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Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest to Understand Depression and Bipolar Disorder in His Children

Raeburn, Paul

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ISBN 10: 0767914376 / ISBN 13: 9780767914376
Published by Broadway
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
From Crashing Rocks Books (Punta Gorda, FL, U.S.A.)

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Title: Acquainted with the Night: A Parent's Quest ...

Publisher: Broadway

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

About this title


In the tradition of Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, Acquainted with the Night is a powerful memoir of one man’s struggle to deal with the adolescent depression and bipolar disorder of his son and his daughter.

Seven years ago Paul Raeburn’s son, Alex, eleven, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after leaving his fifth-grade classroom in an inexplicable rage. He was hospitalized three times over the next three years until he was finally diagnosed by a psychiatrist as someone exhibiting a clear-cut case of bipolar disorder. This ended a painful period of misdiagnosis and inappropriate drug therapy. Then Raeburn’s younger daughter, Alicia, twelve, was diagnosed as suffering from depression after episodes of self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts. She too was repeatedly admitted to psychiatric hospitals. All during this terrible, painful time, Raeburn’s marriage was disintegrating, and he had to ask what he and his wife might have done, unwittingly, to contribute to their children’s mental illness. And so, literally to save his children’s lives, he used all the resources available to him as a science reporter and writer to educate himself on their diseases and the various drugs and therapies available to help them return from a land of inner torment.

In Paul Raeburn’s skilled hands, this memoir of a family stricken with the pain of depression and mania becomes a cathartic story that any reader can share, even as parents unlucky enough to be in a similar position will find it of immeasurable practical value in their own struggles with the child psychiatry establishment.


In the space of a few months, 11-year-old Alex Raeburn is bounced among seven psychiatrists and prescribed even more drugs, among them Lithium and Depakote, after lashing out at his 5th-grade teacher. The doctors are swift to prescribe pills but slow to provide therapy, despite varying opinions on what the diagnosis may be--maybe depression, ADHD, or an anxiety disorder. While the family finds little relief from the medical establishment, author Paul Raeburn, Alex's dad, slowly admits that his lack of parenting and anger-management skills may have exacerbated his son's condition. Some of his temper tantrums, one of which involves flooding their kitchen, are as frightening as his son's manic episodes.

Ironically, as the science and medicine reporter for BusinessWeek, Raeburn had access to the most prestigious names in psychiatry, but his denial of Alex's emotional problems was so strong that he didn't even bother to look up the (significant) side effects of his son's prescriptions in the Physician's Desk Reference: "I was not going to read about psychiatric drugs and mental illness because I was not going to be the parent of a mentally ill kid." He and Alex are given hope from bipolar expert Kay Redfield Jamison, who, during a book signing, writes, "Things will get better." They do, but not before the Raeburns' marriage disintegrates and Alex's younger sister Alicia is also repeatedly hospitalized for depression and attempted suicide. Raeburn's bravery in telling his childrens' story is to be commended, but the reader is left wondering just how much of Alex and Alicia's misery can be blamed on his own moodiness, prejudices, and procrastination. --Erica Jorgensen

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