The Reason Coin and Feather Exists

Posted: April 21, 2010 in About Me
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

This is my nephew Tyrel. He would have been 28 on his next birthday, Dec 31, 2013.


This is Ty’s daughter, Saylor. She is 3 now. She was a 3 month old fetus when Tyrel took his life. He never got to hold her and see how beautiful she is. He was buried holding her first ultrasound picture.

We’re lucky. Saylor’s mom, Destiny, is wonderful and has been great about letting us see their daughter. I don’t think I would have been that strong. We don’t get to see her often because she lives far away. Destiny got married Oct 11, 2012. It’s happy and it’s sad. We love her. She is family. We’re happy she’s found love again and that Saylor will have a daddy. We are sad that Ty will not be the one she grows up calling “dad” but does that matter anymore? She won’t remember him at all. She wasn’t even born before he died. Still, she’s his. His child, his DNA. She looks just like her daddy.

I can’t tell, some days, if that makes it better or worse. Sometimes I think “He made that choice.” but he was just a kid. He was scared and overwhelmed and hurting. I don’t think he really understand the global ramifications of the choice he thought he was making. In his despair, he chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem and that decision not only ended his life but irrevocably changed the lives of everyone who loved him.

I put together this slideshow for what would have been Ty’s 26th birthday on December 31, 2011.

Slideshow tribute: Happy 26th, Tyrel, Music and Lyrics by Mason Allan, another nephew of mine.

It never seems to get easier.

Tyrel suffered from rapid-cycling bipolar depression, like most the rest of our family, and hung himself on Jan 2nd, 2010; two days after his 24th birthday.

After Tyrel’s suicide, I quickly came to realize that the subjects of suicide and mental illness are taboo. Few people even expressed condolences to our family. In fact, my boss yelled at me for taking the day off work, the day after we found Tyrel dead. We told people that Ty hung himself. As my mother said “I refuse to be ashamed of one thing that kid did. I am proud of him. It took a lot of guts to hang himself and I won’t lie about how he died.” Suicide and mental illness go hand-in-hand and both subjects are strictly avoided by most people.

I wanted to do something to honor Ty’s memory, but also to smash preconceived notions about mental illness and suicide, and to help lift the taboo. I know that my blog, alone, won’t make a big difference, but we are capable of changing the world one person at a time. If it helps one person feel less alone, less stigmatized, then it’s worthwhile. I have been diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar too. The night of Ty’s suicide I experienced the first of many total fugue states – which I later found, was also my first break into completely separate identities. I was eventually diagnosed with DID (formerly known as multiple personalities).

Statistically 1 in 4 people suffer from diagnosed mental illness. The number is probably much higher, as many people refuse to admit they’re abnormally anxious, depressed, etc. It’s a good bet that you or someone you are very close to is mentally ill. You may not even realize it because, as a rule, it’s not socially acceptable to talk about. People grow visibly uncomfortable when the subject comes up.

The fact that mentally ill people are made to feel like they are somehow to blame for their illness is ridiculous and must stop. Mental illness is real. People suffering from mental illness can’t just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” “stop feeling sorry for themselves” and a zillion other types of stupid advice mentally ill people are given. Most mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mental illness isn’t a “pretend” disease. There is a physiological basis for most types of mental illness. If mental illness were treated like any other illness, a lot more people would seek medical help for their problems, rather than try to self medicate them away with drugs or alcohol out of feelings of shame.

  1. Your mother sounds like a truly amazing woman; to read those words gives me a lot of hope when it comes to people’s attitudes to mental illness.

    Ty also sounds amazing, and he had a beautiful smile. I wish I could say I can’t imagine how he felt, but I do… and reading stories like this make me feel awful that I lived when others didn’t. The prejudice against the mentally unwell is disgusting, and no matter how much it’s claimed to have improved, I don’t think it has much. It’s thanks to people like you that things are slowly changing, and I want to thank you for putting this out there and letting others know that those who commit suicide are real people, not just something to gasp at.

    I’m so sorry about Ty. I also agree with your mother; I think he had a lot of guts to do what he did. It’s never the easy option, and suicide should never be treated like something to be ashamed of. Life’s never black and white.

    Much love to you.

    • Thanks, I think my mom is pretty amazing too. Her attitudes have changed a lot since Ty’s death. She’s totally pro legalizing marijuana now. I’m glad you lived through your own suicide attempts…I know I was furious when I woke up in the emergency room and realized I’d failed, but in retrospect, I’m glad to be alive (most of the time).

      Thanks also for your comment about my blog. Your blog does the same thing on a much larger scale. It opens people’s eyes to the fact that a pretty young woman can feel so awful inside. I can’t help but think that your blog makes a huge difference to a lot of people who may visit out of curiosity, but soon realize that you’re a real person, with real problems, real opinions and you’re pretty damn awesome. So thanks back to you, for being a lot braver and more vocal on the subject than I’ve managed to be 🙂

      Much love to you too, and hope for bright days ahead

  2. Thank you for visiting my blog. I sent an email as well. I didn’t realize the full story of Ty until I came here. He sounds like such a loving young man. It’s hard when one parent is against meds, because that can indeed influence a young person to go off them…

    I am manic depressive (rapid cycling, but mostly depressed) and also have PTSD. I’m a member of NAMI Stigma-Busters, a group that reports to NAMI when the media misrepresent mental illness or run something tasteless and insulting. I am open about my own disorders and the fact that I am also an incest survivor because, as you said, we need to take the burden of shame off the shoulders of those who have the illness, while at the same time educating the public about it. I mean, if you have diabetes, you may take insulin. So why not Effexor or Lamictal for a chemical imbalance?

    Here is a poem for you:

    Peace, Amy Barlow Liberatore, Madison, WI

    • Thanks Amy. I really like your poem, Unbound. I can really relate. Congratulations on being part of the NAMI Stigma-Busters, there are plenty of myths that need busting! Thanks so much for taking the time to read about Ty. It means a lot to me to know that he is remembered. I completely agree about medications. There should be no shame in them. They do save lives.

  3. Ruth says:

    Happy Mother’s Day my baby boy. Warrior King, Brave beyond belief. I am honored you bore my mothering with such love and grace.

    • Agreed…He was truly blessed to have you as a mom, and we were truly blessed to have had the privilege of having Ty in our lives for 24 years and also that our kids were so close that we could be “The Moms” to them. What a wonderful gift that turned out to be for us all.

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