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My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism

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What does a father do when hope is gone that his only son can ever lead anything close to a “normal” life? That’s the question that haunted Dick Russell in the fall of 2011, when his son, Franklin, was thirty-two. At the age of seventeen, Franklin had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For years he spent time in and out of various hospitals, and even went through periods o What does a father do when hope is gone that his only son can ever lead anything close to a “normal” life? That’s the question that haunted Dick Russell in the fall of 2011, when his son, Franklin, was thirty-two. At the age of seventeen, Franklin had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For years he spent time in and out of various hospitals, and even went through periods of adamantly denying that Dick was actually his father. A mixed-race child, Franklin was handsome, intelligent, and sensitive until his mental illness suddenly took control. After spending the ensuing years trying to build some semblance of a normal father-son relationship, Dick was invited with his son, out of the blue, to witness the annual wildlife migration on Africa’s Serengeti Plain. Seizing this potential opportunity to repair the damage that both had struggled with, after going through two perilous nights together in Tanzania, ultimately the two-week trip changed both of their lives. Desperately seeking an alternative to the medical model’s medication regimen, the author introduces Franklin to a West African shaman in Jamaica. Dick discovers Franklin’s psychic capabilities behind the seemingly delusional thought patterns, as well as his artistic talents. Theirs becomes an ancestral quest, the journey finally taking them to the sacred lands of New Mexico and an indigenous healer. For those who understand the pain of mental illness as well the bond between a parent and a child, My Mysterious Son shares the intimate and beautiful story of a father who will do everything in his power to repair his relationship with a young man damaged by mental illness.


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What does a father do when hope is gone that his only son can ever lead anything close to a “normal” life? That’s the question that haunted Dick Russell in the fall of 2011, when his son, Franklin, was thirty-two. At the age of seventeen, Franklin had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For years he spent time in and out of various hospitals, and even went through periods o What does a father do when hope is gone that his only son can ever lead anything close to a “normal” life? That’s the question that haunted Dick Russell in the fall of 2011, when his son, Franklin, was thirty-two. At the age of seventeen, Franklin had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. For years he spent time in and out of various hospitals, and even went through periods of adamantly denying that Dick was actually his father. A mixed-race child, Franklin was handsome, intelligent, and sensitive until his mental illness suddenly took control. After spending the ensuing years trying to build some semblance of a normal father-son relationship, Dick was invited with his son, out of the blue, to witness the annual wildlife migration on Africa’s Serengeti Plain. Seizing this potential opportunity to repair the damage that both had struggled with, after going through two perilous nights together in Tanzania, ultimately the two-week trip changed both of their lives. Desperately seeking an alternative to the medical model’s medication regimen, the author introduces Franklin to a West African shaman in Jamaica. Dick discovers Franklin’s psychic capabilities behind the seemingly delusional thought patterns, as well as his artistic talents. Theirs becomes an ancestral quest, the journey finally taking them to the sacred lands of New Mexico and an indigenous healer. For those who understand the pain of mental illness as well the bond between a parent and a child, My Mysterious Son shares the intimate and beautiful story of a father who will do everything in his power to repair his relationship with a young man damaged by mental illness.

30 review for My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism

  1. 5 out of 5

    J.

    ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JIMBOTIMES.COM: "A little while ago, I had the pleasure to learn about My Mysterious Son after meeting the author, Dick Russell, at a writing circle with the InsideOUT Writers. When ‘D.R.’ gave me his book, I thanked him for the journey, without knowing just how challenging its contents would actually be to embark through. From the opening, D.R. leaves no doubt for readers about just how much of his life he’s sharing with others: “This is a book about a different interpretat ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JIMBOTIMES.COM: "A little while ago, I had the pleasure to learn about My Mysterious Son after meeting the author, Dick Russell, at a writing circle with the InsideOUT Writers. When ‘D.R.’ gave me his book, I thanked him for the journey, without knowing just how challenging its contents would actually be to embark through. From the opening, D.R. leaves no doubt for readers about just how much of his life he’s sharing with others: “This is a book about a different interpretation of schizophrenia, based upon almost twenty years of one father’s experience with his son’s struggle against mental illness. Experiences fraught with desperation, confusion, incomprehension, and pain. Experiences also filled with surprise, humor, adventure, and hope. Experiences that ultimately go beyond (but do not discard) the Western “medical model” for treating mental illness.” Perhaps no moment in the book speaks more to the doubled-edged nature of these experiences than the poetic turning point of the journey, when one morning, the author’s then-seventeen year old son, Franklin, hands him a mysterious note recounting a ‘dream-like’ journey he found himself in the night before. Russell shares this note in the book, but so as to let readers encounter it for themselves, I’ll leave the note unquoted. What I can say about its contents, however, is that I found myself immediately struck by Franklin’s ability to capture the brilliant images of his journey so vividly. The note is sharp and enigmatic, taking readers from one edge of a galactic field to another, and right away, it’s clear that Franklin is dealing with a multitude of worlds beyond his own, and that what he’s able to ‘bring back’ from this intersection of realities is something to be treasured. At the same time, it’s also clear that even if Franklin brings back treasures, there’s only so much understanding one can reach with them, as ultimately, the note leaves readers with more questions than answers. As fate would have it, Franklin’s note was just the beginning of a tragic divorce from a rather ordinary teenage life up to that point, since what follows next is a harrowing ten years in hospitals, intensive medication, bitter identity crises, effective and ineffective therapy, and so much more for him and his mother and father due to a form of schizophrenia which he’s diagnosed with. The experience for Franklin is magnified by his status as an only child, as well as the fact that his parents separated when he was still just a newborn. Perhaps most of all, however, Franklin and his family’s journey is complicated by his struggle to come to terms with his biracial identity. Franklin is dark-skinned, and like most people of color — and black people in America in particular — Franklin struggles with a world that seems to place little to no value on his life. This proves difficult for his white father to grasp, and leads to more than a number of searing confrontations between them on the difference of their skin colors. At times, Franklin blatantly calls his father an impostor, or implies that someone else is his true ‘ole man’. This is tough to read through, but I can only imagine how much tougher it is to breathe through for the author. Still, D.R. manages to hang on to every sharp-edged word uttered by his son, determined to learn from and use the words as building blocks rather than not. Moreover, as Russell states at the outset, in contrast to the bitter words between him and his son, there is also a world’s worth of beautiful ‘gems’ the author hears from Franklin’s voice on things. Along with a magnetic vision, Franklin commands a charming knowledge of esoteric facts on language, people, and geography, which on more than a few occasions leaves readers in pleasant awe. This is the journey through My Mysterious Son, characterized as much by ‘progress’ as ‘regression’ like the life of any ‘normal’ human being. However, things take another major turning point towards the end of the book, when Franklin and his father meet the famed West African writer and teacher Malidoma, who practices ancestral indigenous healing techniques for illness. Franklin takes well to the West African, and alongside his father, he develops a significant relation with the world renowned spiritual leader, which each of them express gratitude for, and which the author movingly describes. This alone makes My Mysterious Son a worthy read, but there’s more, considering the cross-roads at which our country remains stuck at on the subject of race. After all, Malidoma, like Franklin, is ultimately a black man, with spiritual and divine knowledge of the world around him that’s more precious than diamonds or gold can ever be. This knowledge — like that of the alternative forms of healing to Western medicine which the author encounters in his effort to help his son — is indigenous and ancestral information, which — were it not for the author’s open heart and mind — he might never have found for himself. By extension then, it’s fair to say that My Mysterious Son shows how in looking past the differences of their skin colors and the different worlds they contain, and in listening for the value of Franklin and later the West African Malidoma’s voices –coupled with Franklin’s willingness to work with his father on dealing with his condition — both men save each other from certain destruction and loss of one another. For this, the book is not just a great read and journey, but a reading and journey which all Americans should take part in, and I thank both D.R. and Franklin for the knowledge they share in their unforgettable story together."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Wells

    Russell is a good writer and the story of his son's struggles with schizophrenia is very well chronicled. As a case study it is a fascinating story. And one feels for the family and their struggles with this mental illness. For the lay reader, however, the book is too long with a surfeit of quotidian issues. Russell is a good writer and the story of his son's struggles with schizophrenia is very well chronicled. As a case study it is a fascinating story. And one feels for the family and their struggles with this mental illness. For the lay reader, however, the book is too long with a surfeit of quotidian issues.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    In this memoir, highly acclaimed author and journalist Dick Russell relates his and his son's harrowing journeys as they contend with the challenges of living with the son's mental illness, diagnosed as "probable schizophrenia" by a western psychiatrist. The personal nature of the material is somewhat of a departure for the author, who is first and foremost an excellent journalist. That comes through in his thorough analysis of the illness and its treatments, as well as his investigative approac In this memoir, highly acclaimed author and journalist Dick Russell relates his and his son's harrowing journeys as they contend with the challenges of living with the son's mental illness, diagnosed as "probable schizophrenia" by a western psychiatrist. The personal nature of the material is somewhat of a departure for the author, who is first and foremost an excellent journalist. That comes through in his thorough analysis of the illness and its treatments, as well as his investigative approach to the particular case of his son. Despite this, the intensely personal nature of the main story line made me feel like I was reading Russell's personal journal. I was particularly impressed with his treatment of the spiritual and shaman-related material. I imagine it was difficult, as a fact-driven journalist, to embrace the traditional healing of shamanism and, more so to share those experiences publicly, but he renders it beautifully. He clearly has great respect for Malidoma Some, the West African shaman, who gives father and son a new perspective on Franklin's "illness," suggesting that much of what he experiences can be attributed to his having a direct connection to the spirit world. Inclusion of a selection of Franklin's journal entries, poetry, and artwork lends the story a high degree of intimacy and clarity. I read this memoir with great enthusiasm for the subject, having worked with indigenous shamans myself, and was amazed at how often the imagery and experiences resonated with my own. I highly recommend this book to those working in the any of the mental health fields, anyone interested in shamanism, and most especially those in the throws of dealing with physical or mental illness that western medicine has failed to heal.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Lots of worthwhile thoughts & facts in here, though it drags a bit at times, P 82: antipsychotics causing dyskinesia Earth House P 129 the need to explore the inner world before we presume real knowledge of the outer Autism & schizophrenia prob bc Homo sapiens intolerant Robert Whitaker - non effectiveness of medication in long term. Brain becomes super sensitive to dopamine P 266 not Frankilins job to make it linear enough for ppl to understand. Malidoma brandeis PhD P 311 Willa Cather archbishop Ind Lots of worthwhile thoughts & facts in here, though it drags a bit at times, P 82: antipsychotics causing dyskinesia Earth House P 129 the need to explore the inner world before we presume real knowledge of the outer Autism & schizophrenia prob bc Homo sapiens intolerant Robert Whitaker - non effectiveness of medication in long term. Brain becomes super sensitive to dopamine P 266 not Frankilins job to make it linear enough for ppl to understand. Malidoma brandeis PhD P 311 Willa Cather archbishop Indian manner not to stand out against nature - accommodate landscape instead if mastering. Earth, air, water not things to antagonize and arouse. P 318 Katzimo enchanted Mesa P 336 importance of ancestors in Jung - collective unconscious - archetype passed down P 355 want to go home - not a place 2009 kuszewski the genius of creativity - cognitive control

  5. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  6. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Poehlman

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    Robin Gates

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    Michael

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    Igor

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    Miles

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    John Caldwell

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    Eric Menninga

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    Maggie

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    Christy

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    Antony J

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    Terry Boyarsky

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    Judith Cassel Williams

  18. 5 out of 5

    Liam

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    Brooke

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    Jennifer Greene

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa O

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jumpsinpuddles41

  23. 4 out of 5

    Debra

  24. 4 out of 5

    Teddy Steinkellner

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Kimble

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    Emily Crow

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    Mark

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alane Suem

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Cole Durdin Turnley

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Mcintyre

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