Our Story


Hello. My name is Kimberly, and I am a mom.

I am not a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, or a social worker. There are no titles or letters that follow my name, although I do have a certain degree of expertise in letters like: ER, Triple A, TMI, Hot Tea, OTC, RX pick-up, and PB&J. I love being a mom. I love my children with all my heart. I love all children—and that’s why I’m sharing. I’ve learned to parent through pain as we’ve been loving and raising our kids. I tell my story with the hope that some of our experiences can help someone else on the journey.

Little did we know when we were oh, so young, that mental health issues would play a role in our lives. My husband and I both have family histories of serious, debilitating mental illness… but it’s not like that was a consideration prior to marriage. Who thinks of such things?

We probably would have married, anyway.

We have been blessed over the years with six children. Three boys, three girls; various order. At present, four are in their twenties and two are teens. Our home is full of love, noise, action, food, laughter, mud, spilled milk, Sunday dinner, he’s touching me, board games, food, she took my skirt, meltdowns, hugs, kisses, soccer, Scouts, food, car breakdowns, books, love, food, closeness, forgiveness, and more joy than the heart can hold.

We have also known stress, confusion, terror, sorrow, pain, and grief beyond measure. Things beyond what the “typical” family lives, but that have been absorbed into the “normal” of our lives.

But I’m going to back up a bit.

One child entered this world crying, and that was pretty much his response to the insult of living in this world from the get-go. They called it colic, but it wasn’t colic. Everything came so hard for this little guy. As a toddler, his angry outbursts just seemed too big a reaction for the situation, and were even destructive. My husband and I started seeking professional help when this beloved son was three. We did not take our child in, we just went ourselves to gain help in parenting him.

We worked very hard at creating a loving, orderly, relatively stress-free environment for him. This wonderful son was smart, funny, artistic, and interested in a wide variety of things. We were tuned in– paying attention, communicating, praying like we were on fire, doing everything we could. But for kids wired like him, taking a bath or running an errand proved stressful. The doctors we saw ventured several possibilities– ADHD, sensitivity disorder, food allergies, etc. We knew we were doing things differently than most other families, but it didn’t seem hard. We’d do anything for our children!

He was diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder at age ten. We were reluctant to give him medication at that time, and I read and researched extensively to find natural ways to help him. (That was in the days before Google!) Through diet and several activities I taught him, we managed pretty well for a time. The experts warned us that these issues can get worse when hormones hit during the teen years. They were right.

At a certain point, medication was prescribed, which has proven to be a tremendous help, and he’s doing very well now.

I should note here, that in the process of helping our son, my husband recognized symptoms in himself, and he began taking the same medication, with great success.

It looked completely different with a beloved daughter.

This adorable girl was happy and bubbly from day one. Carefree and active and spontaneous and social, she grabbed at life with every pore of her body. Additionally, she was born with strabismus, a visual condition that has presented many challenges, including five surgeries. While a few disconcerting things occurred in her early teens, overall she remained joyful and engaging until difficult times hit like a Mack truck around her 16th birthday.

Turning 16 and not being able to drive– in fact, facing another eye surgery– is no small handicap in our society. These circumstances, hormones, today’s teenage culture, our family genetics and perhaps a dash of rebellion, meant her teen years were fraught with pain and moods and identity crises. She struggled with anorexia and cutting. We have searched through the woods for her when she bolted out of the house. I have lain across the threshold of her doorway at night so I’d know if she got up. I have counted my pills and hidden my knives. I have lain awake through more sleepless, tearful, prayerful nights than I could ever describe.

We kept pouring out love. When she cried, I held her for hours. When she threatened to run away, I said, “I’ll come find you.” When she hurt herself, I said, “Take care of yourself, you are precious.” When she talked about killing herself, I said, “That would kill me, too… I love you so!”

Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she was prescribed the same medicine that her father and brother were taking. I used to feebly joke, that at our family dinners it was: “Pass the bread… Pass the butter… Pass the antidepressant.”

The medication provided some help, but it seemed to me that more was going on. I shared my concern with every counselor we saw, and was told to wait until she left her teen years and her hormone levels evened out, then see. We held on to that hope, but the years were very hard.

Life is a mix. There were also lighter times, when she was enthusiastic and happy. Our lives continued to be full of family dinners, kids’ sporting, music, and theater activities, game nights, and great big family holidays at our house. We cherished the moments of meaningful family connections.

This beloved daughter was an excellent student, making all As while holding down a part-time job and participating in various activities.   Yet, when she went to college, the roller coaster ride of emotions, relationship issues, and self-destructive thoughts and behaviors continued. Because of both physical and mental health issues, we received countless phone calls from scared friends, paramedics, the police, hospitals… It seemed we could hardly catch our breath.

And one incredibly stress-filled week, our family was helping my mother-in-law make a crisis move due to Alzheimer’s, two of my uncles passed away, a beloved nephew was diagnosed with stage four abdominal cancer, and I had an abscessed tooth that needed a root canal, when my daughter called from college to tell me she was pregnant.

I haven’t read one parenting book yet with a chapter on how to deal with an unprepared, depressed, terrified, suicidal teenage pregnant bride.

She and the young man married, she continued with school, and the following summer a beautiful, healthy baby girl was born.

As thrilled as she was with the baby, lack of sleep and anxiety challenged my daughter. I was thankful to be there daily, helping in any way I could, sometimes with a crying girl on each shoulder! After seven or eight weeks, my darling was just beginning to feel better and get into the swing of things. And then one day, the baby went down for a nap… and she never woke up.

The baby died. Our precious, joyful babydoll. Gone. Just like that. It was SIDS.

I cannot begin to discuss the depth of grief we suffer. And ever since that moment—that horrible, tragic, life-changing moment— we have been on a desperate mission to prevent our girl from killing herself. Walking through our own overwhelming pain and torrential grief, we’ve lived in terror of a double tragedy, because our daughter truly was giving up. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, during that time she adamantly refused any counseling or medical help. As the marriage fell apart, she finally agreed to counseling. One diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder. Another didn’t want to label her with a diagnosis. It was confusing. She was hallucinating, hearing voices, and experiencing flashbacks. It has been horrific. In September 2013, as we approached the two year marker of the tragedy, we could see she wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully, I intervened just in time, and took her to the hospital. While in psychiatric care there, she was given much needed medication. Also, around that time, her counselor diagnosed her with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). My poor darling.

After leaving the hospital, she did fairly well.

For a few days.

Then, unbeknownst to us, she began to self-medicate, by drinking. Heavily. We were also unaware that she had quit taking her medication, building up an arsenal of prescription weaponry. It was only a matter of time. And that December, she tried to end her pain by overdosing on pills and alcohol, and she nearly died.

After leaving ICU, she spent a lengthier stay at a different psychiatric hospital, and they added bipolar disorder to her diagnoses.

Our story isn’t over. Bipolar disorder is a very serious mental illness. The unstable moods can be, and have for us been, absolutely dangerous.

Currently, our daughter is seeing an excellent counselor. Her diagnosis has been fine-tuned: bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and PTSD. We are constantly working to find the right combination of medicines that can help my daughter. It’s a very delicate balance. She is doing her work: fighting forward. She is taking her medication. She goes to counseling. With her counselor she is tending to troubling issues. She is learning herself; often with brilliant insight. She still has bad episodes, and we have dipped back into the terrifying depths on several occasions. Yet she also is beginning to feel hopeful. It’s like the delicate bloom of a spring flower.

I’m still standing. While there is breath in my body, I’m going to love and nurture my children. We are still a family full of love and warmth through pain and suffering. We look for the beautiful, and we keep on hoping.

Now, I am not sharing this with you to scare you… although this is scary. Nor am I sharing with you to solicit your sympathy, cards, or casseroles— although the casseroles would be appreciated! I am sharing this with you to say, that if I can make it through what I’ve had to make it through, then you can make it through what you have to make it through.

One of the many lessons I’ve learned over these years is the the true meaning of the word ‘courage.’ I’ve always been a scaredy-cat… a total GIRL. I thought words like brave and courageous were reserved for firefighters and policemen.   I never thought of myself as brave. I thought I was quite a pansy.

I was wrong.

Living life in pain takes courage. Carrying on after a tragic death takes courage. Watching your children hurt takes courage. Fighting the good fight takes courage. Ripping open my soul and sharing my hurting heart takes courage.

It requires courage for you to press forward, seeking help and answers. You are now a Braveheart, too. I encourage you to keep going. You will find freedom and help. Parents need resources, education, support, and connection. My family and I are hoping to provide some help.

I’d like to encourage you in your journey with just a few critical notes, given on the website as the Heart of the Braveheart–   As you work through hard things, remember that your child is in pain, and compassion and patience will help. Pour into the relationship; pour out love. Health and healing and hope begin here. Continue always to improve your parenting skills, strengthen yourselves, and research available resources.

I will not give up. We never give up on our kids! We keep learning. Keep trying. Keep searching. We keep loving and sharing and fighting the good fight and holding on to hope.

Thank you for connecting with us.

Kimberly Griffin