Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul’s battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed – forever.
Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding.
Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into. There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entry into their home as a young adult dampened their spirits and their freedom. But she artfully balances those passages with descriptions of the love and relief that washed over her when she would hear his car motor in their garage, his footsteps down the hall, his peering around the corner to wish her good night, along with the yearning she had for the boy she raised, the one who had dreams and talent, and who loved them back wholeheartedly. She conveys her hopes that her son’s longtime girlfriend would one day become her daughter, hopes that were dashed by Paul’s refusal to stay on the medications that made a continuing relationship impossible. In a perfect world, the girlfriend might have remained part of their lives, but Madeline understands her need to give back all of Paul’s mementos and sever the ties.
Though the suicide is the event about which the book pivots, in a deeper sense it is a story of the push and pull between people who love each other, who are carving out independence in their lives while nurturing their bonds, and how sometimes no amount of nurturing is enough. It is a story of the limits of friendships, some that vanish after tragedy strikes and others that emerge from the most unexpected places, a neighbor who staunchly supports their grieving process, day after day, though she had never been part of their inner circle of friends. The author finds special solace in writing poems about her son that are strategically placed to fit with the chronology of the book. My favorite line is this: ”the lunch crowd is beginning to gather not knowing or caring how I grieve for the chubby little boy sitting in his car seat when so little made him happy.”
Please read about Dr. Miller and her views on the causes of psychoses here.
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