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Be refreshed,

Dawn Herring

Refresh with Dawn Herrng

Host of #JournalChat Live on social media

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Mom's Point of View on Mental Illness with Madeline Sharples

As host of #JournalChat Live for all things journaling on Twitter, I have had the delight of meeting and chatting with writer, poet and avid journal keeper, Madeline Sharples, author of the memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, which reveals her in-depth experience as Mom of a son who suffered with bi-polar disorder and who later committed suicide.

Up to this point, I had only read memoir from an adult child's point of view of the parent and not ones that dealt directly with a child's mental illness; and since Madeline's was written from a mother's point of view, I felt it was an important opportunity to learn more of her story, which she partially built and wrote from journal entries she penned during her son's mental illness and in the aftermath of his death.

One of the main elements of Madeline's memoir that I especially appreciated was her balanced narrative that was heartfelt as well as honest and forthright. She doesn't gloss her story but, instead, shares her frustration, confusion and anger that she felt toward her son, Paul, in response to his mental illness.

She truly gives a clear and detailed inside view of what her family life was like during this time, which also included her mother, her husband, Bob, and her younger son, Ben.

Throughout the narrative she also includes a poetic thread of her point of view with tie-ins to the family-themed stories told in heartfelt detail that all relate to raising her meticulous, musical, and technologically talented son, both in his early childhood and later as a young adult.

Madeline shares in her book all the decisions she's had to make regarding her survival of Paul's suicide, from her work choices to answering the question, "How many children do you have?", one that can be daunting to consider when dealing with the reactions of others.

She speaks of friends who have gone and new ones that she has now established, post Paul's death.

Madeline's marriage to Bob is a highlight throughout her story as she shares their differences in their approaches to reckoning with their son's death as well their continued life today. It's quite an encouragment to see how their love has endured through one of the toughest challenges any parent can ever face.

Her ways of keeping Paul's memory alive are both loaded with Mother-Love and a keen sense of who Paul was with all sides of his authentic personality; she also shows who she is now in her roles as wife to Bob, Mom to Ben, writer, poet and journal keeper.

After reading Madeline's memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, I have a new understanding and an immediate sense of her frustration and her grief; but I have also been inspired by seeing her determination and grit to move forward which she has done by making wise choices for herself to stay strong, refreshed, and loved.

Madeline Sharples studied journalism in high school and college and wrote for the high school newspaper, but only started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer and journalist late in life. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, was released in a hardback edition in 2011 and has just been released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things. It tells the steps she took in living with the loss of her oldest son, first and foremost that she chose to live and take care of herself as a woman, wife, mother, and writer. She hopes that her story will inspire others to find ways to survive their own tragic experiences.

She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 and 2, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems have also appeared online and in print magazines.

Madeline’s articles appear regularly in the Naturally Savvy, PsychAlive, Aging Bodies, and Open to Hope. She also posts at her blogs, Choices and at Red Room and is currently writing a novel.  Madeline’s mission since the death of her son is to raise awareness, educate, and erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide in hopes of saving lives.
Madeline and her husband of forty plus years live in Manhattan Beach, California, a small beach community south of Los Angeles. Her younger son Ben lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife Marissa. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dawn,

    Thank you so much for your insightful and thorough review of Leaving the Hall Light On. I am so happy we have found each other on #JournalChat. The forum has been very inspiring. I look forward to many more chats with you about the power and the products of our journals.