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10 Things My Dysfunctional Family Taught Me

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Growing up at the mercy of her mother’s depression and father’s undiagnosed schizophrenia, Diana and her five siblings were left to fend for themselves as their mom and dad rotated in and out of psychiatric hospitals and police custody.

Finally, in 1966, Diana’s mother left her family and the Mormon Church to start a new relationship with a woman, sending Diana’s father into a tailspin.

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10 Things My Dysfunctional Family Taught Me

1. To be more aware of my mental health, and practice self-care: If I’m not emotionally healthy, it will bleed out to other members of my family and relationships.

2. That family, friends, neighbors and church community all lived in denial and neglected to help us kids out. Out of fear of my father, but also—denial had just become more acceptable and comfortable.

3. That I had lived in fear most of my life, and it’s destructive and damaging. I always waited for the other shoe to drop, the sky to fall, etc.

4. Mental illness is generational. At least three to four generations of reported history of mental illness. When I learned that my father who raised me was not my biological father, I was so relieved that I hadn’t inherited his mental illness.

5. Although my family had lived in chronic dysfunction and chaos, I found a way to love, accept and forgive.

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6. Religion was probably good for me in my youth, and provided safety, security and healthy role models. I am grateful for that.

7. I learned that I wanted to break the cycle of abusive patterns for my kids, and grandkids to dilute the generational patterns.

8. Through my own abuse, neglect, and abandonment, all of this pain provides me with a purpose: to be a good mother and grandmother. It’s the thing I hold most dear!

9. I was born resilient and rebellious and I’m grateful for that!

10. I consciously made a choice to live my life open-heartedly, and make space for all of the people in my life. To love, rather than be angry or sad.

In Loose Cannons, Diana traces her rebellious 1970s girlhood-amidst her father’s multiple suicide attempts, and remarriage to her mother’s sister. As she and her siblings barreled into adulthoods they weren’t ready for, they tried to rely on each other while reproducing broken relationships of their own.

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Eventually, after several divorces and while raising three children of her own, Diana reconnected with her estranged mother and inherited a lifetime’s worth of her journals. After decades spent searching for answers, her mother’s writing about swingers’ parties, sexual abuse, ancient wounds and broken attempts at happiness reframed everything Diana thought she knew about her family and herself.

A debut memoir like no other, Loose Cannons is a harrowing and hilarious saga spanning more than 60 years of multigenerational trauma and dysfunction-and the spiritual power it took to overcome it all.

Diana Cannon Ragsdale is an author, retired physical therapist, and mental health advocate for survivors of abusive and dysfunctional families. Diana attended Utah State University on a dance scholarship and then several years later received her degree from the University of Utah. In retirement, she has dedicated herself to travel and creativity. Today, she lives happily in Salt Lake City, Utah is married and a mother of five and grandmother of eight. Loose Cannons is her first book.

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