A Journey of Survival

Date: 1/17/2012 12:25:26 PM

Survivors Helping Survivors, Winter 2012 Edition

Survivors Helping Survivors, Winter 2012 Edition

A journey of survival
The following story of survival was written by Karen Voss

I will never forget the tragic day of Sunday, December 14, 2008. It marks the day my husband, Russell, lost his life to suicide, after four short months of marriage. Russ, after battling endless years diagnosed as bipolar and additionally suffering from negative auditory hallucinations, lost his battle. Although, the four years Russ and I were together were the most memorable of my life, I have traveled a remarkable journey since his death.

Recovering from such a tragedy as finding Russ hanging in our garage that morning and going into shock has not been easy. I have dealt with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), weight gain, insomnia, emotionally stressed headaches, feelings of being lost, questioning everything, and dealing with “survivor guilt”. Then, on top of everything else, I lost my job in March, 2009. Unemployment added to the heavy grief and legal issues I had already been dealing with.  I had low energy and motivational levels leaving me unable to get anything accomplished. Fortunately a team of people helped me work through everything and eventually allow me to persevere.

With the help flowing from all corners, I combated all the issues I had been up against. Two years after Russ’s death, I was able to check everything off the list. I worked with my physician and counselor to overcome PTSD, depression, and sleep issues. The Survivors of Suicide support group assisted in answering some of the unanswerable questions. My local Y aided weight loss goals and my chiropractors alleviated the headaches. Survivor guilt became the last issue on the list of complications and the hardest to fight.

I credit Higher Brain Living (HBL) for being able to work through survivor guilt and the accepting of Russ’s death in February and March 2011 respectively. Survivor guilt is comprised of all the questions of “what if”, “what could have I done’s”, “what should have I done’s”, and “why didn’t I’s”. In November 2011, I attended a presentation for HBL and signed up for the program with the hope of working through the guilt no one else had been able to do. HBL is a revolutionary movement which is shifting humanity from lower brain living to higher brain living. Converting stress, worry, and anxiety (lower brain) into more abundance, confidence, and joy (higher brain) changes everything.

Since starting HBL, I discovered my passion for writing and I am taking steps to become a published writer. I created a blog, Inspiring Thru Thought, www.inspiringthruthought.wordpress.com, and my writing currently stems from my journey since Russ passed away. I have become an advocate for saving lives. I am currently on the planning team for the Milwaukee Community Out of the Darkness Walk. I am always speaking of my journey and Russ’s life to educate and inform people of suicide and mental illness. Sharing this information allows me to help save lives. The more of my journey I share, the more people I meet who have contemplated suicide or have lost a loved one or friend to the completion of suicide.

Since August 2010, I started remodeling the house; from new flooring and painting, to new countertops, refinished hardwood floors and a new roof. Sorting, donating and organizing continue to be projects, but I know eventually they will be complete. Family and friends have been supporting the efforts offering advice, opinions and assistance. I am blessed to have such a great support system.

Five months after losing Russ, I still could not step a foot in our garage. Too many bad feelings and flashbacks would block my progress. My counselor suggested having the garage blessed to ease the transition and confront the issues. Deacon Rob from my church performed the blessing with prayers and readings followed by blessing the inside and outside of the garage with Holy Water. I was accompanied by a few family members and good friends who benefited as well. With a flow of tears, I released my fears bringing closure and now I can go inside the garage. Sure I still have flashbacks now and then, but they are less severe. I conquered one more issue of trauma.

Most people refer to themselves and are referred to as “survivors” and I am not an exception. I do not consider myself a survivor anymore, but a “thriver”, a warrior moving forward after tragedy.

Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA) would like to thank Karen Voss for sharing her story of survival. Stories such as Karen’s can help others on their journey of recovery. If you would like to share your story, please submit it Danielle Lennie at Email: danielle@mhawisconsin.org.