A Letter from Mom...

Louri Snider with her sweet boy Mark Snider.

LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK

Mark William Bruce Snider, named after six amazing men. He was born June  24th, 1990. He was our first born, our little boy. He made parenting easy. He was always a happy, smiling boy. He loved playing baseball, playing with his Tonka toys and anything outdoors as a little boy. This was no different as he grew older. He loved the outdoors, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, atv-ing, and running his dogs. He still enjoyed playing ball, and of course the career he would choose working at the township would still allow him to play with the life size Tonka toys. In 2011 he married his best friend, and they had two children together. As parents it made us proud to see him share the things he loved with his children. They enjoyed the outdoors together.


I have struggled with "Do I or Don’t I" write his story. My final decision to write Mark’s story is based on a few things. I want people to talk about mental health and our mental health system. I want people who are struggling to know their not alone on this scary journey.  I want people surviving mental illness to know Its Okay to Not to be Okay. I want families to know, their not alone. I want to end the stigma. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. 


Cautions:

  1. True, Heartfelt Content
  2. I’m not a writer and truth be known I was never good at language. I am a mom with a story who needs to share with whoever wants to read it and share it because, I have to do something. If I help one person, then it was worth sharing.
  3. This story contains stories of situations. I’m not angry at anyone. I’m upset with the long waits and need for help with mental health in our country. I hate that there’s a shortage and a long wait list for psychiatrists, councilors, or help of any source for people struggling. I feel for all the professionals that have only time to spend 10-15 minutes with patients and try and figure out what’s going on with them. I’m sad that Mark had to deal with people and situations where people didn’t understand mental health. I’m not angry at those people, but am hopeful they  take the time to learn what a person with mental illness is dealing with and going through.


January 2018

I’m working when my phone rings, I don’t answer because I was in the middle of supporting someone to take their meds. My phone rings a second time right away, as I’m documenting on a MAR. I complete my task and take out my phone as I felt something just wasn’t right. I realize it was Mark who has called me, so I return his call.

He answers, “Mom” and I reply Hi Buddy is everything okay” I usually always received a call from Mark every morning before work, (he was the best alarm clock ever) and in the evening but not very often when he was working. 

“Mom, what are signs of a heart attack, I think I may be having one.” We talked for a few minutes, we decided since it was a Monday morning he was going to go over to the clinic and see the doctor and I would leave work and start my way down to Denbigh.


Mark’s struggle begins. It wasn’t his heart, it was anxiety, and he was having a panic attack. The doctor prescribed him medication to help with this. He continued to follow up with his family doctor. We would talk about it as well; as he was a bit concerned something was wrong with him. The stigma of mental health, he was feeling it wasn’t okay to not be okay.  I remember sharing with him that day; it didn’t mean there was something wrong with him. I explained that pretty much everyone at some point in their life deals with anxiety. I wasn’t overly concerned it was something to worrisome at first, although as a mom I hated to see him struggle. Mark worked for the township for eight years, and recent management changes and a fellow coworker we’re causing him some grief, so I guess I figured the anxiety was based on all the new changes at work. It seemed to continue, he was struggling so badly at work, and he couldn’t deal with work as he worded it. “I feel like I can’t breathe when I have to go to work”.


March 7 2018

I received another call from him. He was very upset; I could hardly understand what he was saying. My mind was thinking of a 100 different things until I was able to understand what he was saying. On, this day when he called he shared that someone at work made ignorant comments, next thing he knew he pushed him into the wall.  I was thinking what the heck, this to was unlike Mark. I’d never heard of him getting physical with anyone in his life. I talked to him for a bit, until his breathing become calm. I talked him into heading down to the family doctors. He returned to the doctor’s office that very day he couldn’t even understand what come over him to have something like this happen. As well, he had been having episodes of feeling like he couldn’t breathe. It was decided at his doctor’s appointment to increase his medication and return in nine days. It was decided at that appointment he would take a leave from work. I think at the time, I just believed time from work would help everything.


Mark continued to struggle with severe anxiety and panic attacks while off work. Once again I hated to see him going through this. I hate when my children got to the age where I couldn’t just wave my magic wand or give them a kiss on the cheek to feel better. I still just figured once the work stuff settled and his medication had time to work, all would be okay. There was still ongoing pressure/stress from his boss and the community gossip. Mark hated that people knew he was struggling. Hopefully one day this mental health stigma is gone. It’s very difficult for people struggling to hear all the negative language around mental health. Unfortunately his boss didn’t understand mental health, and treated him accordingly with making such comments as you’re just taking the township for a ride, or you have anger management issues, not mental health and so on. Mark tried going back to work in August, but was unable to. 


July 2018

Mark, Paige and the kids lost their home from a house fire. I remember Mark being curled up in a ball in the back of the truck on the way, after hearing the news. My heart broke for them all that night, but I was happy they were all okay. 


Mark,Paige and the kids moved in with us. We were quickly seeing signs of what would be the mental illness battle of Mark’s life. None of us knew what was going on, including my sweet Mark.


The first thing we noticed was the dramatic highs and lows in his mood. We would later on learn this was periods of manic and depression. He would also have time of normal mood periods. Mark described this to me once as feeling larger than life at times; he could take the world on than to the other end of it feeling extreme sadness, feeling of drowning. In the beginning he didn’t recognize that there was anything wrong and didn’t appreciate loved ones pointing it out. Although it all makes sense now, he felt good when he was manic. He was remorseful for the things he said and done, when he recovered from a manic episode.


At times we couldn’t even keep up to him, he would talk very fast, with uncontrollable racing thoughts or quickly changing ideas or topics. I believe over a nine month period I probably helped him send off 30+ cover letters and resumes. He received interviews for most of them. So his Dad or I would travel anywhere from Sudbury, Belleville, North Bay, and Trenton to these interviews but then he didn’t want to go work there, he was afraid. “What if I can’t do it, what if I don’t make it on my own?”  Extremely hard to hear from your child, who worked hard at a job for eight years, worked hard and purchased a home with his beautiful family, took pride in all he did. Now he’s not sure if he can even go to a job interview on his own” Life can be so unfair. 


Mark could be calling about a house to purchase at 1:00pm, setting up an appointment to see it at 5:00 and at 3:30 tell us he’s moving away and working in the mines because he can’t live here. In the meantime, he asked his sister to bid on lawn care contracts and create a business license. Please know I’m not complaining or in anyway putting my son down when I share these stories, it’s heartbreaking now and it was definitely heartbreaking at the time to see him struggle like this. It’s really quite unimaginable until you see someone live it. I cried my self to sleep many nights because there was nothing I could do. My magic wand was broken; all I could do was love him and be there for him.

We also noticed reckless shopping sprees. He continued to bring things home that we didn’t have room for. Especially when there were six of us living in a small two bedroom home.


September 19 2018

I helped Mark write a resignation letter. He felt so ashamed, unwanted, and useless and so many other words he used to describe himself at the township. I wrote the resignation letter and the email from a Mom, asking they learn and grow from this experience and get mental health in the workplace training. Mark read over his resignation letter and the email from a Mom that I wrote and cried for hours. At one point he looked at me and said “you truly understand how I feel”. All I could do that day was sit beside my son, and give him a shoulder to cry on.


October 2018

Mark started a new job with Hastings Highlands.. It was two days a week and he worked alone most of the time on the night shift, which was perfect because he was struggling being around people. There were times his Dad or I would go drive with him when he wasn’t doing well. When he needed to take time off because he was going through a bad spell or in the hospital, it wasn’t a problem the Hastings Highland guys we’re excellent with him.


December 2018 (End of)

Mark hadn’t slept hardly in days. For about five nights he would go for drives throughout the night. Sometimes he would call. Mom, I’m okay don’t worry go to sleep, no point in us both not sleeping. I would ask him to come home and I would be able to sleep when he’s okay. Sometimes he would call to tell me he can’t keep living like this. What’s wrong with me Mom, the meds aren’t working Mom, why am I crazy Mom? I would ask him to please let me try and get him help. He would reply, “ they will lock me up Mom, and everyone will know I’m crazy”


December 29 2018

Mark was once again heading back out in his truck at midnight. I didn’t want him to go because it had been freezing rain and he had hardly any sleep. His head wouldn’t stop spinning, his brain wouldn’t shut down. These are the things he would say. I followed him outside and said please don’t do this son, I will sit up with you. Or I will go up to the hospital with you and see if we can get some help with this. He just kept saying I have to go Mom, I will be okay Mom, you worry to much Mother, I can’t sleep mother. His life was spinning out of control and he didn’t know how to stop the Merry Go Round. I finally let him go. I went and sat on our deck and cried, cried out loud, GOD, MOM, DAD, GRANDPA, GRAM, NAN, GRANDMA, anyone up there, please help me. I can’t do this alone anymore, Two hours later we received a call Mark had been in an accident, he wrote off his brand new $70,000.00 truck on icy back roads. Most importantly he was not badly hurt. He however, had to be taken to the hospital because he had glass in his body. Mark was there for five hours, he went back and forth to x-ray and the surgical room removing glass. I looked up toward the ceiling, and said thank you. My prayer was answered, I had him in a hospital with a captivated audience who was removing glass and had all kinds of time for me to explain what had been going on. Mark was devastated he wrecked his truck. “Why does shit keep happening Mom” “I can’t take no more Mom” Mark was so physically drained and emotionally exhausted he agreed to let me share with the doctor what had been going on. The doctor diagnosed him with Bi-Polar, on-set by traumatic stress events, such as stress at work, loosing their house to fire etc. She took him off the current med he had been taking for nine months. She shared the medication he was on was not helping his illness


The doctor in Bancroft explained what bi-polar is. She explained the medication she was putting him on, and made him aware there would be weight gain. She also explained it would take about six weeks to notice a difference. As well, she explained there is other medication and this may not be the best match for him. She would send a letter onto his family doctor, requesting a follow up appointment and a referral for a psychiatrist and counseling. This was such a blessing. She also had him sign a consent form, so all of these people could talk to me. It’s extremely hard to advocate for your child once they reach the age of 18, due to our privacy laws. I completely understand the importance of privacy laws, BUT it’s not helpful when you’re trying to speak up/advocate and get help for your child without consent.


Mark and I attended his appointment at the family doctors two weeks later. At the time of his appointment he was doing a little better. He had come out of his mania. His family doctor made a referral to a specialist. I watched how difficult it was for him at that appointment. He was really struggling listening to me share what I see, and answering the difficult questions he was asked. I paused from sharing information three times that day to apologize to Mark. I felt like I was breaking the confidence of everything he shared. I knew no other way to continue to get him the help he needed.


February 2019

We were seeing more signs of depression. I called the family doctor to make him aware of the depression. He put a call into the psychiatrist the referral was sent to. After a few days and major concern for my son, I called again and shared my concerns. A second medication was given to help with the depression, but he would continue with the other medication that seems to be helping with Mania.


Some of the signs we were seeing:

  • Losing interest in his friends, dogs, hunting etc.
  • He wasn’t able to enjoy things
  • Struggled to get up out of bed and was always sleeping
  • Making the smallest decision was a challenge
  • Pulling away from family
  • Lost his spark for life
  • No self confidence
  • He was easily irritated
  • Feeling useless and hopeless
  • Feeling so sick he would actually vomit
  • Unable to concentrate
  • He tried drugs a few times
  • He tried drinking a whole bottle of alcohol a couple nights

The last two points he was hopelessly looking for something to take away the pain and suffering. 


March 2 2019

We came home to find Mark laying in bed with a loaded gun. We took the gun away from him and locked it up; I hid the keys where he couldn’t find them. We took him to Bancroft hospital, where he was transferred to Belleville hospital. They changed his meds and sent him home. WHY? Because Mark told her “NO” when she asked if he would kill himself. In order to be under a 72 hour watch, or to be transferred for a full psychiatric evaluation you have to say you want to kill yourself or harm yourself. One thing I’ve learned is people suffering mental illness don’t want to admit to others they’re suffering. 


From this day on we spent a lot of time together. I went no where without him, unless he was with someone else. I remember Shaun one day saying to me, the psychiatrist doesn’t think he would kill himself. I replied that’s not a chance I’m willing to take. I was determined I would not let this happen. I will help him daily until the right meds are found, we would take walks together. Daily exercise is good for mental health. I will call counseling and get more visits; I will take time off work. I would do whatever I had to do to get my son feeling back to himself, and keep him alive. 

I remember many of our long conversations like it was yesterday. I could write pages and share each and every day and situation. He would feel so hopeless, helpless, he felt like a failure, a burden. I would often say buddy, let’s take this one day at a time. It will take up to six weeks for your new meds to start working. “What if these meds don’t work Mom” then we try new ones son. Trust me I promise I will help you get through this. 


Some days I would get “I can’t do this anymore Mom” I would reply, yes you can buddy, one day at a time, I promise you to walk every step of this journey until you feel yourself again”. "Everyone would be better off without me Mom”. I replied, “Please don’t talk like that son” I named many people who loved him. I shared I could not live without him. He told me, “you will be okay Mom, you’re the strongest person I know Mom”, “Life would be easier without me Mom". I replied oh no it wouldn’t we will get through this together and we will both become stronger people. He replied, “Mom, I may be crazy but I’m not stupid. I hear you cry, I know you don’t sleep, I know you worry, you don’t smile and laugh as much, life would be easier with me gone” I broke down and apologized for him feeling that way. Buddy, I love you to the Moon and Back, the one thing I’ve learned in this life is…. It’s not always easy, but we stick together with the support of the people we love. One day buddy we will look back on this and realize what we learned from it.

He would cry because his brain wouldn’t shut down, or people think he is crazy  and say "I’m no good to anyone Mom". He was in constant pain from this battle. Even when I thought he was sleeping, my phone would go off from Him - sometimes it would be an I Love You, or a screen shot of how he was feeling, or text “am I ever going to get better Mom” or once a Don’t Cry for Me Poem. 


Day after Day, I did everything I could to get him up, have a shower, get outside, eat…all the things we normally would get up daily and do automatically. A few times he just couldn’t get up so I crawled in bed beside him and put my arm around him. “I would say I love you to the Moon and Back Buddy”


When Shaun got home from work, he would go with him for drives to feed the dogs, or go see wildlife. Those we’re the good days. Every once and a while, he would have well days. We would see him interact with the kids, call a couple friends, sometimes get out and about. We many times started to get excited because there would be 3-5 good days. 


Unfortunately, each time it was the calm before a new cycle. 


April 1 2019

We moved into our new house. Mark moved in with us, as his mental illness had taken a toll on his marriage. He had a tough time with the days leading up to this move. Mark felt he was a failure as a husband, father, son, brother etc. I remember telling him everything we loved about him. I told him we would continue to stay by his side every step of the way. Mark was feeling so hopeless. “Will I ever be normal Mom” “I don’t think I will ever find the right meds

Our move comes with the demolition of the house. We started to see improvement. He was getting out of bed and helping. One day when I arrived home from work, Shaun and Mark had built me a cedar wall for my antiques. It was Mark’s idea; he went and purchased the lumber at the mill. Oh, how I cried happy tears. Not wanting to let my guard down, I was optimistic the meds were starting to help. 


Two weeks before he passed we were hearing from some of his friends. Mark had been back in contact with them after months of no contact. He had been making plans with them. A few days before Easter Mark gave me money to buy the kids beds, furniture, sheets, blankets etc for their new rooms. He asked if I would go shopping with him in Belleville to Easter shop for the kids. Well I jumped at that, as he hadn’t wanted to go anywhere. What a great day we had picking things out for the kids. Easter came and he actually smiled when the kids excitedly did their hunt and opened their basket of goodies. That smile melted my heart. Later that day family arrived for dinner, Mark actually come up from his bed and joined us all for dinner. We we’re starting to see Mark do more with his kids again. He set up their trampoline, took them for bike rides, he was playing catch, and kicking the soccer ball around again. It was wonderful to see Mark smile and laugh and enjoy life again. For this Mom, there was still the hesitation of….is his meds working or is this a normal period. 


Things continued to be great. Taylon, Mark's younger brother, came home from College. The two boys went shopping together. Mark helped Taylon purchase some summer clothing. That night they woke their dad and me five times, to the sounds of their laughter. They stayed up and watched two movies together. Shaun and I were thrilled. We hadn’t heard him laugh that much in a long time. It was such a great feeling. One of the times we we’re woken, I snuggled into Shaun and said, “That is the greatest sound ever”. The sound of laughter really is something we take for granted until it’s been stolen by mental illness. I remember calling my good friend Jenny and sharing, the story of his laughter and how well he was doing. I also shared it with my daughter Tegan. She also shared she had talked to Mark for a long time on the phone. It was the best she had heard him in a very long time. 


May 4 2019

I headed to town for a funeral of a lady I supported. I received many happy, positive texts that day. Shaun, Mark and Taylon cut trails on the property and went atv-ing. Yet another great day for Mark. I was really starting to feel like he may have this disease beat. Shaun and I had purchased tickets back a few months before for a dinner and comedy show that night. When we purchased them, we really didn’t know if we would be able to go. We decided to go. Mark and Taylon were going to purchase a pizza in town and hang out. Shaun and I enjoyed our show. I occasionally opened my phone and there were no texts. Once I sent out a quick text to see if all was okay, and it was. When we arrived home Mark and Taylon we’re both getting into bed. I went into Mark’s room and said good night buddy, sweet dreams” he replied, “night Mother, I love you” and I replied, “love you to buddy


May 5  2019 - The Day our Lives Changed 

Mark woke up and come upstairs to where I was painting.He said, “Good Morning Mom” I replied, “Good Morning Buddy”. The last words I would hear and say to my son. He went outside jumped into his truck and drove back the road on the property to feed his dogs. About 20 minutes later, I told Shaun I was going to go check on him. I had a bad feeling something isn’t right. Shaun thought I was just being paranoid, as I’d had a hard time letting my guard down even though he had appeared to be doing so well. I insisted something was wrong. Shaun said he would go check in on him, as he had finished cutting in our room and I was still rolling. 


Not long after he left, he called and said, “He’s gone” I said “WHAT” Shaun replied, “he shot himself he’s gone” I screamed NO, NO, NO, NO over and over to my poor husband. They were screams I didn’t know could even come out of my body. My scream woke Taylon from his sleep, he come running upstairs crying and raising his voice MOM, MOM, WHAT’S WRONG… I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. My arms around my sweet boy falling apart with the news of his brother, I called 911. I don’t know who was on the other end of the phone that day but they were amazing, they were able to talk me through breathing so I could tell them what happened and what I needed. God Bless, all the men and women who serve and protect us.


This takes us to now. LIFE WITHOUT MARK. 

Losing Mark is something I could never imagine, before this happened or now that it’s happened. I thank God everyday for the 28 wonderful years, and although I may never completely understand the last year of why Mark had to struggle, I’ve decided I will not forget the struggle so I can continue to educate and gain knowledge for myself and others so I can be a support to others fighting the battle and to the families watching their loved ones fight.


WHAT I”VE LEARNED TO DATE (I’m sure there’s much more learning to come)

  • Mental Illness is a horrible disease much like other diseases like Cancer. Those that fight it, have the battle of their life. Some people with meds/treatment beat it and some people loose the fight.
  • I will never say "Committed Suicide"; rather I will say his life was taken by mental illness, or died by suicide
  • I was asked if I’m angry by a mom in a support group for parents who have lost a child I joined. ABSOLUTELY NOT. I’m not angry with my sweet boy, I’m not angry with those who caused him extra suffering. I’m saddened for those people because they don’t understand mental illness and I hope they become aware. I’m heartbroken and frustrated we don’t have the resources needed for people suffering mental health and for those people watching loved ones suffer. I struggle daily with the fact that my best wasn’t good enough. I was unable to keep my son alive
  • Mark was not weak or selfish, I watched him struggle, fight hard, do everything to get better for himself, his children and those he loved. Those who take their own lives, have what is called flip brain. They feel if they’re gone everything will be much easier for them but especially for everyone else they loved. 
  • I thought Mark was getting better but instead he was so at peace with his decision to end the pain and suffering he was able to be happy those last couple of weeks, and enjoy time with those he loved because he believed everything would be better for everyone.
  • I’ve learned you have no idea what it’s like to loose a child, until you have. God Bless all the parents out there living this nightmare. It’s truly the most mentally and emotionally crippling thing I’ve endured.
  • -I’ve realized I can’t bring him back, that there is no resolution to this situation. I can’t fix it. So maybe I can’t change or rewrite the past but I can speak out, make a difference and advocate for others. I started Baseball for Dad, to increase knowledge and awareness about mental health and suicide in memory of Mark. It’s my goal to help end stigma one glove at a time. I will raise money to host intervention training such as ASIST, Safe Talk or Mental Health First Aid. I believe learning emotional First Aid Skills are just important as physical first aid.


What do we do now as a family? We will:

  • travel as a family to the places he planned to take his kids 
  • celebrate his life on his birthday, and every day
  • celebrate what an amazing Dad he is on Fathers Day, and everyday
  • crank his favourite songs when we’re driving
  • cook his favourite meals, share cherished memories while eating popcorn
  •  heal as a family as we bring awareness in Mark’s Memory.


Mark said “Mom you're the strongest person I know", but in actual fact he’s the strongest person I know. He fought so hard to be with us all. 


Until we meet again my sweet boy! I love and miss you to the moon and back !

Love Mom

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LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK

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