Written from the present & afterlife
About mental illness, drug addiction, divorce, family bonds, overcoming loss, transformation and mental health advocacy
Watch Kim Pita interviewed by author Daniel Blanchard on how to overcome fears of mental health on Mindalia TV.
September 10, 2019
Kim was a featured guest on All About Women hosted by Mary Jones on WENG Radio, Florida. Kim and Mary discuss how we each have an opportunity to talk about mental health and share our stories out loud. We are not alone in our wellness journey.
Interview begins at 7:45
Ends around 20:00
Perspectives on life, love, happiness, resilience and hope
I lost my 41-year-old sister on Valentine's Day 2011. She overdosed on a cocktail of drugs. While I know that is not the way she would have preferred to die, I have to wonder if it was destiny.
Kelly spent decades of her life gliding along as if on a roller coaster ride. She survived the ups and downs. She hit rock bottom when Arizona police found her passed out on the street wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. She learned to use public transportation to get to doctor's appointments and pharmacy runs. Her steering wheel had been locked for six months because she was caught driving under the influence of drugs. While she recuperated after two brutal car accidents, it was the after effects on her mental health that I believe eventually killed her.
I can't seem to shake the image of her body grotesquely decomposing for 24 days on the floor of her Arizona apartment. I am haunted by visions of the Arizona police plowing through her sliding glass door with a sledgehammer to get inside to rescue her fly-covered body.
I also try to see the good that has come from all of this. Somehow, someway there has to be a greater purpose. I believe what has happened in my life since Kelly's death is not by coincidence, but part of a greater plan.
My sister's death has revealed as much about me as it has about her. I am a changed person who has put my fears of mental illness into advocacy and action. The person I am today is far different from who I was when her body was discovered. My beliefs in spiritual guidance and divine intervention have now become central in my life. I thank my sister for turning me from a skeptic into a believer.
My eyes are now wide open. I notice things I never saw before or perhaps never wanted to see. I am in touch with all that is around me. I embrace my path instead of fearing it. I live for the moment rather than obsess about the future. I am forever grateful for my beautiful angel that now sits on my shoulder, guiding me in the right direction.
I think about the never-ending struggles Kelly endured with addiction and the strength she had to fight her mental health battles alone in her one-bedroom apartment a thousand miles from home.
After Kelly's first car accident on Prom Night 1987, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which brought on heavy doses of paranoia and anger. In her 20s, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 10 years later when the paranoia became debilitating it was determined she also suffered from schizophrenic tendencies. Kelly kept most of her health challenges hidden from friends and family so she wouldn't bring anyone down or become a burden. She wanted to be remembered as the fun-loving, happy girl with long, curly blonde hair.
None of us will ever know the real pain Kelly was in, both physically and mentally. We can only assume it was not easy for her to find peace and calm. So she used the drugs she had stashed in a lockbox at the bank down the street. The key to the lockbox was around her neck when they discovered her body.
The day she died, I imagine her refilling the orange pill bottles she carried around her in a gallon-size Ziplock bag. Knowing her paranoid, she probably looked around several times before she opened her lockbox, fearful someone would see what she was doing. After stocking up, I can see her going out to her white truck to pop a few pills with the sugar-rich coffee she had waiting in her center console. The pills would make her feel much better.
Kelly's drug addiction was a slow, silent killer. Over the years, she used an assortment of meds including Methamphetamine and Oxycodone to reduce the chronic neck and back pain that nearly disabled her. She used drugs to balance her mind and keep away the horrible visions and sounds that clouded her judgment.
After Kelly died, I knew I had to make drastic life changes. I was so very unhappy. In photos proudly displayed on social media, I looked happy and successful on the outside. But I was dying inside. Most nights I cried myself to sleep, hiding my tears in the pillowcase, careful not to utter a sound. My despair was deep-rooted and it was showing up in the form of anger, anxiety and depression. When someone close dies, it changes everything. Suddenly the trajectory of life becomes even shorter.
No longer would I let anxiety rule my life, so I did what my mother did, I asked my husband and business partner of 17 years for a divorce. I left the business I launched as a small PR firm in 1996 and grew to a $4.5 million marketing, design and video agency respected and loved in the community.
I departed the company with little fanfare. No big party or happy hour. The team at the agency didn't know how to react to my departure. They were silently sad because showing outward emotion was frowned upon. So they let me be. I walked out one last time with my final box of stuff accumulated over 17 years and never looked back.
The good news is I was still at the top of my game, known and respected for the work I do in the Greater Hartford community. I would eventually figure out what was next.
My volunteer involvement was also out of control. My head was an explosive mess, and I just needed a complete break from it all. So I resigned from three of four boards and committees I was involved with at the time. I began to use "no" when someone asked me to do something for free (at least for a little while).
I learned how to co-parent by reading books, visit web sites, talking to other divorcees and taking the mandatory parenting class required by the court. We figured out how to split our time 50/50 with the kids, designating their weekdays between two towns and rotating weekends and holidays.
Divorce was not easy on our kids, Jordan and Alexandra, at first. We were always shuffling from house to house, sometimes leaving important things at the other house, which required unexpected extra trips. It has gotten much better over the years with practice and extra planning. We have fallen into the rhythm of life, and have it mostly figured out, except when we don't. The key to a successful divorce is to be as amicable and flexible as possible. Otherwise it's just a constant battle, where everyone loses, especially the kids.
During my time away from work, I became involved with the Board of Directors at Mental Health Connecticut (MHC), a non-profit organization that provides housing, employment and support services for those with mental health conditions, as well as community education and advocacy at the state and national levels. Friend and past client Lesa Cavallero-Laraia, who knew my sister's story, recommended me to the MHC board, where I was proudly nominated and elected.
I have become a mental health and wellness champion, working each and every day to share messages of hope, recovery and possibilities. It has become my personal mission to demystify the stigma and connect individuals and families with care, so they can begin to live their lives without fear and judgment.
When Kelly was alive, I was afraid of her mental health conditions because I didn't understand them. I was petrified I was gong to become just like her. With education and acceptance, I have been able to turn my fears into a brave tale. I want others to replace ignorance and false perceptions with truth and advocacy for mental health.
While we may not be able to act like two crazy sisters giggling together or rolling our eyes they way we used to when we were kids, Kelly is closer than ever. We have created this book to help others understand addictions and mental health; family bonds and separation; life transformation and getting to the other side of loss.
This is our memoir, a tale of 2 crazy sisters, written from the present and the afterlife.
Kim and Kelly Sirois