Janice Parker's Story
My name is Janice Parker. I live on the South Side of Chicago on the lakefront. I have two boys, one in college, and the other has worked for the Chicago Public Schools for over 10 years. I have one grandson who just recently had his second birthday. So of course I'm in grandma heaven. I could go on about that for at least an hour, but that's not why I am here. I'm here to talk about my illness and my road to recovery.
I feel that my illness started as a teenager. The first time I tried to commit suicide, I was 16 years old. I felt different, ugly, skinny, and stupid. I thought that becoming a joiner would make me fit in. So I joined the cheerleader squad, modern dance, and the school choir. I even developed a separate personality that I called Jan. Everyone loved Jan because she was fun to be around. On the other hand Janice was quiet, and introverted, and much too deep to be a teenager. Jan was second runner-up in the Miss Black Teenage Illinois Pageant, winner of Miss Black Zion, a pageant held amongst black Chicago Baptist churches, modeled for Sears catalogs, and modeled for Johnson Publishing.
The first time I was hospitalized, I was diagnosed with major depression, anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. In the African American community, mental illness is considered a white suburban housewife illness. So of course I did not take my meds. I thought I didn't need them; I was just going through a pity party. The second time I was hospitalized, my family told me that I needed to stop being a weak-minded person, and put my faith in God.
So I went on with my life as if nothing were wrong, got married, had kids, and bought a house, in other words everything that was expected of me. What I didn't know is that my husband had an abusive side to his personality. I endured black eyes, and my ribs were broken twice. I also had to deal with constant mental and physical abuse. He used to tell me that I was unattractive, and no one would want me, and I believed him.
Eventually I got up enough nerve to leave him, but not before he ran my car into a building totaling it. He then started coming to my job, standing outside until I got off work, in other words stalking. That was when the depression got really bad, and I attempted suicide again. The third time through the revolving door made me realize that I had a serious problem and that I needed help.
When I was released from the hospital, that same day I looked through the Yellow Pages, and found a mental health facility in my area, and made an appointment. They helped me understand how important it was to take my meds, and make all my groups, and doctors' appointments. Once I decided to help myself, I discovered that I was starting to feel better.
My family never understood mental illness, or what I was going through. But as time went by, and more attention was put on mental illness, they took the time to read up on my symptoms, and diagnosis, they started to understand what I had be going through all those years. One of the ways I use to cope is putting as much effort that I can into helping other consumers in any way I can. I am currently back to work. I work for Illinois Institute of Technology, as the Asst. Director of Consumer Affairs. I'm so grateful to SAMHSA for giving me the opportunity to share my story with you. Being able to share my story with you keeps me humble, and reminds me how far I've come with the help and support of organizations like SAMHSA.