Wow. Last Tuesday, all from the comfort of the Murray Hill Studios in NYC, I had the privilege of appearing all over the country thanks to the magic of Satellite – and a fabulous make-up artist didn’t hurt, either. Here’s one interview that aired on Fox News (.com).
Since Peggy Ann couldn’t see me at first, she thought I was a “he” at first – a problem my mother tried to solve by spelling my first name with that “e” at the end, ages ago…) – but then, of course, I countered with my own slip-up, calling her Betty Ann. Not on purpose, I swear. After several interviews in a row, the brain tends to freeze a bit like an overworked computer.
This was a fair and neutral interview, although that word “unfortunately” did creep into her medication question. I think I handled it fairly, though. What do you think?
Jocelyn Maminta is a wonderful journalist and talk-show host – and our paths have crossed many times throughout the years. During my years as a radio personality, speaker and now author, we often appeared together at local events, and I’ve had the privilege of hearing about her personal inspiring project, Caroline’s Room. She is a skilled newswoman, warm and genuine person, and a fellow working Mom.
Today Jocelyn interviewed me for WTNH’s daytime show, Connecticut Style. Thanks to all involved for the chance to share our story and increase awareness of Ben Behind His Voices, as well as the reality and hope it contains.
Ben has been spending a lot of time with us lately; in fact, this is the closest we’ve had to daily contact since he lived with us prior to his first hospitalizations in 2003. It’s different now; he has grown. Eight years in a group home have taught him independence, respect and self-esteem that he’d have never gotten under our roof, safe within our wings and safety nets.
But there is a limit.
Since his episode this summer (right after the too-swift move to unsupported housing), we have had to step in and help guide Ben back to the self-sufficiency he’d earned before. Now, though, I don’t trust the services he is receiving – and, I think, he doesn’t like living alone as much as everyone said he would. So, much more often than before, he spends the night with his family. We drive him to school, to work, to meetings – feels like high school years all over again, pre-drivers’ license. It’s fine for now, because it’s what Ben needs. But we encourage as much independence as we can, to boost him back up to the mental illness version of young adulthood.
Two nights a week, therefore, he stays at his apartment after school and then takes the bus to the “anonymous” meeting he has attended for six years. Last week, to our horror, this solo journey into a questionable area of town resulted in near-disaster. Ben was mugged. His cash, his beloved backpack (containing precious cargo: textbooks, school papers, handheld video games, poetry, the ipod he had saved for for over a year), his keys – all stolen. Psychically, it could have been so much worse – he was thrown to the ground and threatened with what they said was a knife , but he got away with a wrenched shoulder, a red mark on his neck, and some scrapes. Whew. But now he is, understandably, skittish. Continue reading Risk: The Price of Independence?→
Amanda Fellows, a fellow voice talent and radio host for Business Women Connect, interviewed me today for her show on Blog Talk Radio. We had a luxurious half hour for the interview, rare in commercial radio. Of course, it went by in a flash.
Amanda asked two questions I hadn’t heard yet in this round of interviews for Ben Behind His Voices. One was about the process of narrating my own words in the audiobook, published by Spoken Word Inc. (since we are both voice talents, that question wasn’t too surprising). The second was about two of the book’s chapters, and my feelings as a parent when I had to let go of Ben and allow him “freedoms” that terrified me: once when he wandered homeless in Idaho, a few years later when I had to declare him homeless in order to get him into the system of state care that would eventually help him recover without my constant watch.
Amanda asked, “How did you deal with the guilt?”
My answer had to do with recognizing the difference between productive “appropriate” guilt (e.g. forgetting your kid’s birthday and making sure you never do it again) and unproductive “inappropriate” guilt (e.g. I feel bad that I had to ground you, and you missed a party).
Mental Illness certainly raises these stakes – raises them high – but still guilt can be a waste of energy, and can hold back progress that is painful but ultimately necessary. You gotta do what you gotta do.
In six days, Ben Behind His Voices will be officially released (audiobook version, too – preview it here!), although according to Amazon stats there have been healthy advance sales of the hardcover and kindle versions. So it’s out there! But, to spread the word, getting the media interested and involved is a huge help – and it’s definitely a live-it-learn-it series of experiences for this author.
So far, as far as print, radio and TV go:
a handful of BlogTalkRadio interviews – great hosts, interesting conversations, not sure who listens but I hope there’s a reach. Archives exist.
The Positive Mind on WBAI inNYC with Armand DiMele. Hour-long, insightful interview with genuine back-and-forth conversation. You can hear it on the “Press” page on this site or on Armand’s website.
Interview segments on other radio shows such as Kathryn Raaker’s Let’s Just Talk, airing on several stations. July 9th segment 1, if you’re checking the archives. Kathryn was genuinely interested, as she could personally relate from her own family experience. Great prep, great passion for sharing the message.
Boston Globe interview appeared in print last week – done over the phone, all I had to do was talk. Bloggers have also “interviewed” me by asking questions in writing, to which I responded also in writing- essentially writing my own article, I guess, though interesting answers can only come out of good questions, yes? (links are on Press page too)
Ben has spent the night – we’ve all been there – worshiping the porcelain throne. Either a stomach flu, or spoiled Chinese food (thanks, Hurricane Irene), but who cares why? Poor thing is in pain. No mom wants to see that. Plus, he is whining! Ah, yes, nothing like a 29-year-old whining “Mommy….” – but whenever I’m sick I want to do the same thing, and my mother’s been gone since 1994.
There’s an additional issue, of course, when your child has schizophrenia. Will he, can his body, keep the meds down? Last night we carefully orchestrated the meds between episodes, and since they are mainly in liquid form we can only hope most of them got into his system somehow. We counted (believe me, we both had one eye on the clock) 55 minutes from ingestion to, um, rejection.
Ben’s main concern, despite his pain? “If I throw up, I won’t have to go to the hospital, will I?” I thought, at first, that he was over-dramatizing his stomach pain – but then realized he was worried about having to go back to the psychiatric unit for missing one dose of meds. I’m beginning to think this last relapse really affected him – and that maybe – just maybe – he is connecting the stay to his low levels of meds at the time.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed on WBAI in New York by Armand DiMele, for his popular broadcast “The Positive Mind” . The show aired on August 23, 2011, but you can listen to the archived show here:
If you’d like to read more about Ben Behind His Voices, I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by several writers recently. Here are a few links:
First two official reviews for Ben Behind His Voices: exciting! Every positive review, from official sources like these and from readers, will help spread the message of respect, empathy, truth and the need for supportive services for those with mental illness and the people who love them.
From Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal:
An illuminating portrait of a parent coping with the guilt and heartbreak that come from feeling like one can’t “fix” one’s child. VERDICT: Recommended for anyone who is involved with teens or those with mental disorders, and a darn good read for memoir fans. -Library Journal
A mother wrestles with the advent of her son’s schizophrenia and its long, painful
unfolding….The author….is eminently helpful, particularly in the matter of self-medication,
which so many of the mentally ill prefer to taking the medications that have been prescribed for them….Heartfelt and surely of help to those new to living with mentally ill
loved ones of their own. -Kirkus review, June 15 2011
Thank you so much for “liking” BBHV’s facebook page, following this blog, calling your libraries to ask them to order the book, and especially now for this: your comments of support re Ben’s recent relapse, and your agreements in outrage that transitional services are greatly in need of improvement. Ben is currently, thankfully, still safe in the hospital while I scramble to try and figure out what options there are for after his release. This I know: if proper plans are not made, he’ll slip through the cracks again and will re-relapse. There needs to be the “Person-Centered Treatment” Continue reading Families on the Treatment Team- and book reviews→
I woke up early this morning, grateful to have slept at all. It’s finally Monday, and the main players on Ben’s so-called recovery team are back at work. Maybe – just maybe – I can do something today that will help Ben, repair some small part of the damage that has been done by the recent, blinders-on, money-saving (ha!) way his recent transfer from group living was handled.
The sleepless night came by surprise. After a Fathers’ Day filled with blessed distraction, I found myself with physical exhaustion but a wide-awake brain when my head finally hit the pillow. The body knows. Sleep would not come. Too many thoughts.
Today I awake in the family room, where Ben usually sleeps when he spends the night with us. The pillow and blanket are the ones he uses, and they smell of him even though he hasn’t stayed with us much since moving into his new apartment. This scent, I think, is what finally lulled me into the three hours of sleep that came at last.
Ben’s laundry is clean and neatly folded in the corner of the room. That, at least, was something I could do for him yesterday when the treatment world was asleep. In these three days since his relapse I’ve revisited the earlier stages of emotional recovery for families (introduced in Class 1 of NAMI’s Family-to-Family class), as we all do when crisis suddenly rears its ugly head. Crisis, hoping-against-hope, shock, fear, guilt, sadness, anger – and now I must return to acceptance and advocacy in order to make the calls, have the meetings, figure out a way to fix this if I can. Look out. I’m about to pick up the phone. Continue reading Families and Mental Illness: Listen, please.→
With the official launch of Ben Behind His Voices less then three months away (OK, by one day, but still…), interest is growing and I’ve been lucky enough to appear on a few talk show already. One interview, longer and more serious in nature, is on the HealthyPlace.com website.
A few days prior to this web interview, I appeared on Jaki’s Buzz with Wendy McGee, talking about balancing motherhood with a career in broadcasting,acting, and writing. This is a fun interview with great reaction so far, but one viewer did comment that he thought the subject of “parenting when schizophrenia hits” was treated too lightly here.
Seriously? You know, when someone in your family has a mental illness, it does suck the sense of humor right out of you at first. You’re too busy reacting, and coping, and trying to fix things. But you know what? After a while, you’ve got to find yourself again.
Sure, you’ve got to take care of what your loved one needs, as best you can. But after awhile you realize there’s only so much you can do – at least for the time being. And then you’ve just got to take care of yourself – and, yeah, there’s the rest of your family and others in your world who need you to be yourself too.
taping Jaki’s Buzz
While Ben was developing his illness, I was a morning radio personality. Make ’em laugh. And you know what? Some mornings – coming in to work fresh from an all-nighter at the hospital Emergency Department admitting Ben for yet another stay – it was no small feat to find the sense of humor I needed to be entertaining on the air. But each and every time I had to do this, it helped me. It helped me to remember that there are parts of life that go on, that are enjoyable, even when heartache lurks around the corner. It reminded me that I was more than just the mother of a son who had just had a psychotic break.
So bring the laughter on. Believe me, when you need to get serious, you will. You need all sides of you to be the parent, wife, sibling, child, friend or professional you need to be. Take care of yourself too. Sometimes it’s all you can do.