The Perfect Other by Kyleigh Leddy is a gripping memoir about a family’s journey as one daughter declines into schizophrenia. The author is Kait Leddy’s little sister who grew up idolizing her big sister. In turn, Kait acted as Kyleigh’s advocate, voice, protector, and best friend. When Kyleigh is about eight, her big sister begins to change, and over the next decade, Kait receives mental health care, runs away from home, and is hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.
The family never gives up on Kait, nor do they neglect to parent Kyleigh, who is as involved in the search for answers and solutions as a young person can reasonably be. Not only does Kait suffer from schizophrenia, but she experiences a traumatic brain injury that results in a loss of emotional regulation and sporadic bursts of extreme violence and aggression. Kyleigh has to bolt her bedroom door at night to protect herself, all the while loving her sister and hoping for solutions and healing.
Halfway through the memoir, Kait dies by suicide at 23 when Kyleigh is still in college. The remainder of the book is a moving portrayal of a family’s healing. Kyleigh wrote the book while still in college, in the midst of her grief. I can only imagine that doing so was part of her healing. The memoir is suffused with love. It honors Kait, acknowledges the realities of both mental health challenges and suicide, and in its honesty helps shatter the stigma that prevents people from speaking honestly about mental health.
At Fairwinds, we understand that every family in which someone is struggling with a mental health disorder has a complicated, painful, and unique journey. We also understand that the barriers created by shame, fear, and a lack of understanding can seem insurmountable. This book is a wonderful testament to how much a family can endure and survive. We are so grateful to Kyleigh for writing this beautiful book.
By Amanda B. Wright, LICSW, Fairwinds Clinical Director