My family is no stranger to mental illness. It had taken the life of my Grandfather before I ever met him, Honorably Discharged my uncle before he ever had a chance to prove himself to his country, caused my sister to be afraid of going outside for many years, my nephew to be unable to concentrate and my beautiful niece to only begin to learn to walk at two years old. I know, with a deep personal understanding, what Randye Kaye means when she says, “Ben is still in there.”
“Mostly, I hope it opens meaningful dialogue. Mental illness, particularly schizophrenia, has been in a shameful closet for far too long. If this one story can put a human face on the need for early detection, more research, integrated treatment, improved medications, and more available services and support for those struggling with these illnesses- then I will be a very happy author (and mother) indeed.” – Read Full Interview.
Ben Behind His Voices is a mirror. A mirror that reflects for Randye Kaye the unimaginable struggles with her son’s schizophrenia and the hope and acceptance that is born through it. And a mirror into ourselves and how we define mental illness and cope with it in and about our lives. It is a book that begs for understanding and acceptance, for her son, for the many children that battle with mental illness everyday and the loved ones whose voices are silenced by stigma.
It opens with Ben, beautiful Ben, as he was and sometimes is behind his illness. The beginning before the storm, when only the breeze blew by questions of irrational changes. It opens with an awakening.
Ben loves nature, children, fantasy video games, helping others, the Indianapolis Colts, Thanksgiving with the family, and vegetarian Thai food. He has made teh dean’s list at college three semesters in a row. He kills at Scrabble. He has offered to counsel my best friend’s nephew, who is still lost in the world of drug addition.
Ben is twenty-eight years old. And — oh, yes — he has paranoid schizophrenia.
This book, from the very beginning, captured me and held my heart throughout. I understood so many feelings she had in the beginning as her son changed and the questions, the many questions all of us face with our children as they are growing. I have a teenage son, it is enough that I have to be concerned about his future every day as he seems incapable of considering it; trying to imagine what it would be like if he was placed with a hardship as Ben had is unimaginable to me and yet I know it is always possible with a family history of mental illness. I was a single Mom for eleven years and sympathized with her plight, I could only grasp the struggle through perspective and I was captured by it. I fell in love with Ben, who he was, who he had become, who he ultimately is. The book reaches into your heart as if saying, “Can you see him? He is beautiful. He is my son!”
This book is the manifestation of a Mother’s deep and unconditional love for her children.
and above the content soul flies to meet the morning
At the dawn of a newly rising sun
Where in the distance the grains of sand cling together
And sift through the holes
Relying on the wind to bring them closer to God
-Ben (age sixteen) as printed in the Trumbull High Literature and Art Magazine, 1999
There are many other things in this book that would be beneficial to those dealing with a loved one that has mental illness or those of you that do not understand it very well. Through the story you learn what you should do if you see signs of mental illness, who to speak with and how to get your loved one help. The procedures for the state, for police officers and where you can turn to find answers. At the end of the book it lists many books and/or websites that you can go to for more information. It guides you through particular treatment options (not only for schizophrenia) and gives you a deeper understanding through the story as well as footnotes, how mental illness affects our loved ones. It is a great resource, for those needing it and those who wish to understand it on a more significant level.
“Every story is better if there’s a reason to tell it, I think – and, from the start, I wanted others to benefit from ours. Here’s what I hope the book will do: open eyes to the people behind the illness (their challenges, their strengths, potential, courage); increase respect and reduce stigma associated with mental illness; support families in their quest to find support, education, and acceptance (including NAMI) ; offer providers a chance to see what happens in the family and how they can be a valuable partner in treatment and recovery; advocate for required education among providers about mental illness (not everything can be solved with talk therapy, and early detection is so instrumental in treatment and prognosis).” – Read Full Interview.
My Mother would always tell me that we’re all a little crazy and when I felt a bit too different she would say, “You are different, you’re my snowflake.” She taught me that the differences in each of us make us beautiful, that even the damaged and the broken pieces in our interior are aspects of our unique painting. Ben Behind His Voices is beautiful, unique and extraordinary and Randye Kaye is, without a doubt, an amazing writer that has opened her doors wide with honesty that is heartbreaking. Get this book, if you choose no other book to read but one this coming fall, let it be this book and then pass it to a friend so that they might read it. The more we are all in understanding, the more the world will awaken from its misconceptions of mental illness and those we love can have a better chance.
Many thanks to Randye Kaye for writing this story and for opening her life to us and also for sharing the time in answering my questions that you can read here in full.
You can connect with Ben Behind His Voices on Facebook, @randyekayeVO on Twitter @BenBHVoices on Twitter and/or follow/subscribe to their blog! You can read the full Short Interview with Randye Kaye, here.
You can buy Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope for $17.19 on Amazon.
I received samples for the purpose of reviewing. Opinions expressed are my own or my families and are not influenced by any form of compensation. Take it or leave it. Click here to view my full acknowledgment policy.