Mental health in the mid-1980’s is nothing like it is today. If teenage Francis were to be admitted to a hospital today, I feel she would have quickly been released to an outpatient program. Maybe my feelings will change after I finish reading the book.
As with every situation, there are many sides to the same story. I’m trying to step back and gain some perspective of the whole picture. I feel like she’s a normal teenager living with not-so normal parental figures. She wants to be in school. She wants to hang out with her friends. It appears she wants to be successful. What is the real reason for Francis to be in a mental hospital?
As a parent, I begin by trying to understand from a parent’s perspective. Francis’ mom is just too flighty. They haven’t lived together in almost a year so any previous interaction shouldn’t be a primary factor. Francis’ father cares deeply for her, but seems to be blinded by his desire to keep his girlfriend happy. Does he honestly feel Francis is heading down a path of self-destruction? Or is he trusting the negative things his girlfriend tells him?
From a teenager’s perspective, I feel Francis just wants her dad’s love again. The two had a caring relationship, but she’s been replaced by a step-mom. Francis is angry and hurt. Of course, she’s going to act out. Anyone in her situation would. Her world has been flipped up-side-down. There’s little stability.
Health professionals have a difficult time diagnosing and treating that which cannot be seen. They take what is reported from the parents, discussions with the patient, and observations of said patient both alone and interacting with others, then create a treatment plan through trial and error. Even now, it’s just as frustrating for the professional as it is for the patient and family.
Since this memoir is narrated in first person, it’s easier to understand Francis’ feelings. As the story progresses, we learn some of her challenging backstory. We begin to understand why she reacts a specific way in certain situations. Through this experience, it’s as if we’re both learning simultaneously why Francis has been admitted to a mental facility.