"Step on a Crack by Jill Byrne with Michael Ransom is an unforgettable memoir about Jill's up and down life while living as a Bipolar patient and person. It's almost like a coming of age story. The book begins very early in her life before going off to college and getting married. At home she lived with her sister, Beverly, and her mom and dad. The family reminded me of Beaver and Wally and their parents on The Leave it To Beaver show.
Ultimately, I would discover that Jill's family was not like the tv family. Frances, her mother, definitely was not a June Cleaver. It is not long before we slip in the house and hear the family dynamics of the Byrne's family. Frances definitely favored Beverly and not Jill. Jill is the magnet for her mother's tongue that bites without looking back. The words she says to Frances are unbelievable, too painful for any child to hear day after day after day. Jill, in her mother's eyes, is just not capable of saying anything right or doing anything right or even looking nice.
By the time Jill began to show signs of mental illness, severe mental illness, I was not surprised. The book made me think about the power of speech. The words I say to someone can leave long lasting stress. The book made me want to go around and say a humbled, mumbled "sorry" to all the people I've hurt with a smartypants mouth. Jill's mother never did apologize to her daughter who only wanted to please her, make her smile. I think life travels forward in sync with our tick tocking clocks. Time does not slow down. Neither does time wait while I decide whether or not to say abrupt, sarcastic remarks to my family and friends.
Some times I am left holding a bag of "I should haves" and "I should not haves." This is why I like the book. It is a practical book for living life. I must remember what I say can damage another person's life. Although Jill and Frances are whom I've wrote about here, there is more going on in this family than I would have ever guessed. The good father and the perfect daughter, Beverly, are a story too. I have heard it said when one family member is sick the whole family is sick in some way. Besides, Beverly had to grow up. She, like all of us, faced unexpected trauma in her life.
I suppose this book is not only about "overcoming depression" it is about the baggage we bring to the family table. Baggage that is too heavy to put down. So we carry the same heavy bags topped with more heavy bags until the family begins to crumble. Thank goodness not all families are like the Mother Goose rhyme about Humpty Dumpty who was never put back together again. Through unknown factors the pieces of myself and the others around me can regain their wholeness.
When Jill's mother died, Jill placed jigsaw pieces in her coffin. These puzzles pieces were a symbol that her life was beginning to become less complicated. "At the funeral home, I handed the puzzle pieces to my niece and asked her to place them in the casket with Mother as a symbol that the major source of negativity in my life was now gone." If you have never faced depression, this book is still a great book to read while thinking about families and how they get through life. The book left me feeling as though no one is particularly to blame for the ups and downs of a relative or friend's life. Life is just not a carousel ride on a sunny day. To live healthily I need the strength of an Olympics athlete and wisdom of a Maya Angelou and the compassion of Mother Teresa. Sadly, I was not born with these precious treasures. I have to dig and weed my garden, myself, for the rest of my life. It is tough, really tough. Thank goodness there are April showers.