My first book memory
I remember my mother reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “The Shadow,” from a Little Golden Book. It was 1958. We lived in a small town outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where my parents owned a floral shop.
Eventually, I would lose my mother, as I knew her, to schizophrenia.
Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and David Copperfield became my lifelines in a household that was often chaotic and lonely.
I fell in love with Paul McCartney.
Every evening we watched the Vietnam War on The Huntley-Brinkley Report. In 1966, Cleveland’s Hough Avenue riots erupted. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire. In 1970, four students were killed in an antiwar demonstration at nearby Kent State.
I kept reading.
Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was our class song in high school. In college, I majored in English, minored in journalism, and edited the college literary magazine. Though communications was my field, I neither wrote nor spoke about the secret that was central to my life – my family’s experience with mental illness.
My brilliant career
By the 1980s, book publishing was still print-bound, and video was becoming the next big thing. I went back to school for a master’s degree in broadcast communications and became a media producer for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York.
I met my husband and subsequently combined a career in marketing communications with raising a family.
By this time, families with mentally ill loved ones, as well as brave individuals who suffered from mental illness, had begun speaking and writing about their experiences. I discovered E. Fuller Torrey’s Surviving Schizophrenia, an enlightened book that changed my life.
Torrey, a physician and researcher, tells the fascinating story of a baffling brain disease and urges readers to look beyond the stigma of mental illness.
His book led me to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), where I found out I wasn’t alone. Many families are touched by mental illness. I began sharing my experiences with others. I produced and managed media campaigns for the state and local chapters of NAMI, served on the local board of directors, and was honored for exceptional public awareness efforts by NAMI New York State.
Writing. Becoming a medical librarian.
I returned to school for a master’s in library science. As a medical librarian at UR Medicine, I guided health care providers, medical students, researchers, patients and families to the best medical and health information. Someday research in psychiatry, neurology, genetics, and related fields may lead to a cure for serious mental illnesses, and I wanted to do what I could to make that day come sooner rather than later.
Currently, my readers and I share the best books we can find on my blog, Books Can Save a Life, and I offer personalized book talks/workshops to book clubs, community and senior centers, libraries, and mental health groups. I’m writing a mother/daughter memoir about mental illness and the books and authors that kept me company.
Please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or to see about guest posting on Books Can Save a Life. I love to hear from readers and followers!