Foreword and Afterword by Dr. Rakesh Ranjan. Purchase the book here
Shadows on the Porch is the story of a daughter, wife, and mother fated to battle the trials and tribulations of living and coping with loved ones afflicted with severe mental illness. Beverly De Angelis displays extraordinary courage and candor in depicting, with an unusual ease, the interlocking stories of immense emotional sufferings, shattered dreams, and intrigues of unimaginable proportions.
The poignancy of Beverly's story grips you from the first chapter and carries you through to the end. Her intuitive style and keen sense of observation provide us incisive insights into the inner, often-chaotic worlds of the severely mentally ill. These insights are useful to both the professionals involved in treating this population and lay people, including family members of the mentally ill.
Shadows on the Porch, so far as Beverly's story is concerned, affirms the adage "fact is better than fiction." I would add that fact is definitely more intriguing than fiction. Her story puts into focus the fear, shame, dejection, anger, horror, guilt, and self-pity that family members of the mentally compromised have to deal with daily.
Even though the storyline of Shadows on the Porch is mostly rooted in the '60s, the '70s, and the '80s, decades later, our society and culture continue to struggle with the same challenges of recognizing and treating mental illness. In this vein, her book is a stark reminder that we must continue our best efforts to overcome these challenges and obstacles. Our efforts to destigmatize mental· illness need more vigor and determination.
In the end, this book tells a story of indomitable and indestructible human spirit. It’s the story of a woman who overcame and survived indescribable suffering and loss while loving family members ailing from schizophrenia.
This courageous book is for everyone who cares about and wants to learn more about the impact of severe mental illness on families and our society.
An attentive reader might wonder why Beverly chose to marry a man with a severe mental illness and virtually no substantial future while she was well settled in her career. Her behavior seems to be particularly counterintuitive given the traumatic experiences she suffered while growing up with a mother hobbled by schizophrenia.
The answer to this complex question lies in understanding the shearing nature of psychological conflict Beverly had to endure, both as a child and a grown-up. On one hand, she was searching for an ever-elusive explanation for her mother's plight. On the other, she was probing for a solution for her mother's woes.
As Beverly describes herself, she was tormented by questions such as, "Did I do anything wrong to cause Mother harm? Do I need to love her more? Does my father need to show her more love? Do my grandparents need to offer her greater affection?"
It was a subconscious desire to "undo" or "right" the painful events from her childhood that rendered Beverly attracted to Allan. "He would do better if I just loved him enough."
Sometimes, people even have fantasies of "curing" a mentally ill person with love. Beverly said she had "this childhood theory that love was magical and could cure anything." This once again is a subconscious attempt to "undo" a severe and unresolved psychological conflict emanating from one’s past.
There is a myriad of lessons to be learned from this heartwrenching story:
· The importance of early detection and treatment of a mental illness. Children with mental illness are at a greater risk because of diminished abilities to express their difficulties and sufferings. Therefore, a higher index of suspicion, on the part of both families and mental health professionals, is warranted.
· The need for utilizing a bio-psycho-social approach to treatment, whereby attention to social and family support is emphasized in addition to rational pharmacotherapy.
· The necessary involvement of family members in treatment. They are an important collaborative source of information and a resource in implementing a treatment plan.
· The need to pay attention to the emotional fallout in family members. They should be provided support, assessment and treatment as and if needed.
· The necessity for educating law enforcement agencies on mental illness.
Schizophrenia is a brain disorder ·in which the affected person loses touch with reality, may have problems with perception, may have beliefs which at times are overwhelmingly absent of supporting facts, and has significant difficulties in social interactions and overall day-to-day functions.
I have had both the privilege and responsibility of treating Beverly's schizophrenic son, Steven. Beverly and I worked closely together to formulate a sensible treatment plan for him. Consequently, he was placed on a long-acting injectable anti-psychotic. The treatment approach has resulted in more than a semblance of stability in Steven.
Get your copy of "Shadows on The Porch: A Cleveland memoir of survival and three generations of mental illness" on Amazon