I volunteer for the American Heart Association 2020 Task Force which consists of a wonderful group of women on a mission to bring awareness to the disease. So when one of the volunteers sent me Julie's email, I was expecting a heart related story. Instead, I was immediately struck by Julie's touching words. Her son suffers from mental illness and the diagnosis was devastating. Her best friend, Kim Carnes, sang one of my favorite songs of the 80s, "Bette Davis Eyes". The singer/ songwriter also wrote a song for Chris. This story of friendship and motherhood will touch your heart. I'm inspired by Julie and Kim.
|Photo of Julie and her son Chris taken July 31, 2011|
A Mother's Story of Mental Illness
By Julie Chandler
When my son, Christopher was growing up, he was the happiest, sweetest and most fun loving child I could have ever hoped for. He was easy, funny and there was no indication of what was to happen when he turned 21. Within a 3 month period, Chris changed from a normal, responsible person to a frightened, unhappy and different one. He was diagnosed at UCLA as having a mental illness. Naturally, as his Mother I was devastated. Of all the things I worried about that could happen to a growing young man, this was absolutely the last thing I could have imagined or expected.
One of my dearest life long friends is singer- songwriter Kim Carnes. We shared many happy times together sharing dinners, celebrations and vacations. Kim knew Chris when he was just 3 years old and watched him grow up! She spent endless hours listening while I expressed my fears and sadness. I remember well, telling her that I expected to never ever smile or laugh again.
Being the sensitive and creative person she is, she was inspired to write a song about Chris. She even incorporated some of his poetry into the song, recorded it and put it on her album. The song is called "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)".
Over the years, Chris has been up and down with his illness. I became involved with a wonderful group called NAMI (National Alliance of Mentally Ill). I would strongly urge anyone who has a loved one suffering from a mental illness to contact them. They saved both me and my son with their enormous support, information and guidance. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime. That is quite a statistic and you never know how or when it will manifest itself.
I have often said that my son has "lost his life" and my expectations for him have been lowered to just hoping that he will stay alive and find some joy and richness in his everyday life. I have learned I can laugh again in life and so can he. In fact, just 2 days ago, when I played the song for him he broke into a small laugh, remembering how touched we were when Kim had us listen to it for the first time. Click here and press play to hear "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)".
Inspiring "Where is the Boy"
By Kim Carnes
I first met Chris when he was three years old. He was a beautiful, precious child. Chris is the son of one of my closest friends, Julie, so I watched him as he was growing up turning into a smart, funny, confident young man. One day, all that changed. The Chris we knew disappeared. One day, after Chris had been staying at UCLA, Julie called and described what it was like to pick up a very scared, confused boy... That phone call is fresh in my mind today, and caused me to go to my piano, and write "Where is The Boy (Chris's Song)". I imagined what he must have felt. Out into the world after his stay in the hospital, and remembered some of Chris's own words, describing how he was feeling. These writings of Chris's were discovered by his Mom during his first hospital stay. No one ever knew what a gifted writer and artist Chris was. He never showed his work to anyone. Julie shared them with me, and I knew his voice had to be heard. The song, "Where is the Boy (Chris's Song)" poured out of me in one sitting at the piano. "He's yours he's mine, another child of the times, we've gotta help him through." Click here and press play to hear "Where is the Boy (Chris Song)".