|I am blessed to be a mom of two sons. When my youngest son Tom was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at ten years old and then with OCD and Body Dysmorphic Disorder at 15 years old, I realized that this was something that I could not fix. I was heartbroken and knew that this was something way bigger than me. Making things worse, this was at a time when mental illnesses were rarely talked about.
People backed away from me when I shared that my son had a mental illness. I felt so alone, even though I was very grateful for the support and love I received from my friends and family. No one could truly understand what our family was dealing with. I struggled to grasp that Tom would live with his mental illness for the rest of his life. I was so close to losing my beautiful and kind-hearted son.
Blessed to Be Tom’s Mom
I started to share Tom’s story with everyone who would listen: on social media, at mental health conferences, and my school. Tom was so close to not being here, yet his strength got me through it. Also, I cried when he could not see me doing so and tried to stay strong for him. I searched for the best treatment and eventually quit my job to drive him to therapy, sometimes two or three times a week. I spent my days and evenings at home to keep him safe. Later, while at college, his coach emotionally abused our son for almost two years because of his mental illness. Tom courageously filed a formal complaint with the college president, and that coach was forced to resign. Afterward, we learned that his entire team had confirmed everything.
Advocating for Mental Health
Our family has struggled over the years, but we are a closer unit now – a true team. Tom’s older brother Sean was the idyllic big brother, ensuring that Tom always knew how much he was loved. My husband worked long hours, so we could afford his therapy because our insurance did not cover it. Tom made it through middle and high school, went to college and graduate school, and is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Impact Athletic Center in Half Moon, New York. He is a lead advocate with the IOCDF (International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation). In addition, he has his podcast and website where he advocates and fights the stigma associated with mental illness. I am beside him, advocating and supporting other families so they won’t feel alone.
There is Always Hope
There is always hope. Tom has setbacks. He struggles to get out of bed most days but always shows up and does the work. He has a beautiful life, a fantastic job, great friends, a supportive and loving girlfriend, and his older brother – his biggest fan and best friend. Tom is not just living with his mental illness but thriving despite it.