The Story of WellBe Founder Adrienne’s Mother’s Suicide

The backstory of my mom’s life is a long one, so I’m going to start with the very scary night when everything came crashing down. It was late at night in New York City in the summer of 2007. I had just graduated from college and come home to New York, to the house I grew up in. My mom was 58 years old. 

My mom was supposed to come to our house and meet with my younger brother, who was the only one she would see at that time. We knew something was very wrong with her mental health because of some paranoia and delusions she had expressed to us, so my two brothers and I had staged an intervention.

Once she saw my older brother and I were there too, she realized what was happening. She took off running down the street and eventually into a subway station a few blocks away. The three of us chased her through the subway from Manhattan to Queens and eventually, late at night in the dark on the sidewalk, called the police while my brother restrained her. 

The police and an ambulance came. We had no idea what to expect, but they took her away and told us she would be going to a city mental hospital and that we’d be able to talk to her the next day. Obviously this terrified all of us and we instantly regretted calling the police, but we had no other way to keep her from running away from us and possibly getting into a dangerous situation. Having her be afraid of us was deeply disturbing. It felt like a movie. 

She had been living in Florida on her own for a few years before this episode (my parents divorced in 2004), and I had been in college in Baltimore for the previous four years, so I hadn’t seen the full progression of her disease, though I knew things were not right.

Entering the Mental Healthcare System

After that night, she spent three and a half years in the mental healthcare system, in and out of a few different inpatient programs in Baltimore, New York, Connecticut, and Boston. Right away she was put on many different antipsychotic drugs and mood stabilizers and was in several different mental hospitals and saw a few different psychiatrists over those few years. 

Her care was disjointed, confusing, and no one seemed to care if she ever really got better. Though my intuition told me I needed to take control of the situation, I hesitated and trusted that they were the experts and knew what they were doing. Each time she went to a new facility and got a new doctor, her paperwork and chart were “transferred,” meaning copies of the papers were in her file but none of the dots were connected. The doctors from the new facility didn’t call the doctors at the old facility to learn more about her case. It felt like starting over each time. Though the drugs kept her from having manic episodes, the side effects of the psychiatric drugs were debilitating.

Side Effects of the Psychiatric Drugs

I watched my otherwise sharp 58-year-old mom (she had been in the first class of women at Johns Hopkins University, got her MBA from Columbia Business School, and was a successful management consultant before staying home to raise her three children) turn into a vegetable because of all the drug side effects: drooling, shaking, tremors, unable to sleep, slurred speech. 

Each side effect was then given yet another drug. She was therefore not only on an antipsychotic drug and a mood stabilizing drug, but also a sleeping drug and a different drug to control the tremors and shaking from the antipsychotic. 

For years, we asked about alternative treatments, even experimental ones, or at least a liver detoxification program while she was on the drugs because I knew they were greatly taxing her liver, making it challenging for her to properly process out other kinds of toxins in her life from food, personal care products, and indoor and outdoor air pollution. 

Each time I asked about alternatives or liver support, I received an eye roll from her doctors and a condescending half smile as if to say “There there now, none of that is actually going to do anything.” While the drugs helped to relieve her mania, her quality of life was not better. The side effects of the antipsychotic drugs left her disabled and depressed. 

Spending time with her, it was clear she had lost hope that she could ever get away from the conventional mental healthcare system and feel good in her body again. Finally, she thought, enough is enough, and took her life at the age of 61. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with a chronic health issue and side effects from conventional medications and treatment, and you would like support, advocacy and navigation to heal the root causes, I may be able to help. Schedule a 1:1 call with me to learn about my holistic patient advocacy services. 

Her Suicide and How It Inspired WellBe

My mom took her life a few days before she was supposed to come down from Boston to have Christmas with us in New York in 2010. Though she knew she wouldn’t be there, she still prepared gifts and notes for us. I read her short note to me hundreds of times. At the time I was in the process of applying to business schools, and my applications were due two weeks later. I didn’t think I could finish my applications, but my friends were incredible and helped me put the pieces together and get a few submitted in time.

Once they were submitted, I declared that if I got in anywhere, I would go and use the experience as a way to change career paths and work on giving people and families better solutions than what the conventional healthcare system currently offers for mental health patients. 

I wanted to dedicate my life to helping others avoid what I and my mom had been through. Her life, illness, and death are an inspiration for me every day to fight for healing root causes in a system that would rather put a diagnosis on a collection of symptoms than understand what the underlying causes of those symptoms might be. 

Schizoaffective Disorder literally means a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania. How does slapping that label on someone help them to understand how to treat underlying possible causes such as childhood trauma, traumatic brain injury (TBI), malnutrition before birth, exposure to viruses before birth, birth or pregnancy complications, alcohol or drug misuse, stressful life events like divorce and social isolation, toxoplasmosis (a parasite that cats carry), and even repeated exposure to volatile substances in fuel and paint, dry cleaning chemicals, lead exposure in early life, and others? 

My mother definitely suffered from viral infections in her gut, childhood trauma, social isolation following her divorce, and exposure to environmental chemicals — and we had two cats! But none of these potential root causes were ever discussed by her doctors or put into her medical chart. No referrals to specialists in trauma relief were made, no gut health or chemical pollutant testing was done. It was just: take the drugs, come back to check in about dosing, over and over again in perpetuity. She did have a talk therapist at some point during those three years, but the talk therapist rarely connected if at all with the psychiatrist doing the drug prescribing, and as those with trauma know, it’s hard to break through the defense mechanisms we’ve developed to self protect so her talk therapy wasn’t particularly effective.

In becoming a holistic patient advocate I’ve been able to help my clients stand up to their conventional doctors and demand more root-cause driven testing, connect my clients with trauma relief professionals, utilize proven gut health improvement strategies, and more. It is my hope that one day, everyone going through a healthcare experience will have the support, advocacy, navigation, and research I now get to provide to my clients both in the conventional healthcare system in which they feel stuck, and in the functional and holistic medicine world, to access as much root cause-healing with natural modalities as possible. Learn more about my holistic patient advocacy work here.

Have you had a similar experience with mental illness for yourself or a loved one? Please feel free to share it in the comments at the bottom of this page. I know this topic is deeply personal and traumatic, but I believe when all of us share our truths, real change and healing can happen.

Watch the video version:

The recovery story above is anecdotal and specific to this particular individual. Please note that this is not medical advice and that not all treatments and approaches mentioned will work for everyone.


  1. El Mouhawess, A., Hammoud, A., Zoghbi, M. et al. Relationship between Toxoplasma gondii seropositivity and schizophrenia in the Lebanese population: potential implication of genetic polymorphism of MMP-9. BMC Psychiatry 20, 264 (2020).
  2. Stilo, S.A., Murray, R.M. Non-Genetic Factors in Schizophrenia. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 100 (2019). 


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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this and for your message. It resonates with me a great deal. I have a similar, fortunately milder, story about my own mother. She struggled with anxiety & depression for years, and was skeptical of medical treatment, but finally went on antidepressants in her 60s. Within weeks, she was having thoughts of self-harm, so on the insistence of a loved one, checked into the ER. They sent her home with instructions to follow up with a shrink in a few weeks. The shrink gave her more meds, she reacted badly, they gave her more meds, she reacted badly – after a number of months of outpatient and inpatient treatment she broke right down and was committed into a secure unit. More meds. Of course all this compounded her very human eccentricities which were now apparently part of the pathology to be nuked with pills. They were suggesting electroconvulsive therapy within 2 months in the psych ward – apparently this is commonly prescribed for severe anxiety, especially for seniors. Fortunately, somehow, she recovered. She is still suffering from side effects of all the drugs, even when no longer taking them. We felt so helpless: like the hospital was doing their best but mismanaging the situation, and all the drugs were making it worse – all this started out with normal-grade depression as far as I’m concerned. We had to trust them. People talk about “getting help” for mental health issues like it’s a solution, and there’s no better option when it becomes a crisis, but what a betrayal to see it in action at its worst. I can’t help but feel the crisis was the medical system’s making and could have been deflected early on in a more holistic way. Is it selfish to add how hard this was on me and my family, and how distracting when I had/have my own life to manage and needs to fulfil?
    We’re all stronger for this, but it was awful, traumatic and frightening. I work hard to prevent such a fate for myself, knowing I can tend towards (mild) anxiety and depression. Absolutely: holistic approaches & root causes first, assistance of counselling, hopefully one doesn’t end up committed but just in case, I’d suggest a clear personal directive instructing minimal interventions (pills/ECT type treatment), which would hopefully be respected in that event. Please don’t share my email. It is therapeutic to share this anonymously, but it is a private matter I don’t wish to share publicly.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your thoughts about what happened and how it should have been handled resonate so much with me. It’s exactly how I feel about my mom’s situation. I was grateful to have something (even if it was drugs) when it was a crisis/manic episode but everything that happened in the healthcare system after that was just such a wrong and ultimately much worse approach. I’m so happy to hear that your mom was able to get out of the system but am still sorry you had to go through all of that. It is a lot on the caretakers, it is not selfish to feel that way at all. Sending all my very best, xx Adrienne

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