How The Destruction of Mental Illness Saved My Family and Marriage

“The universe can hear music in the soul.”
― Lao Tzu

My heart broke as I prepared to drop my three children off at their father’s apartment. Tears streamed down my face as I handed them off to Jay, my spouse of 14 years, for his court-appointed visit with our kids, ages 11, 8, and 14 months. Jay and I had been separated for several months now. My loving husband was gone, and a stranger appeared before me- cold, hateful, vindictive, and mentally volatile.

Short of kidnapping the children, disappearing with the passports, and running for the rest of my life, I saw no way out of complying with the court order. As a fugitive from the law, I reasoned I would always be looking over my shoulder, fearing that I’d be off to jail, leaving my children with no mother.

Jay’s apartment was uninhabitable. Covered in fast-food wrappers, scraps of paper, and cut-out cereal boxes, Jay’s living space resembled a landfill that was impossible to navigate. Joey and Linus, two resident gerbils, lived off spoiled salmon, beef, and pizza crumbs. They spent most of their time in a cardboard box filled with newspapers. Covered in collages, torn-up photos, and newspaper clippings, the walls of Jay’s apartment were mish-mashed. There were ants in the kitchen cabinets, no food, and black mold in the water dispenser. There was no place for the children to sleep except on a cold floor or a beat-up couch with dirty blankets.

Jay’s slum-like living quarters were a far cry from the life we shared for over a decade — a four-story colonial in the North shore suburbs of Chicago with gourmet meals and annual family vacations.

Before the mental illness set in, Jay had been a loving husband and father. Jay was now short-tempered with the children, often putting the fear of God in them to cooperate. The children would refuse to speak up in court for fear their father would seek vengeance or worse; they would never see him again. Now he vacillated between spoiling our children with presents and verbally bashing them and their loved ones. Despite Jay’s behavior, the children still loved their father.

My anxiety peaked as I witnessed his horrific, repulsive behaviors towards my children and me. I was a helpless mother who could not protect her young. DCFS was investigating me to determine if I was a fit mother. Falsely portrayed as a weak, heartbroken, and unstable wife by the courts, I knew my husband had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and needed treatment. My voice was ignored.

I was powerless until suddenly, a spark erupted within me. My children and Jay must survive the carnage before it is too late, or they will become another statistic. I was determined to save my children and save Jay from himself.

Looking back, I had witnessed two decades of Jay crashing and burning through several senior-level positions in the banking industry and unknowingly see-sawing from manic highs to depressive lows. My subconscious mind knew it, but my heart took two decades to accept it.

I had been unwilling to recognize this disease until the turmoil struck our marriage. My ego surpassed my ability to face the truth. My husband wasn’t well and had been dying, one day at a time. Mental illness is a silent killer. Failure to recognize it does not make it disappear. It makes it grow into an even more vicious monster than before. I failed to see mental illness as a physical ailment. The stigma overtook my being.

I knew my love was somewhere inside, beneath the mask of bipolar mania. My empathic heart envisioned the pain, regret, and heartache that would appear once Jay woke up from 18 months of mania. I long let go of our marriage and wanted my three babies to have the father they deserved — a loving, kind, caring man. I was a victim of his disorder, not his abuse.

Suddenly, the denial of Jay’s mental illness turned into a quest for the truth. Despite what psychiatrists, lawyers, therapists, and family said, I knew this illness had killed our families’ happiness. Jay had a condition that the world failed to recognize. A disease disguised as manipulation, deceit, hateful behavior, and verbal abuse. Even so, his soul remained untouched. It was a disease that plagued his mind. A dysfunctional childhood left him a wounded soul.

Had I not chosen the highest path of resistance, listened to statistics, rational thought, logic, or the noise of friends and family, I do not think we would be here today.

It has been seven years since Jay and I began our journey of healing and rebirth. I found solace and fulfillment through my darkest hours of pain. My true purpose and epiphany came when I realized there is no greater joy than helping another human being and launched a healthcare company, GIOSTAR Chicago.

I am sharing the story of my life in hopes that other men and women will seek treatment early, understand the importance of unconditional love and support, and participate in their loved one’s care.

There are four lessons with which I would like to leave you:

1) Separate the disease from the individual. Your loved one is somewhere in there. Fight for them to come back to you. The illness is only a mask of destruction. Never give up or let anyone tell you it is hopeless. Forgive and love unconditionally.

Trust your Intuition: Follow your heart and intuition even if it is the highest path of resistance. Trust your inner voice. Learn how to harness your intuition through the world’s premier intuition teacher, Sonia Choquette.

3) Heal Your Heart and Empower Your Mind: through therapy, meditation, deep breathwork, or other forms of self-care. With self-love and community, you can help heal others and discover your soul’s purpose in this world. Step into your greatness and find your personal growth toolkit at

4) Live in the Vibration even if it means going against the grain. I chose to break away from the learned behavior of “this is not possible” to the mindset of “it already is.” Living in a vibration that it “already is” very quickly bleeds through a reality that it must happen. The universe works with the vibration of the “knowing.”

I chose to set sail. The real question is, do you want to be tethered, or do you want to set sail?

I have over 20 years of work experience in corporate America and as an entrepreneur. We focus on holistic health and natural healing at GIOSTAR, the Global Institute of Stem Cell Therapy and Research. I am the author of the upcoming book, Untetheredcurrently modified for film by producers and screenwriters.

Our mission is to help others untether their lives by creating a platform for people to share their stories and encourage them to OWN THEIR OWN HEALTH through holistic modalities that address mental health disorders and other degenerative conditions.


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Recent story in Psychology Today about The Shelly Story: 

To inquire about booking us for speaking engagements, email: [email protected].