This piece of fiction addresses the need for families to acknowledge that people do in fact live with mental illness. Ignoring and shaming won't make it go away. Bebe Moore Campbell gives a realistic look into a family unsure of just how to acknowledge or deal with mental health disorders. In the end, love makes faith in brighter days possible.
Keri is a strong black woman. She own a fabulous designer Los Angeles clothing retail shop. Brilliant and talented, she recreates beautiful new looks and styles with items women have discarded. As smart as she is Keri can't make the monsters that attack her teenage daughter Trina, playing with the electrodes in her brain and causing her to suffer from bi-polar disorder, stop. Trina was headed to college, that's been put on hold, indefinitely. She keeps landing in mental institutions when she becomes a threat to herself or others. She's been both, forcing Keri's hands which lands Trina in a psyche ward for the maximum of 72-hours. Keri pushes the doctors to admit her into a residential program believing that real treatment will help Trina get better.
In addition to dealing with Trina and her huge magnitude of issues. Keri has the thankless job of convincing Trina's dad, and her ex, their daughter suffers from a mental disorder. Keri finds solace in a support group for caregivers of people living with various mental disorders. Run like a meeting for Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) with a twist of Narcotics Anonymous (NA) thrown in, the support group provides Keri with friends and people who understand the particular brand of stress that comes from walking on eggshells and tip-toeing quietly around the possibility that a loved one may (or may not) get better.
Keri's boyfriend Orlando is a self-absorbed actor. Thankfully he steps from in front of the mirror long enough to aid Keri in some of her darkest and trying moments in dealing with Trina.
Trina is sick. Her self destructive behavior continues with stints like mixing alcohol with the meds the doctors give her upon hospital release. Once home she and Keri go at each other until Trina storms out in search of a temporary high to help numb the pain that isn't being treated with holistic healing in mind. In fact, Trina trades legal substance for illegal substance, neither making her better.
She blames her mother for the darkness she feels it shows up as disrespect. Trina hits Keri and uses extremely abusive language towards her. Trina is a manipulative liar, and readers will wonder if she will end up killing her mother when she can no longer deal with the the long term effects of depression. It gets so dark in Trina's world that she charges Keri while yelling, “I'll kill you bitch. I know you are trying to poison me.” For Keri, the hardest part of watching her daughter's illness exacerbate was missing her baby girl. The cute little brown button who once adored her.
Good days for Keri and Trina happen when Trina sequesters herself in her room, with her music and is on her meds. These rare occasions are tender moments spent between mother and daughter. They ease themselves cautiously out of the front door
when a sunny morning presents. They visit shopping squares, and try to enjoy the peacefulness as long as it lasts.
When Trina turns 18, Keri can no longer enforce that she be kept and monitored on the psych ward, she is free to walk out of the hospital on her own. This bit of information makes it harder for Keri to navigate the rules that can help her Trina receive needed services.
Keri has to handle her feelings around watching her friend's kids head off to college. Trina was headed to Brown on a merit scholarship when she first showed signs of being ill. She was a promising student who had enjoyed a “normal” life before depression took over. Keri's friends fall off, Trina can't make or keep any, and the dance continues with mother and daughter.
By the time Trina's father unravels from the the cocoon of denial he has fashioned himself into, it is clear that he will have to start from scratch in order to have a semblance of a real relationship with his daughter. Trina tries living with him and his new wife, but his work schedule is hectic and he never figured out how to balance family and work. Family has always taken the backseat. It continues after Trina moves in. Now he can see what Keri has been ranting about first hand. He exclaims, "Trina really is, sick!" The acknowledgement pulls him out of denial and very much into the present.
Keri becomes an advocate for mental health awareness as she searches for ways to help her daughter. She and Trina go underground to take advantage of an experimental detox program that is not sanctioned by modern medicine. Dangerous and unethical, it might just work.
Keri is determined to save her daughter, and fights the system, her ex-husband, and anyone standing in the way of her love for Trina.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that Keri leaned on faith to bring her through the pain of watching her daughter self-destruct.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Trina and Keri were underground and Keri stood up to the doctor.
Opinion about the main character:
I don't like that Keri has to almost fall before getting help for herself. She and Trina share that same trait.