Remembering Nicky

nick-tuxAs many or most of you know, I lost a son, at 19, sixteen years ago (this week). Nick was bipolar all his life, and committed suicide, on his fourth attempt (he tried it the first time at 18, and succeeded 11 months later). And although the other term for bipolar is ‘manic-depressive’, most of the time, he didn’t seem like a depressed person, and when he wasn’t okay, he was more ‘manic’ than depressive. But above all, he was an amazingly fantastic kid, funny, multi-talented, creative, outrageous, nothing fazed him, and he did all the funny outrageous things that most of us wish we had the courage to do. (He politely but definitely leaned over to the restaurant table next to ours once, when he was about 16, had a spoonful of someone’s hot fudge sundae, and said “Wow, that is yummy!!”. And he was so funny and charming and surprising, with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, that the people with the sundae just laughed and couldn’t get mad at him (although I nearly fell out of my chair with embarrassment when he did it!!). You could never predict what he would do next! nick-black1

Hard as it is to believe, Nick would be 35 now. That seems ridiculous, because in my heart and head, and memory, he will be a teenager forever. And when he was in his teens, doctors would neither diagnose bi-polar, nor medicate it. The belief then was that you couldn’t diagnose bipolar disease until someone’s early twenties, and doctors refused medication for it before that. It was a major victory then when I got medication for him at 16, and considered way, way, way too early. The doctor who gave him the medication, finally, understood the problems better, as he was bipolar himself. And there are a great many educated, talented, successful people who are bipolar. And not everyone dies of bipolar disease, just like not everyone dies of cancer, but some do. And untreated, bipolar can be lethal. From the moment Nick was put on lithium at 16, everything in his life changed. He said he felt normal for the first time in his life, and he went to school and did well, was happy, and pursued a career in music. He had three happy years on the medication, until it stopped working as well for him, and he went off it a few times and ultimately died. Today, bipolar is diagnosed as early as age 3, and medicated at 4 or 5, perhaps younger. And the belief now is that if they are medicated early, they can actually lead a better, healthier life. But that was unheard of when Nick was that age, and simply not available to us. It’s hard to know, but possibly if he had been medicated earlier, he might still be alive today. It was probably already too late for Nick by the time we got medication for him at 16. I don’t think he was destined to be here long, and when I read his diaries afterwards, I discovered that he had been contemplating suicide since he was eleven, although one would never have suspected it, if you knew him. (I wrote a book about him afterwards, called “His Bright Light”)

That’s the sad part of the story. The happy part is that he was a happy, exuberant, wild funny kid. He could always make you laugh, and laughed a lot himself. He discovered hair dye at about 15, and worked his way through turquoise, royal blue, and green, before settling on black which suited him (better than green). I think his most distinctive personality trait was how funny he was. He was incredibly smart, had a genius IQ, and had a huge talent for music. He began singing with a band at 15, sang with another band at 17, and they were becoming very successful by the time he died. He was the lead singer and worked hard, and had gone on tour with his band three times. He was hugely talented and dedicated to singing, being a musician, and writing lyrics (which were actually good), and there are still CD’s of his work being sold, the band he achieved the most success with was Link 80. He sang and played punk rock and reggae.

Nicky stories are legion in our family, and among people who knew him. People still contact me today, whom I don’t know but knew him, to tell me touching or funny stories about him, which is always very poignant. He had a huge heart and always wanted to help someone more unfortunate, and always had deep compassion for the homeless. He was a deep person despite his sense of humor and easy laugh. (And there are heart wrenching entries from his diaries in my book). From all his own suffering, he had a deep compassion for other people. And he and I were very close, because we went through so much together, and our whole family and his eight siblings adored him. He was our hero.

So now, we remember the stories. We smile at the memories, we still laugh at the outrageous stunts he pulled, and that smile could have lit up a room. We were blessed to know him and love him, and nineteen years with him seems far too short, but we were lucky to have him for as long as we did. The world will remember him, through his music, our memories, and my words. And he will live in my heart forever. He will always be my special boy, the angel who flew away too soon (and he could be a little monster when he wanted to, especially as a little kid!!). He died on September 20th, sixteen years ago, and I couldn’t let the date pass without sharing him with you.

love, danielle

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23 Comments so far
  1. CAROL OLIVER September 16, 2013 11:00 am

    thank you for sharing Danielle.
    I have and read the book…and of course following you for years, new all about Nicky.
    What a cute, great kid…and yes, that smile!!
    Carol O. in So. Cal.

  2. lindelwa fadane September 18, 2013 6:20 am

    thank you for sharing Danielle.

    i read that book,brought me to tears.i have never seen so much love.that smile of his,so sweet and angelic.i think you are an amazing woman.

    i have read many of your books,all of them being good reads that i even introduced my mother,who cudnt stop crying when she read you SEASON OF PASSION.

  3. Irene September 18, 2013 4:09 pm

    Thank you so much for your heart felt memories of your son.

    I myself am 36 and I have 4 children, Hannah, Peter, Jacob and I too have a Nicholas. I admire your strength, courage and passion of sharing your feelings.

    I am a very dedicated fan. I have been reading your books since gr 8. My first book was Daddy.
    And I am currently reading Betrayal. I share your books with my kids, and they are eager to hear what happens in the next chapters.

    Thank you so much for your time to share with the world.

    Your biggest fan from Hamilton ON Canada.

    Irene

  4. CAROL OLIVER September 19, 2013 9:58 am

    Hello Danielle,
    question….What has happened to the Book…Until the End of Time?? It is not anywhere,not in any Bookstores, and not even discussed…? curious…as I read and COLLECT all your books,and have been searching. It sort of disappeared…
    thanks Danielle, as always…
    Carol

  5. Tracy Parker September 21, 2013 7:47 am

    Thank you for sharing Nick’s story. As a mom of 5 children, I can’t imagine what you went through and your strength to share his story. I truly enjoyed, His Bright Light, and can relate to the impact of Bipolar Disorder (my sister and possibly father are affected by it). Peace to you and your family on this day. Thank you again for sharing your heart, struggles and hopes.

    I appreciate your works I have read almost all! My grandma, aunts, mother and my sister have been reading them since Zoya. The places I have travelled in your books have kept me sane these almost 40 years.

    Fondly,

    Tracy Parker
    Escondido, CA

  6. Sharon Smith September 22, 2013 1:03 pm

    Hi Danielle
    Memories are such powerful thing. It helps you go through the sad days as your Nick’s passing. Doctors have come a long way on diagnosing bi polar. We lost my brother about 6 years ago. Doctors just thought he was just abusing drugs they just didn’t know how to treat him. I do wish that they did test him and treat him for the right condition instead of sweeping him under the rug.But we come to learn that his ups and downs was the cause of being bi polar but the booze just made it worse for him. Last month was the anniversary of his passing. Now he’s at peace but he will be missed. There are so many people out in the world that are being dismissed and doctors miss diagnose them. I believe patients should be tested for other things just to rule other things out.

    I also read your book His Bright Light. It was such a touch and remarkable book. Nick will always be remembered.

  7. Lynn September 29, 2013 5:24 pm

    I lost my son at the age of 24 from heart diaease that no one knew about. That was 2004 but it seems like yesterday. I know he is better now but I still miss him. Thank you for your story about Nicky. Like my son he will always be with you in your heart forever.
    I really do enjoy reading your books.

  8. Patti McLane September 30, 2013 10:39 pm

    Danielle, I can understand your pain.. As a Mother of many, you have shown such courage to write about Nicki, and keeping his spirit a live.. Such a waste of a precious young man.. The medical Field has been addressing these causes more now than ever before.. We can only pray.. God Bless You!

  9. Enza Dilena October 2, 2013 12:43 pm

    Thank you so much to share your story. I will go by the book His bright light. as a matter of fact just bought today the book the sins of the mother. I love love your books i have most of the collection. They make me laugh and cry also i mostly read them in the subway and my days off and bring them on vacation by the beach.

    You inspire me
    Thanks Danielle
    Enza G. D

  10. Melita Bates October 7, 2013 9:55 am

    I appreciate you sharing your experience about Nicky, I have a 38 year old daughter, mother of 2 wonderful boys that was diagnosed at 30 right after her second son was born. They thought maybe just the usually postpartum depression. I wish that would of been all. Your book helped me view being bi-polar from the outside looking in instead of right in the middle of the cyclone. Things that always bothered me when she was a child, teenager etc. Your book helped me make sense of so much. This disease makes me sad because she is my baby my own and in her efforts to self medicate she messed her brain up really bad. Not a booboo one can kiss and make it go away. I also enjoyed reading about your other children. Family is the best, everybody wakes up in the morning and make memories until you go to sleep. Just wanted to say thanks for enlightening so many about mental illness. Continued success in all you do, Melita

  11. yusliza October 10, 2013 6:33 pm

    I have the book His Bright Light.
    It is so touching just like I know him well.

    Yusliza,
    Malaysia.

  12. Kathie Kaslow October 11, 2013 9:51 pm

    Dear Ms Steel – i recently read His Bright Light – it was lent to me by a member of my suicide loss survivors’ group. My heart broke for you and your precious Nicky. It was hard to finish through the tears. I cried for you, your Nick and my Alex, who left this world on October 1, 2008. Alex’s last request (in his note) was that people become more aware of mental illness and its effects, Like Nick, Alex wss bipolar and like you, I love and miss my son every day. Thank you for giving such an eloquent voice to mental illness. Kathie

  13. Natalie Fisher October 17, 2013 2:29 am

    Danielle, I feel for you, as my mum to committed suicide when I was 11, (17 years gone) she to had bipolar was so bubbly most of the time but had bouts of being sectioned and in hospital. Your stories make me smile, I love reading about Nicky, he’s incredibly handsome by the way. I’m now a mummy to two little girls & it saddens me to know they didn’t know her…keep up the amazing work, I love your stories & the warm glow they leave with you after reading them.

    Lots of love from Natalie

    Hampshire, United Kingdom

  14. Paula October 18, 2013 9:34 pm

    Your book, “His Bright Light”, has helped so many people. Thanks for sharing your/his story.

  15. Melanie October 27, 2013 7:24 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. You are a brave, strong woman and I admire you greatly. I have not read this book yet but I am a huge fan and I have a book shelf full of your books. I have been collecting them for a long time and someday plan to own every one of them =) You are an amazing writer and I love all your books I have read so far and look forward to reading this one as well.

    Melanie

  16. Shirley Saucerman November 2, 2013 11:31 am

    Danielle,your closeness and your love and work for your brilliant son reminds me so much of me and my brilliant brother who went home to be with the Lord 10 months ago after 44 years of him always being in my heart and my constant effort to try to help him get well.

    Love and hugs,
    Shirley

  17. sandy roberts December 7, 2013 4:57 pm

    Someone I speak with at work has just lost her son (suicide) and I was telling her about ‘His Bright Light’ and that I felt it would help her. She is going to borrow it. I told her that you were a Mother who did everything you possibly could for your child (you couldn’t have done anymore) and still you couldn’t save him. I was trying to allay her guilt for her. I sincerely hope your book will help her understand better. Sandy Roberts x

  18. Fran Morrison December 22, 2013 5:59 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    I just finished reading GIFT OF HOPE and your work with the homeless inspired by the hole left in your heart when you lost Nick. Nick is a beautiful boy!!!

    I lost my son to suicide on February 2, 2011. I know what that empty hole feels like. I have two daughters who lost their brother.

    I am still trying to figure out what I am to do in Eric’s memory. I guess I am still reeling in the grief although I am not as consumed as I was two years ago.

    I am going to download the book you wrote about Nick. Thank you for being such a wonderful writer. You have provided me countless hours of reading which is one of my favorite pastimes. I would love to hear from you.

    Best regards
    Fran

  19. sharyl seymour August 24, 2017 6:23 pm

    I am so sorry still about your son, Nicky.I can’t imagine losing a child and I’m so sorry you did. I don’t know if you will ever
    remember me. I emailed you several years ago about my son Joey, who is also bipolar and to my surprise you responded with a letter, which I will always hold dear to my heart.

    You asked me to let you know how he was doing and I unfortunately never got
    back to you.. i had been going through a divorce and my mom passed away..I was
    devastated.After that i remarried, but, long story short he was just a con man
    who married me for my money, drained my back account, my retirement and put me
    in debt..still till this day. I was very naive,and vulnerable at the time..fell
    for it..still paying for it…he abused me physically and mentally.

    My son, Joey is doing OK now. He is definately struggling, he is 30 and
    he is gay. I completely support him. I just want him to be happy and healthy. But, his struggle is harder than most..hes bipolar and gay… not socially accepted in this world.

    Anyways, I have written a little childrens book. I am getting a lot of calls and emails from publishers..don’t want to get ripped off…don’t have alot of money, but if I ever make it I will definately help the homeless like you do and
    people with mental disabilities, like our sons.. I want to make a difference, like you have to so many people.

    Any advice you could give me in publishing my book would be greatly appreciated! I truly love you and your books…named my daughter after you..if you remember last time we corresponded…When nurse came in and asked me how
    to spell my daughter’s name..i said like Danielle Steel!!! She said, oh, ok..

  20. Suzanne Hall February 9, 2019 9:25 am

    Ms. Steel,

    The Love that has poured out of your heart for your very handsome, talented, and memory making son humbled me.
    Your books give me an escape from daily routine which is cherished.
    I am certain Nicky felt your love and devotion in the deepest way.
    His antics left smiles on humanity’s hearts for a lifetime.
    Kindly,
    Suzanne

  21. Barbara Gordon June 21, 2020 8:34 pm

    Dear Danielle , thank you for sharing Nicky with me. I just finished reading your book “A Perfect Life “ on the front
    pages you dedicated this book to your children, and to Nicky. I knew you had lost your son when he was a teenager. I have a son Nick ( Nicholas ) I wish you could meet him he’s handsome , very intelligent , sensitive , he helps run a psychiatrist office now answering the phone. Nick is 39 , he looks younger. Nick was diagnosed with Anxiety and depression. He is on medication , that helps him. Since Nick was 16 he was in 6 drug or alcohol comas , detox’s and rehabs , so many. He loves to read “ the power of now “. Refuge Recovery , Nick runs AA meetings. He’s beautiful as I see your Nicky was and is. Many times my nick had last rights given to him ,I thank God he’s been on medications that work and as a mother who loves him with all of my heart and soul as I feel you understand. He’s funny , bright , kind , handsome , ask him for his last dime he will give it to you. He loves music , drones , books. As I looked at your picture on the cover of your book I saw a beautiful woman , your eyes show your deep humanity, your graditude for each day and a mother who will love her son she lost every day of her life, Nicky’s life was a gift , one that should have lasted so much longer. I admire your strength and your gentleness. Thank you for sharing A brief part of Nicky’s life with me. Barbara.

  22. Diane Sanchez September 16, 2021 6:04 pm

    Dearest Danielle,
    thank you for sharing Nick with us, what a beautiful spirit then and now. I have a family member who has fought the thoughts of suicide for many years now and I am grateful for each day they are still on this earth. I look at Nick’s picture and think every mother would have loved to claim him as their own but God knew he belonged with you. May your years continue to heal through his memories.

  23. Vicky majerus November 7, 2021 2:19 pm

    I loved your book , His Bright Light actually I loved all your books but I will never forget His Bright Light I have a 6 year old grandson who was diagnosed with ADHD as well as ODD. Dr.s are still trying to figure out which medications will work for him. It’s been very challenging