Following the death of her husband, Sequim author and substitute teacher Grace Chumley had two choices — to be angry or be happy.
“It’s a choice we all have and I choose to be happy,” she said.
Chumley chronicles her journey in a new book, “Grace Under Pressure, Smiling Through Adversity.” She shares details about her relationship with her husband, Michael, his battle with clinical depression and her journey to find happiness through the sadness following his suicide in 2008.
Although some of the book appears on her blog, “Inside Grace’s Thoughts – Surviving After Suicide,” at www.chumleyfamily.blogspot.com, Chumley said she hopes to reach new audiences by publishing her book.
“I want people to know that life is tough and that we have choices to be happy and help others to be happy,” she said.
Chumley said she started her blog to help with the healing and as she went along more people kept encouraging her and more web hits kept coming.
“Grace Under Pressure” features the first two years of the blog and plenty of new material summarizing Chumley’s early marriage and her life today.
“It was my therapy,” Chumley said of the blog.
Chumley, a self-proclaimed city girl, married Michael, from central Washington, in May 1981. They have three children, with one grandson and another coming in March.
Michael, a certified public accountant and an auto mechanic in his free time, struggled with depression his whole life, she said. He was diagnosed with clinical depression in 1983. In 1998, he was diagnosed with type-1 juvenile diabetes and 10 years later he overdosed on his insulin at the age of 51.
“It was another thing that was hard to manage,” she said of his diabetes.
“His depression was hard to manage, but his diabetes was really crazy probably because of all the other meds he was on.”
The couple moved to Sequim with the intention of building a mechanic’s shop for him to work in and because the outdoors and clean air were beneficial to Michael.
Through their years together, Chumley at times felt she wasn’t good enough for him but she learned to overcome her self-doubt.
“We had really good times together, but it just got harder and harder as he got worse and worse,” she said. “Anyone who knew him knew he was a great man.”
Even though she faced great challenges, Chumley said she’s not a quitter.
“There was a time I was very frustrated with dealing with depression and marriage,” she said. “I had to learn to distinguish between the Mike talking and the disease talking.”
Michael wasn’t abusive or mean, she said, but Chumley learned she had built up a wall so that she couldn’t be hurt at all.
“Then I realized how bitter and angry I’d become,” she said.
Eventually, Chumley began channeling her thoughts through a blog.
“A lot of people told me I should see a counselor but I’m fine at 2 p.m. in the afternoon when I would go. I need someone I can talk to at one in the morning.”
Over a year and a half, she crafted the book and feels it could benefit anyone going through a tough time and being unsure how to find strength.
“It’s a hard read at the beginning but even with tough times there’s hope at the end,” she said.
“There are so many people out there who suffer from mental illness who need to know their lives are valuable. Then there are people like me who feel they are alone in supporting people with mental illness.”
Even though Chumley has worked her way through a lot of issues and her blog has turned into a family travel journal, she plans to keep writing positive things.
“People are encouraged and things can be crazy but we need to find happiness and have fun,” she said.