(Photo by Selma Komisky)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
The Road of Recovery
By Joy Wilson DeFraene
Recently, I took off my mask in front of 150 high school students for the first time. On October 8, 2019, I was invited by our Unity club advisor to speak on the topic of suicide at their suicide awareness meeting. Because my nephew, Jarrid Wilson, died of suicide just 4 weeks prior to the meeting, I willingly accepted the invitation despite being nervous to speak. My strong desire to help others and to bring awareness to suicide eased my nerves giving me the courage to become vulnerable and open about my struggles. Before I spoke, I quietly asked God for guidance. Then, I got on my knees and began to share my 20-year struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
For the past year I have stayed healthy and happy due to Jarrid’s constant reminders that, “It’s okay to ask for help,” and, “Asking for help does not make you weak.” My previous attempts hadn’t worked and I was desperate to become healthy, mentally and spiritually. His words were able to aid my emergence towards a new path in search of healing. It is only because of Jarrid, his wife, Juli, and Jarrid’s siblings––Kaylie Houseright and Christian Wilson––that I have the strength to take off my mask today. Through these loved ones of mine, I have realized that I might be able to help others by revealing my own trials and scars.
At the suicide awareness meeting, I tried to encourage each of the students to believe that they are not alone and that it is okay to ask for help. I reminded them, “If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-harm, drug or alcohol dependency, an eating disorder…please reach out to someone and know that you are not alone.” Mental illness needs to be brought to the forefront of our attention. There are too many people who are sick and in need of help. I have been witness to a multitude of beautiful individuals around me that have fought through depression and suicide. In less than four years, I’ve lost three members of my own family to suicide; three years ago my favorite math professor died of suicide; during the past year, three of my friends have lost their children to suicide and another friend lost her brother to suicide. After Jarrid’s death, I realize more than ever, something has to be done to spread more awareness. My heart is broken, but I am determined to stay strong in hopes of bringing strength to others.
Though every person is different, I have found a solution that has worked for me and I pray that it can help others as well. I told the students that I still need to keep on top of my mental health; eating well, getting enough sleep, spending time in nature, exercising, and fellowship with friends. However, I was not able to share the most important part of my healing process––my faith. My recovery has been given to me by the grace of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He saved me from the darkness and because of Him, I have a light to guide me through any darkness that comes my way. I will continue to sing His praises, louder and louder, others will hear my praises roar.
Thank you to Marked Ministry for being a light. Together, one day at a time, one life at a time, we can make a difference. Knowing that I can make a difference in another person’s life keeps me waking up every morning. I tell myself “God’s got this,” “Hope has the final word,” and “The cross has the final word.”