I’m not ashamed or uncomfortable to say that Lilly suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder and Addiction! I’m not ashamed or uncomfortable to say that Lilly died from a drug overdose! Then WHY are you so uncomfortable hearing about it?
When we first broke the news that Lilly had passed - we were asked multiple times: “What do you want me to say? Do you want me to say she passed away from COVID?” NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! We are proud of Lilly, proud of her resilience, proud of her strength to pick herself up after each challenge! We were not going to taint her memory, her journey, or what she stood for. Simple - Repeat after me: Lilly suffered from Bi-Polar Disorder and Addiction and she died of a Drug Overdose!
I just lost my daughter, I didn’t care what others thought, who was judging, and who was talking. The truth was the truth. What more damage could anyone do when I failed as a parent in MY own eyes. I am grateful for the support that we did receive: coordinating the house visits, shortlisting what funeral home to visit, and the families that fed our family for 13 days and nights. I was amazed that as a community we could come together for a departed soul then why could we not come together to support and show the soul unconditional love while they were alive?
So many people view addiction as a moral issue: “You’re not strong enough, you don’t have self-control, there must be something wrong with the family, the upbringing was flawed, the child is out of control.”. Mental Illness and Addiction does not see what side of the tracks you‘re from, your postal code, your upbringing, your education, your family values, your race, or your religion. It shows up unannounced, causing havoc and destruction.
When Lilly was diagnosed in 2016, I was brave enough to share her diagnosis with a few friends. The obvious happened - our family was shunned. For months I lived in shame, keeping Lilly’s secret. For months our family suffered in solitude, balancing sorrow with relief, shame with perseverance, and resentment with forgiveness. I shielded Lilly from family, friends, and society. I picked and chose who I would open up to about Lilly’s struggles. It wasn’t until group, family, and individual therapy that I found the strength to overcome my shame and speak honestly about her diagnosis. Most people didn’t get that Mental Illness and Addiction is a disease just like any other! How could I expect them to, when I also didn’t get it until it happened to someone I love!
Lilly went off to University in Ottawa, Canada in September 2017. She had her first overdose in October 2017, a month after starting school. Instead of calling 911, to my horror, her so-called ’friends’ were laughing and taking Snapchats of her overdosing and seizing! The dealer, was adamant that no one would call 911 in fear of being implicated! Lilly was a minor and things could get sticky for him. Thank God Asmita arrived at the scene in the nick of time and called 911. Lilly’s diary details her mental struggles, her loneliness, her bouts of depression, the effects the drugs were taking, the shame she was feeling, her lack of self-worth, her lack of self-love, her hopelessness, her misery, and her need to ’fit’ in. Aren’t ’friends’ supposed to support you during a mental health crisis? What happened to what you learned during mental health week and suicide prevention week?
I was fortunate enough to bring Lilly back to Atlanta in October 2017. She was broken mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It would be a long road to recovery. Her body was scarred and damaged from drug use. She was deteriorating. She was going to need hospitalization, multiple rehab centers, multiple types of therapy, and multiple medications. Most importantly, she was going to need the strength, love, patience, and support of her immediate family. Lilly’s overdose was the gossip of the year in Ontario! We managed to shelter Lilly from the aftermath just in time.
However, the nightmare had just begun for Asmita. I went after the dealers with a vengeance. I called out the ‘friends’ who snapchatted Lilly overdosing. I went after everyone who had hurt Lilly. I wasn’t going to let anyone off the hook that easily. YES - Lilly made the choice to use. YES - Lilly was at fault. But what about the people who exploited her mental illness? What about the people who physically hurt her? What about the people who emotionally abused her? Asmita paid the price for my wrath. Asmita would get prank calls and Snapchats from people saying “Fuck the Puris, go KILL yourself, LEAVE Ottawa!” Asmita was ostracized by her peers because of her sister’s choices and my thirst for justice. Her second year at university was emotionally and mentally challenging. She finally decided to leave the toxic environment in Ottawa and start fresh in New York City.
Our family’s story is not unique! Nor am I trying to get your sympathies! Lilly had her demons, her challenges, and made poor choices. Choices that would ultimately take her life. Lilly was also intelligent, had a big heart, was fiercely loyal, was not judgemental, did not discriminate, and made a difference to many in her short life. Her Mental Health and Addiction did not define her. Most families that have a member struggling with Mental Illness and Addiction have gone through similar societal tortures as us. Unfortunately, no one sees the damage of Mental Illness and Addiction as clearly as one would see the damage of an illness like Cancer! I pray the next time you see a homeless person, a person struggling with addiction, or a person that doesn’t fit ‘societal norms’ - you don’t judge them and instead you say a prayer for them!