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Rambler: A family pushes through the fog of mental illness

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Linda began her 40s as a part-time college writing teacher and stay-at-home mom. A decade later, she was the family breadwinner, a single mother of sorts, and the caregiver for her husband, Steve. Initially, Steve was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but when he failed to improve, the diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective. Both were disorders they and most people didn't Linda began her 40s as a part-time college writing teacher and stay-at-home mom. A decade later, she was the family breadwinner, a single mother of sorts, and the caregiver for her husband, Steve. Initially, Steve was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but when he failed to improve, the diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective. Both were disorders they and most people didn't understand in the 1990s, when few talked openly about mental illness. RAMBLER: A Family Pushes Through the Fog of Mental Illness traces their challenge of living with Steve's illness. The family's downward spiral begins when Steve abruptly quits his job with an engineering society after a fight with his boss. Following a string of unsuccessful other jobs, his focus shifts from providing for his family to taking down the society's executive director. As Steve's questionable behavior intensifies, Linda leaves him, but their separation is brief. Police are summoned to an engineering conference two months later, and Steve is taken away in handcuffs. Linda's confusion deepens when she learns the FBI is tailing him. RAMBLER takes readers through a series of baffling and traumatic events resulting from Steve's illness and explores various aspects of the family's experience: How does Linda explain an illness that affects behavior and thinking to their young children? Can she trust her intuition when responding to a psychotic episode? How does Steve's and Linda's upbringing affect their approach to the family's challenge? Why is the support of others so critical in overcoming a mental illness? What hurdles does Steve face as he works his way back to being the father and husband he wants to be? Why does their marriage survive and thrive, when so many others fail? RAMBLER is told through intimate family scenes and Steve's and Linda's personal writings. It's about a family finding a way forward through the fog of mental illness.


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Linda began her 40s as a part-time college writing teacher and stay-at-home mom. A decade later, she was the family breadwinner, a single mother of sorts, and the caregiver for her husband, Steve. Initially, Steve was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but when he failed to improve, the diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective. Both were disorders they and most people didn't Linda began her 40s as a part-time college writing teacher and stay-at-home mom. A decade later, she was the family breadwinner, a single mother of sorts, and the caregiver for her husband, Steve. Initially, Steve was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but when he failed to improve, the diagnosis was changed to schizoaffective. Both were disorders they and most people didn't understand in the 1990s, when few talked openly about mental illness. RAMBLER: A Family Pushes Through the Fog of Mental Illness traces their challenge of living with Steve's illness. The family's downward spiral begins when Steve abruptly quits his job with an engineering society after a fight with his boss. Following a string of unsuccessful other jobs, his focus shifts from providing for his family to taking down the society's executive director. As Steve's questionable behavior intensifies, Linda leaves him, but their separation is brief. Police are summoned to an engineering conference two months later, and Steve is taken away in handcuffs. Linda's confusion deepens when she learns the FBI is tailing him. RAMBLER takes readers through a series of baffling and traumatic events resulting from Steve's illness and explores various aspects of the family's experience: How does Linda explain an illness that affects behavior and thinking to their young children? Can she trust her intuition when responding to a psychotic episode? How does Steve's and Linda's upbringing affect their approach to the family's challenge? Why is the support of others so critical in overcoming a mental illness? What hurdles does Steve face as he works his way back to being the father and husband he wants to be? Why does their marriage survive and thrive, when so many others fail? RAMBLER is told through intimate family scenes and Steve's and Linda's personal writings. It's about a family finding a way forward through the fog of mental illness.

13 review for Rambler: A family pushes through the fog of mental illness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Drake

    Mental illness isn't like a physical ailment. There is a stigma attached, and shame involved - both for the person who is suffering from the illness and for that person's family. In her debut novel, "Rambler: A Family Pushes Through the Fog of Mental Illness," Linda K. Schmitmeyer shares the very personal story of her husband's battle with mental illness. Beginning with the confusing first days when he began showing signs of a problem, to his devastating descent into unpredictable and erratic be Mental illness isn't like a physical ailment. There is a stigma attached, and shame involved - both for the person who is suffering from the illness and for that person's family. In her debut novel, "Rambler: A Family Pushes Through the Fog of Mental Illness," Linda K. Schmitmeyer shares the very personal story of her husband's battle with mental illness. Beginning with the confusing first days when he began showing signs of a problem, to his devastating descent into unpredictable and erratic behavior, Ms. Schmitmeyer holds nothing back. She shares both her feelings and her husband's in a way that is raw and real, and she also openly shares her children's memories and insights as well, which is equal parts touching and heartbreaking. She approaches the subject of her husband's illness with a gentle thoughtfulness, as well as an unwavering desire to portray husband's problems honestly, but with respect and dignity. Beautiful written, and without even a hint of self pity, Ms. Schmitmeyer's book is a testament to the true meaning behind the words, "In sickness and in health." It shows a family at its best, even when their world is crumbling down around them, and all their hopes and dreams seem to be forever lost. It's a story of strength and determination, but it's a love story as well. In truth, living with a serious mental illness is a very difficult road, and most marriages cannot survive it. Somehow, against all odds, Linda K. Schmitmeyer's marriage did. By writing this book and sharing her story, Ms. Schmitmeyer hopes to dispel some of the preconceived ideas we all have about mental illness, but she does more far than that. She opens a window into a world hopefully many of us may never see, and she lets in the light. Kudos to Ms. Schmitmeyer and congratulations on a job well done. This is an important book for those who have struggled with mental illness, as well as their family members, but it's actually an important lesson for us all.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gail Oare

    Life throws us all hard curve balls. We struggle to understand, cope and regain our balance. The struggle with mental illness is one of the most difficult of such challenges one can face because it derails the mind—our very ability to reason that, in crisis, is often all we have to help us through. Rambler is the true story of a family confronting the onset and progression of their father’s mental illness. This book chronicles the experience of Steve, a talented engineer, who gradually falls int Life throws us all hard curve balls. We struggle to understand, cope and regain our balance. The struggle with mental illness is one of the most difficult of such challenges one can face because it derails the mind—our very ability to reason that, in crisis, is often all we have to help us through. Rambler is the true story of a family confronting the onset and progression of their father’s mental illness. This book chronicles the experience of Steve, a talented engineer, who gradually falls into the grip of a bipolar/schizoaffective disorder in the prime of his life and shows how his illness affects his family members, changing their lives forever. The story is told by his writer/journalist wife who uses her family’s story to educate us about mental illness and provides us a rare look at her young family as they deal with Steve’s struggles with depression, obsession (e.g., mechanical things such as Rambler automobiles) and determination to live. We see what first symptoms through diagnosis, therapies and adaptation can look like and how it feels for everyone involved. It’s a story of familial struggle and commitment beautifully and inspiringly written. Let’s face it: we can all need a story of hope and this is one we can learn from. As Steve himself says “Everyone knows somebody who’s had a Rambler.” So, if there’s only one book you read about understanding mental illness or overcoming any type of crisis or loss, this is it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Thorndike

    Schmitmeyer and her family have suffered greatly from her husband’s mental illness, but her book is not in thrall to their troubles. She’s too good a writer for that. She keeps a gentle balance between her personal story and her explanations about depression and schizophrenia, and moves easily among several time frames: childhood, college, and married life, early and late. “There are no guidelines on how to deal with a psychotic episode,” she writes. “Only intuition.” And, I would add, this book Schmitmeyer and her family have suffered greatly from her husband’s mental illness, but her book is not in thrall to their troubles. She’s too good a writer for that. She keeps a gentle balance between her personal story and her explanations about depression and schizophrenia, and moves easily among several time frames: childhood, college, and married life, early and late. “There are no guidelines on how to deal with a psychotic episode,” she writes. “Only intuition.” And, I would add, this book. Instead of academic guidelines, we’re given compelling examples of what a family goes through when one member is overcome by a painful and complex mental disorder. This is what makes Rambler shine: how engaging and vital the Schmitmeyer family seems, even in the depths of their trials.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wende

  6. 4 out of 5

    Linda Grove-paul

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

  8. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  10. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Ann

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tess

  13. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Ahlers

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