Every year when the first breeze of brisk fall air smacks me in the face, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. Maybe it is seasonal depression, back to school blues? Or maybe it is because it's football season and my sister was a star cheerleader and I idolized everything about her. Or maybe, it is because October is her birthday month.
Self medicate: To choose to take medicines oneself, rather than by prescription or on expert advice.
That is how it all started...
Kerri-Ann internally battled demons and insecurities as a young teen and beyond. Have you ever gone on a first date, and before you left, you took a shot or had a glass of wine to loosen up your nerves? This is how it all began for my sister -except she wasn't just taking "a" shot before a first date. She began drinking in any possible situation because she felt that it brought her the confidence she needed to show her outgoing side and be likable. Kerri-Ann battled depression and anxiety - neither of which she spoke of, probably out of fear, shame, and embarrassment.
A staggering amount of individuals end up with a substance use disorder that stems from mental health issues. It's as if drinking alcohol or popping a pill alleviates any mental struggles, for a short time, that is. Kerri-Ann battled her mental health issues beginning in H.S.
My first memory of realizing that my big sister was sick was when she attempted suicide her senior year. a week after the New Year. I was still pretty young and my parents tried to keep the details of what was going on hidden from me. I thought my sister had an extreme flu.
To be honest, so did my parents for the first few days that Kerri-Ann did not leave her bed and was throwing up profusely. Our other sister had a hunch that Kerri-Ann had taken some pills. She was correct. Kerri-Ann swallowed a whole bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol in hopes that she would not wake up. She was rushed to the hospital.
The family gathered in the waiting room and the chaplain was brought in for support. They were not sure Kerri-Ann would survive. It was scary to say the least. By the grace of God, Kerri-Ann pulled through. The following months were very difficult. Kerri-Ann was embarrassed, as rumors spread through school. She did not want to return.
Shortly after graduation, Kerri-Ann got hooked on OxyContin and did not make it back to her second semester of college. She had her own apartment and I never forget wanting to hang out with her there. One day, I walked in on her snorting white powder off her nightstand. I was so angry and I think it was the last time I was in the apartment. But I also kept this to myself, because being the younger sister, I didn't want to be a "snitch".
I still didn't know she had a drug problem.
She came home to live with us shortly after the incident. One night in January, my mom, boyfriend, and I were watching American Idol. We heard this loud, echoing bang above us in the bathroom. It sounded like the sink fell off the wall. Thirty seconds later, this scream came from upstairs. I can still hear it to this day. We ran upstairs. I ran back down, back up a few stairs, down again. Finally, I pushed myself to get back up those stairs.
There she was, my big sister, after being clean and sober for quite some time, was overdosing and having a seizure on the floor. My sister had found her. When paramedics arrived and my sister came to - her first words were a distraught " Where is Heather?" - You see, my sister was battling drug addiction, but one thing she continuously tried to do was protect me from seeing it. I still have an immense amount of respect for her hiding the disturbing experiences from me the the best of her ability. But this time, it didn't work and I suffered from severe anxiety and PTSD following the incident.
The following years consisted of "the addiction cycle" - detox, rehabs, IOP, clean time, and relapse. I was so angry during these years. I felt that disappointment was worse than heartbreak. You would get your hopes up only to watch them crumble over and over. I was angry and mean to my other sister. I was young and didn't understand addiction as I do know. I was uneducated. So many questions went through my mind. How could she steal from me, from us? How could she choose drugs over her family? Why didn't she want to spend time with me anymore? Why did this happen? I grew up in the same house as her - I would never do drugs. I could not find the proper coping skills as a young teen to handle my emotions. I avoided home as much as possible. I have a lot of regret in me because of how I acted during these years. I wish I understood addition back then as I do now. I wish I was older and had the resources to help her, as I do now. It just didn't make sense to me. She was beautiful, intelligent, popular, athletic, and driven. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???
On April 30, 2010, my sister was found by housekeeping at a hotel, left for dead. I got the phone call to pick up her things at the hotel. When I arrived , I was told her stuff was "still upstairs". I'm thinking maybe packed in the hallway near the room. No, I was escorted to the room where she was staying. - my best friend entered the room before me and begged me not to come in. I did anyway - I had to see for myself. It was like a crime scene out of Law and Order. There was blood all over the sheets and the comforter had fallen to the floor. All of my sister's shoes were neatly lined up at the foot of the bed. Her clothes were hung and her beauty products were organized on the nightstand and in the bathroom. My heart was broken. Lost in a battle with depression and addiction - she was still extremely organized and clean. I will never forget this day - it is implanted and forever vivid in my memories.
It was ten years in April 2020 that we lost Kerri-Ann to addiction, at the young age of 26. Instead of pondering the "what ifs" I decided to start a scholarship in her memory - The Kerri-Ann Blampye Memorial Scholarship. Even through all of the hardships, my sister still managed to graduate Top 10 of her graduating class. I can't think of a better way to make tribute to my sister than to help students in need through her memory.