A WORKSHOP FOR MOTHERS OF THE STRICKEN

The mothers of mentally ill children exist in a special Hell-Within-a-Hell.  

I can attest that this is true for many fathers as well. Yet evidence from many sources shows us that it is the mothers who suffer the most. Sadly, they often struggle alone, as many of their husbands withdraw from the the horrors and the responsibilitiers of coping with such a calamity. 

My friend, the psychologist Lotte Weaver, understands this. Lotte and her husband, the wonderful singer-songwriter Ray Weaver, are the parents of an afflicted daughter, Savannah. The three of them remain a tightly bonded family unit.

Lotte and Ray have shepherded Savannah through a precarious but successful stabilization. Lotte has turned her energies and her formidable intellect to mental-health advocacy. Her latest project, an online workshop for “for mothers of sensitive and stricken children,” as she phrases it, will go online March 8–International Women’s Day.  

I strongly recommend it for all mothers of such precious children. Lotte’s own mission statement, below, expresses her mission with more eloquence than I can muster.

https://www.facebook.com/lotte.weaver

So, something happened today.

And I am writing this post with tears streaming.

It is what happens when we are met in our vulnerability. Met as who we are, with ALL that we are. Understood in ways that only someone who has gone through similar experiences as our own can understand.

My friend – although we have not yet met in person – colleague and fellow parent of the severely challenged, Ron Powers, wrote the kindest post to me.

He wrote me on a day where I felt so vulnerable, and he could not know that his message reached me as I needed it most.

He is, like me, an advocate for better conditions (much better) for the mentally ill and their families. He wrote the outstanding and heartbreaking bestseller No one Cares about Crazy People (The Chaos and Heartbreak of Mental Health in America). A must-read if you have a child struggling with mental health or severe illness.

We share being ‘out there’ with our own stories because our hearts have led us down the path – and once the heart speaks, you better follow. No other road seems possible after that.

But it is vulnerable!

Some days, it just feels powerful and right. Other days, I want to pull back in my mousehole and act like I was never ‘out there’. Today was such a day.

Then he wrote me, and he changed my day with his words: ‘Lotte, I just saw your post on the mother’s workshop. What a breathtaking idea and presentation. I have so much respect for you. I want to build a blog around this. I am requesting your permission to do so. Godspeed this workshop and your rare leadership in mental healthcare.

Thank you Ron for reminding me of my leadership. Sometimes the responsibility can feel heavy. But today you made it feel light again.

And thank you for meeting me in my vulnerability today. And for sharing your’s with me.

I am ready to go all in again.

Lotte Weaver

On the Road With Kevin

I just answered a post by dear friend from college and early-career days. He grew up in Sudbury, Ontario. He’s feeling a little down, like a lot of us, over the election, and expressed a wish to return to his hometown.

I don’t know that I managed to cheer him up, but his message reminded me of a passage from NO ONE CARES ABOUT CRAZY PEOPLE. It involves a night spent in Sudbury as I drove Kevin, then 14, from Vermont across Canada and then south through Michigan to commence his studies at the Interlochen Music Academy. I’m reposting it below. If not exactly a cheerer-upper, it at least is a reminder of moments of beauty that appear from nowhere, conjured by the fingers of a gifted child and his guitar. This was before Kevin’s fatal onset of schizo-affective disorder:

Kevin at Interlochen
Kevin at Interlochen

“That September, I drove Kevin the nine hundred miles to Interlochen. It was a memorable ride.

“We chose a route that took us north to Montreal, then westward on Highway 17 for six hundred miles, skirting Ottawa and then the vast and pristine Algonquin Provincial Park, its primitive interior saturated with lakes and moose. We ate hamburgers at a log-built restaurant and gift shop somewhere along the route, and it became our traditional stopping-place on future trips. Traditions were important to both boys, but especially Kevin. We stopped for the night in a motel in Sudbury, Ontario. At Sault Ste. Marie, we turned south into Michigan along Interstate 75. We crossed the Straits of Mackinac, linking Lakes Michigan and Huron, on the majestic suspended arc of the Mackinac Bridge that stretched five miles.

“Kevin was upbeat during the long drive, but he admitted to me that he was worried about meeting new people at the arts academy. For one thing, he said, he didn’t know any good jokes. I told him that jokes could be over-rated, and the best way to make new friends was to ask them a lot of questions about themselves. This went for girls too, I added. Girls especially.

“In our motel room in Sudbury, Ontario, I was unpacking toiletries from my suitcase. Kevin was sitting behind me on one of the twin beds. I heard acoustic guitar notes, and turned around.

“The lamplight brought out the gold in Kevin’s hair, and he was in his usual playing position, bent forward a little, head down, the sole of one messy sneaker planted on the arch of the other.

“The piece was short, but lyric, and haunting, like a medieval ballad, and as it went on I stopped unpacking and sat down on the bed beside Kevin and listened. When he had finished, and when quotidian sounds—traffic horns, voices in the hall, TV sounds in other rooms—had resumed their noise, I asked Kevin where he’d learned it and how long it had taken him to memorize it. He shrugged and said that he’d made it up as he went along. He was just doing some finger exercises.

“Some weeks later, walking with him around the Interlochen campus during a visit, I brought it up again. I asked my son if he could reconstruct that piece from memory. He gave an absent shake of his head; his attention, at that moment, was on a pretty girl riding a bicycle in and out of the sunlight. A temporary, beautiful, golden thing had passed through that motel room in Ontario that evening, and then vanished, a presence to be experienced only once, and briefly, and then never again.”