TGJ 9 | Mental Illness


Boys grow up to be different and more distant from their mothers, and they move away. That is what Mitzi Montague-Bauer realized through her experience with her own son. When Mitzi gave birth to Journey, she didn’t have the same possessive feeling she had with her first-born, Breaha. That is when she knew he belonged to everyone. What she didn’t expect though was losing him to an untimely death. Today, host Erin Saxton is joined by Mitzi as they investigate mental illness and talk about a mom’s biggest fear.. and facing it.

Listen to the podcast here:

Erin Faces A Mother’s Biggest Fear With Mitzi Montague-Bauer

Joining me is Mitzi Montague-Bauer. She’s the author of Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Spiritual Healing. Let me share a story and then we’ll know all about your story. I met your husband and a business colleague at a conference and that’s when I first learned about you. I knew it was a powerful story. I thought, “Let me interview the guys first.” Mitzi, every attempt to interview the guys about Journey’s Dream, the company, there was no audio, my camera stopped working, the lights would break down. All of a sudden, we’re in a hotel and it’s hours of me trying not winning any technical awards. All of a sudden, the whole hotel shuts down. The guys look at me and they say, “This means you have to come to Michigan and meet Mitzi herself.” It was fair enough. I’m realizing that the story we’re about to talk is a nightmare and a beautiful story. The raw parts of this are fair warning. I realized that this wasn’t about me not being able to technically produce a segment. This is about me as a mom having to face my biggest fear, which is what you did. Let’s talk about your son, Journey. Who was he when you first held him in your arms? I love that part of your book.

When I first held him in my arms, I was expecting the possessive feeling of my baby because I had a child before and that was the very feeling I had was like, “This is my baby.” When I held Journey, there was that same awe and wonder, but instead of my baby, I knew he wasn’t. I knew that he belonged to the world. He did not belong to me. In an instant, I also knew that he would leave before me. It was fleeting and it didn’t make sense as a new mother just giving birth flooded with the hormones of bliss and possessiveness, but I did. I had a knowing that he would leave. In my mind, I made that he was a boy, so it was different than a girl. Boys grow up to be men and they separate from their mothers, or maybe he would travel the world or marry someone and that would become his new family. That’s how I made sense. I was swept away with the bliss of meeting him and being a new mom, but that never fully went away. That sense, that realization and that moment would surface periodically throughout his life. I would sometimes wonder but it didn’t make sense at first.

I have a son as well. He’s fourteen. There are times where I know what you mean. I think, “Will he still call me once he gets married? Maybe he’ll like her family better than ours.” It’s all very self-centered and narcissistic of me. Is that what you mean at that moment? Were you thinking that?

Right because with Breaha, my firstborn, I had that feeling of, “She’s mine.” I was expecting that with my son. When I didn’t have that possessive feeling, I knew he belonged to everyone. It was unfamiliar. That’s how I made it make sense. She’s a girl and he’s a boy and he’ll move away. Boys grew up to be different and more distant from their mothers. That’s how I made it make sense in that moment. Obviously, it wasn’t until much later that it made sense in a different way.

The childhood, you raising them, you homeschooled both your children and you have a stepchild also, but you didn’t homeschool Josh. Breaha and Journey were homeschooled and there was a part in the book where you went to a park. There was the sense of, “Why should I go to the park?” The children were behaving so badly and so counterintuitive. I tried to parent this way too. It’s opposite day, “It’s a dessert for dinner.” What made you go to the park that day? Did you even know you just drove to the park?

I was excited about a science experiment that I had found that I thought would interest both Breaha and Journey at their levels of where they were. Homeschooling is an endeavor and one that I often felt overwhelmed by. When I found something that I felt would wow both of them, I was excited about. It believed me. I was preparing for this science experiment. They were bickering and running around, tapping their pencils and I was like, “Come on you, let’s focus. It’s the afternoon. Let’s get to school.” They weren’t. Mostly a day of bickering. I closed my eyes and I said, “Be quiet.” I took some breaths. Inwardly, I heard a voice in my head that was smarter than me say, “Just take them to the park.” I’m like, “What? Why would I do that? I have this day planned.” I heard it clearly. I’ve grown to know that as my own innate wisdom spoke through. That’s why we ended up going to the park.

What happened once you got to the park? You can’t leave them hanging. I know because I read the book but tell us about the park.

As soon as I said, “Do you want to go to the park?” Their eyes lit up like, “We get to go to the park instead of school.” Their attitudes changed just like that. We drove to the park and both the children had active imaginations and I was accustomed to hearing about the fantasy world that they lived in. I encouraged it truthfully. They were young children and they had these wild imaginations. A lot of times they would try to include me but as an adult, I didn’t usually get to be a part of it.

Give us a sense, how old is Breaha and Journey?

Breaha is probably ten and Journey was seven. I parked the car and we got out of the car. I looked into the wooded area and there were these glowing spheres of light. I did have the same reaction.

Natural or they were like sun catchers that some garden club left?

I have no idea what they were. They looked like transparent balls of light floating above the ground. Most of them were green. They ranged in size from four or five inches to a foot in diameter. Some of them were pink and blue and not just one of us saw them. We all saw them. We stood there in awe and Breaha broke the silence. She’s like, “I wonder if the fairies are having a party,” a ten-year-old innocence. I kept looking for the science behind it like, “What is going on?” I’m looking around like, “What could generate such a phenomenon?” I never did find out but I told them, “We’ll figure out together what the science is behind this.” They both looked at me blankly like, “Mom doesn’t get it.”

Gradually, the balls of light started dissipating and we moved our attention to the river. There was this phenomenon with the sun pulsing. It was an otherworldly day. The sun was pulsing and going dim. I had no idea again what could generate such a thing. Journey thought that the sun liked our admiration and was showing off. The kids came up with their own theories and they weren’t nearly as struck by it as I was because it was odd. Eventually, Breaha went about her activities. Journey was sitting on the riverside having a conversation with whom I didn’t know. He later told us that he was talking to the sun’s wife who had appeared to him in the reflection on the river and told him that we all have a light within us and that is our guiding light. It’s where our love and our intentions generate from.

We all have stories. We’ve heard of stories or we’ve experienced stories where children say such profound things. I feel that I don’t know if we pay attention to that as much as we should, but I think you did with Journey and with Breaha.

TGJ 9 | Mental Illness

Journey: A Mother’s Account of Love, Loss and Spiritual Healing

To some degree, some things like that struck to me as so odd. Still to this day, I’m baffled by that. It’s like, “What could that have been?” I still don’t know. I’ve talked to people, professors like, “Have you ever heard of this or what?” There were a few moments in Journey’s life where he said things that were beyond his years or what have you that stuck in the back of my mind. Particularly as he grew and became an adult and more symptomatic, then they began to have more meaning.

Let’s talk about why you named him Journey.

I wish I’d named him something else like James.

After reading this book, I’ve never thought a name was more appropriate to a soul than your son and the name you gave and his dad gave to him.

As soon as we were pregnant, it became obvious. I’m like, “I like this name.” Rex was like, “I like that name, whether it’s a boy or girl, let’s name the baby that.”

Are we fans of the band? It’s a great band, but was there any enlightenment from Faithfully?

One day, he did come home from school and I think his math teacher was teasing him about the band. He’s like, “Did you guys name me after that band?” I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “Were you on drugs?” We’re like, “No, neither. We just liked the name.” The girls liked it.

When you're fearful, your intelligence is compromised. Click To Tweet

He’s a beautiful boy and a great looking guy. He went off to public high school. He made friends and played lacrosse, but let’s focus on college.

He was at the University of Michigan studying engineering. At first, he switched his major and eventually got a degree in economics. In the beginning, he was majoring in engineering and was just your average know-it-all eighteen-year-old who is going off to school to start his life. He had friends, took a full workload, had a part-time job. The first couple of years, it was delightful to watch both of the kids go out and start to create their lives. It was exhilarating. I figured we were through the most laborious part of parenting. Once your kids are in college, you’re like, “We launched the children.” They’re ready to go about doing what they do. At some point in Journey’s junior year, my mother and I went to visit him and I noticed his face had these bruises and a couple of cuts on him. I’m like, “What happened to you?” He minimized it and he didn’t want to talk about it. I learned that he had been attacked coming home from a party. He didn’t know who were the men that attacked him. He didn’t want to talk about it.

Was he alone?

He was alone, happy and high maybe. He was happy leaving the party going home and he was beaten unconscious. The scars healed. The bruises healed, but some part of him never did. At the time, it was alarming to see but he continued like, “I don’t want to talk about it.” We began seeing strange behaviors. He became obsessed with cleansing, fasting and pasturing. He was fixated on his colon. His sigmoid part of the colon was broken and something terribly was wrong. While he made it through college, his senior year, we began to see changes in his personality.

One spring break, he showed up on your doorstep. This is where it gets tense.

This is where it occurred to me the severity of what was happening. Up until then, there were weird behaviors, but Journey is always a quirky guy, rethinking the norm and often that was an upgrade.

He’s talking to the sun’s wife. There is a certain part of it for everyone reading that when you have such an intellectually gifted and creative child, there is some leeway one gives with the path that they explore.

TGJ 9 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: The scars healed. The bruises healed, but some part of him never did.


He had a high IQ. He was creative and musically inclined. He was always rethinking the norm essentially. Generally, he was the smartest person in the room. We gave him that leeway, but when spring break of his senior year, he hitched a ride home and showed up at our door unexpectedly. I barely recognized him. He was clearly having a psychotic episode. We were struck. We had guests, family and friends that were visiting us for the weekend and we were struck. I didn’t know what to do. We confronted him, first of all, “Are you using drugs?” He said no, he wasn’t. My husband and I tried to decide if we should be taking him to the ER. What’s the right course of action? His hindsight is 20/20, but at the time we asked him, he was irritable and like, “Back off, leave me alone.” I didn’t want to take him back to school. I wanted him to stay home and get help, but he insisted on going back. It was a few weeks before he graduated. We took him back and it was the hardest thing I ever did driving him back, knowing that he was so vulnerable. I was fearful. It was scary.

As a mom from my vantage point, it’s so easy to comment on a situation from the rearview mirror perspective. In the moment, I think we all try to control everything, yet Journey is an adult at this point and a smart one. I realize we’re not purposely telling the end of the story because there’s never an end to this story. We’re building this up because there is more sadness to come. During this moment, do you feel this was a fork in the road and looking back, this is when you lost him?

I didn’t feel like I had lost him yet. At that point, while I was functioning primarily from fear, we all know that when you’re fearful, your intelligence is compromised. I was less intelligent than I would’ve liked to have been and functioning from this fearful place. Definitely trying to control or help him, but even through the next year, I was ever hopeful. This wasn’t part of my reality like, “He’s going to get through this. This is just a blip. We didn’t have mental illness in our family.” I suspected that it was perhaps PTSD.

I want to talk about that because first of all, what year are we in this story?

He was a senior at university in 2009.

Even what we know about mental illness, the resources we have, as everyone is reading this, they have to remember what they know now is not at all what we knew then. We don’t know the people. We accept more. It’s more of an open conversation. I will say thankfully you and your family come from a place where there was always that transparency. As it seems in the book and from getting to know you that you were quick to bring in outside help and quick to research. I want everyone to know that because it’s important. I think that everybody thinks they would do things differently. I’m sure you hear sometimes that everyone’s the expert.

In hindsight looking back, I surely would have but yes at the time, I thought it was temporary and that he would get through it. I was hopeful. He continued to assure us saying, “I’m okay.” At one point, he told me he was doing a social experiment and everything’s fine. No doctor ever accurately diagnosed him or gave him a diagnosis because he presented so differently every time. We never had one diagnosis but many. It’s never PTSD, which I had always thought it was somehow related to that and wanted to go down that route. I looked exhaustedly for a doctor, a treatment, a medicine or any therapy, whatever could help bring him back to balance.

Mental illness is a lifetime illness. The best you could hope for is to manage the symptoms with medication. Click To Tweet

What was his diagnosis when they did diagnose?

He never had one. The first hospitalization and there were many, they suspected schizophrenia. The second diagnosis, he was diagnosed with somatic delusion disorder, which is a situation where a person is perseverating on a body part or something’s broken, but there’s no evidence. The sigmoid part of the colon where the rectum meets the colon, he kept saying, “There’s something wrong here.”

You would be getting him tests?

Yes, I was asking the doctors and the psychiatrist and they were not. We were on our own begging family practice doctors to order scans and EKGs and everything looking because, at that point, the rest of his conversations were cogent. He was pretty clear except in this one area and he was so insistent, like, “Mom?” I’m looking for the best psychiatrist like, “I don’t need a shrink. I need a surgeon.” It was heartbreaking because he was so convinced. I don’t know if he dissociated from the mental illness, but somehow for him, it was all physical and we were all missing the mark entirely thinking it was in his head.

Journey’s words are in this book. How did you come about these? His writing is phenomenal. He tells a story along with your story. I will say sometimes his story, you sound a lot more hopeful and he sounds way more realistic and obviously in tune to what his experience is. Where did you find these writings?

After he graduated from college, he was hospitalized in the fall three times and then came home to live with us. During that time, the way that he was making sense of it was he was writing. He posted it as a blog for half a dozen people to read or whoever was reading it, we were reading it. He was researching, looking constantly for what he believed was his ailment. He was reading and he was writing. All along he thought he was dying and he would insist that I role play with him like, “I’m not always going to be here. You need to get this.” I’m thinking, “It’s up here.” He always believed that he was dying and that we weren’t getting it, that I wasn’t getting it. I was hopeful.

He felt what was going to take him was a disease or an illness of his gastrointestinal system. You were more concerned about other things, but nowhere ever did he present signs of suicide or hurting other people. Why the hospital stays and obviously it’s a bigger conversation and it’s not about Journey. I don’t understand at the end of this part of our story, there’s all said nine and four years. How and why?

TGJ 9 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: He always believed that he was dying and that we weren’t getting it. I was hopeful and he was not.


The first three happened pretty quickly. He was hospitalized in Ann Arbor. He was medicated and sent home. He promptly came off the medication. When a person does that, then whatever symptomology they were experiencing prior is exacerbated. All his fear and terror surfaced. He called the ambulance on himself but not for his mental health. He was like, “Something is wrong.” At that hospitalization, he was given an injection, which is intended to last for weeks in the blood. They gave him a high dose. He was having severe reactions from the medication. The third hospitalization was he went in right away to be observed while that medication was being tapered off his bloodstream. I kept trying to keep them out of the system.

I was like, “Let’s find help.” I knew that repeated hospitalizations, every time he came back, he was further distanced. We believed that he would not get well. Part of the education with someone with mental illness and this is one of the things I would love to see changed, the doctors who treated him felt like once he was medicated and educated about his illness. In other words, he was told that this is a lifetime illness. You will need to take medication for life, much like diabetes. This is your tough luck message. The best he could hope for was to manage the symptoms with medication. It was a hopeless message. Once they felt that they had given him that message and educated him about his illness and then it was next because they were so busy. They were treating so many people. They felt that they had done succeeded.

What I realized was, “He’s stable. His head is above water, he’s grounded in this reality. Now, let’s find out what is going on.” We’re just at the beginning. We leveled the ground. Now’s the time to do the searching and exploring what caused the divided thinking in the first place. It may have been for him. I think it would’ve been maybe trauma yoga or something to address his PTSD and perhaps with others, it’s nutrition or spiritual emergence. It could be any number of things, but we’re not finished as soon as we medicate and get a person stable, in my opinion. That’s just the beginning. It’s an important step. You have to have a stable person, but there are other ways to address what’s going on to help them.

When we tried to get there, then Journey didn’t comply because he would not keep taking medicine, so he’d fall back behind.

He would go on and off and not wreaks havoc on the brain. He was smart enough to read the pamphlet that talks about regulations like, “I’m not a danger to myself or others. Therefore, you can’t force me to take the medication.” Of course, they do and they did. He would rebel and get off of it. He still was believing he needed a gastro doctor.

Joining us Mitzi and I is her husband, Rex, and her beautiful daughter, Breaha. Mitzi, bring us up to speed where we’re at and the sad part of what happens next.

After several hospitalizations and all during those years where he was symptomatic, I was searching endlessly for solutions. The doctors who could help us get to the root cause of what was happening, not a treatment that just masks the symptoms. I was interested in helping him restore his health. I was probably a little more forceful because I was functioning from fear and eventually Journey got tired of all of it, being told what to do. We always valued his autonomy. Something happens to our dignity when we’re told over and over again that we’re broken and we’re forced into treatment.

Your child stepping off a building is mind-numbing, shocking and devastating. Never in your wildest dreams do you see it coming. Click To Tweet

I was looking for solutions but by the time, we did send him to a treatment center in Arizona for 90 days. It was out of pocket. It was lovely and perfect. He was like his old self again. The treatment there, they recommend following the protocol for a year and they put him on nutraceuticals, things that the body recognizes, supplements and things. We had Journey back but he did not follow the protocol again. He didn’t think it was necessary. He felt better. He was in communication again with some friends in California. One of his friends worked at Google, “Come out and stay with me. I need help with my Calculus.” He had burned so many bridges back home in Michigan that a fresh start seemed appealing to him. He felt, “I’m fine, I’m good. I’m better.”

Breaha, from your perspective, it’s one thing to be a parent but you’re the big sister, and you and Journey are very close. What’s going on in your mind through this period of time? What were you experiencing?

A lot. All of our lives, Journey and I were like twin souls. We came into this world to do something together and I knew that from the time we were little kids playing in the woods. I had a sense that we’re here on this Earth to do something important together. Being with Journey through this process was painful because I couldn’t save him from it. I wanted to somehow pull him out of this pain or the struggle that he was experiencing and I couldn’t. I had to surrender to meeting him there. I’m grateful that most of the time I was able to do that. It was not easy to let all of my fears and judgements melt away because I had plenty, but most of the time I was able to do that to be present with him right where he was and see him for the being I knew he was and we could connect on that heart level.

I was 25, married, starting a big career and just bought a house. There were times where he pushed mom and dad away and I was the only one he’d talked to and it felt like a lot of responsibility on me to take care of him, to talk to the doctors. It was a short period, maybe six months when he was in the hospital. He was closer to my home. I went there several times a week after work. It was very challenging to try to manage all of that in my new budding life that was pretty happy. To have this dichotomy of trying so hard to help my brother and not knowing exactly how to do that.

Much of this in such a young marriage, that’s intense. How did you all navigate that?

I’m very blessed to have an amazing husband and he and I had known each other for several years. We met when we were 21, so we knew each other for a long time before we got married. He had the opportunity to get to know my family relatively well. He knew Journey a little bit before his symptomology started to present itself. He was a grounding place in so many ways for me because it wasn’t emotionally triggering for him the way it was for us. He loved and cared for Journey, but didn’t know him yet intimately like we do. He was able to love me from that grounded place that wasn’t as emotionally involved and supported me in doing and being whatever I needed.

Rex, you and I briefly talked about the day that Journey was attacked at college. I asked you directly if you thought this was as a result of the PTSD. Do you think that we would still have Journey here with us had that attack while he was at college happened?

TGJ 9 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: He started showing symptoms after the attack. It created substantial shifts in his behavior.


I’d like to think so. That was a very instrumental point in his life when he was attacked. We don’t know. We were never able to isolate it in the medical field. We weren’t able to determine it exactly as that he might’ve had brain injury or something, but it was such substantial shifts in his behavior. He was so brilliant prior to that and he never had trouble navigating his thoughts. He never had trouble navigating relationships and interacting with people. He was loved by almost everyone that ever met him and felt uplifted by him. When he started showing the symptoms, yes, I do think it’s directly related to the attack certainly.

From that attack, it seemed like the symptomology started to occur. When Breaha was mentioning and Mitzi had talked about how he had regained his old self again when he was in Sedona. It was so drastic. We were on vacation when we talked to him and it was like, “The old Journey is back.” As you can understand that was a very difficult time for all of us. There was this process that we were moving in and out as was the space of feeling like he was cogent. He could understand and he was speaking clearly and it was our boy again. He would go back into these other places, the medicine and all the different variables. I’d love to have Journey here, graduated, a family with children but that’s not the case. There was a bigger unfolding taking place that we didn’t have an awareness of at the time.

Mitzi, why don’t you walk us through what happens next?

About four years into his symptomology, he had called the hospital an ambulance for himself. It was out of the nine hospitalizations, one of two that were voluntary. He was in the hospital for two and a half weeks and then was discharged to a step-down to a treatment center and he was still there. He had asked Rex to spend some time with him on a Saturday. They spent time together. He was his old self. The following Sunday morning, Rex was at church by himself. I was home writing and I got a visit from two police officers and a priest. That combination is never a good sign. They let me know that Journey had died that morning. He had stepped off of a building. It was unbelievable to me. It was mind-numbing, shocking and devastating. I never ever in my wildest dreams saw it coming.

Do we think it was suicide? Was there a note? You spent the day before with him. Did you have any indication?

Absolutely none. I spent the day with him. He was always trying to do something that would resolve this conflict that he was feeling inside, physically, mentally and emotionally. Regardless of our family and a select few would see him as being. We prayed and we knew he was going to heal and he felt that as well. That day he had asked me to come and do nose rings for him. He thought that if he got the perfect nose ring, then he would recover. That day was edged to my memory being, there were signs of him feeling a lot better and he was hopeful. We had an apartment set up that he was getting an upgrade and a nice place. I was going to see him on Tuesday and take him into his new apartment, get his stuff moved. He had a sense of excitement, but there was also something else that I wasn’t able to catch. I didn’t know what it was and it was hard. I was doing my best as a father watching my son, but he was having difficulty navigating and he was on five different medications at the time.

Journey was in a step-down facility, which means what exactly for people that don’t know?

Journey gave us a profound, selfless, brave gift through living his life through this mental health journey experience. Click To Tweet

It’s a transition from hospital to home. This was called Bridges in Lansing. They sleep there but they have to be there in the morning for their medication and then they have to be back at 8:00 PM. Therefore, someone’s regulating their medication intake. He’d have to be there in the morning and then he would have freedom all day long so he could be gone for twelve hours as long as he was back in the evening, take his medication and sleep there. Usually, that is a two or three-week period where they’re transitioning before they go home. He was there. We know that he was on his medication. I didn’t know at the time, but later I learned that he was on five psychiatric medications: two anti-psychotics, anti-seizure, an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety and a heavy dose of Benadryl. He was on a lot of medication. Essentially, he died from a brain injury. He came off the building and landed on his feet with his hands out.

The lady who had witnessed it ran out and he was laying there. She looked at him and said, “What can I do to help you?” He says, “I just need someone to help me get up.”

He said, “My blood pressure is rising.”

The first responder came and that was a gentleman that said that he thought, almost as if he was trying to stick the jump and he said, “He couldn’t have jumped from six stories and the damage in his body didn’t reflect it.” He said, “Maybe two stories.” That was part of the conversation. When the lady was there and then the responder asked him, “Did you step off the building?” Journey said, “Yes.” That was reasonable. He did step off the building, but there was never a discussion as to why he stepped off. He did say to the first responder, “You need to check my blood pressure because it’s going up right now. Could you call for help?” He checked it right away and then within five minutes, he had passed.

I know when I saw Journey, we went to the hospital that night that he had died. We saw his body laying there on the gurney. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. I just used some of the tools that I knew, I breathed. The breath helps you move through anything. I ask like, “Now what? This is not what I expected for my life. Journey and I, we’re here to do something. What are you doing here?” I had this inspiration to tell him, “I’m going to heal all the pain, the grief, the anger and the sorrow inside of myself about this situation and your death so that I can see you in the beauty of my life. I can look at the sunrise and I see Journey and I can look into the eyes of my future children and see your smiling eyes.”

That’s the commitment I made to Journey. I’m going to heal myself so that I can feel joy and share this life with you still. I didn’t take that commitment lightly. It required turning full into all of the pain. I’m so grateful to have had the support and have the support that I have with my husband, my parents, our family and our friends to have a safe place and the time to feel the depths of that and look at those images in my own mind that was scary to me of him falling off of a building. Those are the moments where I wondered if he was in pain or suffering alone. I embraced him in that period of time. I still have those moments where those feelings of profound grief. I have a four-year-old and a one-year-old. I look at my children and I see so much of my brother in them and it brings me joy and that sometimes triggers my sadness. It gives me another opportunity to breathe and to heal.

I’m not so sure I could do what you’re all doing. I honestly think that I would die right on the spot.

TGJ 9 | Mental Illness

Mental Illness: He did step off the building, but there was never a discussion as to why he stepped off.


I thought I was going to die too.

I don’t know a mom, a parent or a sibling out there that would not be able to empathize with the position that you all are in. Instead of wallowing like I would be in the fetal position for years or quite frankly, I probably would have to end it for me. I don’t know if I would find the strength. Eric’s my only, I’m a single mom. It’s a little bit of a different dynamic. I’d like to think I’d be strong enough to stay around but I don’t know. I give you all a lot of credit and I feel like I need to share that honesty with you because I don’t know anybody braver than all of you. On a more positive note, you guys have not only survived this, but you’re thriving and you’re helping others. Why don’t we talk a little bit briefly about Journey’s Dream? What is Journey’s Dream? What does it do? Who is it for?

I did all this research. I had all of these solutions that it felt a little bittersweet like, “Here’s this doctor in Chicago who may have helped or here’s this treatment.” It also felt that I had that information and I kept wondering what would’ve happened if I had known this in the beginning when Journey was open to receiving help, when he was asking for help? If I had known this doctor, then would there have been a different outcome? That was the impetus for me to do something, to write the book. It was the impetus to start Journey’s Dream so that we could have a collection of resources so people could find these things more easily than I was able to.

Journey and I, we’re here for something. I have a little bit of space. We’re here doing this together. It doesn’t look like how I thought it would look because I would like hugging his neck, laughing, joking and being together. I also know that I would not be here as the executive director of a mental health nonprofit if this hadn’t happened. It’s not the life that I had imagined for myself but I can’t imagine being anywhere else doing anything else. It feels more right and more on purpose than anything I’ve ever done in my life in addition to raising my children. I have a sense that this is what we’re here to do. Journey gave us a profound selfless, brave gift through living his life through this mental health journey experience that he had and through his death have inspired this body of work.

The more people we talk to about Journey’s Dream and what we’re here to do, the more people are inspired. The organization is here to convene, develop and share innovative and effective solutions for mental health. We are passionate about changing the narrative. People need to know that there’s hope. We have a phenomenal cofounder, Mark Hattas, and he has a different story. We’ll be excited hopefully at some point to talk about that with you guys. His story is a story of recovery. We know mental health recovery is absolutely possible. We’re here to help people one, to know that, and two, connect with the resources so that can be their story.

If people wanted to learn more about Journey’s Dream, how can they all find you? and the book is on Amazon.

I thank you all for your time and I hope we help a lot of people by this. Thank you for being here.

It’s our pleasure.

Important Links:

About Mitzi Montague-Bauer

TGJ 9 | Mental IllnessI was born and raised in a small town in Michigan. I met my husband, Rex when I was 21 years old and we were married two years later. Our daughter Breaha was born in 1984 and three years later we welcomed our son, Journey. While we experienced challenges typical for a young couple raising small children, I was happier than I’d ever been. Being a mom filled my heart with overwhelming joy.

A few years after Journey was born, I became certified as a childbirth assistant and slowly began building my business as a doula. I learned the value of nurturing young families during the important and often stressful time of early parenthood.  My heart was full, and I held the mistaken belief that if you loved your family enough you could protect them from darkness and pain.

Mental illness, I believed, was something that happened to other people. Something that happened to people who weren’t loved enough or suffered terrible childhoods. So, when Journey began experiencing mental health challenges during his junior year at college, I was in denial. It was a long and painful few years as I came to grips with this disease and its ability to ravage the hearts and lives of those touched by it.

Four years after Journey became symptomatic, he died. Devastated, I wondered how I would make it through the day, let alone the rest of my life without him. As I began the slow and arduous process of healing from that loss, friends, family, my faith and eventually writing were the catalysts that brought about gradual healing.

I had no idea when I began writing Journey, the transformation that was possible. I couldn’t imagine anything good and productive could come from my heartbreaking sorrow. While I would give just about anything to have had a different outcome for my son, I can see now how someone else’s pain can serve to support others.

In offering my book, Journey, it is my desire that readers may gain a deeper level of understanding about mental health, as well as traditional and alternative options for wellness. I have been surprised to learn that healing from profound loss is possible. I hope that Journey also serves as inspiration and a guidepost for those who are grieving and wish to embark on a path of transformation.