My book was a Godsend for me. Many people have asked me why I wrote it. Simply, I was asked to. People have all sorts of theories about why I wrote it. “To get it out of your soul” they say. But I had long since moved on. I thought it was a good story and I also thought it might help people. I love making a book out of good material. This is the “artist” in me.
It took a lot to create the story and recount living day to day through the storm. How did I do it? Good question. It was important to keep my basic bonds strong – like the one I had with my husband. There was no “light at the end of the day”. We didn’t know whether he would ever entirely recover. We simply had to cope. You do get used to it.
Because of MY life story, I have developed some tips for parents when dealing with your child. Always expect SOMETHING of your child, but never expect too much. Guage where he is in his recovery. The other parents I have met put their kids on anit-psychotic medication and gave them no motivation to do anything at all. Danny got small rewards for small tasks, which boosted his confidence.
Oliver used to say, despairingly, of each of my new plans, “What good do you expect that will do?” But the term and the illness and the absences from school dragged on. In less happy mood I said to myself: All regularity has vanished from his life, except eating, smoking cigaretts and sleeping.
I am sure that different families have different reactions. My daughter was horrified and stayed away as much as possible. My husband went to work and then came home and had migraines. Danny’s complete recovery was too late for my husband. But my daughter is constantly amazed by Danny and has a very good relationship with him. My sisters were matter-of-fact, but didn’t live here so couldn’t help much. No one blamed me.
Structure is more important than modern parents seem to realize. Discuss a programme with you partner and with the patient when he can cope. Then insist that the programme is followed. We didn’t give Danny his cigarettes until he had fed the cat! Talk yourself into being calm, cheerful and loving. Your confidence will grow.
A lot of the problems of modern teenagers come from the era we are living in. Choose where you live. Find a place and a school where there are parents who will co-operate with you on issues like coming home late and adult supervision at parties.
The Danny Diaries is a book about a gifted, delightful child who had a teenage psychotic breakdown and was diagnosed as schizophrenic. This is a detective story for the reader. Why did he break down? Was it drugs? Was it growing up too quickly? Did he have too much adulation too young? Was society to blame?
And how did he recover? Once more the reader has a detective story to help him or her decide. His mother wrote down his spoken words from when he was fifteen months old, and she has chosen a selection of these both to delight and help the reader. Some of his psychotic speech does come into the book – only as examples, since it is not decipherable. “His weird talk” his sister called it.
People ask, “Is he really off all medication?” Yes! He has been sane and stable and happy for over 20 years.
The book will help parents of disturbed teenagers, but for everyone else it is a good, true story—with an innocent beginning, a chaotic middle, and an ending which is both triumphant and comforting. The book is also for anyone who has doubts about a lot of psychology and therapy. Real life goals are what work in the end.
Ann Cluver Weinberg is a South African author of poetry, stories and biographies who has been published and broadcast in South Africa. She is known for her robust honesty, her lyrical clarity, and her ability to give a universal experience from her very personal and well-observed stories.