Some would consider me a survivor. It has been 8 1/2 years since the tragic death of my son, Kenny to suicide. There was a significant amount of stress on the entire family as we lived through Kenny’s battle for recovery. Imagine waking up, every day, for over three years, never knowing whether this is the day that your child will die. How many moms keep a photo of their child, always within reach, so the police could identify her child’s body? How many mom’s live with a key around her neck, to keep all medications safely locked away from a child who wakes up every day and battles his brain to stay alive?
Kenny’s diagnosis and death, has taken its toll on me physically and mentally. Often I feel as if my 57 year old body is really over 100. I have developed PTSD and anxiety disorder. I sat in the veterinarian office the other day waiting for a diagnosis of my little dog. The situation triggered flashbacks to the time, Kenny took over 400 Ibuprofen. A semi-conscious Kenny fought 12 police, nurses, hospital security, in the ER, as they tried to intubate him. Kenny did not die that day thanks to those great professionals; however, the level of stress and urgency, of finding help for Kenny sky-rocketed. Sadly, we ran out of time.
In spite of all of the trauma I experienced, I personally don’t see myself as a survivor. I see myself as a mom who had the gift of a beautiful son, Kenny, for 19 years. I am so appreciative of every day, every moment we had together. Kenny’s illness taught me to never take one moment for granted. Sometimes, I think we, as parents, always believe that our children will outlive us. That they are guaranteed to grow, mature, and live happily ever after. There is no such guarantee.
I have learned through Kenny’s illness and death, to be more accepting of people’s differences. To not judge so quickly. I understand that no one chooses to have a mental health disorder. I know Kenny had a life threatening illness. Kenny fought to get well but he lost his battle.
I don’t see myself as a survivor, I see myself as a warrior, a warrior to fight for those with no voice, those struggling in silence with a mental health disorder. Too many people in society do not realize that mental health disorders are real. Twenty five percent of our population is affected by some mental health disorder and less than 40% actually receive treatment. The 60% who do not receive treatment are at risk of self-medication, addiction, self-harm, incarceration and suicide. This must change.
Attitudes In Reverse Heroes have educated over 60,000 students in 7 states, I am forever grateful to all of the AIR Heroes, who support and inspire me, and continue to support AIRs mission of hope and healing through education.
I am forever grateful to be Kenny’s mom.
Sending love out today, to all of the survivors and warriors!