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A Bit of My History with Mental Illness

I have lived with diagnosed mental illness since 1981. When I look back, I know it began before then. The bullying I was subjected to throughout my school years, the consistent yelling and fighting that went on between my parents and the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of my father negatively affected me and does to this day. I have forgiven those that hurt me, but the damage lingers ingrained in my personality, my emotions, and my mind.

I married at sixteen, hoping that would end some abuse, but because my husband and I lived for a time in my parents’ home nothing really changed. We finally moved out and I was away from my father, so some trauma eased. There were serious problems in the marriage and it fell apart. The divorce was driving me insane and then I was given drugs that caused my first huge psychiatric breakdown in 1981. My mother and brother rescued me. I nearly died and without the prayers of thousands of people, I would never have made it. The doctors told my family that I would be a vegetable, but God had other plans.

I moved back into my parents’ home and the sexual abuse began again. My father was a master manipulator, who kept me in fear so I never revealed what was happening to me. He hid all his deviousness from my mother, so she was never aware of his monstrous acts. Threats kept me scared to say anything even when he was convicted of child molestation with other children. I also feared that the father I deeply loved would be taken out of my life forever and did not know how my mother and I would survive without my father’s financial support.

I was originally diagnosed with severe Paranoid Schizophrenia. I was on medication for a while, but because of the cost and the severe side effects, I did not remain on it long. I worked and lived at home where I was tormented for several years. I was in and out of mental wards and on and off medication.

When the opportunity to move in with a co-worker presented itself, I quickly accepted. That situation was not a good one and I moved back to my parents’ home after a short time. I then moved in with a boyfriend and that worked until he began mistreating me. I went back to my parents’ home, worked and suffered. Another boyfriend invited me to Chattanooga, Tennessee to live with him and marry.  That went well for a while. He was determined I keep a job so I went to High Point, North Carolina and sold Kirby vacuums door to door. The situation there was not ideal and my mother came to get me. I moved back to Chattanooga with my boyfriend. I was not on medication and became pregnant in 1987. My boyfriend wanted me to have an abortion, but I was afraid I might never get pregnant again, and did not believe in abortion, so I fought for my baby. My boyfriend and I married, but he warned me it was a two-year trial marriage. Alex was born on May 16, 1988, and I devoted my life to him, and trying to please my husband. Before the two years were over my husband demanded a divorce. He would allow me to continue to live with him, but we would no longer be married. Alex and I went back to my parents’ home and the abuse began again. I had another mental breakdown including hospitalization and went back on medication for a short time.

I recovered enough to get a decent management job, and met my third husband. We lived in my parents’ basement, but most of the abuse stopped. I was overworked in my job and very sleep deprived. Eventually it led to my having a mental breakdown, at this point my diagnosis was changed to Schizo-Affective Disorder. My boss unfairly fired me terminating my excellent health and disability benefits. I was not able to go back to work. My parents moved to Douglas County, where my brother, James, lived. They left us to rent their house in Mableton with our payments going toward purchasing the house. We lived happily for quite a while, but in 1996 my nephew, Jim, was killed in a car accident, and my father died of an aneurism shortly afterward. I had been living without medication and the stress caused me to have problems. Our marriage fell apart, and I was again hospitalized. While the divorce was going on, I applied for Social Security Disability at the recommendation of my doctors. I finally began receiving benefits in 1997 after moving back with my Mom. I stayed on my medication and lived quite well. Alex and I were quite happy.

I continued to communicate with my third ex-husband and we recovered our relationship in 1999. Alex and I moved into his home. I became pregnant with twins and stopped taking my medication. The twins had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Melissa Faith died and the neo-natal doctors urged me to terminate Katherine Rose because there were extremely high risk factors for her and myself. In one of the hardest decisions I ever made, I chose to terminate the pregnancy. My mental state declined and I disobeyed a rule my ex had made. He kicked us out of the house and put all our belongings on the carport, subsequently those things were stolen. I over dosed on medication trying to kill myself because I felt there was no hope for me. I wound up in the hospital and was put back on medication. Alex and I tried living with my brother, Melvin, but that was a total disaster and I asked my Mom if we could come back to her home. She agreed.

Shortly after we moved in with her, Mom was stung by twenty-seven yellow jackets and she had a mini-stroke. Her health began to decline, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and she was restricted from driving because of the mini-strokes. I became her primary caregiver. My brother, James, was diagnosed with lung cancer. My brother, Melvin, learned my father had molested my nieces, my friend, and I. He and his wife, Carol, cut off all contact with my Mom and brother, James. They claim it is my Mom’s fault my father abused us. They declare she is just as guilty as he was. When I finally asked Mom if she knew my father had abused us, she said no. I believe my Mom because she has never been a liar. Carol continued to communicate with me by email, but I finally decided if they could no longer visit my Mom and James that I did not need to be in contact with them.

Thanks to my Mom and brother, James, I was able to raise Alex to become a fine young man. He is a United States Marine serving our country. James died on March 15, 2009 after a prolonged illness in which Mom and I provided a great deal of his care. I promised James I would take care of Mom and I intend to do it to the best of my ability.

I am very fortunate that I am controlled on medication right now. Even with it, I have some impairment, but it is not obvious in most interactions. I realize it, and am aware that I am having difficulties, but others may not.

Right now, there are things that are stressing me terribly. Without my Social Security Disability Income, Medicare, and medically needy Medicaid I could not survive. I am afraid of cuts to these programs. My Mom is seriously ill and experiencing a worsening of symptoms and effects right now, and as her full-time caregiver I am under a lot of stress. I had my last significant breakdown in April 2005 and for most with my condition the best case without one is five years, many are hospitalized at least every two years. I am therefore “living on borrowed time” so to speak. Stress and lack of sleep can push me over the edge, and I have had a bit of both going on recently.

I actually do some writing at times. There is a bit of my work posted in my notes on Facebook and more on my blog at . I often think there is a book in me, but my self-esteem is not strong enough to support that kind of sustained effort. I have actually gotten to the point where most of my writing is done in 140 characters or less on Twitter and simultaneously posted to Facebook via TweetDeck. I also have some editing and publishing experience because I desktop published a magazine some years back.

I have a very strong faith in Jesus Christ and I credit that belief with getting me through much of the distress I have encountered in life. I, however, have difficulty with doing some things associated with faith. I am very uncomfortable in crowds, so I do not regularly attend church. I have a huge amount of paranoia and tend to persecute myself so reading scripture can cause me problems. I can become convinced I am going to Hell and have horrible nightmares. I have to be careful. I do study the Bible, but I have to do it in small bits and make sure I do not linger too long in the very negative passages.

I hope this gives some insight. I really do not know how to express these things very well. Until recently, I have been terribly afraid to discuss any of this. Some people have no empathy and cannot relate or understand and I do not like to stir up hate.

Jo Ann J. A. Jordan

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Letter to Dr. Phil about Yesterday’s Show

Dear Dr. Phil,

I am appalled that a surrogate mother could steal babies from their rightful parents. Having mental health issues should not prevent a person from being a parent.

I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 1981; the diagnosis has since been changed to Schizoaffective disorder. In 1988, I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy. At the time, I was off medication, but since then have had five psychotic breakdowns where I had to go into the hospital for treatment. I have been on medication for years and most of the time my condition is well controlled. I raised my son mostly as a single mother with a little help from my family. My two marriages during my son’s lifetime did not work out.

My son is almost twenty-two years old and he is a fine upstanding young man. He is a United States Marine and I thank God for him every day. I faced many challenges raising my son, especially since his father wanted me to have an abortion because he did not want a child. My son’s father was not very involved in his life. He rarely visited and paid minimal child support, so I had the job of filling the role of both parents for my son. I worked during part of my son’s childhood, but my condition made it very hard to handle stress and prevented me from working a lot. In 1997, I went on Social Security Disability as my income. That did not provide us with a great deal of money to live on, but we survived.

I realize there have been times when public opinion would have been against me even having a child, much less raising one, but they should realize how precious a person my son has turned out to be. He is making an awesome contribution to our world. My parenting was evidently very good or my son would not have become such a wonderful young man. We love each other dearly and are best friends. I would have done anything in my power to give my son the best of loving nurture. I still am here for him whenever he needs me. He respects me and is not ashamed of my condition.

I know firsthand how devastating it would have been to be denied the chance to raise a child because of psychosis. I am so thankful to have been given the gift of being a mother. I feel Amy has been treated terribly unfairly. She has every right to be those babies mother. I wish there were something I could do to help her get her children.

I am now full time caregiver for my eighty-year-old mother who has Parkinson’s disease and needs assistance in her daily life. A person with a mental disability can accomplish much in life.

Jo Ann Jordan

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