You Are Not Alone
When asked what is hardest for families dealing with a member that has psychosis, the answer is not always about the illness itself, but sometimes how other people react to the illness. If you have a family that pulls together when problems arise or live in a community that gives help when needed, know that you are deserving of that support and should access it. If you do not have family or neighbors who are willing or able to lend an ear or a hand, remember that there are more than 13 million adults and about 2 million children living with serious mental illness. Among them are parents, like the ones below that have chosen to share their stories.
Susan Inman is a 65 year old mother of two and former educator who taught English and Drama to middle and high school students for over 20 years. Her daughter, Molly, had her first serious experience with psychosis when she was 15 years old. In Molly’s case, symptoms escalated quickly and seemed to rise and fall with her mood. Antidepressant medication was prescribed to help stabilize Molly’s mood. Her mood improved but the hallucinations and delusions continued to worsen. These symptoms were eventually brought under control by finding the right medicine and dose so that Molly could think clearly enough to educate herself about psychosis and put words and meaning to the experiences that she had been having.
When asked what her greatest challenges were in the early years of her daughter’s illness, Susan would point to the difficulty of setting up an educational plan that would let Molly work at her own pace while keeping her on track for graduation. After much trial and error, Susan hit on the solution of enrolling her daughter part-time in a community college program that was willing to accommodate her needs. Another big challenge was to remain hopeful. Molly’s first team of psychiatrists classified her as one of the worst cases ever admitted to their hospital, and even prepared the family for the possibility of lifelong institutionalization.
Today, Molly is an advocate and spokesperson for people with serious mental illness and encourages others to speak openly about their experiences with family and those who can help. Molly has not only continued her studies, but has become an avid sportsman who loves to ski, snowboard, golf, and play tennis with her boyfriend. Her favorite indoor destinations include movie theatres and concert halls.
To find more on Susan and Molly’s success story, go to http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/tvshowblog/psychosis-and-saving-my-daughters-sanity/
Stephanie Escamilla is originally from Uvalide, Texas and moved to San Antonio in 2010. At that time, she was a single mom with 2 sons. Her eldest, whose identity she protects under the pseudonym “Daniel”, was diagnosed at age 6 with ADHD and at age 14 with bipolar disorder with psychotic features. This began what Stephanie referred to as a “roller coaster ride” for her and her second husband who struggled to find treatment that would prevent the frequent hospitalizations that Daniel needed to manage his mood swings and hallucinations. Importantly, educating themselves about bipolar and psychosis proved to be an important first step in coming to grips with the boy’s illness. Stephanie read every book that she could get her hands on, and her partner said that learning about Daniel’s condition made it easier to be there for his step-son. Understanding what Daniel was going through proved to be especially important for Stephanie’s family, who mistakenly shunned her as a bad mother, but eventually came to respect and support her commitment to her son. Stephanie’s greatest gift to Daniel was showing him that it was safe to tell her when he was seeing visions or hearing voices. Gradually the family was able to anticipate when symptoms were worsening and fend off prolonged episodes with relaxation, comfort and medicine. At the time of this writing (2015), Daniel is a 16 year-old who no longer has hallucinations, can effectively cope with mood swings, still takes some medication, and only needs to see a therapist once a month.
Stephanie’s message to parents is threefold:
1. You are definitely not alone,
2. Never lose hope,
3. Take care of yourself too.
Today, Stephanie is an active member of the San Antonio chapter of the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI: www.nami.org) where she serves as an advocate to other parents who have children with serious mental illness. Her family’s story was the subject of a 2013 CNN exposé and can be found at: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/12/health/mentally-ill-son/.