Devastation Is a Choice

Devastation is a choice. This lesson was taught to me by Dr. Johnson, my first therapist. I sought therapy after my mother died by her own hand. Mom had been mentally ill for years.

It seemed as if my world had spun right off its axis! I even wondered how anyone could find happiness in this tumultuous world. Seeing people in public laughing and carrying on bewildered me. I thought, How can they laugh when this world is so full of heartache? This tragedy was only the first in a succession of seemingly insurmountable events. Ten years later, my father died of suicide, as well. Again, I was stricken with ungodly grief and dismay. I sought more counseling and muddled through my days feeling utterly lost.

The next event broke me, though; I lost my precious baby boy. My ex-husband and I learned at about 16 weeks of pregnancy that our baby had Down syndrome. When he was born, Joshua was very sick. He required four surgeries in his short life. We loved him powerfully! Unfortunately, after three months, his health didn’t improve. The doctors discovered that he had a non-treatable, non-survivable disease, and on June 18, we had to take him off life support. Josh died in my arms.

I went into a terrible depression. I’m not quite sure how many years this lasted because truly, the question is: When did it actually start? It was very difficult growing up with a mentally ill mom and an absent father.

The following August, we were elated to know I was pregnant again! My second son, Jonas, was born on May 16, 2005. He has brought me terrific joy throughout his life. In his early years, I was filled with both delight and postpartum depression. Also, the deep sadness from losing my sweet Joshy and eventually getting a divorce was tremendous. As hard as it was to be a good mom while enduring such emotional turmoil, I showed up for Jonas and continued counseling. My life was broken in two, but I did the best I could. It was, however, much less than perfect.

The totalities of the tragedies in my life caught up with me. My self-esteem was lower than a snake’s belly, and I behaved accordingly. I fought through this difficulty for over ten years. I tried and tried to get better, but it was one step forward and two steps back. Getting on the correct antidepressant was the beginning of my recovery. I’d been on the wrong medicine for years but had forgotten what it felt like to be happy, so I didn’t know it was wrong for me. With this new med, I could see through the fog.

Something happened next; a phrase rang out in my ears: “Devastation is a choice.” Those words from Dr. Johnson three decades ago came back to me like a lightning bolt and guided my actions from that day on. I said to myself, “I do not have a death sentence. Yes, I’ve suffered horrifying loss, but I’m still here. I’m here, and I can break the cycle of tragedy. I need to get my ass up and do the deal. Not just the surviving deal but the thriving deal. I have a bright, beautiful son who’s watching me.”

With careful determination, I summoned the memories of good times and laughing. Laughter, my dear old and sorely missed friend, made a star appearance back in my belly! I started taking better care of myself, and things began to change. Now, I’ve never felt stronger, wiser, and more powerful in my life! I’m speaking my truth about survival and impacting others who have been met with tragedy. I picked myself up, washed my face, and began to live life again, and for that, I’ve never felt more thankful.


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About the Author | Mary Barras

Mary Barras is the mother of 14-year-old Jonas the Bonus and two mutts named Mugsy and Sparky. They enjoy their life in Austin, Texas, and have thus far avoided melting in the blazing Texas summers. She appreciates the simple things in life, as even the smallest joy is such a far cry from being in the quicksand of depression. Teaching high school, cooking, and visiting with friends is what lights her fire!

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14 comments to "Devastation Is a Choice"

  • Amy Ellington

    What a testimony from such a brave and beautiful soul! I walked some of that loss and pain beside you. I’m sorry I never knew how seeded you hurt was planted. You my friend are beautiful and will touch many lives with your experiences. One gift you were blessed with is that witty humor. You can always bring a crowd to tears of laughter. Again, I’m so proud of the woman you’ve found and for God blessing us with you!

    • Mary Barras

      Thank you so much Amy! Yes, you did walk some of that path with me. THANK YOU for that! I love you!

  • Sherolyn Schneider

    God is big enough..and so are you.. 😊 what a powerful story.

  • Cynthia Hernandez Hunter

    So proud of you Mary! Thank you for making this world a brighter place, it is better with you in it. You will save others, thank you for saving yourself.
    Love and peace to you.

  • Pam guidry

    I love reading this. Not the heartache part but the ability to overcome! It is so powerful! You go Mary!!!

  • Carolina Reid

    Mary. Great work and I love your honesty and vulnerability in telling your story. Feeling even more honored to know you and glad I reached out to you to try to get to know you a little better, way back when my son first met Jonas the Bonus. Love you!

  • Tom Degan

    Excellent presentation. The gal is good!

  • Virginia J. Woodruff

    I didn’t know about all of this. I’m so sorry for your losses. You are a shining star.