I hope you had a nice holiday last week, and a good week after that. I got to do something that I do anywhere between two and four times a year, that is always rewarding, touching, and fascinating. When my son Nick died, I wanted to find something meaningful to do in his name. I also wrote a book about him, to honor him, and share my experience with other parents. Nick suffered from Bipolar Disorder, it became evident by the time he was 4 years old, although at the time, they did not diagnose the disease in young people until they were 18 or 20, and medicated and treated them only then. Today, they diagnose children as young as three years old, and begin therapy and treatment then, which is now believed to help the disease become more manageable. The longer it goes untreated, the more it has lasting effects on the brain. And although, there was plain evidence that he was bi-polar, and I was begging for help, he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 16, which was even considered early then. He was started on lithium immediately, and within a month, he said he felt normal for the first time in his life. It was wonderful to watch him thrive and flourish, it had been a hard road for him, and for us until then. Once treated, he had a rewarding career in music, was an avid student, and a charming, funny, bright talented person, who enjoyed many things about his life. Until he had treatment, things were pretty bleak, and we tried everything we could to help him. People who suffer from bi polar have severe ups and downs, deep paralyzing depressions, which alternate with euphoric highs. He tried getting off his medication, because he felt so ‘normal’ on it, and ultimately he attempted suicide four times, succeeded on the fourth try, and died at nineteen. It’s amazing how you can squeeze a whole person, their life history, and the course of an illness into one paragraph!! He was an absolutely remarkable, incredible boy, vastly loved by his family, and we miss him every day. But he also brought us immeasurable joy, he enjoyed big parts of his life, loved his music career, became successful at it—–and after his life, he has helped thousands of people through the foundation we set up in his name, not to provide individual help which we aren’t trained to do—but the Nick Traina Foundation funds organizations providing hands on treatment and therapy to mentally ill people. We also donate to organizations involved with the victims of child abuse, and other organizations engaged in suicide prevention. So many, many people have been helped in Nick’s name.
When I wrote the book about him, to share his life with others in similar situations, to help other parents, and sufferers of the disease—-I didn’t want to profit from the success of the book, so I assigned some of the proceeds to the foundation. The book, “His Bright Light” continues to fund the foundation, along with private donations.
Two to four times a year, the Board of the Foundation meets, and we go over grant requests from organizations in our area, who are working with and helping the mentally ill. We do on site visits to see the organizations in action and better understand what they do, and together the Board considers the requests, and decides who to give the foundation’s money to. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been doing it for 20 years now—it’s even harder to believe that my son Nick has been gone for that long, but he seems ever present in our lives, with the wonderful memories we have of him, the love we shared, and the work we do in his name.
So we met last week with a stack of grant requests—-we take them very seriously. There are three doctors on our board, two of them psychiatrists, and all of whom knew Nick. We have a lawyer, a finance man, one of my daughters, myself, and the foundation secretary, and we all put a lot of time and thought into who we give the grants to. And we contribute to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, to assist musicians who need our help, since Nick was a talented singer, lyricist, and musician. It is incredibly touching to read the material sent to us, and to learn more about the organizations we contribute to, all of them set up to assist the mentally ill, and people, often young people, who have suffered as Nick did. I wish we could give to all the organizations that apply, but we can’t, and we give to as many as we can. The Board Meetings are lively, dedicated, and serious, and we try to donate in the best possible ways we can.
So Nick has been responsible for some very good work, even after he left us. There have been free beds in youth shelters and some hospitals, treatment, therapy, hot lines for suicide prevention, emergency mobile units, and assistance to the mentally ill among the homeless, and a scholarship in his name. It always warms my heart to be at the board meetings, and know that Nick is responsible for helping literally thousands of people over the years. It’s a lovely way to honor, remember, and continue to cherish him.
Have a great week ahead!!
much love, Danielle
Leave a Comment
If you would like to make a comment, please fill out the form below.
You should also take some credit. This is happening because of you too. Nikki was very lucky to have a mother who understood him and supported him 100%. How many kids can say that? How many people with mental illness can say that?
How rewarding to do something so fantastic in your son’s memory. I’m so happy for you that his short life had such a wonderful purpose. God bless you.
This is very timely. My nephew committed suicide last month. He suffered from bipolar disease. The treatment he received gave him migraines so severe he couldn’t function. He tried to exist without the medication, but his depression made it difficult. He was wonderful and smart and loving, but had problems that he couldn’t deal with. His girlfriend broke up with him, which devastated him and he couldn’t recover. He posted a cry for help on Facebook, but no one saw it in time. We are heartbroken and miss him very much. I’m so glad you’re doing something good to help other families. The hole his passing has left in our hearts is devastating. Thank you for doing doing something so other victims and their families won’t suffer the way we are. God bless you.
If I had a wish it would to have been with you when you helped the homeless by going into some of the most dangerous areas of San Francisco to pass out duffed bags necessary necessities for them.
I also liked the stuffed animal idea too and remember it being a big hit back when I read your book.
When I fell on hard times and left my previous career because honesty leveled wealth a duffed bag like the one you passed out would have meant the world to me.
So I know they were grateful and Nick was with you in spirit.
I would love to work for you doing something like this endeavor.
Truth, Wisdom, Love and Sincerity, to ALL Mankind,
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
p.s Children are the largest opportunity for the pharmaceuticals companies to make money because the adult market is now saturated with antidepressants.
Hey Danielle. I always come here to read your words and of course I read your books.
Hish Birght Light is one of my favorites because I knew Nick’s music because my sister read the book and told me about him (a long time ago), so I was after his songs before reading the book. and I think it is brilliant how beautiflly you wrote about him.
Im feeling lost as usual but today things got worse due to an error in one of my translations. I wanted to know…what to do when you’re feeling so lost that nothing makes sense, not your job, your family, love…you just feel like a failure. what to do? how to change that when you can’t simply turn your back to everything in your life and you have bills to pay.
I have read many of Steel’s books, one particularly on her son. It was a heart breaking one. The lines “It’s amazing how you can squeeze a whole person, their life history, and the course of an illness into one paragraph!!” in her post makes one think of how we should live a life useful to us and to others