The last week or two have been wild. Things I never expected. A lot of being overwhelmed. And today is 3 months since Denny took his life. So it’s a lot. Just a lot.
Let me explain a little bit about me to help everyone understand. I have had signs of OCD since I was a young girl. It has never been extremely severe, but definitely there. I had problems with textures and the seams in clothing. If I bumped my right arm against the wall, I’d have to go back and bump my left arm against the wall with the same force. I really didn’t realize this was weird until I was older.
When I would say my nighttime prayers as a child, I would have to list every possible bad thing that could happen to us in a specific order. “Please bless that we won’t have a fire, an earthquake, a tornado, a hurricane…” I know. I was a weird child. But this is just how I was. I had a great childhood. Healthy and happy. I just had some extra quirks because of my OCD. I was just one unique little kid.
I’ve always been outspoken, brutally honest, and didn’t put up with anyone’s bull. From the beginning. And as I became more confident and comfortable in my skin, I became super outgoing. By the end of high school, I was probably the loudest (and most obnoxious) person in my class of almost 700. My anxiety seemed to minimize and I was just content with life. So content that I was known for running up and down the hallways loudly singing “Circle of Life” from Lion King. I was pretty cool is what I’m trying to say (sarcasm).
In my early adult years I dealt with some stressors that brought back my anxiety in a big way. As social and outgoing as I had been, I became a recluse. I didn’t like to be in a room with more than a handful of people. Going to my university classes and church was hard for me and would set off panic attacks. I really struggled. My OCD came back with more intensity than before. Some days I was too fearful to leave my room. It seemed as though I had depression, but looking back with medical providers, psychiatrists, and therapists over the years, it was probably fear from anxiety. Anxiety and depression have similar symptoms a lot of the time and can mirror each other in a lot of ways. So it took years to really figure it out.
Through the years with Denny, he gave me the stability to ease my anxiety. He was the rock I needed in my life to allow me to heal. I had never met someone so strong and consistent and stable. He was understanding but pushed me at the same time. He allowed me to fail but believed in me enough to help me succeed. I still have anxiety, but I’m able to be in a group setting, I have spoken in church (although nervously), and I have found a way to have balance in my OCD. I am confident and believe in my abilities. I know who I am and I am comfortable with it.
Now, I have always been open about my struggles with anxiety. You can ask anyone who knows me. The only reason I haven’t talked about it in depth on here is because Denny’s was more severe over his lifetime and his was more relevant. But I feel like mine is relevant now.
The attention the video of Winnie has gotten has been overwhelming. I just checked Facebook and it’s currently at 7.5 Million views and 121,247 shares. Instagram shows almost 241,000 views. I don’t even know how many comments and messages I’ve received. Thousands of messages and tens of thousands of comments and “likes.” My Facebook Page went from less than 500 followers to 53,000. And my Instagram went from about 500 to 19,400. This all happened within less than two weeks.
The large majority of responses, comments, and messages have been incredibly supportive. There are so many people reaching out saying that this video has saved their life. At least several hundred of those. Quite literally. And that’s being cautious with numbers. There have been a few trolls or unhappy viewers, but very very few. And you don’t want to be a hater on my page because the amazing people on there will eat you alive. In the nicest way possible. It’s just the most amazing community we’ve built together with so much support for me and my girls, but also an incomprehensible amount of support for anyone who is vulnerable and shares their story.
Here’s the thing. I really hoped when I began sharing my story that it would help someone. I prayed that I could help one family. Prevent one person from taking their life and creating so much pain for those left behind. I felt something in me telling me that I HAD to be vulnerable, open, honest, and share. I believed at the very least it would be therapeutic to get the feelings into words and the words out of my brain. It would give my girls something to go back to and see our falling apart and then our recovery. Never in a million years would I have imagined that this would be what happened.
I am so so grateful that this has resonated with people. I am amazed that it has prevented lives from being taken. I really am. It’s incredible. But it’s also so overwhelming. I still get that social anxiety and fear. I still get nervous about things. I don’t get offended very easily, so the mean comments aren’t what bother me. But the idea of speaking to lots of people or talking to a group terrifies me. So when I say, “Share my story, get it out there, help me give it more attention,” you need to know a few things. It’s terrifying for me. It’s so scary. For no real rational reason other than I get nervous around people. That’s kind of just how anxiety works sometimes. It’s irrational and doesn’t make sense but it still happens. Just like depression. But you know what? I am pushing through it. I want to help people. I feel blessed to bring more good in honor of Denny.
So I’m going to take the attention this video got and run with it. I had no idea we would be where we are 3 months after Denny’s death. But I’m going to try and bring as much good out of this as I possibly can. I’m going to take opportunities that come my way to share my story no matter how scary they may be. I’m going to continue to show the destruction that comes from a suicide. I’m going to be honest and blunt and open and share both the good and the bad. I’m going to push people out of their comfort zones by getting out of mine. I’m going to talk about things that make people uncomfortable. I’m going to do this and I’m going to make Denny proud of me. I miss him so much but I know he’s involved here. I know he’s helping me and guiding me. He’s helping me be brave just like he always did when we were together in life. And he’s helping me show people something: YOU are needed. YOU are loved. YOU are NOT a burden.
Thank you. For every prayer, for every message of love, for every good vibe, and for helping me share. Thank you thank you.