Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a mother and wife. My husband and I live in Guthrie, OK. For several years I worked in the legal field as a legal assistant and am now studying to finish a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Eventually, I’d like to become a licensed professional counselor and possibly do some public speaking on topics related to mental illness. I’ve been a member of NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) for many years and I volunteer from time to time to speak to police officers at CIT (Crisis Intervention Training). I enjoy spending time with family, playing the piano and singing, gardening, playing golf and traveling.
How has mental illness affected your life?
My only child and son, Weston Rayls, developed mental illness after having suffered sexual and mental abuse by someone he trusted when he was a young boy. He had a psychotic break when he was 13. I then watched him heroically battle severe mental illness for 10 agonizing years until he finally gave up hope 3 ½ years ago (May 8, 2013) and ended his life at the age of 22. It was heartbreaking watching my son die before my eyes while trying to save his life; I couldn’t.
I now live with sweet and painful memories of him, and it’s downright depressing sometimes. The grief has been unbearable, but as much as I hate to say it, it’s waned with time. Time really hasn’t healed my wound; it’s just made it a little easier to bear. For about a year and a half after Weston left, I questioned why I ever believed in God. I questioned His existence. If He was real, why did He let such horrible things to happen to people, like my son? I was angry. Over time, though, I came to realize that He was real and that He never left Weston and me.
I know I won’t always understand why things happen the way they do, but I will continue to trust in a loving, all-knowing God. And I have a softer heart now. I see hurting people from all walks of life and I want to help them feel better. I want to help them to live victoriously.
Why did you want to be a part of This Is My Brave?
I feel compelled to share my story. I’m obviously not sharing my son’s “brave” story at the show, but rather the story of my own survival. There may be someone in the audience who hears my story at just the right time in their life.
What inspires you to stay mentally healthy?
Hope and faith in God inspires me to stay mentally healthy. Without Him, I’m not sure what would’ve become of me. The love of my family also inspires me to walk on. Further, I feel that I have a purpose in life now. I believe that purpose is to encourage and help hurting people, and who knows where that purpose will take me.
What do you hope the audience takes away from the show?
I want to inspire hurting people, those who’ve survived suicide and those who are battling mental illness, to hold on to HOPE; to never give up!