Finding Us: A Mother’s Memoir of Braving Mental Illness With Her Young Daughter

Finding Us: A Mother's Memoir of Braving Mental Illness With Her Young Daughter

By: Kristin Rohman Rehkamp
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 15, 2022
ISBN: 978-1639885251
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 12, 2022

A mother, a daughter, a family – all deeply affected by the daughter’s sudden mental illness – encompass a moving and enlightening memoir for readers within the pages of Finding Us.

Author Kristin Rohman Rehkamp opens up about living with a daughter who has a diagnosed mental illness in her new book, Finding Us. The ups and downs, highs and lows, and everything in-between are recounted in this memoir. In the Introduction, the author recalls how she took her then eleven-year-old daughter to a well-child check and her life, and the lives of all those in their family, were changed forever. Her previously healthy child had a sudden panic attack, something her daughter had never experienced before.

The next day, at her dance class, the young girl had another panic attack and the pediatrician prescribed the first of what would be many medications. But things didn’t improve. Instead, Rehkamp’s daughter’s symptoms grew steadily worse until, just nine days later, she was deemed unsafe to be at home and was admitted to the hospital. From the hospital, she was transferred to a youth inpatient mental health hospital.

From the inpatient mental health hospital to an outpatient program, the Rehkamp’s daughter would have her medications changed numerous times, have dozens (or more – they lost count) tests, and give far more blood than any child should be asked to give. Various diagnoses were proposed, more tests were ordered, and life continued to be a rollercoaster for the entire Rehkamp family. Their daughter’s illness would seem to stabilize, but then, without warning, her symptoms would worsen. Her symptoms included loss of sensation in her limbs, pain in her chest, a sensation of not being able to breathe, dizziness and disorientation. Together, these symptoms left the child with an overpowering fear of terror and loss of control.

Finding Us is a fairly brief memoir (just 118 pages) that doesn’t follow the traditional chapter by chapter linear recounting of the development and treatment surrounding one child’s mental illness. Rather, the author writes fairly brief chapters that might be more accurately described as thoughts surrounding various days or events. Chapter titles describe these thoughts perfectly – “Even If You Are Exhausted, Pretend To Be Strong and Hopeful,” “Time, Faith, Hope & Love,” and “Walk Forward with Confidence,” are a few examples.

Author Kristin Rohman Rehkamp has penned a deeply personal memoir that will take readers through a full spectrum of emotions as they come to better understand what it means to live with a family member diagnosed with a mental illness. She makes it clear that she has not written the memoir for “…recognition, accolades or for any other perceived gain. We do not even tell our story to reduce stigmas…we tell our story to normalize the conversation, educate others and reduce the shaming that occurs to ultimately alleviate the shame those with a mental illness feel as a result of our behavior/perception/misunderstanding/lack of education.” (pgs. 96-97). Indeed, let’s hope that Finding Us helps start a discussion on mental illness that is long overdue.

Quill says: Finding Us details the emotional and physical rollercoaster that one young girl experiences when she is suddenly struck with a mental illness and how her entire family is affected. Readers too, will feel the emotional ups and downs as one mother recounts what life is like when dealing with a child with a mental illness.

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