Tag Archives: mental illness blog

Happier Made Simple: The 7 Core Phrases and Mental Illness in a Loved One

In the decade since Ben Behind His Voices was published, I’ve had the opportunity to tell our family story to a lot of people – sometimes more than once, for it is ever-evolving.

If you love someone with schizophrenia, you know this all too well. It is a life lived like a never-ending game of Chutes and Ladders, with moments of rest here and there.

The question I am most often asked, after sharing, is this:

“How do you stay so positive?”


Happier Made Simple
When Life is Challenging…

It isn’t always easy, as you may well know. But – here’s the thing that continuously reveals itself to me, no matter what the challenge:

Yes, living happier is a function of what happens to you – no one gets through life unscathed, after all – but it is, eventually, even more a function of what you tell yourself about what happens to you.

And so, I finally wrote a book about it, and it launches officially in a couple of weeks.


In it, I talk about the “Seven Core Phrases” of self-talk that get me through most situations, and keep me hopeful, though realistic – and, yes, happier.

Yes, living happier is a function of what happens to you – but it is, eventually, even more a function of what you tell yourself about what happens to you.

It’s how I “stay so positive.”

Let me be clear (and I state it up front in the book) – I cry too. Life isn’t about constant happiness. That isn’t even a goal. But neither is it about dwelling on the negative when the time for action has passed, nor about stressing about things that may never happen.

So here are the Seven Core Phrases (meant to be said to oneself, not as advice to others, please) and how they help me when our family deals with challenge or disappointment:

Continue reading Happier Made Simple: The 7 Core Phrases and Mental Illness in a Loved One

Guest Blogger: CJ Hanson, Mental Health/Brain Illness Advocate

One day into June, and the official #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth is over – but the fight is far from over.
Please welcome guest blogger, C.J. Hanson, with these thoughts regarding her brother who has serious brain disease.  CJ is one of the authors in Dede Ranahan’s award-winning book, Tomorrow Was Yesterday.
“I have strong opinions regarding the many different causes for the continual denial of help and easier access to real treatment for my brother since the beginning of his trauma and brain illness of Schizophrenia and Anosognosia.
We initially thought the care he needed was going to be available to him given how severe his multiple disabilities including having lost his eyes in an accident and then brain illness.
We each have our own obstacles. But, like most families – access to that elusive help – was slammed shut on us because Mark is an adult who happens to have anosognosia related to the brain illness.
CJ Hanson, Mental Health/Brain Illness Advocate

Waiting for him to figure out what is best for him.. what is safe for him… that he even has a serious mental/brain illness… will never happen.

No one can understand the respective roles that we are each left to play amidst the absolute expectation from society that we should just innately have all the answers, when we have a loved one with SMI/SBD – an expectation that we are fully capable to physically house and care for someone so floridly psychotic after he has fallen 34 years into the abyss and the tiniest of cracks of his mental illness. Our shattered and fragmented Mental Health Policy & Laws which includes abandoning the most vulnerable of those among us and their families is cruel.
Many of us are just family members struggling to be what we are not. – Medical professionals, Neuro Psychiatric professionals, Medical intervention, Legal and Financial advisor, Psychiatric Technician, Social Worker, Protector, Nurse, even Guard – day and night. Every day and night.

Continue reading Guest Blogger: CJ Hanson, Mental Health/Brain Illness Advocate

On Glee, Odd Behavior, and – Schizophrenia?

Today’s post comes courtesy of Ben Behind His Voices reader – and fellow Mom and blogger – Kari Larson. She wrote to me about a recent episode of Glee that I had also watched….and noticed Sue Sylvester’s line of dialogue that compares character Blaine’s new interest (talking with puppets) to that of someone “with schizophrenia and off meds”

I had noticed it, but it didn’t really hit me as insulting because…well, hey, this is Glee, where they exaggerate pretty much everything and nothing is really off limits. Everyone acts erratically on Glee, and eventually they usually redeem themselves with some lesson following the farce.

But my son Ben doesn’t watch Glee, so he had no reaction to the episode. Kari, however, wrote about a different experience.


Hi Randye,

My daughter is 17 and has schizophrenia. She and I have watched Glee since the very beginning and overall it’s been a show that embraces all types of people.

The most recent episodes have really upset us, and I’m wondering if some of the dialogue has come to your attention.

In one episode, the character of Marley is complaining about her ex-boyfriend’s erratic behavior, that he’s nice one minute and horrible the next, and says it’s so “schizo.”

This not only upset me because it was said in a negative way, but because it’s not even correct, further perpetuating the myth that schizophrenia entails a split personality disorder. Untrue.

Another episode — quite possibly the very next one — has Sue Sylvester complaining that she didn’t want school board members coming to the school and seeing “schizophrenia” students talking to imaginary puppets (one character had a hand puppet).

My daughter is heartbroken. I’ve sent Twitter comments to Ryan Murphy (Glee creator), Glee on Fox (official Glee Twitter account) and one of the executive producers. I don’t expect to hear anything back, but I was wondering if any of this has come across your radar.

Thank you,
Kari Larson


In her blog(http://ninepillsaday.com/) , Kari adds: “I’m annoyed by two things. One: Schizophrenia DOES NOT MEAN split personalities. Two: Please, unless you, the writers of Glee, are headed toward a fantastic teaching moment, STOP USING THAT WORD. Stop using any form of that word. It’s insulting and, more often than not, used incorrectly.”

What do you think? Glee “just joking” in the way it does for many issues, or stigma to to be protested? Does Sue Sylvester owe us an apology in a future episode?


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

NAMI in the Community: Lifeline for So Many

This video, created by Barmont Productions for NAMI in Connecticut, shows in seven short minutes a smattering of some of the ways NAMI has made a difference in the lives of people living with mental illness, and their families and friends. In it, you will hear a small taste of why Ben Behind His Voices is dedicated in part to NAMI’s wonderful work: education, advocacy, empathy and more.

As the host of this piece, I got to interview so many amazing people, and can only wish that the hours of footage we got might someday get re-edited into a documentary of 30 or 60 minutes, to pay homage to the many stories courage and love that I heard that day. Meanwhile – watch and enjoy!

The Refeathered Nest: Not So Empty. Not Just Us!

As we near the end of National Family Caregivers Month, I’ve been thinking about the less obvious form of caregiving: the fact that so many of our kids return to their old twin (or larger)  beds in the family home, long after we’d imagined we’d have a nest empty enough to turn their old bedrooms into, say, a workout room. Ha.

Sure, my son Ben relies on us more than your neurotypical 30-year-old, because of the different life path affected by schizophrenia.  But my other children, too, rely on us a lot more than I did my own parents when I was in my twenties.  Financial help, washer-dryer privileges, family vacations.  But this seems to be the norm.

Are your kids back at home after college too? Here is why: (thanks to Hannah Peters, and collegeathome.com) Continue reading The Refeathered Nest: Not So Empty. Not Just Us!

Unemployment: Rocking the Recovery Boat

Well, it has happened:  Ben has been laid off from his job.  When I picked him up yesterday, he had just emerged from the “meeting” some of us know all too well. We love you. We think you are awesome. We just have to lay off some people because of the season, and unfortunately you are one of them.

Oh, Ben put on a brave face.  He immediately told me the “good news” that the layoff had nothing to do with him, that they will give him a great recommendation…but I could see it. He hasn’t genuinely smiled since he got the news yesterday.

And that hurts. For both of us.

love my job
employment supports recovery

This job had been Ben’s first since his 2003 hospitalizations – and for 18 months he has been proud to have an answer when someone asks, “and what do you do?”  Even though he is also a college student, after a year and a half of also defining himself as a person with a job, it won’t feel like enough to be in school.

This unemployment blow is painful for anyone – I know, and maybe you do too. Still, even with the current economy, a number of us will feel fairly confident we will be hired again, somewhere, to do something.

But we don’t have to worry about whether we should disclose a history of mental illness, of several hospital stays in our past.

stop_the_stigmaBen’s current (soon-to-be-previous) employer had been great about that. Even after a relapse in 2011, Ben had been welcomed back to work – and relieved that the “secret” was out, and hadn’t made a difference. I blogged and spoke publicly about this wonderful employer – for, by accepting Ben’s diagnosis and respecting his strengths, they not only gave him back an important part of his self-esteem; they also got, for themselves, a reliable, trained, enthusiastic employee and team member who always showed up, on time, and worked hard.

Let’s hope (and, yeas, pray, why not?) that this particular history can repeat itself. Ben needs a new job. When he gets it, we’ll look back and see this had been a mere glitch.

But, right now, it feels like a huge weight. Uncertainty can do that – and stigma is suddenly springing anew after having spared us for a time. And we need to be patient, optimistic, and hopeful.  Maybe Ben  can land a job on his own – maybe he’ll need supported employment, a job coach, volunteer work. He – and we – will do everything we can.

I want to see the light come back into Ben’s eyes.  Hire him – he’s worth it.

Schizophrenia and “Perception”: Will it be Accurate?

Tonight TNT unveils a new series called “Perception” , in which Eric McCormack plays a brilliant neuroscientist with a full-blown case of schizophrenia.

According to the NY Times, here is the premise:

Colorful characters that only Pierce can see pop up to help him solve murder cases he consults on for his spunky F.B.I. buddy, played by Rachael Leigh Cook. These apparitions badger Pierce with what appear to be non sequiturs and useless information until the last 10 minutes of an episode, when the light bulb goes on, and the murderer is identified.

“Perception” and Mental Illness Stigma

Eric McCormack plays a neuroscientist in “Perception” on TNT. - JanThijs/TNT

The review goes on to say that this is “TV-Fantasy schizophrenia” – so what does that mean? The hallucinations are useful? Cute? Just a manageable feature of a slightly-eccentric personality?

Will the fictional Daniel Pierce take meds? Will he have had any hospitalizations in his past? Does his family stick with him? Does he have friends? Is he stigmatized at all by his illness?

Will this show help spread misconceptions about schizophrenia as a cute illness, handy for solving crimes, rather than an acute illness?

We will have to wait and see. I’m taping it tonight. I’ve suggested to Ben that he watch it too, but I can see that the idea made him uncomfortable. So that, too, will have to wait.

“Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid”: Book Review

Gina Gallagher is co-author with her sister Patricia Konjoian of Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Kids.  I first saw this book at NAMI’s 2011 National Convention in Chicago, and found it full of useful and realistic information to go with the catchy title.

The authors also write a Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid blog , and I highly recommend that as well.

Since Ben Behind His Voices will be at this year’s NAMI Convention in Seattle, I hope to find Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid available there once again, right along with mine.  I could have used this book when Ben was going through frightening changes that shook my parenting confidence to the core.

Here are some things not to say, according to the authors (details in their book and blog):

1) “I don’t know how you do it.

2) “Give me your kid for a week and I’ll whip him in to shape.”

3) “You poor thing.”

4) “I’m so lucky, my kids are healthy.

5) “If that were my kid, he’d be different.”

As the mother of an “imperfect kid” whose imperfection happens to be gradual-onset schizophrenia which began in his mid-teens, I have been on both sides of the fence; I went from proud Mom (though I like to think I didn’t brag) to confused/embarrassed/guilty Mom, and back to proud Mom with a new set of criteria for my pride.  If you need a friendly, realistic and exceptionally empathetic and informative guide to how to maneuver your way through the world of “Perfect Families”, I highly recommend this book. Check it out!

Looking Ahead, Reflecting Back: BBHV 2011, 2012

January 4th already. Happy New Year, 2012! Always a good time to look back – but not for too long. Also an exciting time to preview what’s possible, as well as planned,  for the new year.

BBHV spotted at social workers Conference

In our family we do a “year in review” of our own as we approach New Year’s Eve, and certainly tops for me in 2011 was the publication of Ben Behind His Voices, hardcover and audiobook, and all the opportunities that has brought with it to reach families, healthcare professionals, and PAMIs (“People Affected by Mental Illness”, the best term I can come up with so far) with its story, information and messages. This year I have been privileged to present at the APNA (American Psychiatric Nurses Association) Annual Conference, sign books at the US Psych Congress, attend and do a poster presentation at NAMI‘s Annual Conference in Chicago, and connect with so many wonderful readers at author talk/book-reading events for NAMI, RJ Julia Bookstore, Barnes and Noble, Written Words, Congregation B’nai Israel in CT, Fellowship Place, Laurel House, and many more (see “News and Events” for details). Continue reading Looking Ahead, Reflecting Back: BBHV 2011, 2012