I Share My Story As Others Begin their Journey
This is a true story about what happened to a family when mental illness struck one of its children.
My son Todd Christopher O’Connell was born April 18, 1965. It was an Easter Sunday. Everyone said, “Todd is going to be special because he was born on Easter Sunday.” And special he was. He was gifted and talented. He was an honor student and showed such promising potential in art, poetry and early language skills. He was reading at three years old. Everyone was amazed at his precociousness.
Unfortunately, a few weeks after his 18th birthday, Todd became mentally ill. For the next 26 years he was in and out of mental institutions and treatment programs. He was a complicated mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, with severe paranoia. Todd took lots of medicines, but nothing ever seemed to work. Todd often referred to himself as a tortured soul.
Now his suffering is over. He made a deliberate choice not to go on. Todd is at peace.
I will miss my son every day, as will his brother Brett. He was our soldier. He marched proudly with a debilitating disease until he could march no more.
None of us have surfaced “the same.” There has been growth and enlightenment, along with regression and submission. There have been so many conflicts of emotion amongst us that it is difficult to name them all.
"I tell our story, however, because every day other people are beginning their journey. My heart aches for them and my prayers are with them. I want these mothers and fathers to know that they are not alone. There are others that share their pain, and understand their anger."
I believe the answer is in science. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation makes it possible for scientific research to be done and for new treatments to be created so that people like my son Todd will not have to suffer the despair and anguish of mental illness.
I want people to know in the depths of despair and hopelessness, a strength and life can reinvent itself. You can ride it out. Is that advice? I wouldn’t dare. I took the hard road, the long road, and I only want to say when you feel that you can’t go on, you can, because you will. And then you won’t be “you,” you will become a different “you,” a new “you.” And then you will join a different world, the world of “seeing, caring, and knowing,” not a world you would have chosen, but a world that has chosen you. Through this you’ll find an inner strength and wisdom that can only come from having been there.
I’m So Proud of my Todd
I’m so proud of my Todd
He is a winner with a loser disease
He recognizes and works hard with doctors
On regulating his meds.
Everyone at the board and care love him.
He’s generous, kind, thoughtful and happy.
He helps others.
He has not lost his memory and he cares about the young people that come and go from the
board and care. He knows everyone’s medicines and diagnosis, including his own.
He has found the strength to give up the street drugs.
It was hard.
I ought to know.
Now when we go to lunch on Saturdays we enjoy each other,
we talk rationally
we talk lovingly about the past.
It’s amazing how the right doctor and the right board and care can take away a lot of the worry and pain.
I’m so proud of my Todd.
Each day he faces the day with new hope,
He follows the cures with interest.
He is at peace at Casa with Barbara.
And that gives me peace.
It has been a long journey and there are still times that I resent it.
If Todd feels that way he never mentions it,
I’m so very proud of him.
At this point I might ask God for the things to make his life complete.
The first is that his father would visit and embrace him.
The other is that the Rolling Stones would stop by.
After all I’ve purchased their tapes over and over and over.
I believe I have purchased Beggars’ Banquet 100 times alone.
In the days when Todd kept giving them away, and trading them.
Those days are over. And I’m so very, very proud of my son.
By Dolores Emory
Donor, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation