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His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina [Paperback]

Danielle Steel
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Like Kurt Cobain, Nick Traina lived for punk rock (his bands made two CDs, Gift Before I Go and 17 Reasons), succumbed to heroin addiction, and died of suicide. His mom, Danielle Steel, takes us through her 19 twister-like years with Nick in a memoir more affecting than her potboiler novels. Like his AWOL addict father, Nick had good looks, bad behavior, and a yen for the feminine. Five days before he died, he phoned a woman he saw in a centerfold and had a new girlfriend by nightfall. But his fun was ever haunted by manic depression. At age 11, he was a bed wetter who ate all the Tylenol and Sudafed in the house. He first considered suicide at 13, as Steel learned by reading his diaries after his death.

There is tension in this story--one doctor told Steel if she could get Nick to live to 30, he'd probably live a normal life span. (For example, Nick's troubled dad resurfaced, sober, soon after his son's death.) And Steel conveys a sense of the intelligence Nick used to conceal his learning disability, and the irreverent charm that alternated with irrational rages. Oliver Sacks has urged us not to ask what neurological disease a person has, but what sort of person the disease has got hold of. Steel gives us a vivid sense of the costs of the disease to a family--and of the person who was Nick Traina. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The best-selling novelist on the lifeAand deathAof the manic depressive son she loved so deeply.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"A powerful and personal story....His bright light is Danielle Steel's legacy and tribute to her son, as well as haunting depiction of manic-depression."—Saturday Evening Post

"Danielle Steel has written a spellbinding account of her son 's struggle with bipolar illness....Valuable insights....We come away with a heightened sensitivity that perhaps only a writer of this distinction could convey, of what it is like to try to cope with a child with a severe psychiatric disorder....This is a book about what we can do—as parents, as physicians, as human beings."—Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

"Reading His Bright Light moved me to tears as the memoir captures so vividly the ferocious nature of mental illness....Sharing [Nick's] story will save lives. His Bright Light will make a difference for countless others."—Laurie Flynn, Executive Director, NAMI (The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)

"[A] searing portrayal of the loss of her 19-year-old son . . . Ms. Steel's heartfelt homage to her son may very well help others save a life."—Dallas Morning News


The Nick Traina Foundation has been established to benefit mental health, music, child-related causes, and other charitable organizations for assorted causes, and other charitable organization for assorted causes. All of the author's proceeds and agent's fees from this book will go to the foundation, which will also receive direct proceeds from the publisher for all copies sold.

From the Back Cover

"A powerful and personal story....His bright light is Danielle Steel's legacy and tribute to her son, as well as haunting depiction of manic-depression."
--The Saturday Evening Post

"Danielle Steel has written a spellbinding account of her son 's struggle with bipolar illness....Valuable insights....We come away with a heightened sensitivity that perhaps only a writer of this distinction could convey, of what it is like to try to cope with a child with a severe psychiatric disorder....This is a book about what we can do--as parents, as physicians, as human beings."
--Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

"Reading His Bright Light moved me to tears as the memoir captures so vividly the ferocious nature of mental illness....Sharing [Nick's] story will save lives. His Bright Light will make a difference for countless others."
--Laurie Flynn, Executive Director, NAMI (The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill)

"[A] searing portrayal of the loss of her 19-year-old son . . . Ms. Steel's heartfelt homage to her son may very well help others save a life."
--The Dallas Morning News


The Nick Traina Foundation has been established to benefit mental health, music, child-related causes, and other charitable organizations for assorted causes, and other charitable organization for assorted causes. All of the author's proceeds and agent's fees from this book will go to the foundation, which will also receive direct proceeds from the publisher for all copies sold.

About the Author

Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors, with over 560 million copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include Sisters, H.R.H., Coming Out, The House, Toxic Bachelors, Miracle, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue


This will not be an easy book to write, but there is much to say, in my own words, and my son's. And as hard as it may be to write, it's worth doing, if it helps someone.

It is hard to encapsulate a being, a very special being, a soul, a smile, a boy, a huge talent, an enormous heart, a child, a man, in however many pages. Yet I must try, for him, for myself, for you. And I hope that as I do, you will come to understand who he was, and what he meant to all those who knew him.

This is the story of an extraordinary boy, with a brilliant mind, a heart of gold, and a tortured soul. It is the story of an illness, a fight to live, and a race against death. It is early days for me yet, as I write this. He has been gone a short time. My heart still aches. The days seem endless. I still cry at the sound of his name. I wander into his room and can still smell his familiar smell. His words still echo in my ears. He was alive only days, weeks ago . . . so little time, and yet he is gone. It is still impossible to absorb or understand. Harder still to accept. I look at his photographs, and cannot imagine that all that life and love and energy has vanished. That funny, handsome face, that brilliant smile, the heart I knew better than my own, the best friend he became to me, can they truly be gone? Do they live only in memory? Even now, it remains beyond my comprehension, and is sometimes beyond bearing. How did it all happen? How did we lose him? How could we have tried so hard, and cared so much, and loved him so enormously, and still have lost him? If love alone could have kept him alive, he would have lived to be three hundred years old. But sometimes, even loving with all your heart and soul and all your mind and will just doesn't do it. Sadly, it didn't do it for Nick.

If I had three wishes, one would be that he had never suffered from mental illness, the other would be of course that he were alive today, but the third would be that someone had warned me, at some point, that his illness--manic depression--could kill him. Perhaps they did. Perhaps they told me in some subtle way. Maybe the inference was there, and I didn't want to hear it. But I listened carefully to everything that was said to me over the years, I examined every nuance, and to the best of my knowledge and abilities, heeded every warning. My recollection is that no one told me. Certainly not clearly. And it was a piece of information that I desperately needed. I'm not sure we would have done things any differently, but at least I would have known, been warned, of what the worst case could be.

His illness killed him as surely as if it had been a cancer. I wish I had known that, that I had been warned how great the risk was. Perhaps then I would have been better prepared for what came later. I'm not sure that in the minds of the public it is clear that bipolar disease, manic depression as it's more commonly called, is potentially fatal. Not always certainly, but in far too many cases. Suicide and accidents appear to be the greatest cause of death for manic-depressives. Neither are uncommon. If I had been told that he had cancer of a major organ, I would have known with certainty how great the risk was. I might have understood how short his life could be, how tragic the implication. I'm sure I would have fought just as hard, just as long, just as ingeniously, but I would have been better prepared for what came later. The defeat might not have been quite as startling or as stunning, though it would surely have been just as devastating.

The purpose of this book is to pay tribute to him, and to what he accomplished in his short life. Nick was an extraordinary human being, with joy and wisdom, and remarkably profound and astute perceptions about himself and others. He faced life with courage and panache and passion and humor. He did everything "more" and better and harder. He loved harder and more, he laughed a lot, and made us laugh, and cry, and try so hard to save him. No one who met him was left unimpressed or unaffected. You couldn't meet him and not give a damn. He made you care and feel and want to be as big as he was. He was very big. The biggest.

I have written this book to honor and remember him. But there is yet another purpose in writing this book. I want to share the story, and the pain, the courage, the love, and what I learned in living through it. I want Nick's life to be not only a tender memory for us, but a gift to others. There is much to learn here, not only about one life, but about a disease that afflicts between two and three million Americans, one third of whom, it is believed, die from it, possibly as many as two thirds. That is a terrifying statistic. The statistics are somewhat "soft" on the issue of fatalities, because often death is attributed to other things, for instance "accidental overdose" rather than suicide, which is determined by the actual amount of fatal substances ingested, rather than by clear motive.

It is debatable as to whether or not those who have died could have been saved, or if those who will die can be. But what of those who will live, and have lived, and are still living? How do we help them? What can we do? Sadly, no one, and certainly not I, has the magic answers to solve the problem. There are different options, different solutions, a variety of ways of coping. But first, you have to see the problem. You have to understand what you're dealing with, to accept that what you're dealing with is the equivalent of not just a bellyache, but liver cancer. You have to know that what you're facing is serious, important, dangerous, and potentially fatal.

Somewhere out there, in apartments, and homes, and hospitals, in ordinary jobs and lives, and not just psychiatric wards, are people coping with a terrible struggle within them. And alongside them are the people who know and love them. I would like to reach out here, and to offer hope and the realities we lived with. I want to make a difference. My hope is that someone will be able to use what we learned, and save a life with it. Maybe you can make a difference, even if I couldn't. If it is true that one third of manic-depressives die of this disease, and its related burdens, then two thirds will live. Two thirds can be helped, and can live a useful existence. And if possible, I would like Nick's story, and Nick's life, to help them, to serve them, perhaps to learn from our mistakes, and our victories.

The greatest lessons I learned were of courage, and love, energy, ingenuity, and persistence. We never gave up, never turned away, never turned on him, never let him go, until he let us go, because he couldn't fight the fight any longer. We not only gave him CPR when he attempted suicide, but we tried to keep his soul alive in every way we could, so that he could keep fighting the fight along with us. And the real victory for him, and for us, was that we gave him a quality of life he might otherwise never have had. He was able to pursue a career he loved, in music. He saw victories that few people do, at twice his age, or who live a great deal longer. He knew the joy and excitement of success, and also knew better than most the price he paid for it. He had friends, a life, a family, a career, he had fun and happiness and sorrow. He moved through the last few years of his life with surprising grace, despite the handicaps he was born with. And we were incredibly proud of him, as a man, a musician, and a human being. He was a talented, brilliant young man with a disease. But the disease did not stop him from being who he was, or us from loving him as he was. In retrospect, I think it was one of the best gifts we gave him. Acceptance of who he was, and unconditional love. In our eyes at least, his illness was only one facet of him, not the whole of him.

There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road, loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can't do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven't made a difference and only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it. You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times, hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.

I can only tell you what we did, what we tried, what worked, and what failed. You can learn from what we tried to accomplish, and develop better avenues that work for you. We tried a lot of things, and flew by the seat of our pants some of the time. There are no rule books, no manuals, no instruction sheets, no norms. You just have to feel your way along in the dark and do the best you can. You can't do more than that. And if you're very lucky, what you're doing works. If you're not, it won't, and then you try something else. You try anything and everything you can until the very end, and then all you have is knowing how hard you tried. Nick knew. He knew how hard we tried for him, and he tried too. We respected each other so much for it. We loved each other incredibly because we had been through so much together, and we cared so much. He and I were very much alike actually, more than we realized for many years. He said it in the end. He made me laugh. He made me smile. He was not only my son, but my best friend. And I am doing this for him, to honor him, and to help those who need to know what we learned, what we did, what we should have done, and shouldn't have done. And if it helps someone then it is worth reliving it all, and sharing his joys and his agonies with you. I am not doing it to expose him, or myself, but to help you.

Would I do it all again? Yes. In a minute. I wouldn't give away these nineteen years for anything in the world. I woul...

From AudioFile

Godfrey's voice perfectly captures the romantic, wistful yearnings and sorrows of mother/martyr Danielle Steel as she recollects the descent and untimely death of her son, Nicholas Traina, to bipolar disorder. Godfrey brings depth to the glorified family life of the author, who often wallows in celebrity self-pity. Where Steel's descriptions are often circular and trite, Godfrey lends a soft poignancy to the text. And when Steel portrays her son as perfect and whines about the lack of available resources to help him, Godfrey brings credibility to Nick's side of the story through her heartfelt readings of his journal. She beautifully expresses the fear, frustration and anger he must have experienced due to mental illness. H.L.S. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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