My name is Laura Rodriguez, I am 36 and on September 16, 2018 mental illness changed my life forever, as my 14 year old son took his own life.
My son Zachary was always the happy, loving, selfless one. He would never go to bed without saying “I love you!” He was always laughing and lifting everyone up when they were down. He was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 7 but other than being super active, to me, he seemed like a very normal child. There was a history of physical abuse and we as a family had an estranged relationship with his father, which I believe played a role in Zachary’s struggles with depression and feelings of lack of self-worth. In middle school Zach made a comment to me that he’d be better off dead and also said it to a peer who let the middle school counselor know. I took him to Rosecrance to have an evaluation and he went to counseling a few times but we deemed him to just be going through normal teenage angst. Zach had been in counseling on and off since he was 6. The counselors were never concerned that he would ever be a threat to himself… 2 years later after the comment of not wanting to be alive in middle school, Zach again started making comments of wanting to die to his friends. He made it to 9th grade in high school and started having struggles with his peers and although there were signs that he was battling depression, I didn’t recognize them until it was too late. He was reaching out to friends telling them he wanted to kill himself but at that age, it is normal for kids to confuse a cry for help with just wanting attention. I want to be a part of creating awareness for teen suicide so that I can carry on his legacy since the suicide numbers are rising. Kids need to know that these comments aren’t a cry for attention and should be taken seriously. By me telling his story, I feel that we can prevent others from staying quiet and seeking help to stay alive.
My son’s completion of suicide has forever changed my life. I now myself struggle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I am on medication for depression and anxiety. I go to counseling twice a week. My other 2 children found their brother dead while home alone with him so they too have been severely affected. I attend a moms group for support as well as grief counseling and am part of a suicide survivor page on Facebook. I lean on the comfort and help of my friends whom I have made throughout this journey, my family, and my boyfriend.
Mental illness is now a part of my own life and I struggle with concentration. My son struggled with lack of self-worth. For me, it is a process of learning what triggers my PTSD and panic attacks. My mind is always going a million miles an hour, it is extremely draining. For Zachary, I remember him struggling to sleep through the night. I’d ask him why he was unable to sleep and he would just tell me his mind was always on the go. I attributed that to the ADHD but now experiencing what it is like being inside your own head 24/7 without putting your thoughts to rest I understand his struggles. What helps me tremendously is talking about it! Finding things that bring me peace. Counseling is definitely a must for me! If I miss a few sessions I feel like I’m back to square one. Taking my medicine also helps. Learning the new me, and learning that it is okay not to be okay with the support of others has helped me on this journey.
If you, or someone you know, lives with a mental illness, do not be afraid to reach out to NAMI Northern Illinois who can connect you with local resources and avenues of support. Visit naminorthernillinois.org or call 815-963-2470 for more details.