AUSTINTOWN During speech, mother discusses struggles of son's mental illness

Federation of Families is available to anyone who deals with children suffering from any type of disability or disorder.
AUSTINTOWN -- When Nancy Bowker was driving to the Southern Park Mall with her son Eric, she suddenly realized something was wrong.
He began kicking, yelling and acting out and couldn't be controlled. Eric was 5.
Later, "he had problems in school, including disruptive behavior such as challenging his teachers," Bowker told a rapt audience of about 20 people.
Her difficulties and challenges dealing with her son's often erratic behavior were the centerpiece of her talk "A Mother's Love Story from Birth to Adulthood," on Wednesday at the D & amp;E Counseling Center.
About presentation
The presentation, part of The Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, outlined her struggles with her son's history of mental illness. She also highlighted the dead-ends she ran into seeking help for him, as well as the blame she encountered at the hands of professionals whose help she sought.
Bowker, a registered nurse, said Eric was a typical child before age 5.
Even though Eric was artistic and won various awards and certificates in school, his artwork sometimes displayed disturbing themes, Bowker said. She cited as an example what she called his "war zone" picture; as a fifth-grader, Eric drew the family home, detailing mass destruction to the front of the house.
"The psychiatrist suggested the problem was with the parents, not with Eric," she said, with frustration still in her voice. The psychiatrist "didn't even talk to us first."
As a teen-ager, Eric was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and was given Ritalin and referred to counseling, Bowker explained. As he got older, Eric's condition worsened and his life got caught in a downward spiral, she added. His symptoms included high anxiety, impulsiveness, severe mood swings, low self-esteem and problems with authority.
Bowker also shared with her audience the revolving door pattern her adult son's life took -- specifically how he began living in abandoned buildings, stealing and taking drugs and going to prison and numerous mental health facilities.
Bowker said her son has trouble making friends and knowing proper boundaries with others.
Last year, Eric was arrested on charges of Internet harassment and is in jail awaiting trial, she said sadly
Bowker shared other effects of her son's mental illness, such as the strained relationship Eric and his older brother have, as well as the divorce she went through.
Several in the audience said they were struck by her talk and praised Bowker's openness in sharing her pain. Much of what she said resonated with them.
"It helps to hear what someone else is going through. It gives you education, too," said an audience member named Denise, who didn't want to give her last name.
Chrysann Mitzel, the group's president, said Federation of Families is available to anyone who deals with children suffering from any type of disability or disorder. The group meets the second Wednesday September through May, and features a speaker each month. For more information, call 538-0184.

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