She grew up with a mother known for her odd behavior

She grew up with a mother known for her odd behavior

An Oak Harbor filmmaker draws on her family secrets for global project on mental illness and trauma.

Having a tune stuck in your head is annoying; having music constantly drum in your brain is debilitating.

Holly Chadwick found out the difference the hard way.

She grew up with a mother known for her odd behavior.

“She hears auditory hallucinations, and she’s schizophrenic,” said Chadwick, 40, a lifelong resident of Oak Harbor who graduated from high school in 1997. “She’s a really smart lady but she’s known as a walking jukebox. I always wondered, ‘How is she managing life with music in her head?’”

Chadwick was raised by her grandparents, who also cared for their daughter as best they could. Chadwick’s father, a Vietnam vet, died when she was in second grade.

“My mom was like the family secret,” Chadwick recalled. “If people came over, she’d be in the back of the house.”

Now the secret’s out. In a big way.

Growing up with a mentally ill mother is part of the story Chadwick reveals in a social media project and new book that features 10 women from around the globe who’ve thrived despite a variety of obstacles.

The collaborative book, “Wild and Wise Women Around the World: Ten Inspiring Women Share Their Feminine Fire,” is a project of Beverly Adamo, CEO of Wild and Wise Women Enterprises, Inc. which is described on its website as a gathering place and “Sisterhood of nearly 300,000 wild and wise women that can change the world.”

Wild and Wise founder Christa Thompson and Adamo sell “gift boxes that give back.” The $99 boxes, delivered to subscribers four times a year, are filled with jewelry, housewares, scarves and other handmade items from women of India who in turn receive money designated for health care, education and new community opportunities.

“The Sisterhood empowers women we may never meet—women artisans from across the globe who have crafted items for membership gift boxes and share their love with the Sisterhood by sharing their handmade crafts with us,” Adamo said in an interview. “We reinvest a huge portion of gross revenue back into the artisan communities we partner with.”

Adamo said she chose Chadwick because “she has arisen triumphant from a place many consider an impossible journey. The hope and courage that she inspires is humbling and needed in this world.”

Authors appearing in the “Ten Inspiring Women” book, being launched online March 28, have all agreed profits will be used to empower artisans in India. The book is normally $21.95 but will be available only on Thursday at the lowest price for a limited time and limited copies, Adamo explained.

After that, it will be sold on Amazon and bookstores across the United States, Canada, France and England.

Chadwick learned about the project via women she met networking online when she sought encouragement and a sounding board.

Monday during a live Facebook chat, Adamo asked Chadwick about her background.

The interview took place at the Oak Harbor Marina because that’s where Chadwick plans to soon live — aboard a 36-foot-long Sport Sedan motor boat with a buttercream-colored leather couch, two golden retrievers and part-time husband who works two weeks a month on an oil rig.

Chadwick explained that her grandparents believed in rigorous music studies so she studied piano for 10 years, learned to compose music and seemed headed for a career teaching or performing music.

But a mission trip to Mexico at age 16 changed her career course.

“People were living in cardboard houses, but in these shanty towns there were satellite dishes everywhere,” Chadwick said. “I had an epiphany. I wanted to be a filmmaker and tell stories.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in film and digital media at the University of California at Santa Cruz and went on to study fine arts in Italy and the Banff Centre in Alberta.

All the while, she kept tugging on threads to her own family stories — her mother’s mental illness and her father’s inability to shake the demons of Vietnam.

Chadwick worked on her first web-based short-segment series called “The Sounds of Freedom” in 2012 and filmed scenes around Whidbey Island. Available on Amazon Prime, the series follows two veterans of two different wars struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The series is now being considered for a pilot and hour-long episodes. It has also won awards and film festival acclaim.

“The one I’m proudest of is debuting ‘Sounds of Freedom’ on Veteran’s Day in New York City at NYC Web Fest and winning Best Director for 2017,” Chadwick said.

The working title on her next project is called “Music in My Head.”

“I really used to wonder about my mother and what she’s hearing. Is it another dimension? Is she an angel? Is she like Beethoven who was deaf but could hear music in his head?” she said. “I was always afraid of becoming her, too. I knew my dad wasn’t quite right and my mom’s mentally ill, what are the chances?”

In 2004, Chadwick’s grandparents died, months apart. She has no siblings so the only family she really ever had was gone.

“For two weeks, I couldn’t talk. I was tied up inside, watching myself, totally disconnected. It was a shell I went into to protect myself. I had what’s called an extreme grief reaction. I definitely experienced hearing music in my head,” Chadwick recalled. “But I lived through and came out stronger for it. I want to write about overcoming the stigma I had with my mom and myself.

“People don’t see her as a person. People with disabilities aren’t treated as whole people. I’ve seen it at the doctors, going to a restaurant. I’m so amazed by her stamina and bravery to keep going despite all the strange things going through her head.

“I have a story. It’s a scary story to tell. But I’m glad I reached out to tell it.”

For more information:

To see Holly Chadwick’s video series, “Sounds of Freedom,”

This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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