Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey From the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope
By Randye Kaye
This book was published in 2011, but unfortunately it is what the literary world calls an “evergreen.” This means the information in it is always timely and is not outdated. The unfortunate part includes the fact that so many families, like Randye Kaye and her son, continue to suffer the pervasive emotional trauma and societal stigma for having serious mental illness. Worse yet, there is still no cure or even widely available, affordable ways to manage schizophrenia.
The FORTUNATE part is that Kaye is an exceptional memoirist. With some parts taken from her own diary, she guides the reader through years of Ben’s life, from the beginning of his emerging illness to a relatively stable outcome, but not without years of set-backs, hospitalizations and the anguish of not knowing if Ben’s life will ever be remotely like what his potential was before the illness stuck.
Like many parents, Kaye experiences the terror of not knowing what is wrong with her precious, gentle son and not having much extended family support, to the humiliation of witnessing his decompensation, continually setting the bar lower, and the false starts to recovery which are more the norm than the exception.
Kaye illustrates beautifully her own interesting public and private life as a back drop to what is happening with her son and how most parents are constantly treading water, compromising the quality of their own life, as well as those of siblings. But we never feel like it is pity party. Truth is, most mothers of sons with schizophrenia are strong, flexible, realistic, grateful, tenacious, self-deprecating and heroic, as Randy Kaye is throughout her and Ben’s journey back to sanity.
Ben Behind His Voices gives us more than a glimpse into the mind and perceptions of a young man with brain illness-induced delusions. We get to know Ben and his mother as people rather than statistics, with good hearts and good intentions, trying to solve their own challenges and make sense of serious mental illness: something our policy makers should be doing with urgency instead of decades of neglect.
Kaye also interjects in her story telling key medical facts about the illness, treatment and prognosis, as well as resources for readers to follow up with for a continuum of support and education on this still largely misunderstood subject.
Reviewed by Kartar Diamond, Author of Noah’s Schizophrenia: A Mother’s Search for Truth