Personal Stories

How My Family’s Support and Unconditional Love Helped Me Recover

by Jelean Reynolds

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Early on in my marriage, as I experienced the joys of partnership, and the delight of four young children, I noticed something felt "off." Suddenly, my reality became a nightmare. My brain, it seemed, was fighting a fierce battle. The enemies? Depression and psychosis. They proved to be powerful challengers. Days were filled with hysteria. My children would overhear my screams and watch me agonize. I only wanted one thing: For everything to end.

As I battled mental illness, which worsened after the birth of my fifth child, I withdrew from my husband, Rich, and I refused to be comforted. Once, during an episode, he tried to grab my flinging arms. His voice remained calm and determined.

"It's alright Jelean, you'll be ok," he said.

I finally stopped fighting him. He stayed by my side, loved me and supported me. He gave our children double doses of love and attention when I struggled. He was my best friend when I needed him most. Our marriage proved to endure the torrents of adversity.

But I often wondered: How long could two people go on living like this? How many storms could a marriage survive? How would this affect our children? Would they recover from a traumatic childhood? So, even in the depths of my worst struggles, I did my best to show up for my children. I was never too sick to give a hug, wipe a tear, or say, "I love you." I read them stories and listened to their problems.

I also found outlets to help myself cope. I distracted myself with sewing, quilting, wood carving and writing. The more intense my mental pain, the more I plunged myself into creative writing. I wrote about mental illness, my faith, my children. Writing became a friend, a source of survival. This, coupled with compassionate treatment, made progress possible.

As I continued to fight my battle, my children gained strength from their father and had faith that I would get well. I cherished their devotion and belief in my recovery. Eventually, they grew up to be healthy adults, positive contributors to society and parents to my 20 grandchildren. One day, I hope my grandchildren will read my journals and published stories about my fight for recovery — that they will know how their parents and grandparents kept the faith even when healing seemed impossible.

Ultimately, my story is one of hope and compassion. It is a testament to the courage and strength of families — and the strength of people living with mental health conditions.