OYM Mitzi | Mental Health Issues

 

Mental illness is a global issue that we must not take for granted. In this episode, Timothy J. Hayes interviews Mitzi Montague-Bauer about her son, Journey – his early life and how mental health issues became part of his life. Mitzi is the Co-founder of Journey’s Dream which is a non-profit that advocates mental health. She is also the author of Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Transformation. Today, she opens up about the challenges they went through as a family caring for a son with mental illness.

Listen to the podcast here:

Journey’s Dream: Opening Up The Conversation On Mental Health Issues With Mitzi Montague-Bauer

Mitzi Montague-Bauer has spent her entire career supporting people through life’s most transformative moments, from birth to death. During her 30-plus years as a doula, she has owned her successful nationally-certified practice, become a co-owner of a freestanding birth center and has assisted in more than 500 births. This is Mitzi’s first book, a personal memoir that chronicles her painful yet transformative journey as a mother whose son was diagnosed with mental illness. It is Mitzi’s hope that her story and the organization she cofounded titled Journey’s Dream, will help others find their path to peace, love and optimal wellness. Mitzi’s new book is titled Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Spiritual Healing.

Welcome and thank you for being here. You and I are here because you wrote a book about your son. I met your husband face to face in the fall of 2012 for the first time, although we’d known each other through the podcast for a while.

That would have been the autumn before Journey died then. He died in 2013, that winter.

We’re here because I had a connection with the family and you mentioned that your son died. Here’s a book about your son, your life with your son and his death. It’s a powerful book. When I was prepping for this conversation, I was in tears again several times. I was wondering how I’ll get through this. I have a son who was born maybe not quite a year after your son. It very poignant for me on that level and the level that I’m a psychologist. I deal a lot with mental health issues. It’s been a passion of mine to try and help people navigate in a holistic fashion and in a mind-body balance way for a lot of years now. Thank you for what you’ve done, by turning this life event and series of events in your son’s life into a gift for all of those who struggle with mental health issues and they might be looking for answers.

There were a couple of things. First, I have a memory of a very poignant moment of realizing I was at a fork in the road where I knew I could stay curled up on the couch waiting for the rest of my life to come to an end. I had lost both of my sisters, a very close friend of mine and my son in a short period of time. I knew very few people would blame me if I didn’t do a lot more with my life. It was this idea of becoming bitter or better from the loss and what I wanted to do with it. It was my love for Journey and his love for me that inspired me. I knew he wouldn’t want for me to be through with my life, so to speak, even though at the time I couldn’t imagine feeling joy again. I couldn’t imagine. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the days, let alone the rest of my life. It was tempting to withdraw from life, go about my life outwardly, but inwardly waiting.

I knew that it wasn’t the answer and that Journey would want me to keep living. I had to decide whether I was going to keep believing in love or not. I always believed that love is the answer regardless of the question. It felt like that was a lie to me, but I made a decision to move forward. It was one breath at a time, incrementally and slowly deciding to live. When Journey was first diagnosed, I searched exhaustively for solutions that I had a difficult time finding anything beyond medication and therapy. When I looked up the mental illnesses that he was labeled with, the prognosis was grim and scary. I kept looking for solutions for someone who could help us get to the root cause of it and help Journey be restored to wellness again. I didn’t find those solutions.

He was diagnosed in 2009 and by the time he died, I felt like I did have aggregated some solutions, some doctors who may have been able to support him, but by that time he had been hospitalized so many times and forced medication. He didn’t have a lot of faith in humanity and in anyone. He felt that he had to do it himself. It was more like a talk to the hand thing. He pretty much isolated himself. After he died, I wondered what would happen if I would have had the solutions that I have then in the beginning?

Because after he was first diagnosed, he was actively searching for answers as well and was open to help, but I didn’t know how to help him. The book is a compilation of lessons that I learned and a directory to a list, a resource, a hub where people can find solutions, both allopathic and naturopathic solutions, some that you may have heard of and some that people probably haven’t. I always wanted Journey to receive a hopeful message. It would have been more successful had we given him a list of practitioners like, “Here are ten people in our area. You choose one that resonates with you.” He would have been more inclined to follow that protocol. As it was, he didn’t like being told what to do, which I don’t think many people do. The book was our gift, my and Journey’s gift to anyone else who may be dissatisfied with the situation that they’re in and dissatisfied with the solutions they were given. Maybe it doesn’t feel complete. My book is directing people to a resource hub, which is our nonprofit.

[bctt tweet=”Love is the answer regardless of the question.” via=”no”]

One of the things that that comes to my mind to ask is for you to tell us a little bit about Journey and his early life and how or when mental health issues became a big part of his life.

Journey was a brilliant study of contradiction. From the time he was young, he was lively but contemplative. He tended to be a little bit more perceptive than most. Sometimes he would perceive things in me before I would perceive them in myself. He was a porous person, but lively, well-liked, funny and smart. We didn’t see it coming, the mental health challenges. He was at the University of Michigan on scholarship, on a path to a degree in Economics. In his junior year, he was attacked coming home from a party and he minimized it. He didn’t tell us. I only knew because I went down to visit him a couple of weeks later and saw the fading bruises on his face and asked him about it.

He didn’t want to talk about it, but I did learn that he was coming home from a party, probably buzzed on alcohol or drugs or whatever. He wasn’t a heavy drug user, but he did tell me later that he tried ecstasy once and that it was not a good experience for him. In any case, he was coming home from this party and was attacked by a gang of men who he did not know. He was knocked unconscious. When I saw him, the bruises were beginning to fade and heal, but some part of him didn’t heal from that. He began trying to fix himself with strange behavior like fasting, which wasn’t that odd because our family value nutrition and fasting isn’t that unusual. For him, he was a lean person anyway.

He began fasting and perseverating on his colon that he felt was broken and tried to fix himself with weird posturing. He was still in college, so we didn’t see a lot of this. What we did see was a little quirky, but I didn’t recognize the severity of it until he graduated and moved home. We recognized that this was beyond Journey rethinking the norm, which he often did and a lot of times it was an upgrade. It was easy to be in denial because it’s like, “He’s quirky,” and we didn’t see him a lot. He did come home from spring break in his senior year of college. I guess that was the eye opener for me. He was presenting very oddly and I knew that he was either on drugs or having a psychotic episode. That’s terrifying.

What year was his senior year?

It was in 2009. He graduated in 2009 from the University of Michigan. As I said, I was terrified. I didn’t know how to handle it. We don’t have a history of mental illness and I’m not trained in the mental health profession. For me, it was scary to not recognize my son and to not have answers. I feel pretty confident with physical wellbeing. How to stay healthy physically is less of a mystery, but mental illness was so unpredictable. Everything was so unpredictable. I felt frightened. I didn’t know how to help him. I didn’t like the answers we were receiving from the professionals we sought out.

That gives you the impetus to try and create better alternatives for people and make them far more accessible.

OYM Mitzi | Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Issues: There are only a few resources out there on safely coming off psychiatric medicine.

 

I would love that.

I think that’s what your book does in a big way, is to take a very powerful emotional story and tell it in a real raw way. One of the things that I’ve said to people about your book that touches me deeply is that you include a number of Journeys journal entries so that we get to hear in his own words his questioning, his struggle, his joys, his excitement and his pain. With that out there more, you can understand that here was a very bright, normal, what we would call healthy, twenty-something. Whether it was something we didn’t understand or the trauma itself that brought this about, mental health issues came into your family when your family was unprepared for them and didn’t have the resources. Now, you’re trying to create this foundation and this book is a great way to introduce people to that concept that mental health is something that touches all of us, whether we recognize it or not. The idea that there is a range of options and that you’re to pull together this not-for-profit, Journey’s Dream, that’s going to be a hub of resource for people touches my heart deeply. I’m very glad to be a part of this and help get the word out.

Thank you. I appreciate that. Journey’s Dream, at least for me, there are four founders. I’m one of them. It was born from this desire to have one place where trusted resources could be found. It seemed to me that the medical models of care are quite polarized. If I wanted to have Journey see a nutritionist in addition to a psychiatrist, that was frowned upon or they placate like, “You can do that, but you’re not going to get anywhere.” I never found this blending of the medical models, which was baffling to me. Pretty much what I did all in my spare time was looking for solutions. One of the articles I read was on delivering fish oil to people who are taking anti-psychotic medication.

The research stated that it helped them mitigate some of the unpleasant side effects of these medications. To me that was an example where the two models of care could blend effortlessly. Psychiatrists could say, “Here’s your anti-psychotic medication and by the way, if you add this, it might make it more palatable.” All the different models of care seem to operate in a silo. I would love to see professionals in all different models. I would love to see them broaden their perspectives enough to accept that there may be something more, not just their branch of medicine. This goes across the board. I would love to have a resource, a hub where people could find all known solutions, both traditional and nontraditional and they’re out there. Solutions are on the rise. There are so many wonderful things and people doing research on mental health challenges, but unfortunately a lot of those don’t get funded. Our nonprofit, we hope to shine the light on some of those less-known solutions and those lesser-known modalities and eventually raise funds to help support people in having access to them.

It’s important because on so many levels, one of the things that I think about is how you were saying that you actually got awakened to the fact that your son was having serious mental health issues in the spring of 2009. The process that you went through as a family over the next four years was so intense and such an emotional roller coaster. It took so much time and money and energy. As I read the book, as I’ve heard your story, it’s almost like you were out there in the wilderness scrambling around looking for options as though you’d gone into a new frontier and there weren’t any roadmaps or weren’t any trails.

That’s what I hope that your book and your foundation are going to start to provide for people. One level is opening up the conversation, another level is letting people know they’re not alone. The next level is giving them access to resources where you have found professionals who are more open-minded, who are willing to share and work collaboratively in the treatment rather than running into the traditional turf wars that we so often find in legal and medical professions. One of the things that touched me was hearing about how many different places you researched and places you went out of state to try and get treatment.

I did feel fortunate that at one point in my search, it coincided with a time when Journey was hospitalized. I read the pamphlet on Michigan regulations and decided that he was not a danger to himself or others and therefore he refused the medication. This was maybe his third or fourth hospitalization in a short period of time. That becomes costly for whoever’s footing that bill. It wasn’t us at the time. Journey hadn’t applied for assistance state aid. I imagine community mental health was footing the bill for this, but it was getting costly. A nurse told me very nonchalantly that their plan was to hold off a few more days and then it would have been 90 days that Journey would have been in and out of the system. They intended to put them in a state mental hospital to teach him a lesson in compliance.

[bctt tweet=”When we’re afraid, our intelligence is compromised. We’re not functioning as well as we could be.” via=”no”]

At that point, they also were encouraging my husband and I to sue for guardianship. I wasn’t willing to sue for guardianship. I knew that would probably be the last straw. He had always valued his autonomy. What 22-year-old doesn’t, but his own independence, every decision had been usurped from him. I knew that if we sued for guardianship, that wasn’t a good plan, nor did I want to see him in a state mental hospital. He was stubborn and he certainly had some challenges, but I didn’t see that as being helpful for him. I was searching double time and came across an organization, a foundation in Sedona, Arizona called Alternative To Meds Center.

They support people coming off street drugs and also psychiatric medication that they’ve been on for a long time. Honestly, there are not a lot of resources out there on safely coming off psychiatric medicine there. There are very few books or what have you. Most people come off cold turkey and it’s disastrous. This was a residential facility who assured me that they could help Journey based on a very long intake conversation. We arranged for a bed to bed transfer and the community mental health, which is the people who were suing for custody agreed that as long as we paid for that treatment, Journey could go to that treatment instead. We did send him there and we saw phenomenal results. I was naive enough to think, “This was the answer,” and perhaps it would have been.

Education is a great part of the program there along with organic gardening, classes, therapy twice a week and infrared saunas. They have psychiatrists. They are more familiar with using something called nutraceuticals or orthomolecular psychiatry, which is more inclined to use supplements that the body recognizes. They test for imbalances and what have you. They titrated him. The first time he went, he wasn’t on medication, but they did start him on some nutraceuticals that did support balance for him. At the end of his stay, he was offered an internship to stay there and continue working and be under their watchful eye. At that point, he felt so much better. He wanted to go out on his own and start his life.

He went to California where a friend of his was living and working and he didn’t take the supplements that they encouraged them to take. He went off and was like, “I’m better now.” A couple of months later, he relapsed. We sent him again. It was no small feat financially, but we did send him a second time. There’s a mutual friend of ours and their facility in the Ozark Mountains. He got a benefit there as well. The truth is if it had been his decision to go, he probably would’ve gotten a lot more out of that. At this point, he was railing against being told what to do. He didn’t feel like anyone was listening to his perspective. There were a couple of very beneficial places where Journey did get help, but unfortunately he didn’t stick with the program.

One of the things that strikes me about that and I see this so often, is that when you get a good pattern introduced to somebody who’s been living in our culture, it’s very unhealthy. In so many ways, with our culture and the diet and all the distractions and the lack of balance in life. If you get somebody who’s introduced to this radical new pattern and it changes things, unless there’s substantial ongoing support and often within a community, it’s very difficult to maintain that when you go back out into what we call normal society these days. The standard American diet and all of the distractions and drugs and alcohol, especially if you’re in your 20s or 30s. I’m very grateful for all the work you did with Journey and the book and how it provides so many people with options that you didn’t have. You had to start from scratch. One of the things that I wanted to touch on in this interview is how did you manage to stay together as a family?

It was challenging. There was a point during Journey’s symptomology where he was diagnosed with a disease called somatic delusion disorder, which is characterized by a person who is otherwise healthy but obsesses about something that is broken within them and there’s no medical basis for it. At that point, he believed his colon was broken and this started after the attack. He would point to the specific place and he was cogent and every other area of his life except this one thing. He kept insisting that he was dying and that we weren’t helping him. I’d be looking for the best psychiatrist and he’d be yelling, “Mom, I don’t need a shrink. I need a surgeon.”

It was very challenging for our family, for Rex and I. I spent a lot of time with him during that period of time. He didn’t leave the house for seven or eight months. I spent a lot of time with him. While it probably did take a toll on my marriage, we were all doing the best we could. Probably one of the things I would have done differently is I would have heeded the advice of others, to take better care of myself to fulfill my own needs, fill my cup because I was depleted. Even though I knew better, I have a set of working tools and I knew what they were, I wasn’t as active in using them.

OYM Mitzi | Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Issues: Most people who are diagnosed with a mental illness are brilliant. They’re on the spectrum of genius.

 

I was fearful and when we’re afraid, our intelligence is compromised. We’re not functioning as well as we could be. I was functioning from this fearful place trying to fix my son. He recognized that it was wearing me out. In fact, one summer, at the time I was home with him in his room, keeping him company or whatever. One day, he just flat-out stopped talking to me. I’m like, “Why are you ignoring me? What did I do? What have I done to offend you?” He looked through me. He talked to Rex, but he flat-out didn’t speak to me. This went on all summer long for three months. He was living in our home but acted like I wasn’t there. I stomped my foot and had a little fit and eventually I was like, “I’m going to go to yoga class. I’m going to call a friend and go to a movie or go out to dinner with Rex, spend more time with friends and live a more normal life.”

Exactly three months to the day that Journey stopped talking to me, he addressed me casually, “Hey, mom.” I’m like, “Why aren’t you talking to me now after ignoring me for three months? What is this even about?” His answer started with a question of, “Do you remember back in the spring when I encouraged you to go out with dad more and to go to your yoga class and spend time with your friends?” I did remember, but I wanted to know so I was like, “What does this have to do with my question?” He just looked at me and he said, “Mom, you were spending all your time with me and it was wearing you out.” My mouth fell in open and I was like, “What?” He came over and put his finger under my chin and closed my mouth. He’s like, “It worked, didn’t it?” What looked like the actions of an inconsiderate jerk in the end was a conscious gift that he had given me of ignoring me so that I would go do something and live a more balanced life.

He helped take away the primary distraction that was keeping you from doing self-care.

Even in his confused state, he was always conscientious of other people. The people at the hospital would say he would lighten up the groups or activities and was always considerate. He was stubborn beyond belief and persistent, but still caring and loving. He always was a fan of humanity who wanted to improve the world. After his death, it became apparent that I was going to write the book.

You’ve already done a wonderful job with that. The primary thing that I’m getting at in that question is to help people understand it doesn’t do any good to put you, Rex and Breaha on a pedestal and think, “They did this and they’re so wonderful and I could never do that.” This was an enormous ordeal that strained the very fabric of your sanity and your relationships and there’s hope in that. Whereas if I think, “You guys are so wonderful. You had this history of using all these health tools and skills and I don’t have any options. I didn’t know about good nutrition. I didn’t know about choosing for love,” it can be done. It is extraordinarily challenging. Every one of us who’s had mental health issues within their immediate family knows that it goes beyond words in a heartbeat and yet we’re trying to offer hope. I know that that’s one of the things that you are offering in the book and in Journey’s Dream.

It is my desire that a person feels more hopeful. Part of the reason for writing the book was it felt like such a high price to pay for what I had learned. Especially if tears were the currency, any parent who’s gone through that, there are lessons that we’ve learned and I would love to spare any family, any of grief if I can, by sharing what I learned along the way. More importantly, there are resources that are available that you may not hear about in mainstream media. Part of it is hope. I knew that if Journey would have received a message of hope from someone other than his mom, it would have meant a lot to him. Every time he went to the hospital, he came home and he had spiraled further into depression.

He would repeat back to me, “This is a disease with no cure. I can’t get better. This is the best I’m going to hope for.” That’s a hopeless message. I would love it if a doctor would have recognized his intelligence, maybe drawn a picture of the brain, explained a little bit about the chemical composition of the medicine given and met him where he was. You would know this I’m sure, most people who are diagnosed with a mental illness, many of them are brilliant. They’re on the spectrum of genius. That’s what makes us human. It doesn’t go away when we’re diagnosed with a mental illness.

[bctt tweet=”Don’t accept a prognosis that comes with a diagnosis.” via=”no”]

That brilliant person is still in there. They may have trouble navigating, but Journey was still used to being the smartest person in the room usually. To be not with such a hopeless message and one that didn’t respect who he was as an inquiring person, at one point in the hospital, he asked the doctor to bring him a book. The doctor asked, “What kind of a book?” He said, “One of your medical books on anatomy.” He said after that the doctor treated him more respectfully. They brought him a book. He was trying to figure out what’s going on. We have to provide more hope and in order to provide more hope, we have to actually believe that there’s a reason to have hope.

That means we need to broaden our perspectives and start looking at these things that are on the horizon that other people are doing and having success. One of our founders, Mark, was diagnosed with Bipolar I in his 40s after having no history of mental health challenges. I didn’t know him at the time, but he was told a similar message that he would need to be on medication for life. They don’t know why it happens and they don’t have a cure, but take your medication and manage your symptoms. He was a person of faith and he didn’t believe it. He began the same search I did although it was different because he was searching for himself instead of for someone else.

It was a few years later and he found a doctor and a medical doctor and a psychiatrist who with a set of tools on forgiveness, they were able to address what physically was going on with the methylation process in his body. They were doctors and psychiatrists who actually knew how to address the imbalance and then slowly titrate him off his psychiatric medication while boosting his body with the things it needed. Five, six years later, he is symptom-free and medication-free. I know that it’s possible, but most of us don’t know that it’s possible. Yes, I feel hopeful from that. I feel hopeful that there are options and we need to tell people that. People need to know. When we’re having this discussion around mental illness in our families and our communities, hope is lacking.

Hope is one primary thing. The other thing that I have a lot of my time with people is spent trying to get them to be gentler with themselves and to understand that if an issue comes back, it’s not necessarily that I’m starting from square one. It’s just another level of the same issue and that there has been progress. I’m drawn to thinking about Journey’s sister. What can you tell us about her role in all of this and the impact on her of having gone through this and your family?

She would be able to explain that better, but from a mother’s perspective, the Breaha and Journey were quite different but close growing up. They were like twin souls, if there is such a thing. They were connected although they had different personalities and such. There were times during Journey’s illness where he would shut me out or Rex. He didn’t want to burden us or for whatever reason, he wouldn’t allow us into the picture. He was an adult, which adds to the complication of mental illness. When the person you’re trying to help as an adult, you can’t force your way in. Some of the times he wouldn’t see us and Breaha, his sister and my daughter, was the only person he would see.

That was a lot of pressure for her. She was married in 2009, the same year Journey came home and was very clearly symptomatic. She was newly married and had a job, but she would take time off work and go visit him at the hospital or bring him things that he asked for. I’m pretty sure we all felt like this was a blip. He’s going to get through this. I’m like, “He’s going to get through this and he’s probably going to help people who have been through this before. This is part of his education.” That was how much we all uplifted ourselves, which was also such a big shock when he died.

OYM Mitzi | Mental Health Issues

Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Transformation

We couldn’t have done it without Breaha. In fact, after Journey died a few months later, she was home. She asked my husband and me if we’d like to hear what she had been writing and of course we did. She’s a beautiful storyteller. She began reading to us what she had been writing as part of her healing process. It was the beginning of a novel. At some point she’s like, “I just feel like it needs another narrator. I can’t tell the whole story.” I said, “It’s nonsense. That’s beautiful. Keep writing.” That night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I had one of these a-ha moments of like, “It does need another perspective. It needs the voice of the mother.”

It was a delayed response. A few seconds later my eyes popped open up, “That would be my voice.” I tried to go to sleep and I couldn’t. I hadn’t experienced that I’ve heard other writers or musicians have, and I’d never experienced it before, but this download of information started. The book started writing itself in my head and I shushed it. I’m trying to sleep, but it wouldn’t be quiet. Finally, I got up and booted the computer and started writing. In the beginning we thought we were writing the same book and we supported one another. We met and wrote and supported one another in that way. When the book finally got to the first round of editing, our editors wisely said, “Your voices sounds so similar. You can’t pull off narrating the same book. When there are 2 or 3 narrators in one book, they have very different voices.” They encouraged us to write separate books, one from the mother’s perspective and one from the sister’s perspective, but it was Breaha’s writing that inspired me to write.

Once I made up my mind to start writing, a miraculous thing happened. I’m a doula. I support families and childbirth for three-and-a-half decades. I’m always on call. Very rarely do I turn off my phone. Once it became evident that I was going to write this book, I had four-and-a-half months when no clients called. No one called. I didn’t have to turn away. I didn’t have any work to do. Essentially for four-and-a-half months, I didn’t have a job and that had never happened in 30 years. I’m lucky if I get three weeks off in a row, so four-and-a-half months, I saw it as a sign. Every morning from 10:00 until 1:00, I sat in front of my computer. It was like a three-hour workday. Anybody can do that. People work a lot longer. Every day, Monday through Friday for three hours, I sat in front of my computer. I lit a candle, said a little prayer and asked for inspiration and that was how this book got written.

It’s a delightful book. It’s a huge gift to all of us, but especially any family or any friend of someone who’s struggling with mental health issues. I’m delighted that you would take the time to talk to us. Is there something I haven’t asked you about or something that you would like to make a statement for our audience?

I would like to encourage people to broaden their perspectives. Don’t accept a prognosis that comes with a diagnosis. A diagnosis is important but beyond that, keep looking, keep searching. There is a reason to have hope. Our nonprofit, JourneysDream.org is a place to begin. You can go there and we are building a practitioner network where practitioners who have a track record for supporting those with mental health challenges can be found. You just enter your zip code. We’re adding that and that is always being added to. There is a new program that our nonprofit has. It’s privately funded and put together called the Optimal Being Program, which teaches a set of working tools for those who may be struggling or their loved ones. There’s hope for yourselves and your loved ones. If you’re the loved one, lastly I would say do what you can to take care of yourself. It’s a tremendous toll when you’re living with someone who’s experiencing mental health challenges. Whatever it is that you do to fill your own cup, I would strongly encourage you to take time to do it.

Thank you so much. The book is titled Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Spiritual Healing. Mitzi Montague-Bauer, thank you so much for being with us. I look forward to our next contact.

I do as well. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

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About Mitzi Montague-Bauer

OYM Mitzi | Mental Health IssuesI was born and raised in a small town in Michigan. I met my husband, Rex when I was 21 years old and we were married two years later. Our daughter Breaha was born in 1984 and three years later we welcomed our son, Journey. While we experienced challenges typical for a young couple raising small children, I was happier than I’d ever been. Being a mom filled my heart with overwhelming joy.

A few years after Journey was born, I became certified as a childbirth assistant and slowly began building my business as a doula. I learned the value of nurturing young families during the important and often stressful time of early parenthood.  My heart was full, and I held the mistaken belief that if you loved your family enough you could protect them from darkness and pain.

Mental illness, I believed, was something that happened to other people. Something that happened to people who weren’t loved enough or suffered terrible childhoods. So, when Journey began experiencing mental health challenges during his junior year at college, I was in denial. It was a long and painful few years as I came to grips with this disease and its ability to ravage the hearts and lives of those touched by it.

Four years after Journey became symptomatic, he died. Devastated, I wondered how I would make it through the day, let alone the rest of my life without him. As I began the slow and arduous process of healing from that loss, friends, family, my faith and eventually writing were the catalysts that brought about gradual healing.

I had no idea when I began writing Journey, the transformation that was possible. I couldn’t imagine anything good and productive could come from my heartbreaking sorrow. While I would give just about anything to have had a different outcome for my son, I can see now how someone else’s pain can serve to support others.

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