We are pleased to introduce Melody Leclair, the author of When Lightning Strikes Twice which won the 2018 Women’s Journey of Faith Publishing Contest. Her book is now available for pre-order through the Word Alive Press Bookstore. We asked Melody, to share some information about herself and her book!
Melody Leclair is a counsellor, accomplished speaker, and panellist. After raising a family, Melody returned to school to fulfill a lifelong dream of pursuing a career in spiritual care and psychotherapy. She has experience working in private practice and community-based settings.
Her real-life education in mental health began in 2013 when her eldest daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, followed four years later by her youngest son’s diagnosis of the same.
Melody’s writing began in response to the pain of her children’s diagnoses, and her personal journal entries evolved into a manuscript. When she shared her writing with a friend, that friend convinced her—or rather, threatened her—that it must go public… or else! Not only did the writing process help Melody find meaning in the midst of pain, it also provided a pathway to help others. Her book won the 2018 Women’s Journey of Faith Publishing contest.
As a mental health professional with lived experience of mental illness, she passionately shares their family’s journey from these dual perspectives.
Melody resides with her family in Ontario, Canada where she enjoys connecting with her extraordinary community of church, friends, and family. She enjoys her work as a therapist and is devoted to lifelong learning and mental health advocacy for all.
Q: As a mental health professional, did your psychology background help or hinder your ability to cope with multiple mental health crisis in your family?
A: Both, my background helped and hindered. It helped because of my intellectual understanding of what was happening to my children as far as early warning signs, diagnosis, and an awareness of resources. But it also hindered, because emotionally the experience hit too close to home. Nothing can prepare you to face the unpredictability and complexity of mental illness, especially when it affects your loved ones.
Q: Why do you think self-care for the caregiver is vital?
A: I think self-care for the caregiver is vital because ultimately the wellbeing of the child is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of the caregiver. I cannot stress enough the importance of your own personal health as the caregiver. Stress begets stress and calm begets calm. Caring for a family member with a disability can wear out even the strongest of caregivers.
A car cannot run on empty, and the same principle applies to people. If you were preparing for an adventure to an unknown destination, you would want to start with a full tank of gas. For those fortunate to have electric cars, you would want to start out your adventure fully charged. Fill yourself up and keep recharging.
Q: What does self-care look like for you?
A: For me, self-care involves taking timeouts as frequently as possible. It’s quality over quantity. In some cases, an afternoon at the spa will suffice; other times an overnight getaway is required. These take place amongst a plethora of other activities that almost always include journaling, being in nature, being in solitude, or being with friends. There is a time for everything.
Q: What do you wish family and friends, who often watch from the sidelines, would understand?
A: I wish people knew how all-consuming a mental health crisis can be, not only for the person experiencing it but for the whole family. I also wish they knew how quickly things can change for the better or for the worse. Mental health crises take a toll on everyone differently, though, and the needs of family members need to be considered on an individual basis.
Q: Is there anything you wish that family and friends wouldn’t say?
A: I wish people wouldn’t repeat Christian clichés, give unwarranted advice, or say to the person with mental illness that they used to have potential! Just as it’s possible to have poor mental health without a mental illness, it’s entirely possible to have good mental health even with a diagnosis of mental illness.
Q: Why was it important for you to include the first-person accounts of friends and other members of your family, as well as clinical perspectives?
A: It was important to me to include all these perspectives to demonstrate how far-reaching the impact of mental illness is on the whole community, as well as how important each person is to the recovery process. It takes a village to raise a child.
Q: How is everybody in your family doing now?
A: That’s a loaded question. Things are always changing. There has been heartache and pain as much as there has been celebration and victory. Luke had a successful summer working maintenance at an overnight camp. Within six days of his return home, though, he was hospitalized. Relapses happen. Karina is working full-time in preparation for an upcoming six-month mission trip with Youth with a Mission. She is very excited about this next chapter in her life. Josée started college recently and is studying Professional and Creative Writing—go figure. I continue to take the time I need to recover from everything that has happened, and is happening.
Q: What advice would you give to others going through similar situations?
A: Realize that every situation is unique. When you’ve met one person with bipolar you have just met one person with bipolar. There is no cookie-cutter response. Instead I extend my deepest compassion and sincerest hope that help can be found for all. Be patient and persistent, but mostly persistent. Don’t give up.
Q: What advice would you offer to new authors?
A: For this particular genre of writing, a memoir, it was important for me to write from my heart—unfiltered and uncensored. First and foremost, it was therapeutic. Second of all, writing doesn’t judge. I could say what I needed to say just the way I felt and experienced it. (Of course, it was later edited.)
That being said, my advice would be to be true to you and your unique writing style. Think about your purpose for writing as well as your target audience. I believe that story-sharing is one of the most profound ways in which we connect with others. Writing helps us find our voice and helps others do the same. Ultimately, it helps us to connect information to emotions in order to effect change.
Melody Leclair is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University with a Master of Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy. She has worked as a counsellor in private practice and within an agency setting. She is also an accomplished public speaker and panelist who speaks on various issues of mental health and shares passionately from professional and personal perspectives.