Aside from my parents, I have such admiration for my adult son, who lives with bipolar. Because of his strength, I am strong too.
When I was young, my mother used to ask me who loves me best, and being raised in a Catholic school I always responded, “Jesus.” I am almost positive that was not the answer she was looking for but she knew I loved her.
Growing up my parents were my heroes. My dad was a telephone man and I admired him for the many things he did for us. My dad was the sole bread winner in the family but what really mattered to me the most was that he spent a lot of time with us. He was very active in all our sports activities often coaching at our school. My dad became the neighborhood dad. I was definitely blessed to have such a great father and male role model in my life.
I honestly don’t know if I would have my sanity without [my parents]. They are the wind beneath my wings.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom and I know she put up with a lot from us kids. She always made us feel loved. My mom spent a lot of time taking us from friends’ houses to practices and always made sure we had a home-cooked meal.
Although she was a stay-at-home mom she was a strong woman. When being disciplined I feared my mom more than my dad. She had good aim with those shoes! During my teenage years, I was quite rebellious and we fought a lot. I probably told her I hated her more often than not. The truth is I didn’t hate her and looking back I am thankful she stood her ground and made me into the strong independent woman I am today. I couldn’t ask for a better mother and I always hope I make her proud.
I truly have the best parents and I am so fortunate that they have supported me raising my son. I honestly don’t know if I would have my sanity without them. They are the wind beneath my wings.
My parents will always be my heroes but I definitely have to add my son to that list. If my life was made into a movie he would have the starring role as my hero.
I have such admiration for my son on so many levels—most of which he doesn’t know or doesn’t believe. I admire him for the strength he has continued to show through the years. Even as a small child going through the struggles of diagnosis he never gave up. I am sure he didn’t really understand what was going on being so young but he never fought me about going to doctors or getting tests done.
He always had a positive attitude and an upbeat spirit. The doctors and nurses loved him wherever we went. My son was and still is, very charismatic. When he walked into the room his personality lit it up. We never left anywhere where he didn’t leave a good impression. He always made sure he left everyone laughing.
If my life was made into a movie [my son] would have the starring role as my hero.
The irony is for having such a positive attitude it wasn’t easy for him and yet he handled things with a smile on his face. He was literally a lab rat since the age of five. He was poked and prodded and measured and scanned and he never complained. Not once.
He was strong and because of him, I was strong too. I remember all the medication trial and errors. Some made him dizzy, some made him puke, some sedated him and some made him psychotic. For every med he was taking, he had to take another for side effects, weight gain, high blood pressure, hair loss, tremors. My heart broke for him every time we had to change—and yet he never quit.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be in his brain. The uncontrollable rages, the impulsivity, the mania and constantly feeling like you aren’t good enough. Feeling like you disappoint everyone around you and angry at yourself for always upsetting the people who love you. It tears my heart out every time I think about it.
[my son] was strong and because of him, I was strong too.
Even with all those things stacked against him he still wakes up every day and starts over. My son has a heart of gold. Apart from the bipolar symptoms, he is the kindest and gentlest soul you would ever meet. As much as we have our differences he will always be my heart and he will always be my hero.
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
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