Tricia of NJ
I hope you like my card. I made you this because you matter to me, and I wanted to share with you a little about who I am, since I cannot talk to you in person. It is my hope that knowing my story may help you in even a small way.
My 23 year old son has Bipolar One Disorder with Psychotic Features, co-morbid with ADHD. When he was 19 years old while away from home at college, he began self medicating to relieve symptoms of both conditions. You may or may not know that mental health disorders many times are genetic conditions, and for males can appear at the age range of 19–22. (There is family history of mental illness on both sides of our family. We had seen symptoms of mental illness in our son in middle school and high school, but wrote them off as hormones and typical teenage behavior.) He became extremely depressed and psychotic, and attempted his first suicide that we are aware, almost three years ago. After being hospitalized, he took a medical leave of absence from college, and came home to seek treatment. His was a long journey of recovery. Over the next year, he would try several different medications and dosage changes while his doctor tried to relieve his symptoms. When he first started medication, he became severely manic and needed to be hospitalized again. Six months later, he stopped his medications after he was feeling better without telling us, and became psychotic and attempted suicide again and was hospitalized a third time. It was a very painful time for him, and for me as his mother. I wanted desperately to stop his suffering and to help him get well, and through our journey, we all listened and learned from those who had gone before us. We educated ourselves on mental health disorders, treatment, support, and recovery. We attended NAMI meetings to find a community of support. There were so many painful moments I questioned if recovery was possible. What we all learned was our son was in charge of his recovery, and nobody else. We could only support him. After a year at home, our son was still struggling severely. We sent him to residential treatment, and we found our miracle. He went on a new medication that helped relieve his worst symptoms, and become the best version of himself. The group and individual therapy he received helped him accept his disorder, and find coping skills and hope that he could manage his symptoms and live an amazing life. I remember wondering if I would ever get my son back during times I was struggling. In some ways I did, and other ways, the son I now have is so much stronger, wiser, and most of all, happier than I had ever seen him before. I am so so proud of him and his strength to keep going. It has been a challenging journey. There will continue to be management challenges for the rest of his life in staying on track with taking his medications, and using therapy as a way to help him when symptoms are not completely relieved when medications are not always enough. I am writing you this letter because I want you to know recovery is possible, and no matter where you are at on your journey, do not give up. Accept that help isn’t always immediate and you may try many medications and dosages to relieve symptoms, and go through a few therapists or even a couple different doctors until you find the people who can help you. There may be side effects to medications you will need to talk to your doctor about. Keep trying. Know it can and will get better, and that only you can be the one who finds recovery with the support of others.
My son returned to college a year and a half ago, continues taking his medication and has weekly therapy, and will graduate in pre-med next year. He takes it one semester at a time. He wants to go to Medical School after he graduates, to become a doctor and help others. It is all possible if you take it one day at a time. I feel I was given a great gift that I did not lose my son to suicide. I’m grateful every day for this gift. I love my son with all of my heart. Like him, I also want to help others, and that is the reason for my card. Always keep going because no matter how difficult the journey may be right now, don’t give up. The best is yet to come.