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How It All Started . . .

I am a single mom. At the end of 2000, I found myself pregnant and abandoned by the man I loved. At that same time, I found out that he had bipolar disorder. I wish now that I knew what that meant, because I would have been better prepared for the turn my life was about to take...

But alas, I was angry at this man, but thrilled to be pregnant at 42. The doctors had told me that I couldn't have children. Fortunately, they were wrong, and so my journey began.

Nine months later, I found myself blessed with a beautiful, sweet baby girl that I named Jane, meaning "gift from God", because she was my miracle baby. Eight days after she was born I was finally home, when 9-11 hit New York City. I thought I had brought my beautiful child into a war zone. Fortunately, that wasn't quite true, but two years later, when the blackout hit, I was out of there and headed to Southern Ohio to help care for my aging parents.

Jane's struggle began at age 6 when she first expressed a desire to end her life. At age 9, when her elderly grandfather neared death, she first attempted suicide. Over the next 10 years there were many hospital stays as her illness accelerated at age 14. the typical age for the manifestation of Bipolar 1 disorder. Fortunately, she started psycho-therapy at age 7 which helped her develop good coping skills. But school was becoming increasingly difficult in spite of her superior intelligence and high rankings on achievement tests, so I pulled her out of school, where she was "unschooled". (I later realized that even though she left public school at age 14, she was better educated that most of the kids I taught in high school!)

I found little compassion in friends, family, and hostility at the school where I taught. There were few who understood what was happening. My principal called me a liar and lazy, although I never took any additional sick or personal days than what was in my contract. At the same time, I was attacked by parents and students for my "too liberal" Lutheran religious beliefs, and was accused of exaggerating and lying about my daughters illness.

As outside negativity surrounded me, I realized I was alone. But I also realized I had to educate myself for my daughter's sake and late at night, after she finally fell asleep, I surfed the internet and read everything I could about her disorder. And I realized that as the parent of a mentally ill child, it was up to me to hold onto hope for recovery and mental stability. It was hard, but I powered through for the love of my child, weathering many days of just trying to keep her from ending her life.

Although I was a teacher with good insurance, it was a constant battle to get her medications and hospital bills paid. I was eventually forced out of my job because they refused to accept that her illness was real. I moved to northeast Ohio to escape the negativity that surrounded me. My experienced in Southern Ohio turned me away from education to a career in nonprofit grant writing and development. Soon, new challenges arose.

I often had to choose between paying bills and paying for my daughter's medication, which was thousands of dollars each month but necessary to keep her safe. There was little help to be had. It seemed family and friends either deserted me or judged me as turning her into a spoiled brat. Nothing could be further from the truth: she was just so very fragile and sensitive. But we made it through and today, she is a stable, happy adult pursuing her career. But yet, we know that the journey is not over, because for her illness there is no cure.

I learned alot from that journey. And I want to share it with other parents with mentally ill children who have little support and are struggling with finances and are so, so, tired. That's what it does to you: it makes you more tired than you ever thought imaginable. But you perservere because you love your child and you can't bear to lose her.

I am lucky. Many parents like me remain isolated and unsupported as they continue to care for their disabled adult children who will never be able to leave home. That’s why I started Two Faces of Jane: to help and support parents like me by providing information, resources, support and more in Cuyahoga & Lorain counties in Northern Ohio. Eventually, I plan to provide emergency financial assistance for these parents that will help pay their bills, provide food, and help pay for medications . No parent should ever have to choose between buying food or paying utilities or rent and their child’s life-saving medication.

As a friend tells me, parents who must continue to care for their disabled adult child continue to face financial challenges and rarely have time from worry and care. So I have added respite care to give parents a break now and then.

That is my vision and my intent for the future of Two Faces of Jane. And I hope you who took the time to read my story will support our work through monetary donations and volunteer work. Check back, because that will be online soon!

- Jane's Mom


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