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photo Isn't She Lovely
By Kerry Lynn Eleveld

When the filmmaker was twelve, her mother began showing signs of mental illness, but when she was a junior in high school the illness appeared to be stabilizing. Kerry remembers months of visits, to model new outfits and make dinners and cookies together. Then her mother stopped answering the teenager's phone calls. When Kerry went to see her, and demanded that her mother open the door, the response was "I love you, but I can't be with you right now."

"I think I knew," Kerry says fifteen years later, "that she was never coming back." This moving personal documentary is a brave attempt to understand a childhood profoundly affected by a parent's severe mental illness. Kerry's mother, Lynn, was not only a loving mother but a respected social worker, at a time and in a community where women in the professions were not common. Suddenly — or so it seemed to Kerry and her brother Rob — she was behaving strangely and distancing herself from her family. Without warning, she disappeared on a cross-continental odyssey that ended with her first institutionalization. Refusing any kind of "talk therapy," time after time Lynn was able to use her knowledge of the mental health system to avoid long-term institutional care, and she rarely stayed on medication for long.

"Schizoid personality, bipolar type?" "Bipolar disorder with psychotic features?" The filmmaker struggles to reach the person behind the shifting diagnoses, but ultimately has to accept that she "can't fix it." This is less a film about Lynn's mental illness than it is about the courage and resilience that have enabled Kerry and Rob to create independent lives for themselves despite their feelings of loss and abandonment.

23 minutes
© 2003
Purchase $149 DVD
Order No. QA-383
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-941-X

"An insightful documentary which shows the viewer the reality of how painful a mental illness can be. This film will hopefully inspire mental health professionals not to overlook the family members. I would recommend it for all therapists no matter what their experience or professional philosophy." Carol R. Zimmerman, MS, American Assn of Marriage and Family Therapy

"There's an old proverb that says a tragedy shared is cut in two, and I think that applies in this touching portrait. Viewers who have experienced the mental decline of a loved one will take comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Recommended." Video Librarian

"A sensitive portrayal. This video can be helpful to the general public as an example of how to interact with a mentally ill family member." Educational Media Reviews

Awards & Conference Screenings
Vinfen's Moving Images Film Festival

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Packrat: Compulsive hoarding has been linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and dementia. This video profiles two families whose lives have been shaped by the "packrat," behavior of a family member.

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