The room was red like blood. Everyone around him was slowly dying, like they were getting slaughtered. He looked at the floor to avoid eye contact only to see a head at his feet.
This was the alternate reality running through JR Adiong’s mind during a 14-hour flight home from the Philippines.
It felt like the end of the world. JR Adiong, 25, believed that at any moment on his trip home someone was going to hurt him.
“The stress of hiding your negative thoughts from your loved ones and keeping it to yourself - it can get to you and implode,” says JR, “My brain kind of snapped after my trip to the Philippines.”
When he landed in Canada, his parents could sense something was wrong with JR. He wouldn’t acknowledge his mom’s presence, wasn’t speaking and looked past his family members as if they weren’t there.
JR couldn’t even hold himself up and dropped to the floor like a ragdoll in the entryway of their home.
His parents didn’t have time to think – their first instinct was how can they save their son, so they took him to the hospital.
Of course, coming to JR’s aid was half the battle. The other half was waiting in the hospital and not having a diagnosis.
The question was "why is this happening to our son?"
Their faith in God and the power of prayer helped lead them to answers: a call to be patient, the answer that JR will be okay and that his diagnosis wasn't who JR was.
“God provided the best doctor for our family,” says Jee Adiong, JR’s mom. “We knew JR needed to be in the hospital and he needed all these doctors. Even if JR expressed that he didn’t like it there we knew he needed to be there to get better.”
The doctor diagnosed him with an episode of psychosis. Psychosis is defined as a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. It is an alternate perception of reality.
Prior to his episode, JR was under a lot of stress in the Philippines. He was having issues with his girlfriend at the time, wasn’t sleeping or eating well and wasn’t taking care of himself.
So, their next question was "what can we do to help JR?"
“When I got sick my mom and dad helped me recover,” says JR, “My mom would sing Christian songs and massage my head to remind me of forgiveness and mercy.”
They stayed at the hospital for a month. They encouraged JR to talk and prayed as a family. Despite JR being afraid of what others may think, his parents assured him that he was loved.
“You need to be able to take care of yourself first,” says Arnie Adiong, JR’s dad. “That way you can completely be there for your kid. It’s like putting on your life jacket before helping anyone else. You have to stay healthy yourself.”
JR can recall every detail of his episode, but he understands that none of it was real.
“My parents were very supportive of me and did not make me feel bad for being sick,” says JR, “They were there for me and I’m eternally grateful for them.”
He was given medication to help with his mental health and was encouraged to participate in the program “EPPIS” – Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Services. The program helped JR understand what happened to him and how to take proper steps to ensure he is mentally healthy. He would attend weekly meetings with his family and participate in recreational activities to get JR active.
A few years after his episode, JR flew back home to the Philippines with his family, and found closure with what had happened to him. He was surrounded by love and family that actively make sure JR is taking care of himself and his well-being.