March 6, 2023

sunny's pov

sunny's pov
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three siblings

sunny’s point of view

this episode is about sunny's individual point of view as one of the three siblings. the divorce of their parents was very messy with a lot of fighting, arguments & infidelity. during high school, sunny would barely talk to his father during lunch and dinner when they got together which causes regret today. sunny grew up with a strong and loving mother, but when their parents divorced, their mother's mental health deteriorated. sunny had his own struggles with anxiety but didn't realize what it was, only noticing the physical symptoms like tensing up, freezing up, and sweating. sunmy recounts the story of his mother's battle with depression and anxiety, which ultimately led to her attempting suicide twice. he recalls the emotional drives to the hospital and his regret that he didn't take a semester or year off of school to be there for his mom then the rehab process that followed. the episode is about sunny's mental health journey.

trigger warning: this show discusses sensitive mental health topics.

episode timestamps

0:00:10 - divorce and resentment towards his stepmother

0:02:44 - mental health struggles and the impact of divorce

0:04:40 - coping strategies after a parent's suicide attempt

0:09:50 - mending relationships: a mental health story

0:11:23 - the last time i told my dad i love him

0:15:02 - witnessing the passing of a loved one

0:17:24 - grief and appreciation

0:21:14 - the last conversation with my mom before her suicide

0:27:52 - mental health takeaways from intensive outpatient therapy program

produced by dbpodcasts:

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Sunny: Welcome to Three Siblings, a podcast about life after loss and grief. We're the three siblings. Your hosts, Sonny, Tina and Michelle. On the show, we tell our stories to shine a light on tough family situations to help our listeners with issues they may be facing. Let's get into it. All right, welcome to the next episode. You just heard the episode covering our parents'story losing our parents from all three of our point of views. In the next few episodes, we thought it would be good to share our individual point of views. So in this episode, you're only going to be hearing my voice. In the next couple of episodes, you're going to only be hearing Tina and Michelle's voice. So I guess to get started, we talked about our parents background already. So I'll just jump straight into the divorce. Like we mentioned, the divorce was pretty messy. There was a lot of arguing and fighting and me being a kid, I tried to ignore it all and try to not acknowledge it, or I was just too young to really understand what was going on. I know it's pretty messy. There was lots of back and forth fighting, text messages, and the whole division of the state was extremely messy. And that's when I found out that my dad had a mistress who, like we said, would later become our stepmom. And because of that, I really blamed the divorce on my dad. I really resented him because of it. And I will have guilt and regret for that. Throughout high school, we'd get lunch or dinner every Sunday and I'd barely even talk to him. He would ask me questions, try to have a conversation with me at dinner, and I wouldn't even say anything. A lot of the times I would just answer with one word responses or things like that. And I was just a young teen being rebellious and not being a good son. Honestly, there's a lot of regret that I'll have covering that. And there's actually a story we talked about my dad having heart problems. He had a distributor installed in his forty s and his freshman year we were at a banquet at school for football and my dad had a heart attack at the banquet. The hospital was called, 911 was called, and he was put in an ambulance. And my stepmom actually arrived. And while I was scared for my dad, I remember being furious that my step mom was there because I had never met her and never wanted to speak to her. And that just goes to show my immaturity and inability to learn and love my dad at that time. And so high school, I lived alone with my mom. That was when her first attempt occurred. She seemed fine to me. My mom growing up was always a strong, powerful woman. She was loving, she was caring. All of her employees loved her and treated her like family. And never during that time did her love for me waver? Never did she show any signs of weakness, but I guess the divorce really weighed heavily on her. And when I got back from my trip, that's when I found out that she had attempted her first time. Luckily, she didn't jump and was found before she jumped. But that was difficult to see her in the hospital. That was my first encounter with a mental hospital at all. It was scary to see her so emotionally weak for me, and I wish I'd understood better what was going on. I said, I'd love her more, I'd be there for her more often. And I feel like in high school, I was able to be there for her more often. But being 14 or 15 and trying to understand what a suicide attempt was, I feel like I was incapable of comprehending that. And even then, I didn't understand what depression or anxiety was, even for myself. Like I mentioned in the last episode, I had anxiety. I had panic and anxiety attacks, but I never knew what they were. I would just sort of tense up, freeze up in class. Sometimes I would start sweating. I think everyone was looking at me. And when I started sweating, I think everyone saw me sweating more, and that would just make me sweat even more. And I would just have to run out of the classroom and wipe myself down and take a few deep breaths. And looking back at it, it's like, wow, I've had so many anxiety attacks before. I wish I knew what that was. I wish I was able to acknowledge that earlier on in my life and try to do something to work on that. So after my mom's first attempt, she did get a lot better. She had a boyfriend. I was finishing up high school. My two sisters were in college or already out of the house. And so I think when I graduated high school and moved to college, that's when things got difficult for her again. She was now home alone, and she was a great mom. I think a huge part of her life revolved around being the best mom that she could be. And it must have been so difficult for her when I finally left and she was home alone. And so after that first year in June of 2016, it was her second attempt, and I was in college. I was focused on doing well in school, focused on having fun and just being a college student still, I didn't really know what depression or anxiety was. And I'd say I visited during the holidays, but I really wish that I'd visited more often. My mom never showed any signs again of being depressed or being anxious. But looking back, I mean, it's always easy to say, looking back, I wish I could do different things in different situations for this entire story. But, yeah, I wish I had visited more often. And I guess that's something I'll try to work on is that it's to be less hard on myself, wishing that I could change things. Because it's sometimes hard to forget that depression really is a sickness, and there's only so much I was able to do as an 1819 year old kid. So in June of 2016, my mom went to the same parking garage, and this time she successfully jumped on the second floor of the parking garage. I was at a pool, drinking, hanging out with my friends in Austin where I went to school, when I got the call from my dad that I had to hurry and drive to Houston immediately, my mom had successfully jumped. She had fractured every limb in her body and her skull. And the only way that someone found her was they found a trail of blood leading to her body. Luckily, someone found her quick enough. She was life flighted to the hospital, and I had to tell my friends quickly, sober up, chug water, just frantically freak her out back and forth, and finally make that drive. And that two and a half, three hour drive is tough. You're just thinking about what went wrong, what could have happened, what I could have done differently. It's a lot of time to think. It's a lot of time to cry. It's a lot of time to ponder. And I guess in the last episode, michelle and Tina talked about having to fly back from Paris or Australia in the other situations. And I can't even imagine going and having to travel that long just to get back, because two and a half, 3 hours is a lot of time to think. And I can't even imagine what they had to go through in those longer situations. And so when I got there, it was frightening. It was scary to see my mom and cast in every limb, just sort of sedated and asleep. But when she awoke, it gave me a glimmer of hope that things could get better. There are things that I needed to do to change. I wish and regret not taking the semester, a year off of school, following that, to be there for my mom. But in my head, there were so many thoughts going on in the hospital. I was like, okay, my mom's going to make it. I'm going to tell her I love you so much more. I'm going to be there for her. I'm going to call her every day. I'm going to do everything I can, be the best son that I can. And the recovery for her was long and difficult. She couldn't walk. She had trouble getting up and down, so she had nurses and helpers come every day. I'm so thankful that Tina was able to move home and be there for my mom while I was at school still. And yes, now I did visit more often. I came probably once or twice a month just to see my mom, make sure she was okay. And the whole rehab process was tough. That's when it sort of became instilled in me to distract myself from my true emotions and really understand what was going on. Because when we were in the hospital and my dad told me, sonny, focus on work, focus on school, focus on getting an internship and getting a job after college, we will handle this. And from an early age, it was just sort of instilled in me to distract myself from what was going on, not comprehend my emotions. And that will become a key theme in my mental health story because eventually that reaches a boiling point. There's only so long that you can distract yourself from your emotions and not feel those emotions, because deep down, there's still always going to be there. And so during this time, it gave me time to actually mend relationships with my dad as well. I was spending more time with him in the hospital, being a family together, making sure my mom was okay. That fall, my dad came to college a lot and visited. We went to a football game together. He went to Iowa State and UT. Played Iowa State. They're in the same conference. And so I remember he came to a tailgate and he was the only one in Iowa State polo and I have a picture of that. That was a funny moment. And then we also went to a UT Iowa State basketball game. I'm very thankful to have those memories with my dad. In November 2016 was the first time I actually met my step mom. Like I said, I was working on mending relationships with my dad, who was an amazing dad who loved me and cared for me even when I was a terrible son to him. He invited me to his Bay house Thanksgiving weekend, and I had a great time. I spent a couple of days there. I went fishing with my dad. I met my baby half sister, who I never met before. And she was adorable. She was so cute and so sweet. And I'm thankful for that memory because as I was driving away, as I was getting ready to leave, I had a conversation with my dad. And I just remember I told him, I love you. That was my first time telling him I love you since freshman year of high school, so probably six or seven years. The last time I told him I love you was when he told me that he was moving out from my house. And like I said, the relationship had a lot of turmoil after that. I had a lot of resentment towards him. But I'm so thankful that the last thing I told him was, I love you. Because in December of 2016, my dad had lots of heart problems. Like I said, he had a heart attack in freshman year of high school. His defibrillator saved his life. Probably numerous at times. And he had a heart attack. December of 2016. The paramedics weren't able to get there quick enough. He survived, but he was in a coma for a couple of weeks. And I remember getting the call. I was studying for an accounting exam. I had probably gone 3 hours of sleep. The counting exam was at 09:00 A.m.. It was 08:00 a.m. I had gone to bed probably at three or four, just studying, studying really hard for the final exam. When I got a call from a number I didn't have. It was my step mom who called and she told me that my dad had a heart attack. He was in a coma now, and I needed to get back to Houston. I was already under so much stress. I mean, accounting exam is pretty difficult. I've been studying so hard for not only the count exam, but other exams, I guess the overload of stress and then getting that bad news. I just went to a stairwell in the business school and collapsed and started sobbing. One of my friends found me, gave me a hug, and I had to go in the study room where there was probably five to ten of my friends still crying, packing my stuff, and say, hey, I have to drive to Houston. I can't take this exam. My dad had a heart attack. So I went up to my accounting professor, told him the same thing. He gave me a hug and I said, I can't take this final right now. I have to go be there for my dad. And once again, like I said, the two and a half, three hour drive. There's so much time to think and pray and just think about life. And on that drive back, it was kind of gloomy. I guess it was sort of a sign of things to come. But I saw a rainbow. It sounds kind of corny to say, but I swear I saw a rainbow. And I had hope. I was like, this is similar to what happened to my mom. My dad's going to make it. Everything will be okay. I'm going to cherish every moment following this. My dad be there for my dad and truly love my dad. And when I got there, seeing my dad in the coma was tough. He was just not moving. That was the case for around a week and a half to two weeks. He was in a coma. Everyone had so much hope. Everyone was like, you know, coma has happened a lot. He's going to wake up. My dad is such a strong man. He's going to wake up. And every time his finger would twitch or something would happen, we'd like, oh, my God, yes, he's getting better. He's responding. Things are getting so much better. And like before when my dad had instilled that idea to distract myself and not really acknowledge my emotions or what was going on. I was just sort of fixated on studying for my exams. I was like, I'm going to go take my exams. I need to probably drive back in a week or two and take my exams. And my family and sisters were like, don't focus on that. That's not what it's important right now. What's important is being there for your dad. And that was just difficult for me to understand, I guess not only from what had been instilled in me, but also being a guy, I guess being the only guy in that situation besides my dad. It was putting on this brave face, acting like everything was okay, acting like I had the courage to be able to make it through this without crying or something like that. And it was a difficult time. We all alternated nights being there for my dad just in case anything happened in the hospital. And one thing I'm thankful for was that there was a music festival going on. One of my best friends came in town. My sisters told me to go. It was a good distraction. Once again, I keep saying distraction from what's going on in reality, but it was a good way to get my mind off things. I went to this music festival for a couple of days, and when the music festival finished the next night, it was my night to stay in the hospital and watch my dad in case anything happened. And I was the only one there that night. When a nurse gave him a medicine that reacted negatively to his heart, it increased his heart rate. And as someone who's had terrible heart problems, that was not good for him. Immediately, alerts went off, alarms went off, nurses and doctors came, rushed into the hospital room. And it was a scene from a movie. I'll never get this out of my head. They had the defibrillators, the two pumps pumping on his chest, yelling, Three, two, one, go. Three, two, one, go. They kept doing it and doing it. Seeing my dad's chest explode up was exactly like a movie scene. And eventually it stopped. And the heartbeat monitor stopped. And they informed me that my dad passed away. I was the only one there that night when I watched my dad die. And that's something I hope no one ever has to witness, watching their loved one, watching their parent pass away in front of them. When my step mom got there, she screamed and collapsed when she heard the news. And the rest of the family got there, and my dad's body still just sat there. It got cold, he got pale. And we all said our final goodbyes until they took him away. And like we said in the last episode, there's so much going on. I wondered why I didn't cry. I was like, my bad son for not crying. But now, looking back, I was just in shock. I felt bad at the time. But, yeah, looking back now, I was just in shock. I didn't know what was going on. I mean, that's a lot to take in, and my mind just didn't know what to think at the time, watching my dad passed away. So this would be the first time that we had to understand the funeral process. I mean, that's the last thing you want to do when someone passes away. You want to mourn and be there with your family. But you also have to plan a funeral, which takes a lot. You have to go to a funeral home. You got to pick the casket. You got to pick the tombstone. There's so much that goes into it. I wish maybe there was a way to make it easier or something like that, but it was us three kids, our step mom and my mom, that had to work on that. And during that time, the inflow of love that we received from everyone around us was amazing. I'm so thankful for everyone that reached out, that sent flowers, that sent cards. I'll never forget the people that showed love. I'm so appreciative of it. My family is so appreciative of it. But one tip of advice that I learned from it that is amazing is that one of my best friend's moms, Mrs. Zeichler, one of the most amazing woman in the world, who became basically her second family. She organized a food gift card thing where families gave food gift cards for restaurants. And she also sent a tray of sandwiches. The last thing you want to do when someone passes away is cook or worry about food. So having those gift cards made it so easy to order in food and made it so easy having that tray of sandwiches just grab something from the fridge real quick. So if that's one tip of advice when someone passes away is to send them some food or send them some restaurant gift cards, it makes life a lot easier for them. So thank you, Mrs. Eichler, for being such a big part of our life when we were dealing with a lot. I'm forever appreciative of that. The funeral was tough. They did an open casket funeral. And seeing my dad's body like that, seeing his face like that was even scarier than seeing him dead in the hospital. Just having makeup on his face was dark. That was scary. Having to give a speech is the last thing you want to think about. I remember just talking about how powerful and smart and humble and great of a dad my dad was. I wish I had gotten to appreciate that more from him during my youth, but I'm grateful for that last six months where I started opening up to him more and appreciating who he was, and that was a great dad. After that, I think my mom thought she really had to step up. She was only parent left for us. And she did get better. She got out of a wheelchair. I have a picture of her where she stood up for the first time and so happy. And she was there for us. She tried everything she could, but her depression was still rampant. She was still anxious like before. She did such a good job of hiding it, of trying to be that strong woman, that strong mom that she always was. In the summer of 2017, once again, I'll say there's so much regret and guilt that I have for the things I did. I decided to study abroad in London. I spent the whole summer in London, and I wish I had just did an internship in Houston or something like that. Being closer to my mom. I'm not going to say that studying in London wasn't an amazing time. Being able to experience different culture, different country, wasn't amazing. But when I came back in August of 2017, my mom was not doing well. Her depression was really bad, and all three of us were at home. The night before my mom completed suicide, she told us that she was feeling suicidal, she was feeling depressed, she wasn't feeling well. And us three kids, not really knowing what to do, we're like, hey, we'll take you to the doctor tomorrow. We're going to take you to the hospital. We're going to get you the help you need. Just go to bed, everything will be okay. We love you. We'll figure this out tomorrow. And that would be the last thing we said to our mom. We all went to bed, and the next morning, she wasn't there anymore. Her car was gone. She left her cell phone. And I just sort of knew that that was it. My mom was gone. We hadn't been there for I wish I had just stayed the night with her. Slept next to her, held her hand, said, I love you more. But unfortunately, my mom got smarter. She went to the 9th floor of a parking garage and jumped. And she passed away at impact. And I remember crying at the stairwell. I just laid on the stairs, thinking, why us? We've been through so much. Why my mom? Why does this have to happen to us? I'm an orphan now. Selfishly. That's a selfish way to think. I'd say I should be focused on my mom, but I'm an orphan now. I don't know what that will entail, what the future will be like, but I can never imagine that this would happen to my sisters and I. And once again, we had to go through the whole funeral process and things like that. And that was, once again, not fun. And the day at the funeral, Hurricane Harvey was actually happening. It was just a perfect description of what was going on in our lives at the time. There was a hurricane literally going on, raining so hard, so gloomy. And I'm thankful for my friends that made the drive down from Austin to be there for me. So thankful for them. So thankful for the people that made it that show that they loved and cared for my mom. That's something I will never forget. The amount of love that we received after losing our parents. There's so many families and people that constantly reached out and were there for us after losing her parents. And I guess there's so much to be thankful for. Even though what had happened to us was terrible. We lost her parents. I guess try to look at the bright side and be thankful for those that are there, the loved ones. I say the silver lining of the situation is that my sisters and I grew so incredibly close. They're the only family I have left. They're the only ones that understand what I've been through. And so I'm so thankful to have Tina and Michelle. I don't know what I'd be able to do without them. We talk every day. We have a group text. We send stupid gifts or tik tok to each other. And they're just two of the most amazing souls I know. And I'm thankful to have them in my life. And I guess moving on in the future, I talked about me bottling up my emotions. I'd never seen a therapist. I didn't really understand what a therapist was. But that was in August of 2017, that semester. My anxiety was terrible. My depression was terrible. There were days where I just lay in bed and not be able to move. I would just cry and cry and cry when I know what was going on. And I remember that my friend had mentioned that she was seeing a psychiatrist and taking medicine. And so finally I reached out to her and I saw the psychiatrist and I started taking medicine. And that was one of the greatest decisions I made in my life, starting to take medicine to help stabilize my mood. Through the psychiatrist, I found my first therapist, and therapy was great for me. Obviously, I'm not a medical person, so I'm just basing this off of my experience and opinions. But seeing a therapist was a great way for me to have an objective view on things, see my life through an objective lens. I'm so thankful I started seeing therapy because it was just a way to get things off my chest. Being a guy, I tried to make it seem like everything was okay. Social media, just post happy pictures of yourself. Even though I'd lost both my parents, tried to make sure I seemed happy, tried to make sure I was doing well in school. Just trying to continue to portray myself in a positive light, even though deep down subconsciously, I wasn't okay. I was depressed, I was anxious. I couldn't comprehend what was going on. And so even sync therapy, even taking medicine, I still bottled everything in until April 2022. It reached a boiling point to where my emotions were just overflowing and I just couldn't work anymore. I couldn't function anymore. I was at my job in Houston. It was the end of the day. I remember sitting in my car, and I cried. I called my bosses. I told him, I can't do this anymore. And I'm thankful for the company I was at, for being amazing and allowing me to go on medical leave at the time to focus on my mental health. And the same friend that referred me to my psychiatrist actually referred me to an eight week intensive outpatient therapy program. And I say that was the best decision of my life. Doing this eight week program, it really taught me a lot. He did four days a week, 2 hours each day, group therapy, skills therapy. And one takeaway I guess I'll get from that is that everyone's story is somehow the same. They all sort of relate. Everyone's darkest day is not the same, but somehow relates a little bit. One thing I always talk about in my takeaways from my mental health is that there is no scale to things. There is no scale to your worst day. There's no scale to your darkest time. When my parents passed, people would always be like, I can't imagine what you're going through, but I'm here for you. But I always try to tell them, you can imagine what I've been going through. Your darkest day is the same as my darkest day. Your depression, your anxiety, your emotions are the same as mine. Don't downplay your emotions. Don't try to compare. There's no scale, really. If you're going through a tough time, you're going through a tough time. It's as simple as that is how I see things. And so, yeah, that's my point of view. I appreciate you listening to my perspective and maybe learn a couple of new things, and I really appreciate you taking the time, listening to my story. Thank you.

Michele: Thank you for tuning in to the three siblings. We know we do discussed some really tough topics on the show, so we want to make sure you've got the resources you need. If you're going through a tough time, dialing nine eight eight will bring you to a suicide and crisis phone line. If you want to support the work we're doing on the show, the best thing to do is to leave a review on Apple podcasts. It might help someone else who needs to hear this and find this show. You can also follow us on social media at Three Siblings podcasts on Instagram and at Siblings podcast on Twitter. We are so excited to share more stories with you in our next episode.