Tuesday, June 7, 2011
TELL SOMEONE Tuesday: A Guest Post from Author Madeline Sharples
This is not an easy read but, I think, one that needs to be told, shared and embraced. Madeline shows us how important it is not only to understand this disorder but also how vital it is to get these people the help they need and why they need to maintain therapy. She also talks about the difficulty in helping someone you love living with this disorder who is an adult. When do we step in? How can we make an adult stay on their therapy track?
Madeline joins us today as her first stop on her Book Blog Tour with WOW-womenonwriting and I'm thrilled. First we'll have Madeline share her thoughts with us, then we'll share some information about her amazing book.
Raising a Child with Bipolar Disorder
Our son Paul had just turned twenty-one when he had his first manic episode. One day he was perfectly fine, playing the piano at his grandmother’s eighty-fifth birthday party. Two weeks later he was calling us up every few minutes, writing all over his walls with a blue felt-tipped marker, and saying people were lurking in doorways out to get him and poisoning his food and cigarettes. He was a jazz musician no longer able to sit still long enough at the piano to play a song through from the beginning to end.
The doctors, who diagnosed our son with bipolar disorder, said this disorder, caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and triggered by stress, usually hits young people in their late teens or early twenties. I did not raise a small child with bipolar. I had to care for an adult child with the disorder. Still I asked myself: Could some of the events of his early life been warning signals about how he would turn out?
· an eight-hour surgery and four-hour recovery period at age two to separate his third and ring fingers on both hands,
· his grandfather’s death at age three,
· his brother’s spinal meningitis,
· his social difficulty in school until he went to a private high school when he blossomed as a jazz musician and composer,
· an affair with a thirty-two year old woman when he was seventeen,
· attending college in New York City, and, most of all,
· a history of depression and manic depression in my family.
And because he was an adult I had no control over what happened to him. He refused to give us legal control. I could only care for him if he let me. I cuddled him and rubbed his back, but I couldn’t spoon-feed him like a child anymore. As much as we tried to get him to take his medications – putting them out for him in daily doses or sprinkling them on ice cream to make them more palatable, he took them sporadically and later not at all. Even his girlfriend’s threat to leave him if he stopped taking his medications didn’t convince him to stay on them. He was an adult, and he controlled the outcome. He controlled his destiny.
When he was first diagnosed we literally kidnapped him and took him to the hospital. But he never allowed us to do that again. When his doctors or we called the police to hospitalize him, he was a master at acting normal. Up until the end he worked everyday, so he was able to go about in his “normal” disguise. I knew he was depressed. I worried, but he didn’t let his father or me help him. And at that time, I didn’t know what a deadly illness he had. I never thought that my grandmother’s and uncles’ and my mother’s erratic behavior was caused by a deadly gene passed down to my son.
Thank you, Madeline for sharing this post with us and giving us some important things to think about. I so appreciate you joining us and I wish you so much luck on the rest of your Book Tour as well as with this book. If you have any questions, comments or other pearls you'd like to share, please feel free. And be sure to join Madeline over at The Gift blog on Thursday where she and Chynna will chat more in depth about her writing, Leaving the Hall Light On and more.
Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide by Madeline Sharples
Hardcover Release: May 2011
Lucky Press LLC
Leaving the Hall Light On is about living after loss. It's about finding peace and balance and various ways the author, Madeline Sharples, brought herself together after feeling so helpless and out of control during her son Paul's seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder and after his suicide in September 1999. Sharples explains: "I write about the steps I took in living with the loss of my son, including making use of diversions to help ease my grief. Leaving the Hall Light On is also about the milestones I met toward living a full life without him: packing and giving away his clothes, demolishing and redoing the scene of his death, cataloging and packing away all his records and books, copying all of his original music compositions onto CDs, digitizing all of our family photos, and gutting his room and turning it into my office and sanctuary with a bay window that looks out toward a lush garden and a bubbling water fountain."
The author's book shares several aspects of her son's illness and how she and her husband, and their other son, Ben, survived Paul's suicide, as it:
1) describes the frustration, anger, and guilt of trying to care for an adult child with mental illness
2) gives mothers and fathers who have experienced a child's death ways to get out of the deep dark hole they are in,
3) tells people the realities of mental illness,
4) describes the steps Sharples took in living with this loss; the first and foremost that she chose to live and go on with life and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother, writer, and
5) shows readers that grief is love in action. To let ourselves grieve is to feel the depth of our love for as long as it takes. For those of us whose children have died, that may take the rest of our lives, but we will discover the gifts of our loss in the process.
About the Author: Although Madeline Sharples fell in love with poetry and creative writing in grade school and studied journalism in college, her professional life focused on technical writing. It was not until later in life that she finally pursued her dream of being a professional writer.
Madeline co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) and co-edited The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (August 2010). Her poems have been published in two photography books The Emerging Goddess, and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer), and a number of magazines. Visit her at www.madelinesharples.com.