In light of Bell Let’s Talk and a growing conversation on mental illness, Canadian author and songwriter Colleen Songs offers her perspective as the caregiver and loved one to a partner who was mentally ill.
She shares with readers her escape from a significant other with a narcissistic personality disorder and mental illness, in her memoir INHALE.
Through this book and her signing career, she aspires to ignite the voice of the caregiver – who suffers a great deal of abuse and heartbreak as the person they’ve grown to love disappears so suddenly.
“They can transition in a heartbeat,” says Songs. “The quickest thing could shut him off, and I could see it on his face,” she adds.
But, it’s equally important to the author to use her creative gifts of writing and music, to inspire those who are mentally ill to tap into their talents and passions.
“Witnessing the mentally ill exercise their gifts and talents confirmed their happiness and awakening desire to live,” explains Songs. “They can cope better.”
While this has been an extremely cathartic exercise for Songs, writing, and then publishing and promoting this book has brought forth a plethora of emotions, doubts, fears and hesitations about how the telling of her story will affect her loved ones.
Songs says she’s been especially concerned about her children, and how publishing her story will affect them.
“I was afraid of hurting them to the point of almost not publishing. But inside I kept having this feeling that it would release them too. And sure enough, it did!”
Songs says her son, who was 12 when she left home to care for her late ex-husband, felt the book gave him clarity and filled in the gaps he never understood about the relationship that took such a toll on their family.
Her daughter, who was in her late teens at the time, felt the book relieved her of the guilt she’d been carrying, having seen things in the relationship that at the time she didn’t know what to do about.
Beyond the opportunity to reflect and gain clarity, Songs needed to write to gain closure from the past, and talk about how her family got to where they are today.
“With every word I felt such a release of pressure off of my chest, heart, mind and conscience! I carried so much guilt, so much survival-fear for so long that I wasn’t even really trusting nor enjoying my current state of healthy-love and life,” she says.
And finally, she’s starting to let go. “I thought there was enough closure when I finally left. I thought there was enough closure when I heard he’d died. But I only gained a sense of closure through writing,” says Songs.