After my mom died, I started writing a book about caring for her through her earlier depression and then as she succumbed to the cancer mercilessly thriving within her. It took me ten years to write which, even by my perfectionist standards, was a tad on the lengthy side.
I did wonder why it took me so long to write. Sure, I had the usual (okay, the excessive)
disclaimers but maybe there was something else that hindered my ability to
finally call it “done.”
This book was something I was bursting to write. I hoped the experiences I shared of growing
up with a depressed mom and (most likely) bipolar father would help others in
similar situations. (Having a brother with epilepsy didn’t even seem not “normal”
As a family, we kept these things to ourselves and took care
of the inevitable problems that resulted from these challenges ourselves.
Then I wrote a book . . .
Both Mom and Dad had died when I published the book. Dad knew I was working on it and assumed he
would figure prominently and even joked about some of his most outrageous
antics that should be included. He had started to read a few things I had
written before he died but was always either effusive with the encouragement or
indifferent. (Dad never experienced what
it was like in the middle of the road – always to one extreme or other).
In the back of my mind, I was concerned about hurting his
feelings with the book. I was also very
aware of how Mom would feel about it if she were still alive. (I can see how this stops people from writing
memoirs!). I knew the book was written
with love but didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Growing up in a family concerned with
appearances, this was a huge struggle for me.
There isn’t forgiveness in the book but only because there
is nothing for me to forgive. We went
through suicide attempts (Mom) and 3-day mental health holds (both Mom and Dad)
but they had always tried their best so why would I have to forgive them? There was nothing to forgive. What we experienced was just part of what
happened in our family, without malice, and I knew we all loved each other. Forgiveness was an unnecessary part of the
I quieted my internal disclaimers and my concerns about
hurting anyone’s feelings and hesitancy to spill the family secrets.
I took a deep breath and published the book.
Then people started buying the book. Friends, acquaintances
and extended family.
Oh crap. The extended
What would they think?
I loved my extended family and would never do anything to hurt
them. How would they feel about me
opening the basement and letting everyone see what was down there?
I don’t know for sure yet. I
did receive a very heartfelt letter from a couple members of my extended family. They
both read the book and shared with me some tragic parts of their lives that I
hadn’t known about. I was honored they
shared their own childhood experiences with me and hope sharing those
experiences helped them in some way.
Everyone has a story to tell and I like to listen to these
stories. My intent in telling my own
story was to tell it with love and understanding and to let others know they
are not alone with their family secrets – no matter what those secrets
are. What happened in my own family is nothing compared to what others have experienced but we all have something.
Since publishing Forever a Caregiver, I’ve heard from many people who have said my book helped them
realize they were not alone because they had similar childhoods. They’ve told me this book that took me years
to not only write but find the courage to actually publish, has helped them
process their own experiences.
These responses and those from my immediate and extended
family make this ten year investment completely worth it.
If you have a story (or family secret) to share, I would
love to listen. Acknowledging these
experiences and sharing them can take away the hold they may still have on
If you’d like your own copy of Forever a Caregiver, please visit here.