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A mom breaks her silence to give others a voice | by ReNe’e Teague

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MY DAUGHTER, SALLY, IS MY THIRD OF FOUR DAUGHTERS. Sally always preferred me. She objected loudly when anyone else held her. When Sally and I were at home, just the two of us, everything was good. When Sally was in fifth grade, our nation endured the September 11 attacks, followed by anthrax and snipers. Sally became fixated on the fear. She ducked when planes flew over. She began to threaten suicide.

In high school, she was artistic, quirky, sensitive…. She had friends and marched in the band. She went out. She had a boyfriend. I thought she’d find her way—that her strong will would get her through. I was wrong. Sally began pulling her hair out.

At 18, Sally started taking her first anti-anxiety, anti-depressant medications. She graduated high school, went to VCU and became a nationally licensed pharmacy tech. Then she was assaulted at a party. She began cutting. Her boyfriend broke up with her. She sank deeper into depression and I began the arduous task of accessing mental health care for my young adult child.

I  called around and was told there weren’t enough providers. The good ones weren’t taking new patients. A psychiatric nurse practitioner and a therapist prescribed so many meds, I could barely
keep up with what she was supposed to take and when. Her poor body just couldn’t keep up with it all and after four months, she attempted suicide.

I walked in the bathroom to find my daughter…I scooped her up and took her to the hospital. Sally went into the psych ward voluntarily. We got her out 48 hours later. I vowed she’d never go back.

At a volunteer engagement meeting at UMFS I told Angie Williams my story. Angie talked to Greg Peters. They helped me find a psychiatrist. Meds started to make sense. I listened to other stories of young adults like my daughter. I wasn’t alone. Sally’s mental illness continues to wreak havoc. On good days, she gets up, bathes, takes her meds. On bad days she never leaves her bed. On good days, I celebrate. I enjoy them to the max! On bad days I worry, I cry, I live in sadness and fear. The good days seem to be coming more often, but I’m so optimistic it’s hard to
say for sure. My journey has taught me a lot, but the most important lesson is that it is all better with support. I want to end the stigma and break the silence sur- rounding mental illness. I want to be there for others so their stories aren’t so unbearably difficult. I speak openly to anyone and everyone about living with mental illness, about my daughter and our story.

In my role as parent support partner for UMFS I share my story with families whose children are living with mental and behavioral health issues. I listen and help them navigate the system. I’m the parent’s voice when their voice is breaking. And I make absolutely certain these families aren’t alone on the journey.

More information about UMFS’ parent support partner program is available on our website here.

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