I was surprised by the lack of information and resources about mental health for parents. The internet became my friend and I spent many hours a day trying to find what I needed. I can honestly say I “stumbled” across several great resources and have since compiled a list on my website. The ones that provided the best information for me were: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net, (Mental Health America) http://www.nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness), http://www.natsap.org (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs).
2. There were many setbacks that you describe. What was it that was in you that kept you moving forward?
The desire to keep my son alive was always at the forefront of all of my decisions involving his care. I didn’t always feel as if I had great choices offered to me, but I did my best to muddle through and find the help my son needed. I also have the most amazing and supportive husband. I could not have done this alone without him by my side. He was often the voice of reason when I felt hopeless.
3. This is a very personal account about your family that you wrote about. How and why did you make the decision that you would put your story “out there?”
I started the memoir as a therapeutic goal for myself. It helped me to sort out my feelings and answer the question: Why do I react to certain things the way I do? I had made many notes and written in journals and calendar books for several years when my son was in and out of treatment, plus I had all of his treatment documents from professionals who cared for him. Putting the words on paper in a chronological way was the easy part. When it came to difficult sections of self-harm or psychosis I broke those up into small pieces and wrote a little at a time. The hardest part of the book was the editing. It took almost twice as long to edit as it did to write. I cut more than half of the original writing out of the memoir. Polishing and rereading were grueling, but in doing this I realized that I could help others. I would have loved to have a book like this to read and give me hope when I was caring for my son and to have resources that were easily accessible. I decided to publish the memoir and start my website, adding blogs to give information and a resources page with everything I found helpful. http://www.theresalarsen.com
4. I see that your son, Matthew, was the illustrator for the cover. Was he excited to see some of his artwork on a book?
My son has been very supportive of my decision to write and publish Cutting the Soul. He is an excellent artist and I thought it was appropriate that the illustration on the cover was a self-portrait of him. He didn’t draw this specifically for my book, this was an art piece he had done several years prior to my writing, but it seemed to fit perfectly. It was pointed out to me by a friend in the psychology field about the fascinating example of the right side of the brain
controlling the left side of the body. The right side of the face in the illustration is in shadow, the left side of the brain, that controls the right side of the body, is responsible for understanding and use of language, memory, and detailed analysis of information. During my son’s darkest times, his ability to communicate and interpret information was poor or I could say shadowed. The artwork depicts this state of mind beautifully.
5. What is the nicest comment that you have received from someone who has read your book?
The nicest comment I have received about my book is from my daughter, partly because I did not expect her to read it. She lived this with us and I didn’t think she would want to relive it by reading about it, but she did. She texted me after she was finished and said, “I have no words--absolutely incredible. I have extremely underestimated all you went through with Matthew. I have absolutely no idea how you coped with that, and still managed to be an amazing mother to me. I am so proud to call myself your daughter. Your strength inspires me. If I can become half the woman you are I would be thrilled. I’m so blessed to have you as my mom. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
6. What do you know now about writing a book that you wish you knew when you first started?
I wish I knew how long it took to edit. It would have given me an idea of a time frame for completing the book. Editing is a very important process that can’t be left out or skimped on.