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.
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.
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