I’m so pleased to be on another book tour – this time it is to highlight “Reckless Grace” by Carolyn DiPasquale – a moving memoir or as Carolyn puts it, a mother’s crash course in mental illness.
Fourteen-year-old Rachel guards a collection of secrets for ten years, journaling to vent her terror and loneliness.
Following Rachel’s fatal overdose years later, her mother, Carolyn DiPasquale, stumbles upon her daughter’s diaries. Shattered, she searches for answers, retracing her steps to figure out how parents and doctors missed three major mental illnesses.
What the single, working mother recalls is a far cry from what happens, as dramatically revealed in tandem chapters gleaned from Rachel’s journals. While the mother sprints from task to task, the daughter details the baffling emergence and frightening progression of bulimia, diabulimia, and borderline personality disorder; her eventual substance abuse; and heart-wrenching reasons for not seeking help.
Despite her loss, DiPasquale hopes her story lights a path for victims of mental illness while awakening all readers.
Publisher: E.L. Marker
This book is brutally honest – and although it is a sad tale, it is also one that hopefully helps other parents to spot the signs of mental illness in adolescents that can easily be missed. There is a lot of love in this book too. And a lot of heartache. I am so honoured to have Carolyn join us on the blog …. welcome Carolyn…
Hi I’m Carolyn. I’m a follower of God, a wife, mother, grandmother, and new author.
What made you decide to write down your memoir about your beautiful daughter Rachel and her struggles with mental illness, diabetes, diabulimia, bulimia and substance abuse?
My daughter’s extraordinary journals—twenty volumes penned over ten years. When I discovered them, I felt like I’d struck gold. Rachel was guarded, and her death was abrupt. These diaries would finally let me in. They would answer my gnawing questions. However, once her secrets started to surface, I knew they had to be shared. Other people, especially parents of teenage girls, would want to know how Rachel had fallen through the medical cracks and why she’d kept quiet for fourteen years.
Your book highlighted for me how quickly your daughter’s struggles with accepting her diabetes and trying to deal with puberty and wanting to be slim quickly escalated to eating disorders and substance abuse. I have heard of anorexia and bulimia and diabetes but never heard of “diabulimia”. Before your daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, had you heard of “diabulimia”? Do you think the diabetes diagnosis and subsequent treatments were to the catalyst for her succumbing to her eating disorders and substance abuse disorder?
I had never heard of diabulimia, nor have most of my readers; indeed, this term has been unfamiliar even to RNs who have been practicing for decades.
Though other factors were involved, Rachel’s diabetes diagnosis was the catalyst. Up until then she was a happy, slender fourteen-year-old. With insulin therapy, she gained 15 pounds, her new shape clashing with the waif-like female body type pop culture was pushing in 1998. Adolescence, as you guessed, also played a part. At a time when Rachel’s autonomy should have been taking flight, diabetes, with its strict food and insulin regime, clipped her wings. Tragically, she rebelled by turning against herself.
Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected?
Nothing about writing this book was easy, except knowing in my bones that it had to be done. I expected it to be emotionally taxing, but I never dreamed it would be so intellectually taxing or time-consuming. I had to pore through hundreds of pages of Rachel’s journals, not just to plumb the meaning of her poetry and prose, but also to choose from among the sea of riveting entries. Next, I had to research diabulimia and Borderline and their link to substance abuse, reading and rereading highly technical studies that I labored to convey in simple language. Then I had to figure out how to work all this information into the story in a way that was logical and compelling. Another challenge was trying to reach both Christian and secular readers.I did not want to minimize my or Rachel’s faith. Nor did I want to proselytise . I ended up cutting quite a bit of spiritual content to find that sweet spot.
I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through. I was also impressed and moved by Rachel’s journals – her thoughts so eloquent yet heartbreaking too. Do you feel that journal writing was a therapeutic way for Rachel to cope with what was going on in her life? Was reading Rachel’s journals and writing this memoir therapeutic for you too?
Rachel journaled for a few reasons. First to unburden her tortured soul. But she also loved writing. She constantly read good books, mostly by contemporary writers—Alice Sebold, Toni Morrison, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg. She liked to learn new words; and often defined these in the margins of her journals, applying them in that day’s entry. Mostly, Rachel wanted to be known. While guarding her deepest secrets from her family, she meticulously recorded her struggles, hoping, I can only guess, that after she died, we, and possibly a larger audience, might finally understand her.
This project was therapeutic for me. Healing came not just from venting my emotions but also from understanding what had happened. Learning about Rachel’s disorders helped me grasp some of her baffling thought patterns and risky behaviors. Even her grip on substances and downward spiral started to make sense. My comprehension even of this tragic path somehow brought me peace.
One thing I did feel was how easily signs of eating disorders and substance abuse can be missed by parents and by specialists and how easily addicts can “hide” the signs too. What is the main piece of advice you would give to a parent in a similar situation?
I didn’t talk to my kids enough about substances. I would caution parents to discuss this subject early and often. By early, I mean third or fourth grade, well before kids are exposed or enticed and when they still think Mom and Dad know a few things. By often, I mean monthly or at least several times a year. Parents shouldn’t lecture. These talks should be short and light—simple statements, suggestions, and questions that plant seeds about the insidious nature of alcohol and drugs so their kids make wise decisions when they grow up.
Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?
Writing has always been my first love. Being a novelist would have been my ideal career, but it wasn’t feasible as a single mother. I settled for teaching writing; it seemed like the next best thing.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
I chain read good literature. After word processing all day, I wouldn’t think of reading on a Kindle. I reach for the book on my nightstand. There’s something soothing about smelling and turning real pages. Though I enjoyed reading the classics in college, now, like Rachel, I prefer contemporary literature,memoirs and fiction about family dynamics and relationships. I’m currently reading Ann Tyler’s Saint Maybe. Before that I read a new memoir by Cathryn Vogeley, I Need to Tell You and A Yellow Raft on Blue Water by Michael Dorris.
Is “Reckless Grace” available to purchase worldwide?
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to walk and hike in any season, especially in fall when the trees are breathtaking and the cool air is perfumed with the musk of fallen leaves. I love to shop at thrift and consignment stores.It’s such a rush to find treasures for nearly nothing. I enjoy talking with female friends over coffee or wine. I LOVE reading to my granddaughters. Four-year-old Lelia and two-year-old Essie sit on either side, crunched against me on the couch, like soft,sweet-smelling bookends. Church outreach—visiting people in nursing homes and hospitals or doing Bible studies with homeless women—also gives me joy.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love quality clothes in flattering colors with good lines. Comfort is also key. In summer, when I’m home writing, I dress down: sleeveless linen top or cotton tee, Levi’s Bermudas, flipflops or bare feet. When I go out, I wear a linen or cotton maxi dress.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I like TJ Maxx and Marshalls because they carry quality yet affordable shoes and clothes.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I’m always looking for that elusive linen jacket in oatmeal white with silver buttons. I had one once, but I literally wore it out.I’m also on the lookout for stylish (never Uggs) fleece-lined winter boots for those frigid winter walks.
Boots or Shoes?
Please don’t make me choose between boots and shoes! I love them both! I recall the foreign but wonderful smell of Italian leather filling my bedroom when my mom bought my first pair of burgundy buckle shoes. I displayed them on my dresser. From then on, I was hooked. My love of boots followed. To my chagrin, we couldn’t afford the stylish “shoe boots” other girls wore. Now, I indulge myself. My favorites are a gorgeous pair of knee-length, black leather Coach boots with flat heels and silver buckles that the kids bought me one year for Christmas.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
BOOK TOUR DATES
Thank you so much Carolyn for letting me be part of your Reckless Grace Book Tour – I really thought the book was interesting, thought provoking and I highly recommend it. Thank you for the review copy of Reckless Grace.
All photographs has been published with the kind permission of Carolyn DiPasquale.