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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Westerfield

A Lifetime of Being Judged

Updated: May 22

Text on Graphic with headshot of author, Kate Easton. Headline: "Shining Light on Shadows: When Your Child Struggles with Bipolar, Everyone Struggles" Pull Quote: "“Amidst the chaos and the pain, there was a glimmer of clarity – my son was not himself, he was a prisoner of his own mind, controlled by forces beyond his control.”

Here I sit at my desk with a space carved out for my laptop so I can write this post.. The rest of the desk is covered in markers, bills, batteries, cookbooks and other projects that are not done. I have to push through and get this written or it will join the other forgotten materials on my desk.

My learning disability presented early when I found it difficult to write going the right way. I could read early on and I had an amazing vocabulary. I got kicked out of Catholic school because “they did not have the resources to support me” or maybe it was because I asked who Jesus was in a past life. They said I was hyper active, I could not spell and my handwriting was awful (still is). I was in special ed in the Wauwatosa public school system. I went to two different public schools and it was very difficult for me. I truly believed that I was stupid. I don’t know if a diagnosis was ever given because that is not how they did it back then.


I will be discussing these and other issues on a new show launched by Dawn Helmrich and Neil Parekh, “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health.” You can watch the show Thursday, May 23 at 6pm CT / 7pm ET or the recording on Facebook, Twitter*, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram* and Neil’s website.

*The links to Twitter and Instagram go to Neil and Dawn's pages respectively. We won't know the exact urls until we go live.


Art, theater, swimming at the YMCA and riding lessons helped regulate my behavior. I had a few friends outside of school, but the mainstream kids called us “retards.” I probably had and still have ADHD.

When I was 16 I started dating a boy who was 18 and had just graduated from high school. He went to UW Madison and was in honors everything and a straight-A student. He would help me with my basic high school math and then show me the honors calculus that he was working on. I understood calculus better than long division. He did not think I was dumb and helped me see that I was intelligent. He was the smartest person I ever knew. He was killed by a drunk truck driver right before he graduated college. I was there when it happened and almost was hit too; this is why I have PTSD.

After losing him I had a string of disconnected toxic and sometimes abusive relationships. I am married now for 20 years with a son who has ADHD. I am a union stagehand and I work at various venues in the Milwaukee and Chicagoland area. I live in Lake County, Illinois (the LC) and with my parents In Wauwatosa. I assist my father in taking care of my mother who has vascular dementia. He is still sober despite all he deals with. Watching my mother’s decline has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with.

I still have issues with anxiety and sleep. My life is complicated but I feel the need to soldier on and not complain about all that I am dealing with. I work erratic hours with little time for myself. I don’t want people to know about my challenges because I do not wish to be perceived as weak or incapable.

My unhealthy life caught up with me in February when I was hospitalized with pneumonia for a week. It has been a long slow recovery but I am starting to resume all my normal activities and unhealthy choices. Again, I don’t speak about it because of the stigma of mental illness. Our society does not allow you to call off due to fatigue, depression or anxiety. I press on.

Title Card for Show. Text and headshots of the co-hosts and guest. Headline: "Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health" Copy: "Ep. 7 Kate Easton Parenting a Child with Mental Health Challenges Thurs., May 9 7pm ET / 6pm CT / 4pm PT"


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