he runs with indifference to the competition but a determination to do his best.

Anonymous said...

My condolences for your loss. I pray for you and your family. I truly empathize with you. I lost my son age 23. 2 wks before his 24 the birthday. Much too young in my eyes. Suicide from mentally illness. Bi Polar as well. It was undiagnosed. I have my husband and six other children. He was our oldest. Youngest was only 5 when his oldest brother died. We are a family devoted to our deep catholic faith. Every day we say JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU! We pray daily for our son and all the faithful departed souls. This brings us comfort. Eternal rest grant unto our departed loved ones, O Lord, let your perpetual light shine upon them always and may they rest in peace! God bless you and you family and Britni. May the Peace of Jesus be with you always!