Sandra: My daughter’s story
Brandy’s family and friends’ lives will always be deeply affected by what happened. We will always be grateful for the time we had with her and all that she gave us. She was so brave, bright, beautiful, loving and kind. She fought so hard to get well and she loved all of us so much, as we loved her.
Although my daughter Brandy had a very difficult life for many reasons, she was a beautiful, vibrant and amazingly wonderful person. Her heart was filled with giving, humor, compassion, and caring. She had the most radiant smile and gorgeous brown eyes. People loved to hear her laugh and watch her dance. She was so filled with life and was always the one to bring people together. Always creative and smart, brave and gentle, she strove to be her best self. Her spirit was strong and her soul was pure.
Brandy was born in 1971, in Colorado Springs. She had severe digestive problems and a very high level of sensitivity. We, with the help of her doctor, could not find a suitable formula for her until she was three months old. I had initially tried nursing and that had also failed. She would cry for long periods of time, eat, projectile vomit, and then try to eat again. We had a terribly difficult time. She was continually hungry and in pain from the beginning.
Her father and I had divorced when she was just two years old. She was very close to her older brother and he was her protector. They would go to visit her father for court-ordered visits on some weekends. When Brandy was eight years old, her brother went to live in California and she went to visit her father alone for the first time. When she returned home, she was very upset and announced she would never stay with him overnight again. I was suspicious and took her to her doctor at the time, and he accused me of jumping to conclusions when I asked him to check to see if anything might have happened at the time. I did not allow her to spend the night with her father again. Many years later I found out that he had sexually molested her that weekend and she had been too ashamed to tell anyone.
As time went on, Brandy became more emotional, histrionic, and volatile. She was easily overwhelmed and explosive. She clearly missed her brother, and she was unable to handle her anxiety. She seemed to have her nerves on the outside of her skin. Later, she told me she could always feel her father’s hands on her when she tried to sleep.
In high school, she often dropped out, as she experienced migraines and vomiting due to the stress she felt. The school she went to did nothing to help her and even reinforced the idea that she was a failure. She found an alternative high school and transferred there, where she did exceptionally well. She completed the last two years in one and she was the valedictorian of her class. In the meantime, she had been diagnosed as bipolar.
She began a long road of counseling and trial-and-error attempts at medication. Brandy kept it together well enough to get a degree in medical assistance and became a phlebotomist, eventually getting a management position in a blood laboratory in a local hospital at about 23 years old. She loved her work, although upper management often required her to work multiple shifts in a row which made her lose sleep and severely affected her stability. She again began experiencing problems and it took a toll on her ability to work. She began using street drugs to stay awake and then became even less stable.
She was on and off her medication, trying new medications, finding no relief and again using street drugs, which, as she told me later, were the only thing that stopped the body memories of her father’s hands on her when she tried to sleep. She also continued to have issues with eating, TMJ and severe headaches.
At 27, Brandy came to me and told me she had signed up for a drug treatment program in Estes Park and would be there for a month. She knew she was in trouble and wanted to get well. I had not realized how much trouble she was in. She had decided to pay for it herself because she wanted to be responsible for her treatment. She completed the program and appeared to be better, although very vulnerable.
She had met a man at the treatment center and they unfortunately became partners. My son and I tried to convince her to leave him, but she felt that he understood her problems and he would help her. We felt otherwise. They were married sometime later.
Several months after this, she went with me to a hospital in Denver to get help. After waiting for four hours, they took her in only to release her and put her in a cab to go to her home because they didn’t have any room for her. They did this after I had left, without attempting to contact me or anyone else.
Eight months after she was married, at 29, Brandy hung herself after returning from the hospital in another attempt to get admitted and get help. While she was waiting with her husband for the admissions counselor to get something, her husband convinced her to go back home saying that they would work it out together, and they left. This is what the doctor told me when I asked why they left the hospital and what had happened. She went home and hung herself that evening.
Six hours after her death, her husband called the police and reported it. The autopsy showed the cause of death was hanging. However, the police report indicated something was very unusual about the timing of her husband’s call and the time of her death and the inconsistencies in his story. They said they could not prove anything, but they felt it left a lot of unanswered questions and they felt he had been a factor in the end.
We will never know what happened for sure, and I will live with that. What I do know is that Brandy’s family and friends’ lives will always be deeply affected by what happened. We will always be grateful for the time we had with her and all that she gave us. She was so brave, bright, beautiful, loving and kind. She fought so hard to get well and she loved all of us so much, as we loved her.
For the past many years, I have worked at Judi’s House as a volunteer. It is an organization in Denver that provides free help to families who have lost important people in their lives and who need help with the grief process. It is designed primarily for children experiencing grief, but also helps the parents or guardians of those children. I work with the parents surviving suicide or complicated grief. I can help by listening and offering compassion and understanding to those who need support as they make their way, day by day.
Thank you for letting me share my daughter’s story. I hope it will be of some help to others. I know Brandy would have wanted that.
— Sandra Schechter