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From misdiagnosis to stability: A story of struggle, of hope

My story is really about one of my daughters. To protect her privacy as I tell her story, I’ll call her Elizabeth. Elizabeth has had suicidal ideations from since she was about 12 to about 17. At 4 years old, she was misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Her ADHD medications never helped, and for years, made her behavior even more erratic. As Elizabeth hit puberty, her moods worsened, and she became violent and suicidal, unable to think of consequences or risks.

Our lives turned upside down when Elizabeth hit her teens. At 14, she ran away for the first time in the middle of winter. It was then that she was hospitalized and diagnosed with Bipolar I. For the next two and a half years, we battled medication issues, 10 hospitalizations and multiple suicide attempts.

Many times, she ran away from home and wasn’t meek about doing so. One time, she hopped on a freight train and traveled through mountains, tunnels and bridges more than 120 miles away. Another time, she ran away from home during an extreme cold spell, sleeping outside with temperatures in the negatives, all because she was unable to assess consequences or risk.

Trying to keep her alive has not been an easy task by any means. It was heartbreaking wondering whether she was alive or dead when missing, but equally heartbreaking when she was home and suffering.

I had to use up all my Family Medical Leave Act time year after year to keep Elizabeth alive. I had to fight to get her on appropriate medications, fight for medical and psychiatric services to help her, fight the school system to try to get her the educational services she needed and to provide her an alternative when school was her worst problem. Trying to keep her alive has not been an easy task by any means. It was heartbreaking wondering whether she was alive or dead when missing, but equally heartbreaking when she was home and suffering.  I wasn’t the only one affected, of course. Her youngest sister witnessed Elizabeth with blood running down her arms from a suicide attempt at the age of 14. Her sister was only 4.

Fortunately, Elizabeth’s story is working towards an ending that is more optimistic than its beginning. This past year, she has been better able to understand what she needs to do to keep herself stable; she lets me know when the depression and suicidal thoughts get out of control. She is probably more stable now than ever in her lifetime. While she is ok now, I know Elizabeth’s disease will result in a life-long struggle, a struggle that can be so hard to anticipate as the signs are not always textbook and upfront. As the saying goes, it’s one day at a time.


12 Comments. Leave new

wow. What a moving story of courage and perseverance. Thank you for sharing.


Thank you.

Donna Hakala
August 1, 2017 8:58 pm

Thank you for sharing your personal story Tracie. Thank you too for your efforts as a Zero Suicide Champion in the Latham office!


You are most welcome!


Thank you for sharing. You are courageous and a wonderful mom; what a shining example of love


Thank you.. just being a mom.


I am sorry to hear how much your family has gone through and I am way impressed on how you were able to build her trust to where she is open with you about it. Could you go in detail about how you established an open line of communication?


It is a lot of patience and realizing that her disorder makes reasoning nearly impossible. It takes a lot of effort, tears and assistance from many professionals including a case manager that I was able to get her. Basically, it meant for a while just letting her rage and act out, then talking calmly about it and helping her to understand her triggers, warning signs, and develop a network of who she can call for help at anytime. Her disorder is ever evolving and will change over time. She will have manic periods, depression and we know the key is to not isolate and communicate. I observe her behavior all the time and look for any sign that we are heading for trouble to try and ward it off. It does not always work, but I try. And humor is a must.

Evelyn Berry-Hurst
August 2, 2017 3:19 pm

Tracie, thank you so much for sharing your story. We all constantly worry about our children’s well being, but when they are struggling it makes it even more heart wrenching. You have been an amazing advocate for your child and should be proud of all you and your daughter have accomplished.


Thank you. I know this is a life long process and luckily, my oldest is well versed in my daughter’s issues so that when I am gone, she can take over.


Thank you for sharing your story, now I see what I do to my family and friends. Being stable is an every day battle for me!


Hang in there! It is a struggle every day for you and I really get that!


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