Paperback: 249 pgs
Dream of Things (September 2, 2014)
“A memoir of love, loss, loyalty, and healing.”
The daughter of Russian – Jewish immigrant parents, I was born and raised in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York and attended Brooklyn’s public schools until I left home to attend college.
On the surface, my life appeared like that of the other children in our neighborhood. Families were all poor, fathers worked, and mothers stayed at home, taking care of their children, cooking, cleaning, and doing all household chores.
As was the custom in the 1940s and 50s, I played outside in the street, seldom visiting friends inside their apartments. I naturally assumed that our family’s “norm” was the norm. Having learned early never to ask questions, I remained in the dark about the larger truth that enveloped our family’s life. I knew only that my mother was often “sick,” but I did not know that all mothers didn’t receive “shock treatments” or that my mother suffered from mental illness.
I loved my mother very much and I was aware of the fact that whenever she became ill I had no way to prevent the days and nights from being colored by – what she called – “the black clouds” – that descended. At such times, my father told me, “Your mama, she’s not herself.” Yet, if she wasn’t herself, then who was she . . . and how were such words ever to help me to understand what I witnessed or what I heard? Instead, I experienced the anxiety and hyper-vigilance that often take root when secrecy and shame surround a family in which any one of its members suffers from a chronic illness.
Throughout the years of my childhood and early teens speaking about illnesses of any kind was simply not done. Cancer, if even mentioned, was referred to as “the Big C,” and mental illness was never discussed with my mother or with our family members. That made us all victims of an ominous unknown.
There was no Oprah or Dr. Phil to educate us. My family didn’t own a television until I was twelve. But, as with all children and adults who are traumatized, my father, brother and I found ways to survive the dark times. For me, denial was a defense I used successfully until the child in me began to identify with the woman, my mother.
I began writing SHE’S NOT HERSELF, a memoir, to tell my story without my psychotherapist’s voice driving the narrative. I wanted it to read as any good novel: bringing the reader into my family’s apartment, allowing you to see our rooms and furnishings, hear our conversations, walk the streets of our neighborhood and, perhaps most importantly, to witness my mother’s many “breakdowns” and to see how each of us coped and didn’t cope in the face of her agony.
I hope you will agree with reviewers who believe that I have not written a ‘woe is me’ story. Rather, I am sharing my life from the perspective of someone who has worked hard to find ways to move through and beyond trauma. My goal in taking secrets out of my family’s closet is to allow you to feel free to identify with me and not feel alone. I will be most gratified if my story helps you find the courage to move forward toward your own places of healing.
As you seek help that is now available to one in every four people who suffers from a mental “dis-ease” in today’s all too chaotic world, you will experience how it is possible to interrupt family dysfunction by merging life’s sweetness with its sorrow, reconciling its meaning with it mystery.
- B.A. in literature, Bennington College
- M.S. in Human Development/Counseling
- Bank Street College of Education
- Master Certification in Neurolinguistic Programming
- The New York Institute for N.L.P.
- Certification in Ericksonian Hypnosis
- Certification in Alcoholism and other Substance Abuse Counseling
Married to actor and audiobook narrator GEORGE GUIDALL, my husband and I live in Westchester County, New York. We have two adult daughters and two grandchildren.