About Chrisa Hickey, Author of Mental Illness in the Family Blog
I’m Chrisa Hickey, mom, wife, writer, and accidental children’s mental health advocate. I say “accidental” because I never intended my writing to be about childhood mental illness. But in 2009, after spending several months in therapy myself, trying to process raising a child with schizoaffective disorder, my doctor suggested I journal as a way to process the severe ups and downs our family was living through. Since I spend 40+ hours a week on the Internet as a full-time eCommerce professional, I started my journal as a blog.
Start of my Journey as a Mom to a Child with Schizoaffective Disorder
We planned to adopt Timothy months before he was born, and we brought him home from the hospital at 12 hours old and instantly, we were in love. Tim was an amazingly good baby, sleeping through the night by three months old, eating well, and growing like a weed. But we noticed some developmental oddities. He loved to sit in his saucer for hours at a time, content to watch nothing, it seemed. He didn’t talk more than one word at a time until he was nearly five. He would become agitated at what appeared to be nothing, hurling toys or books or, one time, his mattress at us or his siblings.
At age four we asked his preschool teacher to contact us if she thought something was wrong with Tim. She called before the end of the first day. What followed was a litany of specialists, tests, and diagnoses, everything from pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) to learning disabilities, and eventually bipolar disorder, bipolar type 1 with psychosis, and schizoaffective disorder. As we tried to find the right treatment for our son, we had professionals tell us he couldn’t be educated and we needed to relinquish him to the State to get him treatment. Both proved to be untrue, and today Tim is a young adult, learning to self-advocate and manage his illness on his own.
I’m Joining the Mental Illness in the Family Blog
I’m happy to join Randye Kaye here on Mental Illness in the Family because, if we’ve learned anything raising Tim, it’s that mental illness is a family disease. I hope that, by sharing what we have learned – and continue to learn – about individualized education plans (IEPs), choosing therapists, enduring hospitalization and residential treatment centers (RTC), keeping a marriage together, and raising our family – we can help other parents of kids with mental illness find support, hope, and information that helps them through their journey. I love blogging because it’s a dialogue between writer and reader. I look forward to continuing the dialogue here at HealthyPlace.
Hickey, C. (2014, March 20). About Chrisa Hickey, Author of Mental Illness in the Family Blog, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2014/03/about-chrisa-hickey
Author: Chrisa Hickey
Hi Mia - relinquishing your child should NEVER be an option. The state of Illinois, for example, just passed a law that made it possible for parents to get help from DCFS without having to relinquish. For many counties, relinquishing a child to get services can actually trigger an investigation that removes other children from the home. I'm glad it sounds as if you had a positive experience with DCFS, but I have heard a hundred other stories where that was not the case. I know dozens of parents that were told by DCFS that the only way they would help is if the parent abandoned the child in a hospital (refused to pick him/her up at discharge, essentially), but then they risked losing their other children. It really is, for many, dammed if you do, dammed if you don't.
In Illinois there is a program called the Individual Care Grant that provides for funds for residential for severely mentally ill children who meet very specific criteria. Tim has such a grant and was in residential three and a half years. It pays for wrap around services now that he is home as well, until he turns 21.
Chrisa I enjoy this blog and your personal one but please be careful with this statement...
"As we tried to find the right treatment for our son, we had professionals tell us he couldn’t be educated and we needed to relinquish him to the State to get him treatment. Both proved to be untrue, and today Tim is a young adult, learning to self-advocate and manage his illness on his own."
Sometimes the ONLY option for families to obtain treatment for their mentally ill child is to relinquish custody TEMPORARILY to Children's Services. Once that occurs funding kicks in for residential treatment.
However, many parents are able to keep medical and educational rights or at least be heavily involved in treatment. BELIEVE ME Children's Services is eager to return custody to the parents once residential treatment has ended. In fact the agency will often try to have the child back home too soon.
Also, this type of arrangement is not like a parent abandoning their child on the side of the road. That is not what the doctors were suggesting. It's working our (very broken) system to access resources, you know that.
I'm glad you and your husband didn't have to relinquish custody but I'm curious... what funding source allowed Tim to live out of the home in residential for over a year?
I can sort of relate to what you are going through. Not with a child but with my wife.
We don't plan things like this but have to roll with life's punches and do they best we can.
I congratulate you for having the strength to work through the issues and develop an understanding so you can help your son.
I'm looking forward to reading your posts here. I'm sure there will be some similarities and parallels I can relate to.
Congratulations Chrisa from the members of Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses. https://www.facebook.com/groups/494927813883917/
Love you too, Mom. <3
I am Chrisa's mom and Tim's Oma. I have always been proud of Chrisa, even as a child, she always knew what to say, either to defend herself or help others. I have been amazed at how she and Tom have taken care of Tim and always make the right and sometimes difficult decisions for his care. Tom is a great kid and loves his Opa and Oma with all his heart. He calls us almost every day and tells us about his day, good or bad. I am so happy Chrisa is getting the chance to reach out and share her experience and hard work in raising Tim. Love you Chrisa!
Thanks, Shari! I'm happy to be here!
So glad you get to be a part of this. I look forward to more of your writings!