13 comments on “The Gift Horse (Guest post for Books for Better Living)

  1. I’m so glad that programs like Beau’s exist to help young people like Jani. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about equine therapy. As a former college equestrian, I know the peace and focus it always brought me.

    I picked up “January First” yesterday afternoon, and finished it just moments ago. It was a powerful story, one that I couldn’t put down… I desperately wanted to get to the end, hoping for that “happy ending.” Probably unconsciously wishing that somehow, by the last page, I’d read that Jani was cured.

    But mental illness doesn’t work that way. I know. I’m bipolar. My husband’s mother was schizophrenic. And there is a small seed in the back of my mind that fears my own daughter (and only child) will someday succumb to mental illness as well. Genetics can be such a crap shoot.

    I admire you both as parents who fight so hard for your little girl. Your love and devotion is inspirational.

    I’m passing your book along to my daughter (who is twelve), so she can gain a different perspective about mental illness.

  2. All i can say is that i think u r a great dad (mom too 🙂 Read your book in a 2 hour sitting, and loved it. Just bought several copies because I think it is a story that many peolple close to me should read, and I hope that in my small way that I help u to become a best seller. I am the director of ops at a law firm that raises money throughout the year for charity.. and your cause will be next on our list. I

    Note from Michael: Thank you, Nicole. Does your law firm handle filing for non-profit status? If so, would you mind contacting me at michaeljohnschofield@me.com.

  3. Try it please ! For your lil girl :’)
    I know it’s kinda weird but i need you to do it for ur girl ..
    Just try to do it please 🙂 !
    Play this video to jani

    To the end .. I dunno if it’s going to work or not but i think u should try .. 🙂
    I wish u guys the best ..

  4. Just read your book about your precious daughter Janni. I am a children’s therapist at a local mental health center and I wanted to thank you so much for your courage in writing this book. Please know that it has been a tremendous book for me to read. You really opened my eyes to so much…..the suffering a mentally ill child endures as well as the complete exhaustion and frustation parents also go through. I will recommend this book to every colleague of mine. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family – you have much to be proud of and are example to parents everywhere.

    Note from Michael: Thank you, Jlynn. I think so often because of the stress of the parents and the stress of the therapist (who wants to fix a problem that cannot be fixed) the relationship can become adversarial because when all sides are powerless against an illness it is so easy to turn on each other. I hope that this book encourages increased cooperation between parents and mental health care providers.

  5. Thank you (& Susan) so much Michael -, for sharing Jani’s story, & for your hard work in caring for her & seeking out the best ways to help her. I’ve just learned about the book & am really looking forward to reading it! I am a psychotherapist & the executive director of a mental health clinic. I will buy a copy of your book for each of my therapists!! What a wonderful teaching tool you have provided for the mental health field – thank you again!

    Note from Michael: Thank you, Wendy. Like I said to jlynn above, my hope is that perhaps the book can explain the frustration and sometimes outright hostility that as therapists you can sometimes see from parents. So many times when Jani was in therapy I felt like I needed it to but there was no one to watch her while I talked. I know it is difficult but I would like to see a new paradigm of therapy, conducted out in the community, with the therapist going with the family to a park or the mall. Therapy in real life, if you will, as opposed to on a couch. Of course, I am well aware of the liability issues but this needs to happen. Therapy is valuable but it needs to happen in the real world with real situations particularly as those with psychosis cannot transfer ideas from therapy to the real world. It has to be a repeated action out in the community because that is the whole goal: community integration and social functioning.

  6. Dear Mr.Schofield:
    Reading Jani’s story was hard. For everything you and your wife experienced, I wonder what it must feel like for Jani. I am a social worker in N.Y. I have worked in a group home with SED kids (age 7-13). It was for kids who had been hospitalized, yet weren’t ready to make the transition home. We had no more than 8 children at a time. They live in a house in a community and some went to the school in the community and some went to special schools. A lot of the kids were in the foster care system, some were regular kids like Jani-just struggling with some mental condition. I watched one of my kids try to strangle himself with his t-shirt, so I knew what you were experiencing when you wrote about that. I also know about child protective services, and the broken insurance system that we have especially as it relates to kids with mental health needs. For me reading your story- was the part that made me most angry. I admire your creativity and firmness as you sought out care and services for Jani. I can’t say that I know what you and your wife have gone through, but what I can relate to as a parent is the instinctual drive to do whatever you can to take care of your child, and even at times when you just want to run away, that instinct keeps you going- even when you feel like there is nothing left to give. You and your wife are an example of parenting in it’s purest form- loving and accepting your child no matter what package they come in. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share Jani’s story with the world. I wish all the best for Jani and your family, and thanks for reminding me what parenting is all about.

    Note from Michael: Thank you. What you said about wondering what it was like for Jani-I don’t know. I wish I could go inside her head. I don’t know if she doesn’t remember that time or simply doesn’t admit to remembering but she claims not to remember. Perhaps that is a blessing for her.

  7. Your courage and dedication is astounding. I am forever changed reading January first.

    Note from Michael: Thank you.

  8. January First – People review
    Just saw your book in People magazine and it has 4 1/2 stars!!!!!
    I bought it on my Kindle. Good luck with book sales!

    Note from Michael: Thank you, Rhea.

  9. Michael,

    I just finished up your book – thank you for sharing your story. The beautiful day analogy is spot on for those of us with -or who have kids with – severe mental illnesses. I love this, and with your ongoing effort and hope, those ‘beautiful days’ will progress into months .. years ..

    Can we ever completely avoid winter’s cold darkness? No, but on the other side awaits spring, sure as winter. (pretend you don’t live in sunny CA for a minute, please!!) She’s going to hit bumps in the road, you know, but with your constant effort, she’ll make it through these. Whenever my son hits a rough spot I truly panic – a bit like ‘ chicken little’, I’m told. But who wouldnt, having been through these things before. Your example helps to provide inspiration during those times. I’ve written several times before of my own struggles and tried to give you some hope about her future. With the beautiful day mentality, I think you are about there already. 🙂


    Note from Michael: Thanks, Liz. I still panic sometimes but it is usually overblown these days. But as you know, the fear never entirely goes away. The enemy is strong.

  10. January First
    I just finished the book & sobbed like a baby. The unconditional love you have for your daughter touches me deeply. I’m sure Susan loves Jani also but my connection to you is because my father did not love me at all and I spent way too many years longing for him to be a real Dad. Sadly he passed away and I never did know why he resented me. So now as an adult I applaud any man who is a good father. My way of reconciling what I never had is to compliment someone who exhibits good parenting, particularly fathers. And you, Michael Schofield, are as good as it gets, in my opinion the epitome of being a father. I applaud you for your courage, strength, and honor towards and with Jani. I don’t think I can say it enough – you are a GREAT Dad! Jani would not be here without you.

    I think your book should be required reading for every adolescent pyschiatrist/pyschologist. I can only hope the staff at the first institutions Jani was in can & will read this book. Their behavior was deplorable & obscene.

    I continue to think of you and your family with healing thoughts. Jani is so very lucky to have you both as parents.

    Note from Michael: Thank you, but I see myself just as a Dad. That is entirely what defines me. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I resent it or I lose my cool. I am far from perfect. I just could not imagine life without Jani (or Bodhi). They define me and give me purpose, even if I don’t always want it.

    I also know a little something about holding anger toward a parent myself. Of course I don’t know your father or what happened to you but I will say that people usually fail at something because they are sick. Carrying anger is no way to live.

  11. Horses Save

    At the age of 7 years old, I was deemed emotionally unstable and bipolar. Although Janis’s disorder is more serious, I just wanted to offer some hope in the animal hollistic side- Your daughter sounds to be at peace on the back of a horse. I just wanted to send a short not that I have what they called “recovered” from onset bipolar disorder, at least as best I can with the help of herbal medications (to wean from anti depressants and lithium), and YOU GUESSED IT, a life spent in music and horse back riding. Your idea to invest in a farm for your children is beautiful. Having one horse, then Raising another in my adolescent years helped me get trough high school, most of college now- even excelling in some places. Although I am a different case, I hope that this can be an encouragement to help Jani find something to keep her safe- and to at least let her function somewhere closer to here and an animal she can physically touch and communicate with, than her other animal friends. Very much love and positivity your way.

    Note from Michael: Thank you. Yes, I believe the more surrounded by animals Jani is, the better her chances are. I wish we could buy a farm. One day I will figure out a way to make it happen.

  12. Read your book twice
    I sat anxiously awaiting the release of your wonderful book…..alas there it was for purchase on my iPad. I have read it through cover to cover twice now. I’m afraid I misseed something the first time so I re-read it again. What an inspiration you and Susan are as parents. I hope I am as wonderful a parent in my childrens eyes as you are in your children. Bravo!

    Note from Michael: Thank you, but we are just parents. We did what we had to do.

  13. chills
    I came upon Jani’s story via Dr. Phil’s Facebook page, and was immediately very interested. I was born to a schizophrenic mother and was (luckily for me) raised by my grandparents. One of my true loves in life is my horses. I read somewhere once that a horse is good for a girl’s soul, and I think it’s true. The article about Dawn, Jani and Beau gave me chills. Good luck to you and Jani. 🙂