It was April 3, 1991. I woke up and found my world collapsing. Paranoid schizophrenia, had struck my then 18-year-old son. Just six short years later, tragedy struck again. Major depression claimed my youngest daughter, who at that time was only 16 years old. Our lives were shattered once more.
This illness devastated our lives psychologically, economically and spiritually. Our hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow vanished before our eyes. My children’s educational goals, job readiness skills and job prospects appeared grim. Their self-esteem was shattered. It left us with heartbreaks and despair.
Despite such severe adversities, I refused to allow these incurable illnesses to defeat us. Even in times when there were no signs of hope, we found hope. We fell down many times along the way, but getting back up was our only option.
We fell down many times along the way, but getting back up was our only option.
For over two decades mental darkness loomed over us. My four children and I lived a life in fears of what could happen next. During those uncertain years, my family suffered greatly, and faced many difficult challenges and pain. It was one of wretchedness filled with stresses, depression, and anxieties. My son was persistently ill for over two decades. He spent many months in long-term psychiatrist hospitals in Southern California and North Carolina.
As the illness rocked our world, the driving storms of mental illness kept us exhausted, and everyone fell to pieces. The most agonizing reality of all was that it might never end. As the months turned into years, and as hard as I tried, our home was no longer a calm haven. Gone were the days of peace, happiness, laughter and enjoyment. It was a time of immense hardships, distress and deprivations; ones we had never experienced before. I struggled to find answers, and I struggled to get help. Yes, there were many times when I faced great periods of stress and depression, times when it felt like I could no longer carry this heavy load, when giving up seemed much easier. But there was no time for giving up or slowing down. I had to put aside my anxieties and fears, and face those hardships with courage and strength.
Through all of our struggles and hardships, we clung to hope of recovery, and never letting go. After two decades, our hope finally came true. Optimism, perseverance, courage, and never giving up hope, gave us the strength to win the fight against mental illness.
But there was no time for giving up or slowing down. I had to put aside my anxieties and fears, and face those hardships with courage and strength.
Because of the profound love for my children, I did not allow any personal pursuits to cloud my judgments pertaining to their health. I sacrificed all my personal goals, dreams and desires, and fully immersed myself in caring for them. For me, life is not about fame or prosperity it is about our self-esteem and sense of our pride.
My optimism and determination drove me to find solutions to their health crisis. I needed to help my children. I began working with them. First, I encouraged them to make positive changes in their lives, to accept what they cannot change. I then worked tirelessly with them to help them cope with their illnesses, and to keep their hope of recovery alive. I guided them through their healing and recovery process. I encouraged them not to give up. Finally, I helped them with the rebuilding work.
I encouraged them to read and study every day. I encouraged them to read books in the areas of life that interested them, they are to see themselves in the position they really want. This prepared them for a positive life and laying the foundation for their future. I assisted them with rebuilding their character traits and skills that will help them succeed in daily life, and for survival. I reminded them that the more qualified they are, the better their chances are of getting and keeping the job they really want. Most of all I reminded them how special they are, and how much I love them.
The ever-increasing barriers, the subtle discrimination, stigmas, the negative attitudes and the competitiveness in the job market also presented many challenges for my children. I prepared them with valuable everyday life skills for on the job that will make them successful. I reminded them that education and job training open many doors to the future and creates many opportunities for progress. Heart breaking is the fact that stigma and discrimination are still in the workplace. This has caused many barriers in job searching, getting, or keeping a job. Missing years in the workforce also presents barriers to begin a job search or in being hired. This can result in stresses, frustrations, fears and discouragement.
Further, the job market is extremely competitive. The unemployment rate is high. When faced with disabilities and social barriers, the job searching process at times can be discouraging. They needed every possibility and opportunity to help enrich their lives. When they lost decades of their lives they became isolated, fearful, and lost their abilities to make friends, attend schools and work. The thought of education and job training goals and of the job readiness and the job search process brought them tremendous stresses. I have prepared them to face those challenges.
My son and daughter have both proved that moving forward and creating a life beyond mental illness is possible.
Today, we have seen much progress. For my son, with effective medications coupled with family love and care, he is now enjoying an independent living, and hopes to progress towards the working world. My daughter had many uncertainties and fears of not knowing what direction her illness would take. Today, along with the right medications and family love and support, she too has made great progress. She is currently holding a full-time job. My son and daughter have both proved that moving forward and creating a life beyond mental illness is possible.
And, as they both await a cure, they are successfully moving ahead with their lives in the promise of a better tomorrow.