As many of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. And many of my followers should know by now that I’m very passionate about mental health advocacy. You can read my other articles to find out why and how I’m involved.
Last year, in 2019, this campaign was a huge success with several supporters from friends, coworkers, and people across the states. This year, I’m hopeful it will be just as successful. In this article, you’ll be able to see just a few of the people who supported during last year’s campaign. And you’ll be able to get a visual of what it’s like to wear such a powerful message on a t-shirt.
Each and every single time I’ve worn my shirt out in public, I’ve always received a compliment and asked where they can get one, well now is everyone’s chance to get their own! You can order here! (Remember the design is slightly different from last year’s.)
This year in 2020, I’ve decided to launch another awareness campaign and you’ve got a few different options to choose from at reasonable prices. The sizes range from youths small to adult sized 4X. Here is the link which will take you directly to the custom ink campaign page. This campaign is set to run for just 4 weeks, so once it closes no more orders will be accepted.
So go ahead and order your gear today, and get it in time for May! But you can wear it any day and this is a great way to help spread our message to END THE STIGMA! It’s also a great way to help honor & show our support to those who are in this fight every single day!
Please feel free to share this post within your community of followers!
Thank you for your support & much love to ALL! -Erika
Tonight, I will be sharing a small chapter of my oldest son’s journey of life in his teenage years and becoming diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This article is through my views and facts as I know them. It is my voice of experience as his mom, caregiver, and advocate.
It all began during the middle of his 8th grade year. He had come home from school one day, not speaking and with a grimaced facial expression. Anything I said, he wouldn’t respond to, I would just get that same expression. I could discern something was off, not exactly right, and very concerned. My husband was in denial, and thought he was just playing around, because our son often would joke around. However, I knew my son wasn’t playing around and this was nothing to joke about nor was it a joke itself. I like to think of it as “mothers intuition”. It wasn’t until he was attempting to make a sandwich and turn on the TV that it was obvious he was in need of medical attention. To see that he struggled to make that sandwich and watch him begin to twitch while trying to turn on the TV, that was enough for me. I can remember my husband laying down to take a nap as he too had just gotten home from work. As soon as I came out to the living area and saw my son struggling with the remote and his face twitching, I knew in that instant, he needed medical attention and there was something serious going on, but I just didn’t know what. We immediately took him to the hospital ER and he was admitted. They ran several medical tests, labs, and everything came back negative except one small concern. But it wasn’t able to explain why he wasn’t talking and why he was having all these involuntary movements with his upper extremities.
Long story short, he was discharged after sometime in the hospital as having an altered mental status. And sent home with a sedative to treat anxiety attacks, since this was also what he appeared to be experiencing. He was referred to follow up with their social worker/pediatric psychologist for outpatient services.
After his uncontrollable symptoms had ran their course. He finally stabilized and was home, all things appeared to return back to normal for himself as well as our daily living. And might I add, this entire “thing” had flipped our entire world’s upside down, inside out and scared the living crap out of us all. It was as though, here we were sailing through life just great and then this “thing” came in and interrupted our world as we once knew it before. During this time his mental health was out of his control and required him to finish his 8th grade at home. I arranged with the school district to provide a home school tutor and created a 504 plan with accommodations for his educational needs.
For those who have no idea what I’m explaining please follow this article for more descriptive details of my journey. Never did I think my family, my son, would experience anything like this. Prior to this happening our family was blind to mental illnesses and our family was once “untouched”, “uninformed”. Some of you have absolutely no clue how difficult it is to watch your child suddenly become nonverbal, incapacitated and suddenly crippled mentally and physically. It was heart breaking and I felt like my life was moving in slow motion as I was being suffocated. I felt helpless, and afraid for his quality of life.
All I had in these moments was my faith in God which served as my weapon and continual prayer as my strength. His health had been severely impacted during this time, and it was scary because of the unknown future. He needed assistance to feed himself, tie his shoes, and walk at times. And I’m talking about a child who was born healthy, normal and on time. He was advanced in some areas of his growth and development as a toddler. He had always been highly active, involved in sports, and very independent. All the things he enjoyed before had all become things that he no longer could enjoy at times. He would still partake in doing them, but just couldn’t enjoy them as he once had. It was as though the wind blew and everything changed in the blink of an eye.
My son 4months old, after ICD implant surgery in 2001.
My son after surgery, removal of his ICD implant.
He is teaching me about living life to its fullest potential even when things are designed to get you down. He has taught me how to have joy even in the midst of loss and tragedy. If only the world could know just how amazing this kid is! Nearly every person who has a chance to meet and interact with him, always says he is one of a kind.
I’m so blessed to have Erik as my son just as he is, developmental delays and ALL. And I would NOT change a single thing about him. He brightens my day. You would think as a mom I am teaching him about life, but he is indeed teaching me instead. He has compassion for others to the extent that he prays each night and mentions by name others who he has met or knows that are in need of something that only God can give to them. He just has such a confidence that I admire. And he has a faith that is undeniable.
This kid could have mustard on his shirt, walk into a room of executives and still be confident to walk up, shake their hand, introduce himself and spark a conversation without feeling any shame. Seriously!
In spite of the sufferings along the journey, in spite of all the tears I cried, praying consistently down through the years for strength and endurance, I have to say, it’s evident that this has all been a part of Gods plan to teach me humility, patience, forbearance, compassion, empathy, how to suffer, giving me a testimony to inspire others, and to see the glory in the midst of it all.
Everybody always wants blessings but nobody ever wants to suffer. Everyone wants to skip passed the bad stuff and go straight to the good stuff. But that didn’t happen in my journey. Yet, now, in hindsight, I would not change a thing. I’ve learned so much watching Erik grow and develop at his pace. It’s because my family has Erik, that his siblings have compassion for others and without stigma or judgment. It’s because of Erik that we understand struggles and acceptance. It’s because of Erik along with my other children who battle mental illness, that I created this website called “stigmasnomore.com”. It’s because of God, our faith and HIS grace that we are able to share this journey with others. It’s because of the suffering that others didn’t see, that we are blessed that others do see.
Thank you for being here. This next chapter is going to just keep getting better!
I am beginning to write my first book soon, so I hope once it’s on bookshelves, that you will buy it and help it become a best seller.
You can donate here if you’d like to help me with start up costs. ⏬⏬⏬⏬
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I want to tell everyone who reads this article, who is a parent or caregiver, always stay the course, and don’t measure your growth to that of others instead measure to your own. Everyone comes from different walks of life, each at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush the process or you might wind up with raw results. Just keep going.
My son, Erik is a senior this year. He will be graduating this Thursday and he is so full of emotions.
He fractured his knee this past Wednesday at school during his bike club. So he is back in a wheelchair. He hasn’t had to use one since he was a smaller child. Back then it was from his developmental delays, today its because he fractured his knee somehow.
Prayers are appreciated. We have had to pay for a ramp since insurance didn’t cover the prescription. But the most important thing is that he is still in good spirits.
His teachers and therapists at school have been amazing! We are truly going to miss them all. He is going to miss seeing his friends everyday.
My compassion for others who are wheelchair bound has increased even more because I am getting only a fraction of what they live with on a daily but I’m speaking from a caregiver position.
I’m sharing some inspiring video of my son at his classroom party and his senior awards night. He received two awards at senior awards night as Valedictorian and Superintendents scholarship award.
I love his spirit! Even when he’s down, he’s up.
And again, don’t you ever let anyone, I repeat, ANYONE tell you what your child will never be able to do! Because faith and a will to do, have the final say!
Today, marked the 1 year anniversary of the special needs church ministry that my husband began in May of 2018. I follow his lead as he is operating in his purpose. The name of the ministry is called Not Forgotten Ministries. Such a fitting name for the ministry, because we want other families who have special needs loved ones or individuals living with disabilities or other mental or physical healthcare challenges to know they are not forgotten by God.
We had 3 new visitors along with their family or caregiver today. It truly did my heart some good today to see the people participate in prayer, scripture reading and singing along.
Our service isn’t your typical church service either. It is geared specifically for special needs families. The entire family. Not to separate the individual with special needs from their family but rather include the whole family in one service. We always offer to involve everyone with prayer, scripture reading, and a brief time for sharing their story. Followed by the word of God, more prayer and benediction, but at times we go off script to accommodate the needs of God’s people.
It’s always lovely to hear others share their stories about the journey with their special loved one and all they have overcome or are still handling today. Especially the other mom who shared today, about how happy she was at the service, mentioning that she had been to a different church that was supposed to be for special needs families, but they separated her from her daughter, while she was able to attend service with the congregation, they took her daughter into a private room with others to watch the service on a monitor and she said she didn’t like how that made her feel. So it was really nice to hear that she felt welcomed and comfortable.
As a mom, caregiver myself, I know first-hand the daily battles, struggles, victories, achievements and strength it takes to do it every single day. It’s not always peaches and cream and its not always smooth sailing, but I will admit, it is ALWAYS worth my time, my love, my support and my efforts to help my children and others within our community.
I am sharing these short video clips to show the glory of Gods special people. I was told by one caregiver that today was her very first time hearing her client pray and that it touched her heart. These families come from all kinds of different walks of life, Autism, ODDS, Epilepsy, Dementia, Developmental delays, mental health challenges but we all come together here in one place, unified as one body in Christ. We know our loved ones diagnosis but it’s like white noise to us. We only speak, write about, refer to it because it’s how others can identify with us at times.
I truly hope to possibly inspire others by sharing this. And maybe if you happen to be a minister or pastor of a church, you too will become inspired to begin a similar ministry in your town. There are many families just like mine, just like these, that would love an opportunity to come together at church and feel welcomed, accepted and understood. Again, this is not your typical quiet service. We cater to the needs of the people and their families as we realize the sensory issues and the other need to express themselves openly. We are all Gods people. We are all loved. We are all unique and wonderfully made. Created by God in his image and his likeness.
So to that other parent, caregiver or individual who’s reading this and living with health care challenges, don’t ever let someone shame you or make you feel less than worthy, just because your blessed to be who you are, or the person your caring for. Don’t allow others to stigmatize you. Hold your head high, walk in confidence and be proud of the life you have! Share your story to inspire others. Tell your story to educate others.
I hope I was able to encourage someone this evening!
Gotta love my son’s energy & enthusiasm. Be sure to click the links within the article and you’ll see the video clips.
This passed Wednesday I received a last minute phone call, unexpected while I was watching t.v. It was the coach from specialized recreation activities center and he asked, “Hey, what are you guys doing tomorrow night?” I hesitated and slowly said, “Umm, nothing really, why what’s up?” He said, “I have a really unique opportunity for Erik and you guys to go to a baseball game.”
Initially I thought the coach was going to say he needed my son to fill in as a team player for something. But then he mentioned baseball but had minimal information for me. He said another coworker of his would be contacting me with the details.
Long story short, the coworker called me and asked for my permission to give my number to someone else who would call me with even more details.
I have to admit we are not the “baseball” family but we have gone to a couple minor league games before. And I admit I grew up around baseball, softball my entire childhood because my dad and mom played, so I know the game well. Just not a fan of the sport, maybe because I was forced to go to every single game, tournament and travel for them too as a kid.
Anyways. So I got the call from the person in charge of this unique opportunity and he explained that he is with a non-profit organization called “Sons of baseball” and they host families with developmental disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Their mission is to provide a unique opportunity to give a great experience, all expenses paid and to make it a special event for the child with the disability or life-threatening illness. And he said my family and my son, came highly recommended and selected by someone he reached out to.
Initially we were told by the coach, that it would probably be a meet up time around 530ish in the evening. So that would be doable. But it was actually 3pm. So what did this mean for us?
I would pick up my son from school early because he needed time to come home and complete his daily routine, eat his snack and do everything he normally does after school. I was hoping for the best possible outcome. But I’ll be honest, I was uncertain and I was prepared to leave before game time since the game wouldn’t start until 705pm.
I have to get straight to the good stuff. Not only did my son do SOOOOO good, he managed to make it from 3pm until 1030pm when the game ended, and he truly enjoyed himself thoroughly. He even surprised us by working through his sensory issues of the fireworks that were lit off with every home run. Of course, I went prepared, I brought his music ear buds and his noise reduction headphones to put over those. There was even an unexpected fire evacuation and he was a trooper, and didn’t freak out. It was Star Wars night so initially when the alarm sounded, we all thought it was a sound effect from Star Wars but it wasn’t. And we had just gotten food and sat down to eat when this occurred so there was many unexpected challenges through the evening and I have to say I was so proud of his growth and this evening proved to be another milestone for his development and maturity.
Had this been a few years back, we would not have lasted for more than an hour and either the fire alarm and especially the fireworks would have scared him to the point of having tunnel vision and demanding to leave, while screaming bloody murder, but he didn’t! Not to mention, my husband was expected to be able to ride with us to the event, but got off work later and met us there. So usually my son, would become impatient and demand to have us both present and have a tantrum, but he was so well behaved.
He received royal treatment. Tony Parks is the man who was the host and his sister. These two were amazing and genuinely passionate about their involvement. I could tell their heart was in it and not just going thru the motions.
They made sure we were comfortable at all times. Erik was given a baseball to have the players sign, unlimited concessions, got to go out on the field before the game, sit in the dugout, meet the players, and we were all given personalized jerseys sized to fit each of us. We were given the tour of the stadium and the media room. He was also honored on their streaming baseball channel. The most memorable moment of the evening, the announcer mentioned all our names and also thanked Erik for being there, and my son replied with a very loud, “YOUR WELCOME, YOUR WELCOME!” I gotta love this kid!
This was the most amazing eventful day. And it showed me that prayer does work, my long years of not giving up on his developmental issues has paid off and Erik proved me to remain hopeful for his growth and future development. This would not have happened had it not been for the Sons of baseball organization and Tony Parks, his sister Tiersa and the person who recommended our family. It felt good to be honored and to just have others doing something nice for my son.
I shared all the details to hopefully spark some hope inside another mom who has been thru the daily struggles of raising a child with special healthcare or mental health challenges or both. Never give up hope! What doesn’t happen today, might happen tomorrow. Just because its not now, doesn’t mean it will never happen for your child. Celebrate the smallest achievements.
As a person, mom, advocate, wife, friend, stranger, caregiver, voice, I think I can speak for myself and others when we have felt like a failure, lost hope and felt like giving up, that we just needed some encouragement.
The important thing is we didn’t completely give up, or we wouldn’t still be here. We were able to find at least one thing that brought us back to a glimmer of hope to keep going.
In my life, I’ve had plenty of hardships and so many trials that have come to rock my foundation in my faith with the Lord. But He never gave up on me, so I chose to never lose my faith in Him.
Just to name a few…..
In spite of my youngest son dying twice, being in ICU fighting for his life only having been here for 2 months & suffering seizures, developing into significant delays in his growth. He is still alive, he is a light in a dark room, he is a joy to have around and he loves the Lord. He has a heart of compassion, he is a prayer warrior. God is using him just as he is. He is my son, Erik and when all odds were against us, we never gave up.
In spite of my oldest son, sailing through life, meeting every milestone early, highly active athlete, friend to many, and then it seemed like the wind blew bipolar our way. He has been chosen, elected and selected to live with bipolar disorder, and he is in a battle nearly everyday but he has overcome depression and graduated as a honor grad. He is here to break the stigma that others have about people with mental illness. He is one in a million. He is the most gentle, kind-hearted person one could come to know. He has compassion and empathy for others. He loves to make others laugh. He has a spirit that brightens a room. He is a warrior. He may have got knocked down but he ALWAYS gets back up. He has bipolar but bipolar doesn’t have him! I believe he will continue to achieve every goal and dream he has set for himself and God will make his enemies his footstool. He is not Bipolar, He is my son, Carl.
In spite of my youngest daughter, living with depression and anxiety, abused by her own sister. She has had to fight her way through so many moments of fear and anxiety. She has survived through both mental and physical abuse. Being bullied down through her years of public school and groomed by her sister behind the shadows. Having lost her voice along the way, afraid to speak or advocate for herself. Appearing nonverbal to others. Being diagnosed with epilepsy and not allowing her suffering to predict her future. She is unbreakable. She is stronger because of her journey. She allowed her faith in God to be the small still voice when she once lived in isolation. She is a different person now, she has found her voice and she is unashamed to speak her truths about her journey. She is an inspiring artist and she is beautiful inside and out. She has a heart of compassion and a willingness to help others. She is empathetic and motivational to others. She is my daughter, she is my mini me. She is Selena.
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They just needed encouragement to keep going. Especially in some of their darkest times. They needed someone to suffer right along with them. They needed someone to show them they are valued, important, loved, and accepted. They needed someone to help them to stand again after being broken. They needed someone to pull them instead of pushing them. They needed to feel supported when it felt like everyone else had walked away. They felt like the world and everyone else was all against them, so it was a must to make them feel complete opposite of those negative emotions. And who better to be that someone than their mom.
Parents don’t give up on your children! They need you even when their actions and words say otherwise.
I thank the Lord for my journey. I’m thankful for the strength to endure this race. I’m thankful I have never given up completely. I’m thankful to be chosen to carry out God’s assignment. I’m thankful for God closing doors that I wanted to enter. Because through those doors closing, it has guided me into finding my own purpose. Not worrying about being someone else or wishing to have a different path. I’m just thankful for my own.
You see, sometimes the path God lays out for you doesn’t always seem like it makes sense at the beginning, but as you journey along, you can discover your true purpose and where you belong.
Yes, it can be exhausting at times. But I would rather be exhausted doing what I know is right, than to be energized doing what I know is selfish. It’s all about balance, time management, knowing what battles are worth warring over and which ones don’t need you enlisted.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. And thank you for the love and support through the kind words, comments, and emails. I’m encouraged that I know I’m able to inspire others.
This is my son, His name is Erik. He was just a baby here, he is now nearly 17 and able!
Yes he has developmental delays but he is living his life just as anyone else would. Able and capable to try new things everyday. He has overcome many obstacles.
For those other parents who might feel hopeless. Don’t give up on hope. It can get better with time, patience, prayer, hope, and support. And to think 17 years ago, he died twice, was on life support, suffered seizures, and doctors didnt give him much chance of survival! Well we proved them wrong! And he isn’t a vegetable either, like they said he would be. We were told he would probably never talk, walk, or be able to eat normally. To God be the glory!
Keep hope, stand on your faith, and stay encouraged, even when the clouds are dark and the news is bad. The outcome is better than where it all starts.
This is just some advice from my own walk of life.
Oftentimes I think we need to do more of these very exact statements. Instead we set ourselves up for disappointment, because we treat our friends like our therapists, and we go in way too deep instead of keeping things on the surface. Which can ruin the friendship for a variety of reasons. Breaking confidentiality being the main reason.
And instead of sharing our story for inspiration, we either don’t tell it at all, or we focus on the negative pieces ONLY, which just blocks us from reaching our own potential to do amazing things. Stop allowing people or bad memories to steal your happy moments.
Lastly for those fellow believers, keep the important things between you and God. Especially, your dreams, aspirations, goals, because people can kill your dreams, persuading you that your aspirations are ridiculous, or do everything in their power to block you from reaching your goal.
Keep hope alive, operate in faith, continue moving in YOUR purpose and allow God to give the increase! Write your vision, and make it plain.
That’s all for this article. Thanks for being here again.