All of my life my identity had been wrapped up in being a victim. I could not let it go. If I were not a victim, poor little Michelle with the difficult life in constant need, then who was I? I was terrified of releasing this identity and being a nobody. Being totally and utterly alone.

Somewhere amidst the chaos of my life, the divorce, the custody proceedings, arguments with my ex, my mother’s control and neediness, I realized that I had lost my family, my guys. Bryce and I were divorced. Christian was living with Bryce full time. John was off on his own now. Without my three favorite people, my best guys, I was alone, I had lost everything. With that realization I made a very important decision: I would no longer be a victim. I would strive to improve myself and my life. The result would be that I would do what my heart’s desire had always been: to help others. I had received help from others so often. I wanted to be the one doing the helping now.

My last, and most difficult, hospitalization was on August 8, 2010. When I was released I swore I would do everything in my power to never return. I have kept my promise to myself. By the end of 2011 I was off all medications. My sister and I held our breaths, waiting for another melt down. Six months passed and nothing. A year passed and nothing. Five years and nothing.

The first several years after our divorce, Bryce and I did not get along at all. We fought constantly. I hated him, yet loved him at the same time. I did not know this was possible and tried everything I could to stop loving him but to no avail. Even during these worst of times in our relationship, he was always there whenever I needed him. About a year ago I noticed that the most common question I hear coming from him is “what do you need?”

As the years passed we began to get along better and fought less frequently. With every step I took towards healing and independence, our relationship improved but we remained cautious of one another.

In an attempt to keep my sanity, I stayed away from the house as much as possible. I became involved in everything I could at church, attended every church function I could, stayed at my friend’s house and began to volunteer for Hospice Of The Western Reserve. My mom did not care for this and began to mention how much I was away from home.

Holidays were still difficult for me because I could no longer spend them with both of my sons. John and I would meet up to exchange presents on his birthday, which is December 22. My mom once told me that if I wanted to spend Christmas with John she would understand. When I mentioned this to John he cautioned me. He did not feel this was a good idea because if I chose to spend the day with John instead of my mother and siblings she would make my life difficult. He reminded me that I have to live with her.

When I was 46 I began to notice that I was going to bed earlier and earlier, when I had always been a night owl. I noticed I was tiring a bit too easily for someone my age but did not think much of it. I thought it was a virus that would soon end. I was wrong. Things progressively became worse. As time went by my tiredness turned into a very bizarre fatigue that I could not explain and then joint and muscle pain was added. Eventually, there were stomach problems and headaches. In the summer of my 48th year, I was finally diagnosed with myaelgic encephamyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. I ended up having days, weeks or months where I was housebound or bed bound and was merely existing and not living.

After twelve years of not dating, I decided to give it try. I felt I had no hope of ever being with Bryce again. I thought the fact that he was always there for me was due to me being the mother of his son.

The first man I tried to date wanted to move way too fast. The first date we went for coffee. He began to talk about me moving in with him and spending large amounts of time together. After knowing him for thirty minutes he wanted me to go back to his place. He began wanting me to cut back on my schedule and getting married before we even went on our second date. I found out he was a very distant cousin of mine and the cousin of my parents’ good friend (who is also a distant cousin). His cousin warned him to go slower with me and not suffocate me because I am not the type of woman who enjoys pushy men. He did not heed the advice and on our second date I told him that I do not think this is going to work.

The second man I attempted to date was the complete opposite and we ended up dating for about two months. The trouble was that he was too far the other way. He was aloof and self-centered. He could not see past his own nose, was shallow, selfish, and a poor conversationalist. By the time I was dating him I was in need of a car and looking for a place to live. He hardly took note of this but my ex-husband was keeping his eye out for a car for me and said if I needed help with moving he was there for me. I realized I was getting offers of help from my ex but not the man I was dating. The relationship ended because….well, because he just wasn’t Bryce. I realized no one else was Bryce except Bryce and gave up dating for good.

My mother was not happy with my attempt at dating and again used my dog as ammunition. I would come home from a date at 11:00 or 11:30 and she would be angry. She told me I was being rude because my dog would bark if she tried to go to bed and I was not home. When my mother went to bed she spent about two hours watching television, which was long after I would return home.

Since my mother had quit smoking years before, smoking was forbidden in her house; therefore, I would smoke out on the back patio. Whenever I was out and returned home I would go out on the patio for a cigarette. This was not a problem until I began dating. One night, upon returning home I went out on the patio for a cigarette. My mother came rushing out after me. She was angry because I went out to the patio. She claimed I ignored her and never went straight to the patio upon returning home before. She then went on a tirade about my late return. I then made the definite decision to move out and find my own place. I felt at 47 years old I should no longer have a curfew and I was afraid that my wonderful record of staying out of the hospital for two years was coming to end. The stress of living there was getting to me and I was afraid I was becoming ill again.

My good friend’s husband is a psychologist and he pulled me aside one day and told me that I needed to move out of the house before my mental illness came back. I told him I was worried about leaving my mom now that she was in her 70’s and a diabetic. My friend told me that something is going to happen to her one day whether I am there or not. She reminded me that something is going to happen to all of us one day. They offered me the bedroom upstairs at their house while I looked for a place of my own.

Again, when I told my mom that I was moving she was very upset. Moving out of her house is a very horrible thing no matter what your age is. She asked me what if something happened to her? How would she take care of the house? Now that she could no longer afford the house without me there, she will have to move (she still is living there 4 1/2 years later). She then wanted to know if I was leaving Snuggles with her, again this would be a good way to control me. My friends live on a farm and a little white dog is not a problem plus I planned to find a place that accepted dogs. Since I planned to move back to the rural area I loved so much and felt so at home in, I thought this would not be a problem. My mom became so angry that she wanted me out immediately. She spent the next day away from home so that she would not be there when I moved my things out.

I moved in with my friends and began searching for a place to live. They charged me no rent and I was able to save money and buy what I needed for a new home. I attracted the perfect place for Snuggles and me in four weeks. I spent a total of six weeks at my friends’ farm and moved five minutes away from them and two minutes away from Bryce and Christian.

I had hoped this move would be good for me and both of my sons. It definitely was one of the best things I had ever done for myself and I still live there over four years later. It did wonders for Christian, who was at that time 14 years old, and our relationship. Although John was happy for me, it did not work as well for him as I had hoped.

I had hoped that with me having my own place I could spend more time with my boys. This did happen with Christian but John was falling deeper and deeper into depression. I had begun to worry about him before I had moved from my mother’s home. Now things just seemed to be getting worse and he was acting less and less like himself.

John, who was never a lazy person and highly intelligent, decided that he was no longer going to work. He began to be a test subject for various medical studies and traveled the country doing this. I knew he was having financial problems due to the extreme debt incurred for college. The U.S. Department of Education was constantly calling him and me, and they were not nice about it. They would even locate various other family members if they could not find John or get in touch me.

In the summer of 2013 John began to ask to borrow money from everybody, his parents, his aunts, his uncles. He then asked if he could move in with me. Of course, I was elated and spoke with my landlord about this. She told me if my son was anything like me he was welcome to move in. Well, John is very much like me in some respects. He is neat, clean and quiet. The day before John was scheduled to move in with me he told me that he changed his mind and was moving to Michigan but asked to spend the night at my house the night before he left. My disappointment and confusion was enormous. We stayed awake talking late into the night, which surprised John since he knew I had CFS. I was so excited and happy to have him there that I just did not want to sleep. John would not tell me where in Michigan he was moving to and really would not tell me why. Because of our relationship, I found this very shocking. He had also changed his phone number a couple of times by this point.

John returned Ohio a couple of times for brief visits. He would call but our lengthy conversations were becoming shorter and shorter. He sounded less and less like himself. I spent so much time praying for him. I had countless sleepless nights while I lay in bed crying for my baby. I was terrified. I was terrified because from the moment John was conceived, I had premonitions that he would cross over before me. I did not know how, nor did I know when. I merely spent almost three decades worrying, afraid and being over protective of him. I was not over protective of my daredevil son, Christian, however. I knew he would outlive both Bryce and me.

In December of 2013 John informed me that he could not come home for his birthday because he had to be in Wisconsin for a medical research study. He instead came into town on December 13 and 14 and spent the night with friends. He did come to visit me on both days and on the fourteenth we celebrated his birthday by having lunch together and exchanging presents.

On Christmas Day of that year, after years of not speaking to John, my mom decided that she wanted to wish him a merry Christmas. This was the best Christmas gift she could ever give me. No one had John’s phone number except his parents and a select few other people. I handed my mom my phone and told her that John’s number was programmed in #8 and to press and hold the key and it would ring to his phone. They spoke for a minutes. When I returned home that evening I had an e-mail from John. It was unlike any I had ever received from him. He was angrier than he had ever been with me before. He accused me of giving out his number when he asked me not to. I responded by explaining that I did not give out his number. He accused my mother and I of giving the school loan creditors his phone number. We are Italian and even when Italian family members do not get along we are still loyal to family. My mom never would give out that information even if she had had it. I, of course, would die a slow and torturous death before doing anything of the kind.

A week went by without a word from John. On New Years Day I received another e-mail from him. This one worse than the last. He told me he changed his phone number and was giving it out to no one, not even me. He was very paranoid, angry and cruel. I realized that I needed to tell Christian (now 15 years old) something before he became suspicious. When I explained this to Christian he said, “mom, this is not John. He would never say these things to you. Everybody knows how John feels about you. I think he is going to kill himself.You need to do something.” Despite my premonitions, I could not accept what my youngest son was telling me. I told him that I did not think John would do that and I could not force him to get help because he is now an adult. I explained to Christian that I would have to actually catch John in the act to force him to get help. We had no idea where John was because he yet again moved.

I did not hear from John for five months. I tried to search for him on the internet but could only find his last address in Cleveland. Only my son could hide his whereabouts from a Google search.

On May 11, 2014, which was Mother’s Day, I awoke to find an e-mail from John. I became so excited. I thought he was wishing me a happy Mother’s Day but became suspicious when I noticed that there were also e-mails that were copies of e-mails to my sister and his father. Upon reading the first line of the e-mail, my heart sank, my vision blurred, I began to shake and panic. He said the most loving things he had ever said to me but the second paragraph was good bye and third paragraph was filled with instructions.

John was in Mexico. I could not get to him and did not know what to do. I noticed he had sent the e-mail ten minutes ago so I felt I had some time. I immediately called 911 and then my sister. I screamed into the phone hysterically for my sister to go read her e-mail.

My son had spent the entire night on Facebook messaging with his paternal cousin. His cousin tried desperately to talk him out of ending his life but John has always been very determined. He sent good bye messages to friends and cousins. When the police officer arrived at my home, John was still messaging with friends and some family members. The officer did his best to track John down. While he was doing this I was sitting there worrying about how to make this all about my mom so that she would not cause the rest of the family problems. Later I realized just how sick that thought was at such a time. We discovered that he was on an island, Isla de Mujeres. John was messaging with my niece and the police officer called her. My niece told the officer that John said he had five more minutes. It was 7:55 am. At approximately 7:59 am his paternal aunt was the last person to receive a message from him.

At 8:10 am the most bizarre feeling, which I cannot describe, came over me and for a moment I thought I felt John’s presence in my living room. The police officer then said, “I don’t think I can find him in time.’ I told the officer he was already too late.

The officer left with the promise that they would continue searching and they would contact the Ann Arbor police because that was John’s place of residence. My sister and other family were on their way to my house. I took John’s photograph out on the back porch while I awaited their arrival. It was now approximately 10:00 am. Although I knew John had already crossed over, I kept trying to have hope until I received definite word. I sat on the porch staring at his photo, crying and saying “please, call mommy, baby”. It was then that I very strongly felt John’s presence standing to my left. I told myself “no, no, he is not here. He is in his body in Mexico. He is fine.”

My family arrived and most of the day is a blur. I had called and left a message for Bryce because he and Christian were at church that morning. Bryce broke the news to Christian as to what was going on. They both came over to my house immediately. I went down the porch steps to meet them. After hugging Christian he went into the house. I then threw myself into Bryce’s arms and cried. This was the beginning of a major change in our relationship. He stayed with me constantly. He supported and comforted not only Christian but me also.

The Ann Arbor police told me that the Mexican police still had not found my son at 3:00 pm and it was time to get the American Counselate involved. Hours went by before I heard anything.

Everyone had left and it was just me, Christian and Bryce sitting my living room. Bryce was looking very tired and I did not know what the night would entail. I told him that if he was sticking around for my sake, he could go back to his place to get some sleep, Christian and I would watch a movie and be fine. He did not leave until after midnight. Christian and I curled up on the couch to watch a comedy in order to lift our mood. As we both began to fall asleep on the couch my phone rang. It 12: 42 am May 12, 2014. I heard a man ask if this was Michelle. When I replied yes he said, “this is the American Counselate in Mexico. I am sorry to inform you that your son, John, passed away this morning.” I again began to shake and cry “no, no, no” and the man hung up the phone. Later I felt very sorry for the man who had to make that call.

It is all so hazy after that. I remember calling Jack and leaving him an hysterical message: “Jack, Jack, our baby is gone.” I remember telling Christian to get dad to come back here. I remember Christian, my 15 year old, suddenly turning into a mature adult man. He took the phone, called Bryce, called my friend and her husband, called the pastor, the rest of the family, etc.

I remember after Bryce returned, he, Christian and I sat on the couch in a huddle hugging each other. I remember people kept asking me if I wanted to go to my mother’s house. This irritated me because I love my home, it is my sanctuary, it is where I feel safe and comfortable. I do not have many good memories of John in my mom’s home. Why would I want to leave my home?

Again, my house filled with people. The pastor and his wife arrived. My mom kept telling me we needed to pray but I could not understand why. It was, after all, too late. At 4:00 am my mother noticed I was very tired and everyone left. Bryce, Christian and I tried to get a few hours sleep.

My brother, sisters, nieces and nephews were constantly in and out of my house for days. I was rarely left alone. My mom, on the other hand, would not come to my house. All three of my siblings apologized to me. They said they asked her to come with them but merely received an attitude. Apparently she was not enough of the center of attention during my maternal grief. I think she was upset that I would not go and stay at her house.

My best friend and her husband drove up from North Carolina to stay with me a few days. When they arrived, I threw myself into Pam’s arms and cried, “my baby, my baby”. Christian took this opportunity to stay the night at my mom’s in order to appease her and not have to leave me alone while doing so. He rarely left my side during those weeks following.  While my friends were staying with me we drove to my mom’s to see her, which seemed to make her a bit happier. When my youngest sister found out about this, she was not happy. She did not feel that I should be going to others. In her eyes, I was the grieving mother, therefore, others should be coming to me.

I had John’s memorial service on May 20 at the church I had been attending at time. Although it was a nice service, I regretted it. The most beautiful part of the service was Christian singing for his big brother. John was an Atheist and loved the outdoors. I wish I had had a small memorial service out in the woods by the river or by Lake Erie. The end of the service was terribly upsetting because words my son never would have said, nor would say now that he is in the Spirit Realm, were put into his mouth. The pastor said that if John could, he would tell us that it is not worth it and we need to accept Jesus to be saved and go to heaven. I came close to hysteria at that point. If not for Bryce and Christian holding my hand, I would have jumped up and began screaming, “no, my son would NOT say that.” Of course, pastor never knew of my psychic medium abilities. I never stepped foot in that church again, nor am I Christian anymore nor belong to any organized religion. – Michelle

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