Sharon: Staying Grounded

Sharon is sad that she likely passed on the genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder to Gabrielle. At this point, neither daughter wants to have children. Gabrielle told her, “I know how hard it was to raise me and I would never be able to raise a kid like I was.” Sharon’s journey with Gabrielle has given her a voice to reduce the stigma often associated with mental illness. She explained, “I’m a fierce advocate in terms of the continuum of care and accessing care. I have no problem being a fierce mom getting my kid what she needs. I’m really nice about it”

As model of self-care, Sharon encourages self-care practices for Gabrielle. She pays for acupuncture and purchased an aromatherapy mister for Gabrielle’s bedroom. She promotes eating the colors of the rainbow and being active outdoors, frequently going on walks. She reflected, "Gabrielle and I have really tried to normalize mental illness as another symptom and getting help and talking about the message of hope for recovery. We recognize our strengths and we know we will support one another."

Sharon celebrates Gabrielle’s survival, given past suicidal gestures and the fear of bringing her home after her first hospitalization. She recalled the wisdom of the discharge nurse in alleviating her fears.

She said, “Walk alongside her in her journey of recovery.” And I did that. I literally thought of that every day because the nurse said so many young adults her age who have their first episode, diagnosed between 18 and 22, don’t have an adult or caregiver walk alongside them in their journey in their recovery. I say that in my classes all the time. It’s about walking alongside your loved one. Not controlling it.

As a spokesperson for upholding persons who live with mental illness, she views herself as an “ambassador” who loves someone who lives with a mental illness. She uses life challenges as growth opportunities.

Generally, I’m an optimist. I count my blessings. I really live a life of gratitude. I had such a traumatic and vulnerable childhood and my mom, because of her mental illness, was very pessimistic and negative. I chose consciously as a child, when I was 10 to see the world differently and trust people.

Based on her journey with Gabrielle and her own years of providing mental health training, Sharon offered an extensive list of suggestions for other parents who have adult children living with mental illness