A Proud Father: My Son – An Artist, Musician, & Adult Living Well With A Serious Mental Illness

“Everything is Imaginary” Animation by EscapeAnimation. Mixed and Mastered by Tynz for District Entertainment. Voices: Earleybird and Maria. Copyright EarleyBird.

(11-16-20) I post blogs about individuals who can’t get help for a mental illness and, too often, end up in jail, homeless or dead. I publicize those blogs to expose faults in mental health care so we can work toward correcting them.

A reader recently asked me to write a blog about recovery. Another asked about my son, Kevin, whose story is told in my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.What’s happened to him?” 

There was a time when Kevin felt hopeless. All of his friends were moving on with their lives – starting careers, getting married, having children. He’d been arrested, twice shot with a taser, and repeatedly hospitalized. During his last hospitalization, Kevin acknowledged that he had an illness and, thankfully, received the wrap around community services that he needed to handle the symptoms of his bipolar disorder.

My son has a big and loving heart. A key part of his recovery was becoming a peer specialist who helps others with challenges that they may face because of their illnesses. Helping others gave him a purpose in his life.

Today, he works full time as a peer. He will soon finish his final class at Virginia Commonwealth University and be awarded a Master’s Degree in social work.

A graduate of the Pratt Institute, Kevin always has expressed himself through his artwork and music. This week, he released an album entitled “Everything is Imaginary”  that includes a song that he wrote called INSOMNIA.  (Watch short video above.)

The ticking of a clock. Subtle strings and a haunting chorus. The tinkling of a piano. This is a hip-hop version of the classic American standards of the “torch song” genre, such as “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” by Frank Sinatra or “Solitude” by Billie Holiday. Earleybird and Maria paint a picture of trying to cope during the witching hours, when one is restless, can’t sleep and is preoccupied by heartbreak in the late moments of tranquility before the dawn is set to begin.

During the nearly two decades that I have traveled our country speaking about the need for reforms, I have heard many hopeful stories.

I recall the man diagnosed with schizophrenia who was homeless for twenty years. One day, he sought help and he now lives in a supportive housing unit with his cat.

I’ve also heard too many stories about those who have not done well and have died alone on our streets or have become entrapped in jails and prisons. Mental Illnesses are cruel illnesses and the sad reality is that, much like cancer, not everyone will recover.

But we are poor judges of who will and not. We can’t even agree on how “recover” should be defined. This is why we must have hope and strive for a system capable of offering help to everyone, whether that be with housing, jobs, transportation, legal defense, medical costs, peer support, clubhouses, or simply friendship.

I am proud of my son and all that he has overcome on our journey. I hope his recovery story will inspire others as much as it has and does inspired me.

For more information visit Kevin Earley website.

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.