What Morgan’s book manages to do, is tell a very personal, compelling story about her relationship with her son, while at the same time giving the reader a glimpse into what it is like to have a mentally ill loved one, in this case her son Dylan, and to have everything about the illness affect everything else in your life.
Once her son’s mental illness emerges, and at a heart-breaking young age, thus begins the journey, the Holy Grail, of trying to understand what is happening, how bad is it going to get and will this truly be a life-long struggle with no end in sight? In the case of so many, like Dylan, drug use can mask underlying mental health issues and delay getting appropriate treatment.
Morgan is masterful with details about what each turn of events looks like, how she feels and how others may view her and her son’s struggles and perceptions. Morgan’s memoir is reminiscent of others in the emerging Mental Illness and Addiction genre, but each story (read: each real person suffering) will eventually have insight into their mental illness and take positive actions towards managing it, or tragically not. The road to recovery is rarely a straight upward ascent; family members are often told it will get worse before it gets better. Likewise, parents have to have their own “come to Jesus” moment because the roller coaster ride of emotions and set-backs is not likely to subside quickly.
With any mental illness, generated from an organic brain disorder, drug or alcohol addiction will complicate and sabotage any person’s potential to the power of ten. Morgan demonstrates how society’s response to mental illness and addiction by criminalizing it, only prolongs the set-backs and suffering. The author portrays effectively the surreal compromises and internal monologues which circulate in a desperate mother’s brain, coming to grips with resignation that Crazy Is the New Normal.
Suspended Sentence is a unique contribution to mental health advocacy and awareness and should be read by family members, addiction specialists and mental healthcare professionals in order to better understand the personal toll that mental illness takes on those who care the most.
Review by Kartar Diamond, Author of Noah’s Schizophrenia: A Mother’s Search for Truth