What is your book about?
My story is about our only child, Michael, who developed schizophrenia 19 days after his 21st birthday. Mike’s confusing early onset symptoms, commonly known as the prodromal stage, his acute psychotic episode, and subsequent hospitalizations are accurately described through my eyes and voice as his mother and a former nurse. Michael’s journey began as an all-American kid, attending college and enjoying life without a care in the world. He was handsome, kind and funny; pretty much the apple of our eyes as parents. I’d like to take credit for his sunny disposition and good manners, but somehow, he was born with them! Michael’s suffering, not only from the disease, but side-effects of his medication, along with painful incidents that involved stigma are the guts of my story. But the real backbone of Michael’s Journey involves his courage, will to survive, and ultimately his remission and recovery.
There are many flash-backs in my story that were designed to give my reader a sense of who Mike is, and was, from infancy, as a person. I wanted my descriptions of experiences with our baby, toddler, preschooler, young kid, teenager, and eventually young adult to be so ordinary that almost any parent could identify Mike with their own child.
Flashbacks from my own personal life as a child and young nurse were included to give my reader an idea, not only about what I knew, and believed, but more importantly what I didn’t know. Hopefully, my reader will accompany me as I learn.
My first thought of wisdom regarding mental illnesses, which I prefer to call brain diseases was: “if this could happen to Mike, it could happen to anyone.”
Why did you write this book?
This is somewhat an awkward question for me. Now that my book has been published, it would seem that I should have had a plan right from the beginning. But the truth of the matter is, that early on, I began to write almost “nurses’ notes” about what was happening with Mike. I tried to document exactly what he said, and what I was seeing, hearing, smelling, etc., so that I could report to his doctor with some sort of accuracy. But, it was really important for me to have my own records. I had to have my own time-line.
As time went on and I got back on the road to see my customers, I experienced once again, what all “road-reps” have in common—we call it “windshield time.” You’re alone in the car for many hours, all by yourself. Seeing customers, presenting photos of new products, and describing their features and benefits is always first on your mind. But in between sales calls, answering the phone, gassing up the car, finding a clean toilet, and stops for fresh coffee—that’s all it is… just windshield time. Being a road-rep really isn’t a glamorous life, and Talk radio was always good for me in the past…but NOT after Mike got sick. I never even turned the radio on. Instead, I tried to get my job done and try to stay focused.
But all I really wanted to do was get home to Mike, to make sure that he was OK.
During these many trips and silent hours, all I could do was think! I certainly couldn’t write while driving, but often wrote down on my notepad what I thought were “key words.” These were words that related to a story in my mind, that played over and over, like a broken record. I knew that when the weekend came, I could pound out the story, while Mike was sleeping. I honestly don’t know why I did it. I simply had to. “No one could ever believe that this could happen to their kid,” was all I could think.
Maybe writing about it made me believe that it really did happen.
It wasn’t until after two years of writing these short vignettes that I actually believed that I had started to write a book. By that time, there were almost 20 of them, written in no particular order. It was only then that I realized what I had really wanted to accomplish from the start. I needed to put the face of a brave, kind spirit on a tragic, horrific disease. I had to describe what schizophrenia really looks like. I hoped to take the mystery out of this disease, dispel the myths, and explain the warning signals. I needed to describe schizophrenia as a medical disease, just like any other organ disease. But most of all, I wanted to tell the story about my son, a courageous hero who had fought the good fight and had somehow won the battle. That became my final goal—to tell other parents that there’s hope.