Category Archives: reviews and interviews

Another Mom’s Story of Schizophrenia in Her Son – and Suicide

Book Review: Losing Aaron

I keep thinking of the line in a Phil Ochs (google him:) ) song:

There but for fortune go you or I…

This book is a painful reminder of how fortunate we are to have gotten some extra time with Ben – and of how schizophrenia can happen to any family – rich, poor, educated or not, you name the adjectives. Schizophrenia does not discriminate.

Every family member with courage to share their story about mental illness in a loved one Losing Aaron Bookopens the door of understanding just a bit more – and that can help reduce stigma and spark action to help those with mental illness and their families. The author begins with the fact of Aaron’s suicide, so we know where this is headed and yet we still root for Aaron – and his Mom, Dad, sister and stepdad – to get the support, education, and understanding needed to change the outcome we know is inevitable.

Alas, that doesn’t happen – but Ingrid Blaufarb Hughes opens her heart to us as we share in her confusion, frustration and helplessness in the face of a devastating illness that seems to steal the soul of someone you love.

The pearl in the oyster here is the love the family has for Aaron, and how they do their best to support him in the only ways they know how, even though he consistently refuses the medication that might have changed his life.

I know that love well, as it is what keeps our family going too – and we know we are fortunate that my son Ben follows the “house rules” of taking his medication each day, under our supervision. Any day he could choose not to (as he, like Aaron, doesn’t think he needs it) – and we have seen too many times where that would lead us: straight to the hospital, and down the chute to square one again. This book renewed my gratitude for the extra days we have gotten with Ben – days that this author’s family was denied. Her pain and love, and her struggle to also live her own life as writer, wife and mother – are honestly told.

It also reminds us of the importance of education, support and acceptance – the earlier the better. Could Aaron have been saved? I don’t know. But I know I am so grateful (thank you, NAMI Family-to-Family) for education I got into Ben’s illness, which equipped our family to do more to help. It doesn’t always “work”, but education increases the odds of success.

Post to Twitter

One Reader Speaks: Siblings, Schizophrenia, Support, Strength

Thanks for Reading and Sharing
Thanks for Reading and Sharing

Sometimes I open an e-mail from a reader that not only touches me, but teaches me…and these words, from the sibling of a man with schizophrenia, are in my heart forever. The author has granted permission to reprint his words here, for which I am so grateful – and hope you will feel the same way. I have changed the first names, and added some links, but otherwise this is, verbatim, what has re-inspired me today to continue to seek, and see, the strength courage and beauty in my son Ben. Thank you.

Dear Randye,
I am writing to thank you for your strong and beautiful book Ben Behind His Voices.  I did not want to read it.  I borrowed it from a friend almost two years ago and have been walking past it since then.  And I can’t exactly say it was light reading once I cracked it open.  Ben’s story is so much like my brother John’s.  But, with John now 54 and myself 58, it was high time to rewalk the path and get some new perspective.  I simply cannot thank you enough for your clear and detailed depiction of your family’s journey.
ovenbirdYou do an especially fine job of explaining that tension between trying to help and trying to let be.  Also, you truly help readers understand that realization that for a person with schizophrenia, life dreams and plans will need to undergo revision.  As Robert Frost’s poem “The Ovenbird” reminds us, the question that needs continually to be asked, about all our lives, is, “What to make of a diminished thing?”  One could view the question as pessimistic, but to ask it honestly is actually an exercise in wisdom and courage.
Even though John cannot “compete” for standard definitions of success, he puts most of us to shame in a few specific areas.  One is courage.  A few Aprils ago I remarked to him on the phone what a gorgeous spring day it had been.  He said yes, that he had been out too.  He said that he had forced himself to let the bus home go on without him so he could sit out on a bench until the next bus came.  “It was hard,” he said, “but I did it.”  It was hard?  To sit on a bench for 30 minutes on a beautiful spring day?  It’s a reminder that, for John, facing the world most days takes the courage of a first responder running into a burning building.  But as you so clearly point out, his heroism is not the type to garner honor, gratitude, or even acceptance.
Yet I could speak of HIS acceptance of others, his sensitivity to those who are suffering, his spontaneous generosity.
We talk on the phone a couple times a week.   He lives about 90 minutes from me.  Yesterday we spoke for about 20 minutes.  With your words so fresh in my mind, I was somehow able to enjoy the conversation more deeply.  It was one of those moments you talk about that should be cherished for the simple pleasure that it is.  Your book did that for me.
I am saying a prayer for Ben.
I love hearing from you, dear readers. Thank you for your e-mails, your comments, and your advocacy – RK

Post to Twitter

Mental Health Awareness Month, for Caregivers too

Will write more about this later , as I am in Buffalo, NY, getting ready to provide keynote to help NAMI Buffalo/Erie county celebrate its 30th year…but wanted to share one of the interviews about the results of a new survey showing that caregivers of those with schizophrenia do better with more support, more resources, and less stigma. Thanks!

WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Post to Twitter

Update: Two More Years into Schizophrenia Journey

snow...like the symptoms that can coat Ben's thoughts
snow…like the symptoms that can coat Ben’s thoughts

Yesterday I was alone with Ben all day.  Huge snowstorm, hubby away in California, daughter and her husband in their own apartment, driveway covered with a foot of snow.  Ten years ago this would have been a recipe for all sorts of disaster: frustration, loneliness, trepidation. Instead, thanks to treatment which includes medication as well as the other cornerstones of recovery (community, purpose, structure), I was actually glad to have Ben’s company.  Here is what happened:

  • Ben helped me shovel the driveway – I mean really helped, as in he did 75% of the work.
  • Ben cooked us a delicious homemade pizza for dinner.
  • We watched an animated movie – well, parts of it – during the required “watchful time” after he takes his meds.
Any parent of someone with schizophrenia will tell you that this is a day to be grateful for – and I am, believe me. No, life isn’t perfect, and I still wish for the magic wand (or, more to the point, better research and treatment options), but still I know a good day when we see one.
I’m also thrilled that the book still reaches people, two+ years after publication. Although there have been a few changes in our situation since then (two more relapses, a disastrous foray into “independent living” for Ben resulting in our current living situation where he is at home with us, -with a roommate to boot-, and both a part-time job and more college credits earned), the story of our “journey from chaos to hope” remains relevant- at least according to the readers who have written to me. I am so grateful for the feedback, and the chance to share that continues with each reader (or listener to the audiobook).
Truly honored and grateful…all of a sudden, three new 5-star reviews for Ben Behind his Voices: 
1 -“I will probably be listening to the CD over and over again for many years. Gives me comfort and courage to deal with my family member. Thank you so much Randye”
2 -“As a person with schizophrenia, I have never seen the journey through mental illness from the viewpoint of a parent. This book made me think, laugh, cry, and many other emotions. I related in many ways to Ben and saw my own mother in Randye. More people, in varying situations, need to read this eye-opening book.”
3- “I am so grateful to the author who shares her story to educate and to enlighten those of us who are taking our first steps out of the chaos”also came across this one, though it was in the form of a comment on another blog, and I can’t find the author’s page…(ah, Google Alerts)…

“Ben Behind His Voices is surely an inspirational tale a few family’s encounter with schizophrenia. The main target of Randye Kaye’s book is on her son Ben, who struggled for lots of years with psychological well being and compound abuse matters until finally he was as a final point the right way identified with paranoid schizophrenia. Kaye leads her visitors with the family’s very difficult activities using this ailment and their journey toward restoration and acceptance. This book may be a good source for people with schizophrenia and their families. In addition, it serves as the formidable reminder to psychological well being experts to treat men and women influenced with all the ailment with dignity and compassion.”

You have truly made my day, readers. THANKS!

Post to Twitter

“Making Money Off My Son’s Illness”? A response

This post started out quite differently.

I write another blog called Mental Illness in the Family, which appears on HealthyPlace.com, and though I usually keep these blogs separate from each other, I often wonder why.

Today’s post on Healthy Place has to do with a topic I often – sadly – must revisit: relapse, or the return of symptoms. in it, I write:

I hate schizophrenia because it prevents Ben from moving ahead with his life. It gets in the way of every job he applies for, every friend he tries to make, every dream he has had so far of having a girlfriend, getting married, being a Dad. It forces him to be dependent on medication that he does not believe he needs. It puts him in a position that he knows is a drain on the family. Schizophrenia steals – even when treated to the best of current medicine’s abilities. Continue reading “Making Money Off My Son’s Illness”? A response

Post to Twitter

Loving through mental illness: “It’s like he disappears…”

Sometimes we say things, and they stick.  Ever have someone repeat back to you something you said which touched them, even changed them, and you had no idea you’d said it? That’s how interviews are sometimes.

Two years after Ben Behind His Voices was published, I still get the chance to spread the message of our story, and for that I am grateful. I feel like the book’s journey has just begun, and though I plan an updated version sometime in the next year to include the latest developments, many tell me that the story is timeless to them, as it reflects where their family is right now in the mental illness journey – or where they hope to be. Others simply like its message of resilience, strength, and hope – regardless of the cause of the challenge.

Tomorrow night I look forward to a book-reading and Q/A at Plainville Public Library in CT.

Here is Lisa Capobianco’s story about it in the Plainville Observer, including the quotes I’d forgotten I’d said – to which I added my own italics…

Author to share story of coping with son’s mental illness

November 8, 2013

By LISA CAPOBIANCO
STAFF WRITER
When national voice talent and actress Randye Kaye noticed her 15-year-old son Ben experiencing mood swings, frustration, and isolation, she thought he was going through a phase as a teenager. But as Ben transitioned into early adulthood, his symptoms worsened, and little did Kaye know that he was exhibiting symptoms of gradual on-set schizophrenia.
“This was beyond what I expected,” said Kaye, a former host of a morning radio talk show in Connecticut. “I did not know anything about it—I really had to learn and explore.”
Schizophrenia affects 2.4 million American adults age 18 and older, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI reports that schizophrenia, marked by changes in brain chemistry and structure, may inhibit an individual’s ability to think clearly, to make decisions, and to manage emotions. Individuals with schizophrenia may also exhibit hallucinations as well as delusions, and may have a difficult time performing complex memory tasks.
For Ben, he began experiencing delusions at age 17 when he decided to drop out of high school without a realistic plan, and started smoking marijuana. Struggling to find help for Ben as doctors misdiagnosed her son’s illness, several years passed before finding the right medication. Ben was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20.
“I learned to have empathy for my son and how I could help him”, said Kaye, who also serves as a teacher and advocate of NAMI. “When you lose a child to mental illness, it is like he disappears.”

Post to Twitter

Radio Interview: “We All Got Issues” Show

What’s going on now? Why doesn’t Ben “accept” his illness? What tips help families like ours to cope? Latest interview aired today,  September 23, 2013:

What is life like with a family member who has schizophrenia?  During this episode of the “We All Got Issues” show – schizophrenia is the ISSUE.  Dr. Glenda interviews Randye Kaye, the mother of a son with schizophrenia.  Randye is also the author of “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”.

Here is the show – starting with the song “The Climb” setting the tone.  Dr. Glenda Clare is an empathetic, knowledgeable interviewer.

 

Post to Twitter

North Shore Schizophrenia Society’s Review

Thanks to North Shore Schizophrenia, for their review!

2013 WV Parade1
The story of Randye Kaye’s son’s descent into psychosis and the long road to recovery reads like a diary, complete with dialogue, commentary, and an account of her own emotions as each incident and turn of events unfolds. You would think the attention to detail would weigh down the reader, but it has the opposite effect. It carries the reader along.

If you’re someone who has watched a member of your family fall ill, it will also
bring you to tears – not tears of sadness but, if there are such things, tears of
delight at how she got things so right. There’s a fair chance that in reading Ben
Behind His Voices, which is told by Kaye in the first person, you will be reading
your own story as well. Continue reading North Shore Schizophrenia Society’s Review

Post to Twitter

“Silver Linings Playbook” and Meds: Why the Secrecy?

At the end of the movie Silver Linings Playbook, when main character Pat Peoples is about to embark on the next, happier, more stable part of his life, I think he says something to his ex-wife about doing much better because he is focused, determined, physically fit – and (shhh!)taking his meds.

silver liningsI think he says this because it’s muttered almost under his breath – like it’s a big secret we don’t need the audience to know. As if he could do it all by himself without those nasty “drugs”.

Really? Most of the one-out-of-four families who deal with mental illness will say that, while all those other elements of recovery are also essential (love, purpose, helping others, exercise, structure) , they could be entirely useless without the medications that stabilize the brain. Albeit not perfectly.

Does Pat Peoples Take Meds in Silver Linings Playbook ?

One quote from the book:

“…a woman who knows all my secrets, a woman who knows just how messed up my mind is, how many pills I’m on, and yet she allows me to hold her anyway”,

suggests that Pat did, after initial resistance (which we see in the film), take his medications (which we might see in the film, but it’s left unclear). Continue reading “Silver Linings Playbook” and Meds: Why the Secrecy?

Post to Twitter

Conversation Crossroad Interview

Here is the latest radio conversation about mental health, family support, the tragic (and possibly preventable) Newtown shootings, and more. So many issues.

Listen to internet radio with conxroad on Blog Talk Radio

Post to Twitter