The Backstory of My Book
In the 1940s and 50s when I was growing up, my mother suffered from major depressive disorder. In those years the medical community did little to educate patients or their families.
“Families – especially immigrant families such as mine — were left to suffer in silence and shame, not knowing where to turn for answers or options.”
The curtain to what was the so-called “normal” for my family and others is certainly lifting. However, there are still communities and religious sects that adhere to the belief that problems in any family should stay within the family. Despite the fact that there has been a paradigm shift in de-stigmatizing illnesses in general, mental illness hits too close to home for many people in today’s world. With an ever increasing number of teen suicides and mentally ill adults who are being incarcerated instead of hospitalized, we still need considerable funding for research to better understand how to diagnose and treat patients. Throughout the world –not just in America – there is an urgent need to know how to better identify unusual or aberrant behavior and then be able to offer appropriate treatment for those who are suffering and for their families.
Further scientific research is needed to help families identify mental illness even in young children and in all socio-economic groups. Treatment centers and hospitals should be available for those in need.
In addition, pediatricians, teachers, and social workers must all be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms that children who are living in the midst of chaos exhibit in their behavior. Professionals should be able to recognize even subtle signs and then take action to intervene and advocate for those children to receive help.
Although mentors and significant non-professional adults can also be very helpful, I’ve always believed that a psychotherapeutic relationship with a skilled therapist is the best course in the SELF. It is a safe place to get in touch with one’s strengths and to better understand patterns of behavior that have been destructive or unhelpful. It’s also the best way to become unstuck, to move forward with hope and strength.
From the feedback I’ve received both from professional reviewers and readers from here and abroad, my story is giving others hope that they, too, can help lift the curtain of shame from any aspect of their life that has trapped them into a victim’s position where they were unable to know all the parts of themselves or to value all their God-given gifts beyond their pain.
I did not write the story of my personal survival to relate only to adult children of the mentally ill. I think that most readers are able to use what I’ve experienced to help them understand, identify, and empathize with any dysfunctional situation in their own lives or the lives of others.
Those in the professional community of therapists, social workers, and psychologists are claiming to benefit from what I share about processing years of trauma by examining them through the lens of time and with the help of skilled professionals. Gaining inspiration and the ability to forgive without forgetting is never easy. However, it is my hope that in my search for ways to face a reality that was never acknowledged, I am encouraging others to succeed in finding ways to feel more at peace as they cope with whatever obstacles have blocked their path to healing.
I’d also like to believe that in sharing my family’s story, it will speak to all immigrants attempting to adjust to a new world, learning a new language, and struggling to be American in an America that often does not understand their plight or their pain. I also hope to reach all families that lived with or are living with unanswered questions about a family member’s illness and have seen a sibling or a parent as I saw my mother when I wasn’t even of school age. I hope that as readers relate to my story, it will resonate with them, and take them to new places of healing.
“Her face would change beyond recognition and all that Father would say was, ‘Your mother, she’s not herself.’ Perhaps he hadn’t the words to explain her illness to himself, let alone a child of five. Yet, if she wasn’t herself, who was she?”
I trust that readers will find the courage to take secrets out of their family’s closet and reach out for help to conquer their personal demons. Suffering alone without explanations is no way to live. Finding strength and learning to move beyond the darkness of trauma into the light of healing is a true gift, one that each of us deserves.