When Pain Has Stained A Peaceful Heart: Ann Henry
Imagine being held captive in a room with no windows, doors, four walls and no way out. Imagine growing up thinking that you had a normal childhood and yet somewhere along the line you and your identity disappeared. Imagine being caught within your own self yet not know who you really are. Ann Henry at the age of 27 never realized that she had bipolar disorder and was in need of help. But, that was the beginning of her nightmare. The diagnosis is one thing the end result and getting there she relates in a poetic memoir that explains the tears she shed, the fear, the dangers she faced and her journey back to being Ann. What happens when you loss focus and your sanity? What happens when your voice is no longer heard and others control your every move? What happens why you lose control of your everyday life and basic needs and the indignities that you are forced to incur and the abuse you had to take come flooding back as Ann shares her fifteen year journey with readers.
When you are declared insane and yet inside you know something about the real you is still there. Diagnosed with Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness, Ann would have mood shifts, mood swings and her energy level would vary from day to day and from activity to activity. Her symptoms were severe and warranted that she be placed in a facility that was supposed to help her. But, sometimes the people that are supposed to care for you and are supposed to nurture your way back to recovery are your worst enemies, create fear within you so deep and dark that you often want to crawl into a shell or hole and never come out. This disorder can destroy relationships and if not treated can lead to serious consequences. As Ann entered the first facility and was hidden away from her family and friends, the treatment she describes is horrific, frightening and more than just scary. With no way out and wondering within herself what she did to deserve this and why she was being shackled, injected, beaten, hit and abused if not almost raped, it’s amazing that her mind stayed strong, her will to regain herself and become Ann once again steadfast and the journey she describes will make people want to make those in these institutions more accountable for their actions, more regulations on better ways to care for these people and had she been given the proper medication she might not have lived that nightmare as long as she did. With periods of euphoria, energy, sadness, hopelessness and often not really knowing which end of the poles she was at any point, the reactions she showed to what was being done to her is not that surprising and the fact that she no longer had contact with her family, except that were fearless and would not give up seeing her and finding out where she was sent when moved without giving any thought to her or her family, maybe one of the symptoms was recklessness but so were those caring for her in their methods. Shooting her up with something and wondering where her sanity went for four months of insanity, you hear how they broke her, how they never asked her if she was okay and their way of tackling her into submission will break your heart just reading her words, hearing her thoughts as if it were a sad aria from a tragic opera.
No matter how hard she tried, cried and prayed for freedom if never came and the first time she “lost my mind,” she was desperate to find a way to say “That wasn’t okay.” Just reading this memoir of her life and how she relates it step by step, minute by minute you understand the coldness, heartlessness and unfeeling of so many caught up in this type of job that they use their power, their strength and what they think is their right to control those that are unable to defend themselves. This book is an eye opener to everyone letting those in charge of changing the laws to protect those that cannot speak or defend themselves.
When Pain Has Stained a Peaceful Heart is a powerful title that describes what happens when the system fails, those that are supposed to care do not and the poetic format tells a story that relates her experiences as you hear her voice, feel the pain and cry the same tears along with her as she finds her way back to freedom and herself. With her family by her side and never giving up and caretakers that deserve to pay for their crime of cruelty and injustice to her and others, it’s amazing that she came out whole. With being sent for care from one place to another, wanting to remain pain free yet not, hoping that she would be able to forgive those that did this to her and yet wanting to open up to the world and tell her story is quite courageous. As you hear her voice getting stronger on page 55 read the powerful last paragraph which is the turning point of her memoir. Summing her life up and asking for help and never getting counseling and finally hoping for freedom she chose to HEAL! Can she forgive those who did this to her? Can she remain whole and can she open her eyes each day and realize that she matters to so many, her words make a difference and that her message is loud and clear: I’m blessed from above TO BE HERE WITH YOU!
We are all blessed that you are here and that you wrote this enlightening memoir that everyone should read and hopefully mental health institutions, administrators running them and those in government will take a closer look at the abuses that many patients face and do something about it. The emotions she feels, the frustrations and the hope that others won’t have to endure the same things and that families will read this and learn that it is bone chilling and frightening and think twice before placing someone in these places. Hoping to focus a bright beam of light on the harsh realities in our mental health system, nursing homes and senior care centers where people are vulnerable, some have no family support and others are just alone. Let’s hope her words will ring out in many more venues and that others will feel her pain, hear her words, make the public understand that When Pain Has Stained A Peaceful Heart: Let’s hope it’s not yours next.
Powerful, compelling, informative and a true story that needed to be told and a voice that I hope will continue to be whole, clear and heard.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine