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Four Rooms, Upstairs: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness

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In Four Rooms, Upstairs, Linda Appleman Shapiro offers a compelling family history, addressing issues of love, loss and loyalty as she takes the reader back to her childhood in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn during the 1940s and 50s, and to her life with a mother suffering from mental illness. Sharing memories from years before modern day advancements were achieved in medicine a In Four Rooms, Upstairs, Linda Appleman Shapiro offers a compelling family history, addressing issues of love, loss and loyalty as she takes the reader back to her childhood in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn during the 1940s and 50s, and to her life with a mother suffering from mental illness. Sharing memories from years before modern day advancements were achieved in medicine and psychiatry, we see her family struggle to survive in an age when the words "mental illness" were rarely uttered and dysfunctional families did not appear on prime time television. It was a time when her family''s "secret" hovered over each of its members, when loved ones, as well as the patients themselves, were tortured by the ordeal of the disease, left anxious by the experience, and hungry for explanations. Exploring the process in which she learned to accept her own dark side while honoring her strengths, Shapiro speaks to all who have grown up threatened and haunted by unexplained terror. Her story, however, is not only about the ravages of mental illness; it specifically addresses the need to re-define and re-invent ourselves in order to rise above trauma. With the insight of a seasoned psychotherapist and as a witness to the human capacity for pain and survival, she helps us understand the healing power of forgiving without forgetting. Shapiro reminds us, as well, of the necessity to interrupt family dysfunction by merging life''s sweetness with its sorrow, reconciling its meaning with its mystery.


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In Four Rooms, Upstairs, Linda Appleman Shapiro offers a compelling family history, addressing issues of love, loss and loyalty as she takes the reader back to her childhood in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn during the 1940s and 50s, and to her life with a mother suffering from mental illness. Sharing memories from years before modern day advancements were achieved in medicine a In Four Rooms, Upstairs, Linda Appleman Shapiro offers a compelling family history, addressing issues of love, loss and loyalty as she takes the reader back to her childhood in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn during the 1940s and 50s, and to her life with a mother suffering from mental illness. Sharing memories from years before modern day advancements were achieved in medicine and psychiatry, we see her family struggle to survive in an age when the words "mental illness" were rarely uttered and dysfunctional families did not appear on prime time television. It was a time when her family''s "secret" hovered over each of its members, when loved ones, as well as the patients themselves, were tortured by the ordeal of the disease, left anxious by the experience, and hungry for explanations. Exploring the process in which she learned to accept her own dark side while honoring her strengths, Shapiro speaks to all who have grown up threatened and haunted by unexplained terror. Her story, however, is not only about the ravages of mental illness; it specifically addresses the need to re-define and re-invent ourselves in order to rise above trauma. With the insight of a seasoned psychotherapist and as a witness to the human capacity for pain and survival, she helps us understand the healing power of forgiving without forgetting. Shapiro reminds us, as well, of the necessity to interrupt family dysfunction by merging life''s sweetness with its sorrow, reconciling its meaning with its mystery.

30 review for Four Rooms, Upstairs: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ranette

    The life of Russian immigrants is nicely told about the mental illness of the mother in this small family. The young daughter who had been protected from the bouts of illness, is shocked by her mother's behavior and influences her to become active in the mental illness community. The life of Russian immigrants is nicely told about the mental illness of the mother in this small family. The young daughter who had been protected from the bouts of illness, is shocked by her mother's behavior and influences her to become active in the mental illness community.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Bogged in the middle.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Not a cliff-hanger, but it opened my eyes to some of the struggles of the mentally ill and its effects on the family.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Randye Kaye

    Linda Appleman Shapiro writes honestly and beautifully about her experience as the daughter of a mother with mental illness, coping with the confusion of the mood swings, her struggle to understand, and the stress and shame of keeping it all a secret. We meet her family members - Linda, her mother and father, and her brother - and soon the dynamic in her Brooklyn home becomes clear - as does the love that prevails. In addition, we get a nostalgic peek at life in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, back in Linda Appleman Shapiro writes honestly and beautifully about her experience as the daughter of a mother with mental illness, coping with the confusion of the mood swings, her struggle to understand, and the stress and shame of keeping it all a secret. We meet her family members - Linda, her mother and father, and her brother - and soon the dynamic in her Brooklyn home becomes clear - as does the love that prevails. In addition, we get a nostalgic peek at life in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, back in the 40's and 50's, when "hanging out at the beach" was a huge part of a young teenager's life. Shapiro has the hindsight, now, of a trained and experienced psychotherapist. This, combined with her clearly-depicted childhood memories of life in those "Four Rooms" makes for an engaging, enlightening and ultimately therapeutic read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ketti

    Not The Glass Castle but an interesting book. I do appreciate that Shapiro worked to make her childhood stresses shape her life for good. We all have difficulties in our past, but if we chose to do so they can make our life not always easier but certainly better. Favorite quote – “At best therapy teaches us that we are able to weaken their power by changing the lens through which we see them, and reducing their size. At a distance they never loan large enough to allow past events to trigger irra Not The Glass Castle but an interesting book. I do appreciate that Shapiro worked to make her childhood stresses shape her life for good. We all have difficulties in our past, but if we chose to do so they can make our life not always easier but certainly better. Favorite quote – “At best therapy teaches us that we are able to weaken their power by changing the lens through which we see them, and reducing their size. At a distance they never loan large enough to allow past events to trigger irrational responses in the present, poisoning our adult lives as they did our childhoods.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I wanted to quit after the first chapter, but made myself stick it out because the author grew up in the same era and city as my mom, so I thought I might glean some insight to her life. Not so much. I finished it but didn't enjoy it. Blah. I wanted to quit after the first chapter, but made myself stick it out because the author grew up in the same era and city as my mom, so I thought I might glean some insight to her life. Not so much. I finished it but didn't enjoy it. Blah.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sue Hedin

    Appleman is an immigrant daughter who grew up on the top floor of a small home in 1940’s Brooklyn, and struggled to understand her mentally ill mother and her role as a child in the family. She later goes on to become a psychotherapist (who marries the acclaimed audiobook narrator George Guidall)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Harris

    Linda tells of her family's struggle to understand the wife and mother they lived with in those Four Rooms, Upstairs during the 1940's and 50's when mental illness was misunderstood and often left untreated, or treated with electric shock therapy. Linda tells of her family's struggle to understand the wife and mother they lived with in those Four Rooms, Upstairs during the 1940's and 50's when mental illness was misunderstood and often left untreated, or treated with electric shock therapy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ken

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Wright

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nikki Dore Parker

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

  14. 5 out of 5

    Raymond Le Blanc

  15. 5 out of 5

    Celena Dixson

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  19. 5 out of 5

    G

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anjula Skinner

  21. 4 out of 5

    June Centonze

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bec_car

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Call

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sharna

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lulu Bruns

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

  28. 5 out of 5

    Craig Johnson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

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