I’m Dr. Jaschon Proctor, CEO of Honor First, a mental health practice that uses 100% telehealth mental health services. We have licensed and experienced practitioners in all 50 states and Canada. Our therapists are comprised of diverse cultural backgrounds, languages, and ethnicities and races so that you can find the perfect therapist for your needs. The Queen Shirley Foundation was developed as an adjunct and complimentary nonprofit organization to Honor First’s professional therapeutic services. Queen Shirley provides a virtual community of self-exploration through our engaging and educational workshops and active groups, an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals for advocacy and volunteering, and a wealth of resources about mental and behavioral health issues. Our workshops offer interesting topics for adults, teens and children. Explore our website and create your own journey. We are here to help you.
So, “Who is Queen Shirley?” Let me tell you her story. It is her journey and mine, and maybe part of yours. Queen Shirley was born to a women who was of both Native American and Nigerian descent and who was married to a Pakistani husband. She was the youngest of their five daughters. When she was a girl, my aunts described her as vibrant and full of life; a happy soul who was adventurous and had a spunky personality. She grabbed life and shook it until it made her laugh.
At 15 years of age she met my father and at 17 they married. As with so many young marriages, Queen did not finish high school. Because of her limited education and career opportunities, her focus became her new family. She was a loving mother to her children and a supportive wife to her husband. Because of her young age, she played a subservient role to her husband who eventually became emotionally abusive.
By the age of 20, she had three young children. When her husband was suddenly incarcerated, she found herself alone, penniless, and deeply depressed. Her continued depression became more severe, leading to a diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder. What caused this? Mental illness often occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors — such as stress, abuse, or a traumatic event — which can influence, or trigger an illness in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.
At this point, my mother’s life became a downward spiral of hallucinations and delusions. Her speech was disorganized and she suffered episodes of catatonic behavior. Her self-care and interpersonal relations became extremely difficult to non-existent.
Queen’s husband eventually returned home from prison and I became the sixth of their seven children. My memories of early life were deeply colored by my mother’s sadness, tears, confusion, insecurities and paranoia. The outward manifestations of my mother’s symptoms – speaking to unseen voices, garbled speech, and rocking in place were terrifying to my younger brother and myself. There were several times as a child my mother would be gone for weeks on end. Later, I would find out she had been hospitalized because of her manic episodes.
As a child, I felt I had to protect my mother. I knew she was very sick, I just didn’t understand her illness. I never wanted to go to school, because I didn’t want to leave her. What if something worse happened to her when I was gone?
I remember one morning my mom walked me to school while in obvious distress. I didn’t feel she would be safe walking back home in our rough neighborhood because she was not focused or aware of her surroundings. After she dropped me off at the front door of my school, I ducked out the back door and followed her home to protect her. I stopped going to school, only showing up for tests. I did not know it then but this is often one of the warning signs of children with a mentally ill parent. The child begins signaling their distress by missing school, acting out and becoming aggressive. Unfortunately, nobody was reading my signals.
I spent my entire childhood trying to discover how I could help her to get well. I asked a lot of uncomfortable questions and read a lot of books. As I became older, I decided if she was going to get her the help she needed, it would have to come from someone who loved her. So I began my personal hunt for a real cure.
After earning my GED, I focused on becoming a clinical therapist and later earned a PhD, in business. My life’s mission had grown. I wanted to find a way to help not only my mother but all of those with a mental illness, no matter the mildness or severity.
I know that there are many people in this world that can relate to Queen Shirley and even my younger self. My mother needed supports, resources, and a healthy means to engage and to move beyond her difficult life circumstances. At the time, there was nothing available, especially if you were poor and insurance was a dream. She did manage to be seen by numerous psychologists and was prescribed a host of mood stabilizers, but with no change. In fact, some medications caused her great harm. But what also impeded her progress was the stigma of having a mental health condition.
Sadly, this stigma, the shame, and fear of involvement of those around her also inhibited her achievement of reaching a state of wellness.
As you know, there are numerous levels in the mental health spectrum. As an example, many consider anxiety and depression as lower concerns compared to full-blown schizophrenia or manic depression. However, this is not true. Any condition that causes mental distress stops an individual from living a full life, a life that can be filled with joy and contentment.
The Queen Shirley Foundation was founded and named in honor of my mother. Her journey through her mental illness, and its eventual alleviation through a holistic therapeutic approach, convinced me that an individual’s mental health can be radically and positively altered through these types of services. We look forward to working with you to make my mother’s positive outcome a reality for anyone experiencing a mental health condition. Again, welcome.