Why I am home right now

spencer blog post

I am home because my son has a mental illness.

I am home because he needs me to watch over him and keep him safe. I have temporarily stepped away from my career of nearly 30 years because I love him.

Thankfully he is safe as he can be … now. With the help of the right medicine, prayers and medical professionals, he is slowly regaining his balance in life.

He’s not normal, but then again, neither are the rest of us. For as someone once said, normal is only a setting on a washing machine.

But if “normal” means telling jokes that make me laugh out loud, we’ll take it. If normal means someone with the kindest of hearts who will listen and empathize with you, we’ll take it. We’ll take our son with an exceptional creative ability and love for animals.

As hopeful as we are for the return of the “real Spencer,” we are realistic.

It’s likely that he will have this for the rest of his life. That he will have to take medicine, continue to seek professional help and rely on family and friends who understand both his challenges and his great potential. He needs people who believe like we do, that Spencer is not defined by his mental illness.

It’s true that he may continue to struggle from the effects of medication. While great strides have been made in understanding mental illness, we recognize how little we still know. We’re grateful to live in a time where great minds give us hope for more answers.

As we do with all our children, we believe in Spencer’s divine potential for greatness. There’s no reason why he can’t be a force for good on this Earth and touch the lives of others.

He can do almost anything he sets his mind to, and we as his parents, will not tire in our efforts to help make that happen.

We couldn’t do this without a firm belief in God and his plan for us. Without that knowledge, it’s quite possible that my wife and I would have given up long ago. The excruciating toll exacted by mental illness is best understood by those who must experience it every day — along with those provide ongoing support.

You can make a difference for millions like Spencer, by showing more compassion and less judgment. By recognizing stereotypes for what they are and tossing them aside. By willing to stand up for those who can’t always stand up for themselves.

That’s why I wrote this. For so many years now, we’ve kept fairly quiet about Spencer’s mental illness. We’ve only shared with close family members and friends. We didn’t want people to misunderstand.

It’s time for more understanding. It’s time to educate more and hide less. There are millions of people who have to face their demons every day and often question the value of their existence. To them I say it’s very much worth it. And never give up hope.

It’s time we lobby for more resources and research. It’s time to reach out even more to those who suffer silently among us.

I will need to return to at least part-time work sooner than later. But nothing I do to earn a paycheck will be nearly as important than what I am doing now.

Staying home with Spencer.





19 Replies to “Why I am home right now”

  1. Excellent! Thank You Mike for sharing!! Lots of families and individuals dealing with these kinds of issues need to know they are not alone and that most of all…there’s hope!!

  2. I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, with related depression and anxiety. I came home from my mission early because of it. These things are real, and at the same time they are being better understood everyday. Cheers!

  3. I have experienced two nervous breakdowns. As a result, I deal with random ‘psychogenic’ seizures/convulsions. Medication does help a little to quell the anxiety. The wish to become my former ‘self’ has been left in the dust long ago. Every day is a challenge. I also approve this message. Bless you, Mike, for being the man you are. You and your family are wonderful examples to us all.

  4. My husband deals with mental illness, and I have never met a braver man who fights for stability. I heartily agree with everything you said! May you and your family be blessed in your efforts.

  5. I loved reading this. I love Spencer and I’m so glad that he is getting the help he needs. I am an office manager at a psychology office and I absolutely adore each of the people that walk through that door. Some are there for counseling others for more severe problems. But regardless of why they are there they are all divine children of a loving father in heaven.

  6. There is mental illness in my family, as well, and this really touched my heart. Thank you.

  7. I have battled depression on a number of occasions. The worst “episode” I experienced came shortly after I moved to a new state after taking a job with a Fortune 500 company on the east coast. I was completing my master’s degree, working 60+ hours a week and trying to be a husband and a father. Needless to say, all of the stresses in my life brought me crashing to the ground–hard! I started to experience debilitating depression and severe anxiety. The depression and anxiety caused some of the worst insomnia I have ever experienced; I slept only 3-4 hours a night…if that. Eventually I started to feel suicidal and soon felt that suicide was the only way to stop the pain. Fortunately, I have the most loving and understanding wife EVER! With her help, medication, and counseling, I soon started to turn the corner. I am doing much better today, but I continually look over my shoulder, waiting for the day when the depression and anxiety will return. I suspect that I will be fighting this battle for the rest of my life.

    I admire you and your wife for doing whatever it takes to care for your son. He is extremely blessed to have such wonderful parents. Please know that you are not alone in this battle.

  8. This is good. There are a lot of good people who have wrong ideas about mental illness and therefore can’t help or can even hinder progress because they just don’t know. Thanks to you and your son for working to educate and change. Each person that speaks up makes a difference. I’m proud of my teenage daughter who is open with her peers about her anxiety and depression and being on medication. It’s just too bad that government employment keeps us from talking about it openly online.

  9. Among my five kids, we have one accidental overdose, one cutter, two bipolar, one PTSD, one social phobic, one OCD, and a whole lot of Oh Look Shiny. I also have one nearly perfect stepson and his two passive aggressive brothers. All of whom are out of the nest, but I have a sneaking suspicion that one will be living with me in the next five years or so. I hear you.

  10. Our son, Ashton, took his life one year ago on January 28th, 6 months after returning home early from a mission. His psychiatrist said he died from mental illness. We have felt the need to write and tell the world of our experience. It IS time for more understanding. It IS time to educate more and hide less. “There are millions of people who have to face their demons every day and often question the value of their existence.” Bless them all and their families. Bless you for staying home with him. You will never regret it. NEVER give up hope.


    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Faye. And especially the inspiration you are sharing with your blog. May the Lord bless you as you move forward.

    2. Thank you Faye, for sharing Ashton’s story. Having lost a child to heart/lung & GI disease, I know that sorrow and although she suffered from severe anxiety and depression, I was fortunate in that I was able to say goodbye to her. My heart is with you.

      I have suffered from depression my whole life and am still learning about this disease. Having dealt with it so much I’ve been able to recognize the signs of depression in my children. All 4 of my children have depression and growing up with a sister who was extremely ill, was always in the hospital & almost died many times was really hard on them. One day when my husband and I were back in our bedroom discussing some really bad news we had received about our daughter’s health, our youngest son came running into our room saying, “*brother’s name* says that he is going to kill himself*”. That son was only about 8 or 9 years old at the time. I got him into see a psychiatrist right away but he really struggled with depression for several years. He is doing much better and was good enough to write to me to let me know that his depression was sneaking up on him while he was on his mission. He was able to talk to his psychiatrist on the phone and his dose was increased. I have worried about him and his depression while he has been gone but he is doing well. My youngest son, however, is the one who has taken the death of his sister the hardest. Everyone around him is asking him when he will go on a mission but I know that he wouldn’t be able to handle it right now and might not ever. I’m ok with that. I just want him safe.

  11. I am very thankful for your willingness to share. Our son JayDee committed suicide on September 23, 2014. I can not express the grief we feel. We knew he depression and anxiety. He came home early from his mission, and never really got over that. He finally finished his mission by doing a service mission. We love him so much. Please, please to the other young people out there suicide is not the answer or the cure.

    1. I can’t even imagine the grief and agony you must deal with on a daily basis. Thanks for reading and your courage to comment here.

  12. Wonderful post! I didn’t know. I know how hard it is to help family members with mental illness –because of Tyler being bi-polar or whatever he has, and Conner’s Autism. Having had depression and anxiety attacks in the past I know it is a difficult, scary thing to live with. I’m sure Spencer will blossom as Conner has. It’s comforting to have Elder Holland’s talk and the gospel. Take comfort in knowing that the Lord blessed you to be his parent to have the special skills snd talents to handle this! (-:

  13. Thank you for sharing this, Mike. I am no stranger to depression and anxiety. I have stayed up night after night calming a dying child’s fears and trying to cheer her up all the years that she was too sick to go out and play with other children. I have tried to calm her down when she was coughing up blood, choking and crying out, “I’m not ready to die!” and when the lung bleed finally stopped and I had gotten her calm and comfortable, I went looking for my sons to comfort and reassure them too.

    I’ve left a young son at school watching him shake as he walked to his classroom holding the counselor’s hand fearing that something will happen to his mom or his sister if he isn’t home. I’ve been in a counselor’s office with my son trying to convince him that it’s ok to come out from underneath the chair. I’ve pulled him out from underneath his bed many times so I could hold him and comfort him.

    I have other sons who also suffer from depression and anxiety, one of which had to drop out of school because it was so severe following the death of his sister. He has tried to finish up school online but he got too far behind. He is studying for his GED now so we are hopeful that it will go well. We have no idea what he will do after he passes so we just pray for guidance.

    I commend you, Mike, for staying home with your son. My husband has worked 2 – 3 jobs in order for me to be able to be at home with our daughter who was born with severe heart/lung and GI defects. She wasn’t expected to survive childhood yet lived to be 22 years old. Our sons also needed me to be there for them. It’s soooo important for them to feel important and loved. God bless you.

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