Re: Through one mother’s eyes, March 28.
Cyndie Richards wrote about her son’s mental illness and addiction to drugs and alcohol.
As a survivor of severe bipolar illness and alcoholism, it pains me to hear about parents who have children suffering from mental illness. Thirty years ago, at age 23, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At the same time I was a full blown alcoholic.
For the next 15 years, I built a business in Toronto and Montreal. When I was not working I was committed to a psychiatric ward of a hospital due to a severe manic episode. On 12 different occasions I spent six to eight weeks in hospital recovering from psychotic episodes in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver.
I was committed to hospitals’ psychiatric wards over and over again, simply because I would not stop drinking.
There is a genetic component that runs in my family making us predisposed to mental illness. I lost one of my brothers, who at age 40 took his own life due to untreated bipolar illness and alcoholism. I’ve also lost four other family members to this disease.
On August 15, 1993, I was discharged from St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and sent to a men’s recovery home. The accommodations didn’t meet with my approval – it wasn’t a four-star hotel – it offered a room with four men and a mattress on the floor.
The next day, I called my parents and told them that I was moving back to my apartment. They asked me to come to the house before going home. When I arrived my father gave me a letter to read. It said, “If you are hospitalized in the future and alcohol is involved, we will not support you in any way – we will abandon you.”
After 25 years of denying my serious mental illness and alcoholism, I finally woke up. The word “abandon” shook me to the core. I quit drinking and went into recovery.
That was almost 20 years ago.
Many factors played a role in my recovery, including my parents’ tough love, community support and a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of mood disorders.
Also, I had become completely willing to surrender my will and lead a life based upon a few simple spiritual principles. I asked the universe for help, and it came.
Today I spend my time trying to reach out to others and let them know that there is hope for a good life beyond mental illness.
Mental illness is an obstacle in life not a road block.
Mark Fernandes, Surrey