Title: HE CAME IN WITH IT
Subtitle: A Portrait of Motherhood and Madness
Author: MIRIAM FELDMAN
Narrator: ANN RICHARDSON
Genre: NON-FICTION, MEMOIR, MENTAL HEALTH, SCHIZOPHRENIA, PARENTING
Length: 11 HOURS and 4 MINUTES
Publisher: DREAMSCAPE MEDIA
Type of Book: AUDIOBOOK
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: JULY 21, 2020
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
In an idyllic Los Angeles neighborhood, where generations of families enjoy deep roots in old homes, the O’Rourke family fits right in. Miriam and Craig are both artists and their four children carry on the legacy.
When their teenage son, Nick, is diagnosed with schizophrenia, a tumultuous decade ensues in which the family careens permanently off the conventional course.
Like the ten Biblical plagues, they are hit by one catastrophe after another, violence, evictions, arrests, a suicide attempt, a near-drowning…even cancer and a brain tumor…play against the backdrop of a wild teenage bacchanal of artmaking and drugs. With no time for hand-wringing, Miriam advances, convinced she can fix everything, while a devastated Craig retreats to their property in rural Washington State as home becomes a battlefield.
It is while cleaning out a closet, that Miriam discovers a cache of drawings and journals written by Nick throughout his spiral into schizophrenia. She begins a solitary forensic journey into the lonely labyrinth of his mind.
This is the story of how mental illness unspools an entire family. As Miriam fights to reclaim her son from the ruthless, invisible enemy, we are given an unflinching view into a world few could imagine.
It exposes the shocking shortfalls of our mental health system, the destructive impact of stigma, shame and isolation, and, finally, the falsity of the notion of a perfect family.
Throughout the book, it is the family’s ability to find humor in the absurdities of this life that saves them. It is a parable that illustrates the true definition of a good life, allowing for the blemishes and mistakes that are part of the universal human condition.
HE CAME IN WITH IT is the legacy of, and for, her son Nick.
Miriam and Craig seem to have it all. Fulfilling and rewarding careers as successful artists, four amazing kids and a beautiful home in a great area of L.A. Their lives are blessed … at least, that was how it seemed until suddenly their son, their beautiful, artistic, intelligent and sociable son, Nick, started behaving strangely.
Thus began a multi-year odyssey into the world of mental illness and the search for someone, anyone, who could help Nick, and the rest of the family cope with his Schizophrenia.
In HE CAME IN WITH IT, Nick’s mother Miriam, learns just how terribly flawed the U.S. Mental Health system is, and how profoundly the lives of not just Nick, but the rest of his siblings are irrevocably changed by his new reality.
While Miriam tries to maintain her successful art and mural painting career with its exclusive clientele, Nick’s behavior rapidly worsens and it soon becomes apparent that Nick’s suffering will not end anytime soon (if ever.)
Once when talking with a friend, Miriam admitted to having a brief fantasy of driving herself and Nick off a cliff together. “The swath of maternal pretending fell away. We sat with the truth of what it means to be a mother.”
I was thoroughly drawn into her story. I too have a son with mental illness (bi-polar, not Schizophrenia) and I empathize with her struggles. At one point she mentions how difficult it is “To see the unspooling of your son’s mind, like fine wire….” A statement loaded with so much emotion.
Although we live in separate countries (Miriam in the United States and I in Canada) I see many parallels and similarities in our lives.
A touching and real view into the life of a mother, a family, and a country and how a single person’s mental illness touches the lives of all those around them. It is not always pretty (in fact it rarely is) but in the midst of anguish there are moments of redemption that are just enough to keep hope alive.
I listened to HE CAME IN WITH IT as an audiobook and I highly recommend this as the way to experience Miriam and Nick’s story. Narrator Ann Richardson is a phenomenal talent. Her pacing is sheer perfection and the way she emotes will have readers feeling as if it is the author herself speaking. Her narration rates a ten out of ten and it is easy to see why she continuously wins awards for her voice.
I rate HE CAME IN WITH IT – the Audiobook – as a solid 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I highly recommend this memoir to anyone who wants to learn more about the realities of loving someone who is profoundly mentally ill through no fault of their own.
Thank you to #NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of #HeCameInWithIt
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Miriam Feldman is an artist, writer, and mental health activist who splits her time between her Los Angeles atelier and her farm in rural Washington state.
She has been married to her husband Craig O’Rourke, also a successful artist, for 34 years and they have four adult children.
Their 33- year-old son, Nick, has schizophrenia.
With an MFA in painting from Otis Art Institute, Miriam founded Demar Feldman Studios, Inc., a wildly successful mural and decorative art company, in 1988. With a clientele of business and entertainment elite in Los Angeles and abroad, her work can be found everywhere from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago Beverly Hills to Jay Leno’s Beverly Hills home. Her work has been commissioned by William Shatner, Faye Dunaway and Patricia Heaton, among others. DFS’s work has been published in Elle Décor, Architectural Digest, Harper’s Bazaar, and People Magazine.
At the same time, Miriam built a strong career as a fine artist. She is represented by Hamilton Galleries in Santa Monica, CA and has a long list of collectors including Tony Shalhoub and Samuel L. Jackson.
When Nick was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2004, Miriam became an activist and a writer. With first-hand knowledge of the woeful state of our mental health system, she decided to be an advocate for those who have no voice.
She serves on the advisory board of Bring Change 2 Mind, Glenn Close’s organization, and writes a monthly blog for the website bringchange2mind.
Miriam is active in leadership at NAMI Washington and her story is featured on the cover of their current national newsletter.
She is a frequent guest on mental health podcasts and is active on Instagram where she is building a community of family and loved ones dealing with mental illness.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links:
ABOUT THE NARRATOR:
- Excellent home studio (with a snazy AT4047); I’ve recorded in it for Audible, Bee, Blackstone, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, Dreamscape, Harper, Oasis, Tantor and more.
- Speaks conversational Swedish.
- Excels at non-fiction (several Earphones Awards) but also delights in fiction.
- Adept at several accents, children’s voices, male/female dialog.
- Originally from Nebraska, has broad knowledge base including all things Midwestern, rural, 4-H, fishing, hunting, wildlife management, horse stuff…
- Now residing in Northern California and enjoys long-distance running, wine tasting, local history and all kinds of touristy-fun things.
Ann has been narrating since 2008, from her state of the art, in-home recording booth. She has been awarded three AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Awards, and has also been a multi-time finalist for the Society of Voice Arts Awards (2016, 2017, 2018).
Connecting with the story and characters is of paramount importance to Ann, and whether narrating professionally or volunteering her narration services for those with print disabilities, she breathes life into the text with a fierce devotion to authenticity.
Ann’s clients include: Audible, Blackstone Audio, Beacon Press, Bee Audio, Christian Audio, Deyan Audio, DreamScape Audio, Oasis Audio, Harper Audio, Mosaic Audio, PostHypnotic Press, Penguin Random House, Recorded Books, Tantor, and several independent authors.
Ann is an active member of both the Audio Publisher Association and World-Voices Organization. She gives presentations to author groups on how to make an audiobook, and for two years, was a columnist for InD’tale Magazine, writing all about audiobooks, narrators, and the audiobook industry.
What does Ann enjoy when she’s not narrating? Running half-marathons, wine-tasting, playing with her giant drooly dogs, visiting her father’s homeland of Sweden, painting, sculpting, amateur photography, and is currently writing her second novel.
To learn more about this Narrator, visit the following links:
WHAT IS NAMI?
NAMI can be found online at http://www.nami.org
WHAT IS SCHIZOPHRENIA?
According to NAMI, Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others.
It is a complex, long-term medical illness. The exact prevalence of schizophrenia is difficult to measure, but estimates range from 0.25% to 0.64% of U.S. adults. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40. It is possible to live well with schizophrenia.
It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability—common and nonspecific adolescent behavior. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop schizophrenia, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.
With any condition, it’s essential to get a comprehensive medical evaluation in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for a least 6 months:
Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.
Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.
Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.
Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosiaor “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.
Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:
- Genetics. Schizophrenia isn’t caused by just one genetic variation, but a complex interplay of genetics and environmental influences. Heredity does play a strong role—your likelihood of developing schizophrenia is more than six times higher if you have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with the disorder
- Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia. Recent research also suggests a relationship between autoimmune disorders and the development of psychosis.
- Brain chemistry. Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Networks of neurons are likely involved as well.
- Substance use. Some studies have suggested that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk.
Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Sometimes using drugs, such as methamphetamines or LSD, can cause a person to have schizophrenia-like symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing this illness is compounded by the fact that many people who are diagnosed do not believe they have it. Lack of awareness is a common symptom of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and greatly complicates treatment.
While there is no single physical or lab test that can diagnosis schizophrenia, a health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months can help ensure a correct diagnosis. The health care provider must rule out other factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.
To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:
- Disorganized speech
- Disorganized or catatonic behavior
- Negative symptoms
Delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Identifying it as early as possible greatly improves a person’s chances of managing the illness, reducing psychotic episodes, and recovering. People who receive good care during their first psychotic episode are admitted to the hospital less often, and may require less time to control symptoms than those who don’t receive immediate help. The literature on the role of medicines early in treatment is evolving, but we do know that psychotherapy is essential.
People can describe symptoms in a variety of ways. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, potentially due to differing cultural perspectives or structural barriers. Any person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia should try to work with a health care professional that understands his or her cultural background and shares the same expectations for treatment.
There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.
- Antipsychotic medications
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and assertive community treatment and supportive therapy
- Self-management strategies and education
People with schizophrenia may have additional illnesses. These may include:
- Substance use disorders/ Dual Diagnosis
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Major depressive disorder
Successfully treating schizohprenia almost always improves these related illnesses. And successful treatment of substance misuse, PTSD or OCD usually improves the symptoms of schizophrenia.