For the past 16 years, my niece Stephaney Mahaney has gone on and off her medication for Bipolar One and Schizophrenia.
Family Event Planning when you have someone in your family with a mental disorder can often be chaotic and emotional.
Getting my entire family in one place at the same time is a hurdle but, getting my family in one place at the same time while trying make everyone get along would take a magician.
Dealing with yet another “Stephaney Emergency” when I’m headed to a scheduled event or with a Client or driving to a Texas Prison hours away make it impossible for me to drop everything because someone called to tell me “Stephaney is acting crazy again!”
Neither I nor Cindy can drop a business engagement to try and calm Stephaney down. A few weeks ago, we were at the Star Test with Makenna when my niece, Leigh Ann called to tell us Stephaney was on the roof of Cindy’s home screaming Bible verses.
We couldn’t leave Makenna in Granbury and told Leigh Ann to call the police. Occasionally, the police can calm my niece down and since Weatherford is a small town, Stephaney knows many of the officers.
Due to our schedule that fateful day, we were to do the Star Test with Makenna before bringing her home and heading to a scheduled Baptism at Harris Hospital and public speaking engagement in Dallas at 7PM that night meaning our scheduled was slammed for the entire day.
Leaving the Star Testing site, Cindy and I headed back to Weatherford to drop Makenna home and drove up to find Stephaney in the driveway wearing one shoe. The neighbors always come “outside to watch the action” which embarrasses my sister to no end.
Heading to Fort Worth to meet Deanna, Cindy and I somehow missed seeing my niece be taken back to JPS in handcuffs for the second time in two months. Our friend Britney called to tell us the police were with Stephaney and that she just saw us drive past her.
Turning my SUV around to see what was going on, Cindy and I watched the heartbreaking reality of a Medical Warrant Arrest of Stephaney for the second time in the last month hopelessly.
We had to be at Harris Hospital by 5 so, we left the area Stephaney was getting picked up at in the rear view mirror. We were helpless to change the direction Stephaney’s life had taken.
Watching Stephaney hauled off again was so painful to watch for Cindy and I that we both looked away rather than watching her loaded into a transport van headed to JPS.
We drove to Harris Hospital for the Baptism crying our eyes out and tried to straighten ourselves up prior to walking into the hospital. It wasn’t easy to again put our “normal faces” on and pretend we didn’t have a pot full of problems waiting for us back home.
Cindy and I wearily knew that after our Dallas appearance that night, we would have to drive to Weatherford and go get Stephaney’s car out of impound again at 11PM before “rolling in” to the next day preparing for a Funeral and other bookings.
Trying to mask our emotions and conduct business obligations when dealing with a relative with Mental Illness is and always will be a balancing act for Cindy and I.
My schedule is often booked up to a year in advance. Like many other parents with similar struggles and heartache, we still have to show up for work and get the job done regardless of what is happening with Stephaney.
“Looking normal” when everything around you isn’t easy. We rely on acting skills and compartmentalization to continue working when phone calls from Stephaney rolling in.
In 2009, at yet another arrest for being incoherent, Stephaney died four times after being tazered four times. Due to this, she has permanent brain damage after losing oxygen to her brain while unconscious.
In 2014, my niece was supposed to be with me at a $300k wedding in Fort Worth, Texas. I drove to her apartment and found it was empty. I spent five days trying to locate Stephaney before finding that she had been the passenger in a stolen tractor trailer truck and effectively, detained in Cotton County.
It would be a year before we were able to bring Stephaney home again from Cotton County.
For three and a half years after the Cotton County arrest, my niece was stable, employed and taking her medication. I believed we finally had my niece back and for the first time in her life, stable. But, I was wrong again.
Arthur would be Stephaney’s downfall. After a year of supporting Arthur, he asked Stephaney to marry him much to my entire family’s dismay but there was a catch, Stephaney was expected to pay the rent and all of the bills for Arthur. After months of telling us this bum was paying his own way, the truth came out when Stephaney admitted that she couldn’t buy a car (although she wasn’t paying any rent) because Arthur’s bills were too high. Cindy and I (as usual) went nuts and told her to dump him. The twins didn’t like him and we didn’t either.
My niece often quotes Bible Scriptures in public places or thinks the world is coming to an end. Whenever Cindy and I hear about another “Stephaney Emergency,” we both start crying and realize that no matter what we do or have done to try and create a normal and predictable life for my niece, grandnieces, husbands and ourselves, getting Stephaney stable has been our biggest failure. We’ve been trying to stabilize her most of her life.
My niece is beautiful, funny and intelligent when she’s taking her medication. When she isn’t, all Hell breaks loose around here with late night phone calls from the jail or calls from someone who has seen her driving down the road screaming Bible Verses at other drivers.
Stephaney has memorized the Bible and occasionally refers to herself as JC when passing out verses in public to people she believes “need some Religion in their lives.” Many of you have read my blogs regarding the Christmas disaster at WorthamWorld last year and have a better idea of what can happen when instead of staying calm, you lose your temper when dealing with someone who continues to “fall off the wagon” and self medicate.
Since Stephaney was born thirty years ago, my twin sister has struggled to help keep Stephaney on track. She was a very difficult child and my sister will tell you flat out that if Stephaney had been born first rather than Leigh Ann, she wouldn’t have had more children.
Cindy has not only raised her daughters and grandchildren but also cared for our grandmother in her home for 17 years. Cindy has spent her entire life selflessly caring for three generations of family. My sister is literally, a Saint.
Cindy was driving a car the church donated to her after Larry stole the car she was driving and robbed her apartment in California of everything she had carefully saved up to buy to furnish her first apartment. Larry was and is a POS. A bum that never paid child support and stole everything that didn’t belong to him.
I had moved to San Clemente when a call from Cindy in Texas had me on a plane. Larry had cleaned out her apartment of everything she had including the ice trays. The only thing he didn’t take were the toilet and sink. I loaded Cindy and the girls into her car and drove them to California.
If I had ever known that Larry would track her down again when she got a phone in her new apartment after months of saving up to afford it, I would have told Cindy not to get a phone but, we didn’t and Larry knew we went to church on Sunday’s.
Cindy has had far too many “worst days of her life.” We both had abusive first husbands and second husbands who were unfaithful. Trying to assure my sister that we would get her another car and furniture since Larry also stole her car at the California apartment since she was with me in my car, by the grace of God, the church donated Cindy a vehicle. It was perhaps the greatest gift she has ever been given.
Cindy has had a difficult life of trying to ensure that her children and grandchildren are well cared for but neither Cindy or I can control my niece or her behavior.
Marrying someone with a history of mental illness years ago, Cindy had no idea that Larry was not only Bipolar but also Schizophrenic. How bad? He had another entire family while married to my sister and eventually took all of Leigh Ann’s and Stephaney’s clothing and toys as well as my sisters personal items to move in with his other family.
I had moved my sister to California with her two daughters to live with me never realizing that Larry would file for divorce in Fort Worth, Texas and lie about having possession of Stephaney in order to effectively “skirt” child support for eighteen years.
Larry never had Stephaney in Texas. School records in California would easily prove that Cindy had custody of her along but, getting a hearing on child support in Texas when you live in California is a very difficult process.
When we returned to Texas, Cindy missed the only Attorney General hearing that was scheduled to assign child support to Larry because she had moved and the Attorney General didn’t bother forwarding the letter giving her a court date to finally get child support from Larry.
I’ve often said “we’ve never been lucky” because Cindy and I haven’t. What we have been is resilient. Raising two children without child support as a single mother is a cross to bear but, Cindy was living with me in Texas for four months with me to save money to move to Ridgmar.
It was while driving her donated vehicle that she was in an accident driving to work that broke her back. Knowing she would have to cover the rent although our grandmother lived with her rent free, Cindy worked for 9 months on double shifts to save up for rent money while working with a broken back. Following a surgery that literally cut her in half, my sister couldn’t walk on her own for nearly a year.
Although Cindy had me, her twin sister willing to work two jobs if necessary to help Cindy financially and, give her a place to live until she could get back on her feet, Cindy had the constant fear of being a single mom with no child support and little or no job training so, she went to school in California to get help and an education.
Being broke with two kids to take care of, Cindy lived with me several times in both Texas and California. I also lived with her between a divorce and relied on her to help me with my son while I was working. We have always relied heavily on each other throughout our lives and even lived with each other because had nowhere else to go or anyone else to help us. We’ve always only had each other.
Cibdy met Steve trying to learn to dance with 13 lbs of steel fusing her spine and married her one year later after paying all of her bills and supporting her while also buying her two cars. Steve was a Godsend.
The first signs of mental illness appeared when Stephaney was five years old. She was withdrawn and angry for no apparent reason and by 12 years old, running away from home and smoking pot.
It would take us years to get an accurate diagnosis of why Stephaney’s behavior was so different from her sister Leigh Ann.
By the time Stephaney turned 14, she had decided to take a job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant where she would learn Spanish. Stephaney is bilingual.
At 15 years old, Stephaney became pregnant with twins and after telling her boyfriend about the pregnancy, was beaten nearly to death over it. Michael Wayne Scherer Jr. Pled guilty to Assault On A Family in 2003. Michael Wayne Sherer Jr was also ordered to pay $200 in Child Support for Makenna and Maryssa in 2004.
The twins are now 13 years old and his Arrears are now $39,154.81 Michael has been arrested for Criminal Non Support and still doesn’t bother to pay child support on the twins. The truth is that $200 for two children not each but combined ($100 a piece) is the lowest possible set payment of child support in Texas on 2 children.
Michael (like Larry) doesn’t want to pay Child Support! Cindy has raised two generations of children without the benefit of Child Support.
Like anyone else raising children without financial support, you can guess what a financial strain raising two children twice in one lifetime without any child support has been on my sister. Cindy never received one dime of Support on Leigh Ann or Stephaney and has been paid less than $2k in 13 years on Maryssa and Makenna.
The “family” was Stephaney and the twins she was carrying. Due to the beating, Stephaney was hospitalized with a torn placenta for 6 months awaiting the birth of the twins who were never expected to live.
My niece also suffered from Type S Protein Deficiency which was discovered while hospitalized. This type of blood disorder causes blood clots and can cause death to pregnant women or the unborn child or children.
I believe my niece suffered a Psychotic Break after the beating and upon hearing everyday that she would lose the twins, hope. After finally giving birth, the twins were so ill and weak that they would spent four months in NICU.
Since Stephaney was unable to touch or hold the twins and left the hospital quite upset. After going through so much during her pregnancy at such a young age, Cindy and I effectively “lost” Stephaney to her self medication of drugs while the twins were still in NICU.
Whenever possible, we invited Stephaney to family events and tried to create a bond with her children. There are very few photos of Stephaney because she was rarely with us at Events.
I rarely discuss drug abuse or sobriety but, my mother was a heroin addict and I no longer attempt to hide the sad facts surrounding a few of my family members.
I’m honest. It’s painful but while I may never understand drug abuse, I’ve had to endure the effects of it to those around me as has my sister.
While Cindy and I have always stayed away from drugs, Stephaney was continually drawn into a world that we couldn’t pull her back out of. The wrong friends. The wrong choices. Low self esteem and other factors pulled my niece into a very dark place but, trying to keep saving her often put my sister and I in very dangerous situations when trying to bring her home again.
I can’t tell you how many times we have put ourselves in danger trying to bring Stephaney out of a bad situation because we refused to give up on her because there have been so many. Parents don’t give up and we weren’t going to either. If either of our husbands knew the places we’ve been in trying to get Stephaney safe they would have heart attacks! From crack houses to heroin alley, we risked everything to get Stephaney in treatment over and over again.
A policeman once told us “you are going to get yourselves killed. She chose to be in this area but you two don’t belong here. Go home! I don’t need the paperwork of you getting yourselves killed trying to save someone that doesn’t want to be saved.” It scared us and enlightened us both of how far we were willing to go to save Stephaney. After all, if we were killed saving her, we knew no one else would try.
We have held out hope that one day we could change the situation for my niece and have always allowed her to see the twins unless she was high but, Stephaney’s relationship with the twins has deteriorated more than ever the past six months.
Why? Because the twins are both 13 and tired of losing their mom to self medicating, being arrested and/or out of control again. The twins want their “old mom back.”
The one who took her medication, went to work and took the twins to Film Alley or bowling or Six Flags. The want the mom they knew from 9 years old to 12 1/2 after she came home from the treatment in Oklahoma that I paid for but, finding the “old Stephaney” isn’t as easy as everyone thinks it is. Stephaney loves the twins and her family but, her choices have made her life far more tragic. She’s been with men who have beaten her and taken advantage of her weaknesses. My niece has never had a decent man in her life.
If Stephaney would take her medication, she would never feel the need to take steeet drugs but, any parent of an addict will attest that getting someone clean weighs heavily on the person wanting to get clean. It’s a problem for any family who have a relative with mental illness and addiction. Often, they both go hand and hand.
Cindy and I raised the twins as our own and hired an attorney to ensure that Stephaney’s unpredictable lifestyle and choices wouldn’t affect the twins. We became the legal guardians of Maryssa and Makenna.
I’m certain this decision to take the twins and raise them may have hurt my niece but, also certain that had we not “stepped in,” the twins would have had a more than difficult childhood.
For years now, I’ve helped my niece by getting her dressed up in my clothes and bathed to go look for a job. If only she realized that she is capable of working and eventually finding a suitable mate, I feel that she could have something in life to look forward to.
I don’t understand why anyone would throw their life away for drugs. I may never understand it. Our own mother made bad choices that affected all four of her children.
My niece attended both my sons wedding and her sisters while crying to me that she may never marry or have a partner to share her life with. Tragically, Anthony accompanied Stephaney to my sons wedding and her volatile relationship with Anthony only added to her lack of self esteem. In 2011, Anthony beat Stephaney so badly that he blinded her.
Trying to force her to stop seeing him would take Anthony being arrested a month ago. How do you forgive someone who beat you blind? How do you forgive someone who drug you downstairs by your ponytail? How do you accept that being beaten and burned by cigarettes is okay?
I was furious about the Anthony beating and drove Stephaney to Harris Hospital myself for months trying to repair her vision. The effects of that beating were irreversible. We lost Stephaney again after the beating and she went back to self medicating.
Anthony was dangerous long before the January arrest as these photos of Stephaney will prove. Her front teeth are two different colors because when they were knocked out- she pushed them back in.
The photo below was taken three months after Stephaney was beaten, drug down concrete stairs and had her face burned with cigarettes for over an hour while neighbors in the apartment complex listened but did nothing.
The police photos are far more graphic that I filed along with the Assault Report. How would you feel getting a call from Anthony at 1AM stating “Stephaney is in bad shape. She needs a doctor. I’m hiding. Someone called the police.” I was shocked and horrified at yet another late night call but, wouldn’t realize until later that it was Anthony who had hurt her.
It took Cindy and I all night to locate Stephaney. When we did, she was wearing sunglasses at a convenience store off Las Vegas Trail. The sunglasses didn’t hide the choke marks on her neck or her ear that had been burned when Anthony put out a cigarette in it. The sunglasses didn’t hide her torn cheek or battered jawbone. Stephaney didn’t want to remove the sunglasses but, I made her. I wanted to document what that monster had done to her. I wanted Anthony off the streets before he did this to someone else and, I wanted Justice.
Anthony was someone that had been to Christmas at my home and I trusted. Someone who had been a part of Stephaney’s life for 10 years. Anthony was far more dangerous than anyone in my family realized.Stephaney has never had a good man in her life. For reasons I may never understand, the men she’s attracted to are horrible people.Stephaney’s choices in life have angered my sister and I while saddened her twin daughters. Over and over again, my sister and I have tried to get Stephaney on track but like a light switch, normality can easily become chaos.
Arthur didn’t beat her but he did take all of her money while calling her fat, stupid, worthless and weak. Arthur used mental abuse to hurt Stephaney.
It’s something that scares her this spending her life alone instead of with the wrong people but, I’ve reinforced that I was alone for years and quite happy to not dread coming home to a Mr Wrong. I prefer to be alone than with someone who beats me down, is unfaithful to me or unworthy of me. I’m picky. Stephaney isn’t.
My husband and Cindy’s husband adore us and support us in every way. Find someone who lifts you up I told her. After all of the times we’ve found Stephaney beaten and bloody over a drug deal gone bad- it’s incredible to us that she continues to choose the worst boyfriends in the world.
From visits to the hospital with Stephaney to visits at Psych Wards, Jails and impound yards, trying to get my niece help has been one of the most painful and emotionally debilitating things my sister and I have had to endure.
I’ve told my niece over and over again “If you can’t find someone to respect you- keep looking!” My niece has suffered four Psychotic Breaks and all of them were due to abuse from people Stephaney knew and/or trusted. The wrong men. The wrong choices.Stephaney loves her twin daughters but, sometimes love isn’t enough. My entire family have rallied around the twins to give them the love and support they need to grow into the strong and educated adults that they will become.
At 13, the twins love their mom but, both want their “old mom” the one they had for three years of sobriety back.
Getting my niece back isn’t as easy as it may sound. Hopefully, her latest stay in Wichita Falls can get her stable again but only time will tell. We are running out of ways to save Stephaney.
So, for everyone telling us we are enabling her, ask yourself what you would do if you were in our situation and, it was your child. You don’t know unless you’ve been there yourself. Waiting for that next phone call. Wondering what unexpected thing will happen next. Hoping for the best and yet, fearing the worst.
No parent or relative should ever have to see their loved one beaten half to death or hear that their loved one was beaten solely because she was pregnant. Fifteen years old, pregnant with twins, beaten and kicked, punched and thrown down the stairs, my niece was literally tied to a bed throughout her pregnancy to keep from losing the twins. Did we lose her then? Or, was it after the years of self medicating? We will never know but refuse to believe we can’t get her back again and more importantly, stable.
Our sadness is profound but, our sadness includes both of Stephaney’s children who have witnessed her ups and downs and throughout it all, wanted their mother happy and safe.
Some of you say “move her home.” We have three children living with my sister that need normality and predictability. This type of advice infuriates us. If Stephaney would stay on her medication, we could and certainly would help her. We need her to choose to help herself.
For all of you suggesting it- why don’t you move an unstable person in with you? Let us know how it goes. Cindy and I have both experienced the drama and subsequent fear of the strangers Stephaney brings into our homes and must put the children first! Stephaney must make better choices.
If we hadn’t had custody of the twins, Stephaney would have lost them to the state. We saved the twins from the childhood we had survived with a drug addict for a mother. Cindy and I were determined to give the twins stability.
It hasn’t been easy when a phone call disrupts our lives notifying us that Stephaney is at a restaurant calling everyone Satan or saying she’s saving the world.
My sister and I rarely cry in front of our children and children. We must appear strong when are hearts are literally torn in half. What will happen to Stephaney when we die? It scares us.
My son and Stephaney’s sister resent all of the effort we put into getting Stephaney help but, what choice do we have?
Cindy and I gave the twins the stability that their mother couldn’t. For over ten years, my niece getting arrested for this or that has become a regular occurrence.
My sister cries everyday and asks “what did we ever do to deserve this” while I continue to try and find help for my niece.
Maryssa and Makenna know that their mother could be fixed on Lithium, Seroquil and her other prescribed medications but, getting Stephaney to take the medication is another “hurdle” altogether.
A few weeks ago, for the second time in two months, my niece was committed on a Mental Warrant to JPS. As usual, Cindy and I went to the tow yard to retrieve the car my niece often lives in.
For three months now, getting my niece’s vehicle out of impound 4 times has cost us nearly two thousand dollars. When you have a relative that struggles with addiction and mental illness, it’s a very expensive “Merry Go Round.” The medication. The jail bond. The tow fees. I could go on and on but, you get it.
When I was young, I considered being a Private Detective when I grew up. Yesterday, Cindy and I used our detective skills of finding Stephaney’s car since it hadn’t been impounded when she was arrested on foot.
Stephaney’s car is important because she often lives in it. Without her car, she would be on the streets. Many of our friends tell us just let the car go. But, without her car, Stephaney is quite literally, homeless!
This particular detention was unusual as Stephaney is almost always driving other than the last time she was taken to JPS after parking her car and walking down Santa Fe yelling the end of the world was coming.
Her car was parked a few blocks away and since and since the city had a contract with a tow service, Stephaney’s car was towed again although she wasn’t driving it during her previous incident. There is a money racket going on when the City has a contract with the Towing Company and for obvious reasons, a conflict of interest.
The cost to get her car back after being impounded less than 4 hours? $298.00 because the city benefits from having a car towed whether you were driving a car or not.
Many people have decided to give us advice although they have no idea what we’ve been through trying to get Stephaney help. These “know it all” types accuse my sister and I of enabling Stephaney by buying her gas or groceries.
They tell us to cut her off. They tell us we are mistake trying to find help for my niece and, they have no idea what dealing with a relative who struggles with mental illness is.
These friends and relatives actually have no real idea what life with an addict struggling with mental illness is like. How do I know this? Because none of the people giving us their opinion have dealt with a drug addict suffering from mental illness. My sister and I have as our mother was Bipolar and also, a heroin addict.
Over the past three months, my niece has been institutionally committed three times. Cindy and I would love to tell you that these “stints” in Psych Wards have helped Stephaney but, they haven’t.
Nineteen days at JPS or ten days at JPS getting her on medication and stabilized effectively “fly out the window” within days or hours of my niece being released.
When picking Stephaney up from an institution, we always beg her to take her medication and find a job because we realize that stability is important to keeping her on track. We try to trust her to take her meds and “straighten up” but, we are consistently disappointed.
Trusting someone with mental illness to take their medication is a difficult choice for anyone who wishes so and so would stay on their meds.
Many Prisons house patients who should be in a Psych Ward. The issue is so profound that numerous Prisons have become the only place that an addict can get off street drugs and get on with their lives. It’s sad but it’s a statistical fact.
Cindy has paid for a phone for Stephaney the past 15 years so we can find her when we lose her to the underworld of drugs.
Two days ago, I saw Stephaney at the apartment we had moved her into with a strange man. I was concerned about this and called Cindy. My niece often chooses friends that abuse her trust.
Yesterday morning while I juggling client emails, Cindy went to the apartment to go over not having “friends” stay with her and found she wasn’t home.
Panicked, we began calling the Jails after a lifetime of knowing that if she wasn’t at home, she was in jail. Stephaney was arrested for burning Bible verses on a bench in Willow Park.
Cindy and I dropped everything and drove to the jail. We asked for the location of the arrest and where the car had been towed. We provided paperwork for the last two stays at JPS. We told them she has been diagnosed with mental illness and had the paperwork to prove it.
Parker County Jail wanted Stephaney’s medication but, it wasn’t on her. We assumed it was in her car and set out to find it.
Since a car hadn’t been towed by the city, we drove to the area and searched for the car.
We had wanted to find the car to get Stephaney’s medication but, it wasn’t in the vehicle. The vehicle was locked so we also paid for the tow driver to unlock it and searched frantically for the medication that would cost $3k to replace for Stephaney.
Since Cindy and I took medical records to the jail regarding Stephaney’s last two releases from JPS Psych Ward, my niece was transferred to a state run Psych Unit in Wichita Falls.
The last six months of trying to appear as normal as possible to Clients, friends and relatives has taken an emotional toll on my sister and I as well as Stephaney’s daughters, Maryssa and Makenna.
We had taken Stephaney with us to film in California six months ago believing she would have fun and never realizing she was at the beginning of a downward spiral that would include three arrests and two mental warrants over the past six months.
Although she must have enjoyed our vacation, my niece was withdrawn and occasionally sullen during the trip to California. We assumed that she was arguing with her idiot ex boyfriend Arthur or Anthony.Stephaney often took calls or texts from either of them and her lack of self esteem was the direct cause of both Anthony and Arthur.
Cindy and I argued endlessly over the idiots Stephaney fell for but our pleas to hold out for Mr Right fell of deaf ears. I believe if my niece had ever had a healthy relationship in her life that she might have leveled out but, I could be wrong.
For those of you wondering why Cindy and I decided to “out” ourselves regarding this very personal matter, it should be noted that we know other friends facing similar issues and, we want you to know that you aren’t alone.
Mental illness and addiction destroy families. Staying strong or positive when someone you love continues to disrupt the normality of your life is stressful.
Only time will tell if this latest long term stay will stabilize my niece but we are hopeful that we can once again get Stephaney back on track so that she can reconcile with the twins and be the mother that she has yet to have an opportunity to be due to her mental illness..