Almost a year ago I came to grips with a difficult decision. I needed to take a couple of months away from my blog. The difficulty arose from the realization I was giving in to my pain and resulting depression. Giving in is not in my nature.
Two months grew into six. Then into ten, and here we are today, a bit over a year later. Without saying anything more, I let the months slip by. Finally, my courage and determination have gotten the better of me. I’m stepping out from behind those excuses. Continue reading →
Yes, hope remains. Despite fires and smoke, extremely hazardous air quality, several days of evacuation orders: hope remains.
All the above add stress to the already stressful pandemic. Yet, hope remains.
One bit of good news, the Portland protests and riots took a break during the smoke and poor air quality. One less level of stress. Hope remains.
As we sat in our home, we talked a lot about preparedness when threatened by a natural disaster. What one thing would you take? It’s hard to say. You might not have time to remember what that thing is and then pick it up and go. But we did start a list of what we’d need to take with us. Continue reading →
It was just the way he walked, with that self-assured, cocky stance that said he
was in control. Or was it his ready smile and quick wit that reminded me
of his father? Vern’s comment made me realize that Brian was
not just another normal kid, like Vern’s kids were.
He was Ed’s son. It was just the way he walked.
In her second memoir, Kathy Pooler tackles two difficult issues in her life. She refers to poor personal choices made in her marital life. These choices affected not only the author but also the lives of her children, Brian and Leigh Ann. Here she tells the story of her son Brian’s addiction and her simultaneous battle with cancer. It is a love story, one filled with hope and healing.
Concerned about Brian’s addiction, Pooler worries Brian will end up like his father, Ed. This is a common worry among parents of children in a marriage or partnership with an addicted partner. But how to watch and
help turn a person away from what another presents as normal?
Pooler tries as hard as a parent can try to help Brian, but we all know the various emotional stages of growth. The “I’m wholly knowledgeable” teen years, the “I’m an adult now” years, and the “I don’t need you in my life any more” years. How does a single parent cope with knowing a child is struggling with addiction of any type? Coping with this problem alone is difficult, as Pooler shares in Just the Way He Walked. She holds back nothing.
The strength of her faith is a bolster for her hopes and desires to help Brian. Helpful is a stepfather willing to step up and help Pooler with both battles. Pooler shows how at times we have to let someone step in to help through strengths we may not have. She shares her use of journaling, belief in prayer, and strong faith—a powerful toolbox.
Pooler’s memoir is well written. Her story is written with others in mind trying to help a family member or friend struggling with addiction. Descriptions of her emotions are honest and painful for the reader. But, we must expect reality to shine through in a tough story such as this.
In the synopsis of Just the Way He Walked, Pooler shares the goal in writing this book:
The message of resilience and faith in the face of insurmountable odds serves
as a testament to what is possible when one dares to hope.
I recommend Just the Way He Walked to those looking for the hope of helping an addict to turn his or her life around.
It is rare that I give a 5-star rating to books I review. Yet, often I make exceptions as I have done with Pooler’s new memoir. It is indeed a 5-star book.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and nothing more. Opinions expressed here are solely mine.
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Daniel Singer hadn’t eaten in a week. Hunched over with his head in his hands, he’d sit in his safe chair for hours, doing nothing but shaking, mumbling and moaning; he was in the throes of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dan went from seven therapists to ten medications to a nine week stay at a world renowned residential treatment program. His parents worried he’d never again be able to function in society, or even worse, survive. Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is a mother’s account of the courage and perseverance of a young man who at times was hindered by the very people who were supposed to be helping him. It is a story of hope and the power of family, as well as a useful guide for all those whose lives have been touched by this often misunderstood and misrepresented disorder. Weaving expert commentary and useful information about OCD and its treatment throughout, the authors are able to offer not just a personal account of how the disorder can affect sufferers and families, but also a glimpse into the possibilities for diagnosis, clinical approaches, and successful outcomes. Today, thanks to Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, one of the available treatments for OCD, Dan is a college graduate working in his chosen field and living life to the fullest. He is living proof that even those with the most severe cases of OCD can not only recover, but triumph.
Janet Singer has accomplished more in her book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, than a hundred scientific publications filled with facts, figures, and charts. To live with OCD yourself or in your family, the ordinary human needs lay speak. Janet does that in her book with authenticity, emotion, and compassion.
Janet lives knowing her adult son has OCD and is challenged in many ways to cope and engage in a normal existence. Most frustrating to Janet and her husband, Gary, are the many attempts by professionals at treating Dan’s symptoms. Trying one drug after the other, sometimes prescribing one on top of the other. Often there were interactions between drugs which were unbearable for Dan. Despite their conversations with his doctors, Janet and Gary never seemed to be able to get through to the medical community that they really know who Dan is.
In my opinion, Janet has done a tremendous favor for those living with OCD or with a loved one who has OCD. The picture offered is a realistic image of their family’s struggles with Dan’s illness and treatments. Janet does not spare anything in laying out the facts of their life, their struggles with the medical and psychological communities, their attempts to help Dan.
Standing alongside and contributing to Janet’s book is Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania. The beauty of Dr. Gillihan’s contributions is found in their placement in the book. As Dan and his family face another crisis, Dr. Gillihan writes information on drugs, treatment plans, and other scientific information in lay terms. This balance between the realistic story and the medical information available provides a perfect resource based in truth for coping with and treating OCD.
Janet Singer has written a poignant and powerful memoir plus a resource to guide others to an understanding of OCD and how to manage it. This book shares encouragement and enlightenment in equal measure, a powerful combination indeed.
Overcoming OCD is a story of struggle for Dan and for his parents. Janet and Dan’s love for him and their wish to improve his life is palpable. In sharing their story, Janet has gifted to many a measure of hope in coming to terms with OCD and its many crises. Anyone living with loved ones suffering OCD, or who know someone with OCD, or who could give a copy to a local library will help spread Janet’s words an unknown number of people may benefit from the Singers’ story. Share a ray of hope, a glimmer of better days, and new and innovative treatments.
I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.
Today I’m pleased to give Janet Singer’s book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, a powerful and well-written work, a 5-star rating.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Meet Janet Singer:
Janet Singer is an advocate for OCD awareness, with the goal of spreading the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. At the age of eighteen, her son Dan suffered from OCD so debilitating he could not even eat. Today, thanks to exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, he is a college graduate working in his chosen field and living life to the fullest. Janet writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Mentalhelp.net, and has been published on many other web sites including Beyond OCD, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and Mad in America. She has also been an invited speaker at OCD conferences. She started her own blog, ocdtalk (www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com) in 2010 and it currently reaches readers in 162 countries. She uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy. (Via Goodreads)
Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with a practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and related conditions. Dr. Gillihan is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Psychiatry and a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Haverford College.
Prior to opening his practice, Dr. Gillihan was an Assistant Professor at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania where he carried out research on anxiety disorders (primarily posttraumatic stress disorder) and smoking cessation, provided treatment for anxiety and depression, and supervised psychology trainees and psychiatry residents in the delivery of cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD, PTSD, depression, and other conditions. (Via Dr. Gillihan’s website)
Book Details: Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Published: January 22, 2015 Hardcover, 240 pages ISBN: 1442239441
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The child does not question, the child believes in the supremacy and the certainty of the parent, the child trusts. The child does what she is told. ~ Lori Schafer in On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened (Kindle Loc. 456)
It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.
Then came my mother’s psychosis.
I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.
My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.
But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.
She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.
Book Details: Publisher: Lori Schafer Published: November 7, 2014 Kindle Edition: 85 pages ISBN13: 9781942170044
Lori Schafer is an expressive and passionate writer. Considering the subject of her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, the reader would expect expression and passion. Yet, the essence of Lori’s writing is not based in the subject. Lori is a gifted writer. It does not matter what she is writing; her gift is in the craft and she is expressive and passionate about everything she writes.
On Hearing of My Mother’s Death … is a herculean and intense read for such a short book. A mother who is a professional marrier encumbered with mental illness, something a child doesn’t grasp, leads a life burdensome and frightening for her children. An older sister has left home, and Lori is left to fend for herself. By age 17, she is living on the streets.
Lori addresses the structure of her storytelling in a foreword. But it is the only structure I believe would have worked with Lori’s story. Told in flashbacks and present day, alternating as memories fluctuate, Lori organizes her story in the way a child would remember. Often Gloria, whom I believe is Lori’s inner child, tells much of the story making the structure reasonable.
The reader joins Lori as she watches her mother sink into the depths of mental illness, a specific diagnosis never given. It could have been any one of a number of mental illnesses, but the never-changing impact on the lives of her children were neglect and cruelty resulting in fear, side effects of the ravages of their mother’s untreated mental illness.
To hear the level of fear and the horrid conditions in which she lived is to join Lori on a most difficult journey. Years after leaving home Lori receives a letter from her mother:
That fear, it never quite went away. And when my mother wrote to me the second time, a decade and a half later [circa 2006], I was almost more afraid than I had been the first time. I’d just begun dating a man who had two young children. I had nightmare visions of her appearing on his doorstep with a butcher knife or worse. I sent out warnings to everyone I knew. Judy Green-Hair is back. Watch your step. Because you never know; you just can’t ever predict what someone with an untreated psychotic illness might decide to do. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 865)
This is only one example of Lori’s continuing fear surrounding her mother and her untreated illness. It is hard to imagine living this way for so long. And yet, Lori survived.
I cannot leave you without sharing one last quote from Lori’s book:
… And while our individual experiences vary, the emotions are the same. We all hurt. We all have fear. We all have pain.
But we all, too, have strength. We have power. Even the weakest and meekest show us glow and shine with the light of hope, the light of life. We try, we fight, we strive. We endure. We survive. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 1559)
If you are writing memoir or want to write memoir, I urge you to read this one. Lori’s writing style, character development, and scene building is exceptional. Her passion and expression when telling her story is real. These are the tools of your craft if you write memoir. Or if you simply enjoy reading the life stories of others, Lori’s memoir is for you too. To read of Lori’s life and know that she survived it is inspirational and encouraging.
In addition, I’ve had a ton of short work published in a wide variety of print and online venues – more than thirty pieces in the last year and a half – so if you enjoy flash fiction, short stories, and essays, please check out my publications page, where you’ll find links and a complete list of my credits. I have also published selected works as FREE ebooks on Amazon, ITunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, Smashwords, and Lulu, so feel free to download whatever strikes your fancy.
Nina graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her professional life and her book, which will be out in February 2015. Additionally, I review her memoir on this blog on January 22nd.
Join me in welcoming Nina to my blog and gathering for discussion and questions in the comment section below.
First, Nina, thank you for your willingness to share such a personal story with your readers and my followers. I appreciate it is not an easy topic to discuss yet you have written an amazing book and have answered my interview questions graciously.
Nina, would you share with my readers a bit about your professional background aside from your success as a writer?
There’s a long history of mental illness in my family. My paternal grandmother was institutionalized with Clinical Depression, and my father was an unmedicated Manic Depressive (what is now called Bipolar Disorder). He self-medicated with alcohol, and was abusive as a result. Because of my family’s history, I earned an AA in Psychology. It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed Clinical Depression, and became suicidal myself. When I couldn’t function anymore, I began taking an anti-depressant and rebounded. I wanted to use my experience to help others, so I returned to college and earned a BA in Applied Psychology, and had completed my academic program for my MS Mental Health Counseling Degree when my 15-year-old daughter began a downhill slide into severe depression after the death of her father. The family curse went from me to her.
As a mental healthcare professional assisting clients experiencing grief, how do you help them find their way through the devastation of something like suicide where guilt is also an emotional response?
I normalize the experience of guilt and self-blame for them, so they understand it is the most common emotion shared among suicide survivors. We all look back and see where we could have done better or intervened sooner, or said something we wished we had said, or regretted having said things. Only people who loved greatly feel remorse greatly. And while I will forever wish I had done things differently, as time passes I can see that I did love her and I did get her help, that I did the best I could and knew to do at the time. I assure clients who are grieving a suicide, and even those who have lost a loved one by any means, that survivor’s guilt is common, and can be a heavy weight. My advice is to not grieve silently. Get support by sharing your feelings, and finding supportive people. They may not fall in your lap–you may need to go out and look for a support group or a counselor to talk to. But nobody should shoulder the burden of grief alone.
You yourself have experienced the loss of a daughter through suicide. What confounded you the most about not being able to cope with the depth of that grief on your own?
Because I’d been trained to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and had intervened to prevent client suicides in the past, it was doubly hard for me to accept that I had been unable to save my own daughter. Because of this I felt incredible, overwhelming shame. Because of the guilt and self-condemnation, it made it that much harder for me to seek support. Eventually I did find my way to a Psychologist who was very helpful in encouraging self-forgiveness. But what I feel helped me the most was to journal about my feelings, and to talk it out with a friend. I came to realize that suicide happens to every kind of person, in every culture, and mental health professionals are not immune. Today I am not hiding behind the stigma of mental illness anymore, and encourage everyone who has a mental illness to get comfortable talking about it. The more we share our own stories of our challenges and how we are coping and living successfully with these issues, the less societal stigma there will be.
Your memoir, Once the Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing after the Suicide of My Daughter, chronicles the lessons you learned during your grief and healing. Could you share briefly about your own healing and how it came about over time?
Key to emotional healing are the words “over time.” You’ve heard the saying, time heals all wounds. That’s true, but only if you express your pain and grief. Keeping the pain of trauma and loss too close to our chest can kill our spirits and hope for the future. Only when we give ourselves permission to be human–to make mistakes, and to see failure as part of the human growth cycle will we accept that we are not perfect, and in fact we are coded for error; making mistakes is part of how we learn and grow. Healing happens when we are willing to externalize the grief by expressing it. Not pushing it away from us and denying it or avoiding it, but looking at it squarely, facing it and saying: I am not perfect, but I did the best I knew to do at the time, and because of that, I deserve a little grace. Healing comes when we allow ourselves to stop running from the pain and to feel our real feelings.
Lastly, talk to us about writing your book and if you can, share with us any launch details.
This book was unintentional, meaning I didn’t write with the intention of sharing my story. It was my Psychologist who suggested I journal about my feelings, and get the grief on paper. To my surprise, I found that although it was difficult seeing my life and problems on paper, it was also miraculously transformative. The more I wrote the more I wanted to write, because it was like a salve that I could apply to the wound any time I wanted. Writing about my feelings was the biggest healing factor for me, because it’s difficult to deny what you’re feeling and thinking when it’s coming straight out of your pen! Journaling was like holding up a mirror in which I could see myself clearly, and that clarity really helped put things into perspective. My journal became this book where readers will be taking this journey through grief with me.
Again, Nina, thank you for sharing your words and thoughts with us today.
Learn More About Nina:
Nina Bingham, Cht, AA, BA
Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, American Pacific University, HI
Associates of Arts in Psychology, Santa Rosa Junior College, CA
Bachelors of Arts in Applied Psychology, City University of Seattle, WA
Masters of Science of Mental Health Counseling Academic Program Completed-Capella University, MN
Nina Bingham is an Author, Life Coach, and Clinical Hypnotherapist. Inspiring, sincere and whole-hearted, she educates not only from her academic knowledge, but shares from her own hard-won life experience in a new and profound way. In private practice since 2003, she has treated individuals and couples with a wide variety of mental health issues. She is the author of 3 books of poetry and one recovery workbook, Never Enough. Her fifth book, “Once The Storm Is Over: From Grieving to Healing After The Suicide of My Daughter,” is due out in February 2015. It’s the autobiographical confession of a counselor who lost her teen daughter to suicide. What she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.