Searching For Light: A Son’s Death, Mental Illness, Suicide, & Drug Addiction

(6-16-23) It is important for families and individuals to share their stories. Doing so puts a human face on mental illnesses and addictions and, by personalizing these painful memories, helps educate the public.

A while back, I posted a blog about Renate LeDue’s moving book: For The Love Of Jeremy – A Memoir of a Family Affliction: Mental Illness and Addiction, which will be published June 20th. It is unique because she brings multiple perspectives to her story – those of a mother, daughter and sister – each aimed at reducing the stigma of mental illness, substance use disorder and suicide.

I was pleased to learn that her book recently received two nice endorsements.

From: Elizabeth B. Splaine, Author of Steel Butterflies.

For the Love of Jeremy is a heartbreaking and inspirational account of one woman’s journey as a spectator-turned-advocate of mental illness and addiction awareness and education. Ms. LeDuc carries the reader from her childhood- filled with love, yet riddled with trauma- to her adulthood, where love and tragedy simultaneously find her again. She deals with all of it with an astounding can-do attitude, refusing to give in to sadness or hopelessness, and rewards the reader with a well-written memoir that inspires hope. Her love is unyielding, boundless, as is her drive to stamp out addiction and the avenues that foster it, all in the name of her beloved son, Jeremy, whose soul shines through her beautiful narrative. She shares her spiritual growth openly with the reader, inviting us in to her loving family, challenging us to join her fight, to do better with the people in our lives. For the Love of Jeremy is not to be missed, as it will have a significant impact on those who read it, as well as on the entire mental health and addiction community.
And from Mary Burns, author of Saving Eric.
“Supporting someone who struggles with mental illness and drug addiction is heartbreaking. Having to live through such heartbreak for three generations is incomprehensible. Anyone who has dealt with either of these issues will relate to this story. Sharing our stories is a powerful way to help change the stigma that surrounds mental illness and addiction, and Renate LeDuc bravely shares her story to do just that.”
Here is an except that I previously posted.
By Renate LeDuc
Except used with Author’s permission. Green Place Books  Pre-order now.
April 1999

Easter week in 1999, Jeremy came home from his school in Rhode Island for a week-long vacation. A couple of days after his arrival, Jeremy’s friend Mark was riding home from a party with his girlfriend, Sarah, who was driving. They had a head-on collision with another boy who was at the same party.

Sarah was in a coma, and Mark was in bad shape, with broken bones and his mouth wired shut. As Jeremy was leaving to drive back to school, he stopped at the hospital to visit. Mark was distraught and told Jeremy that they were disconnecting Sarah’s life support. They did, and Sarah died later that day.

This visit left such an impact on Jeremy.

He was truly an empath with so much compassion for others. A few days later, we received a phone call from the administration at his school. They were worried about Jeremy because he had not yet shown up for school and hadn’t called. This was so unlike him. The school knew he had bipolar disorder.

An hour later I received a call from a New Hampshire police officer. He asked me if I knew Jeremy LeDuc. I said yes, that I was his mother.

“His mother? He said his mother was dead,” the officer replied. Mark’s mother had died a few years before, from cancer. The officer continued. “He said he was in a head-on collision and his girlfriend died. He can’t seem to explain where the car is, though. We found him wandering around in an abandoned lot in his bare feet. He had grass in his pockets and said it was making him high.”

“Oh, my God, he thinks he’s his friend Mark,” I said.

He had put himself in his friend’s place and couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what wasn’t. He must have stopped taking his medication, I realized. I told the officer that we would leave to get there right away but it would take us at least seven hours. The officer said he didn’t think he could get Jeremy to stay; he was pacing and wanted to leave.

The officer was very kind when I told him that Jeremy had bipolar and that he must have stopped taking his medication—and that the death and accident of his friends must have thrown him into an episode.

The officer offered a solution. He said he would arrest Jeremy for trespassing and put him in a jail cell to ensure that he would still be there when we got there. Then he would drop the charges on Monday.

The date was April 9, 1999, exactly four years after Jeremy’s original diagnosis and hospitalization.

Bob and I left New Jersey about 8:00 p.m. and got to New Hampshire at about three in the morning. When we got there, the officers said they had been watching Jeremy in the cell on the TV screen, and he was taking off his pants and shirt and ripping his jeans in pieces with his bare hands.

We watched on the screen for a few minutes. It was so sad; so unfair.

They let Jeremy out of the cell and he hugged us and cried when he saw us. We had brought clothes and helped him get dressed. He said he was on his way to work Wednesday and got lost.

He hadn’t had his medicine with him. His ATM card showed that he had driven to Massachusetts, down to Connecticut, and back up to New Hampshire. He had been driving for two days straight with no sleep. The police had found his car on the side of the road and it had been towed.

We went to get Jeremy’s car out of the impound lot. It would have been nice to go to a hotel and get some sleep, but there was no way that Jeremy would sleep. He was manic and not at all tired, so we stopped at Jeremy’s apartment for clothes and his medicine and drove back to New Jersey. I drove my car and Bob drove Jeremy’s car with Jeremy in the passenger seat. We were so tired.

Jeremy was completely delusional and kept insisting they couldn’t put the radio on because people were after him and contacting him through the radio.

When we got home around noon the next day, Bob and I took turns sleeping. Jeremy was so irrational that we could not leave him alone. He went around the house unplugging all the plugs so that “they couldn’t contact him.” He picked up all the mail and papers with our names on them in the house and shredded them. He picked at his forehead until there was an open wound.

He said that “they” had planted a chip in his forehead to track him.

We talked to Jeremy’s psychiatrist, who doubled his medication and added something to help him sleep. He finally fell asleep on the sofa. It was four days since he went missing and who knows how many days prior that he hadn’t slept.

I looked at him. My beautiful boy. I gently put my hand through his sandy-colored, wavy hair and kissed him on the forehead and said I was so sorry. I went to step away and he picked up his head and hugged me hard. I saw his blue-green eyes connect with mine and I was so relieved.

In that moment, I felt my Jeremy still in there.

About the Author
Renate LeDuc has a B.S. in Education and Psychology from East Stroudsburg University. She retired from the social work field after working with Child Protective Services. After retirement she worked in schools facilitating prevention workshops and also substitute teaching. Renate also volunteers as a Field Advocate for AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) and a Peer Recovery Specialist for a local Recovery Center. She is also involved in advocacy for mental health, suicide, addiction and fentanyl awareness. She tries to help others by telling her story. Renate lives in Hardwick, New Jersey, with her husband and dog Grits.


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.