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COPING WITH FAMILY TRAUMA: TWO AUTHORS SHARE THEIR STORIES OF PERSEVERANCE AND TRUIMPH

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:13pm
As I wrote in a previous blog, “whether it’s a child who is suffering or a parent of a child, and some families do suffer far greater ills than others … that doesn’t mean that other families are perfect or that perfection is what one should strive to attain. Whatever the fear is today that still prevents people from educating themselves, it certainly is akin to shame, and speaks to a deep-seated need to prevent oneself or one’s family from being judged by others as being less than perfect. … Yet, receiving the help necessary to move beyond personal and profoundly damaging trauma is as necessary when treating mental illness as it is when treating diabetes or heart disease. Taking pills or injections and/or being in therapy for a broken leg, a broken heart or a broken mind only makes us stronger and healthier and helps those whom we love and who love us to lead healthier, more productive lives.”

In quoting from my memoir’s Epilogue in FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness, I wrote:: “I will, indeed, feel rewarded if I’m able to reach those who weren’t or aren’t afforded the necessary help needed to move beyond trauma, neglect, and deprivation – not only from families in which there is mental illness – but from any family where members are deprived the opportunity to live in an environment in which the healthy, independent development of their spirit is able to thrive.”

I have been rewarded many more times than I could have imagined since the publication of my book and since I started this blog. I receive weekly e-mails from friends, family and total strangers and have been invited to speak at various venues about my book. The Question and Answer periods following each of my talks reveal so much to me about the secrets people live with, unprocessed, unexamined, and causing irreparable pain. Still others speak of the difficulties in receiving proper care and not knowing where and to whom to turn.

This Thursday, September 24th, I will be sharing the podium with Randye Kaye, a friend and the author of a forthcoming memoir in which she describes her journey as a parent dealing with the trauma of a child who developed paranoid schizophrenia in his mid-teens, while I will address the problems faced by a child having grown up with a mentally ill parent.

While our primary goal is to have those who attend leave with a greater understanding of mental illnesses, we also want to stress the importance of how illnesses of any kind affect not only the afflicted patient but each member of any given family. Most importantly, we want our audience to know what resources are available should anyone need them.

We will each tell our stories and read from our memoirs, and though our stories are very different, since my formative years – the years in which my mother’s Major Depressive Disorder impacted on me were in the 1940s and 50s and Randy’s family crisis began in the 1990’s - what remains a shared constant is the absolute necessity to be aware of the resources available today and the ways in which a family can persevere with dignity and survive with strength.

Also,I hope that those who join us will leave the event with a greater understanding of how urgent the need is for society not to stigmatize either the patients who suffer or the family members who suffer along with them. While it is true that today there are many more professionals who are properly trained to treat both the patient and the family than when I was growing up, it still amazes me to know that in a variety of communities (from the ultra religious to the ultra superstitious) it’s still difficult for some to admit to what may be going on behind the closed doors of their homes. Call it shame. Call it ignorance. Call if fear. It matters not what masks we hide behind, but if we do not release ourselves from the prisons of these illnesses, we will remain trapped, helping no one and harming many.

When dealing with children who begin to “act strangely” or whose inappropriate behavior is either brought to a family’s attention or the family itself notices it, the first and most important goal for parents is to get HELP. Recognition implies acknowledgment and it’s at this point that it’s most important to offer unconditional love and take a pro-active position in reaching a physician or facility that will develop a treatment plan for those who need special care. When we do not do that, we remain part of the problem and certainly do not contribute toward a solution. This is essential not only for children but for adolescents, young adults and seniors.

Even when a family member may be a physician in a specialized area of care or a psychiatrist, social worker or psychotherapist, this is not a time to go it alone. The objectivity of other trained professionals must be available.

With children and adolescents it is often particularly difficult to get a proper diagnosis because the variants are so inconsistent, given that some normal developmental changes appear to be abnormal and contrarily the opposite is as true. Whether or not one is given a diagnosis or even the proper diagnosis, disturbing symptoms are unlikely to “go away.” At the extreme, some children need to be hospitalized (sometimes only briefly) for medical treatment and others may fare best in an in-patient, emotionally based/educational setting. That there are such places and that some have a much higher success rate than others is what parents need to know. They and their children are not alone and there IS help to be found, if you do you your homework and research your options.


In talking about FAMILY TRAUMA, Randye and I hope to clarify and exemplify the need to first see and admit to the trauma and then to be pro-active, in order to move beyond it with love, so that forgiveness and healing become real possibilities.

I look forward to meeting as many of you who are able to attend! (There will also be a book signing following the presentation.)

For further information about AUTHOR TALK with Randye Kaye and Linda Appleman Shapiro ( COPING WITH FAMILY TRAUMA: TWO AUTHORS SHARE THEIR STORIES OF PERSEVERANCE AND TRIUMPH ), please contact Lesley Lambton at 203-438-2282 or e-mail her at lalambton@ridgefieldlibrary.org .
• The library is located at 472 Main Street, Ridgefield, Ct.
• The library’s phone # is: 203-438-2282
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