StoryCorps Surprised by a mental health crisis, Andrea Crook refused medication — until her grandfather called. Her illness inspired him to reveal an old secret, which "changed everything," she says.

After A Breakdown, A Secret Breaks Free From A Family's Closet — And Heals

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Time now for StoryCorps, recording conversations between loved ones. After high school, Andrea Crook moved from her home in Northern California to Los Angeles. And she started experiencing paranoid thoughts, delusions and erratic behavior. She called her mother, Marilynn Hillerman, for help. Nearly 20 years later, the two of them came to StoryCorps.

MARILYNN HILLERMAN: I remember the phone rang. And, you know, we talk a lot on the phone. But the tone of your voice was so different that I don't think I've ever been more frightened in my entire life. You were asking me where your father was because you thought he was going to kill me.

ANDREA CROOK: It was really real to me at the time.

HILLERMAN: All I wanted to do was get there, and I didn't even really pack a suitcase. I just got in the car and left.

CROOK: When you saw me, did you have any clue that I was going through, like, a mental break?

HILLERMAN: Right away I did. You didn't want to go home with me, but I said, just come home for a week, you know, like a vacation.

CROOK: I remember agreeing to go in the car with you. And when we got onto the freeway, I just panicked. And I felt like I needed to get away. And I remember crawling out the window on the freeway. And I remember seeing, like, a Mack truck right on the side of us. I remember you grabbing me, and I remember biting you.

HILLERMAN: That was terrifying.

CROOK: And then I think you called the police, and we got a police escort to the hospital.

HILLERMAN: Do you remember how long you were there?

CROOK: Two weeks, and I was refusing medications.

HILLERMAN: Why did you start taking your meds?

CROOK: My grandfather's phone call. He said, Andrea, I want you to know that I've been there. Well, that changed everything. I thought, if he could do it, I could do it.

HILLERMAN: I had no idea that my father had been hospitalized himself, before I was born, for a year.

CROOK: He was institutionalized. He was catatonic. But he went on and got his PhD in chemistry and was a professor for around 40 years. So he said, you're not alone. And you need to start taking your medication. It took him two weeks to give me that call.

HILLERMAN: I think he'd spent a lifetime trying not to talk about it.

CROOK: To run away from it?

HILLERMAN: But I think you made our family grow, whether they wanted to or not or were ready to or not. It didn't matter, too bad. You know, like, in my family, how everything was in the closet, you are not going to be in that closet.

CROOK: We are so incredibly close. I don't think there's anything left unsaid.

HILLERMAN: You've taught me. You've taught all of us.

MONTAGNE: That's Marilynn Hillerman, the mother of Andrea Crook, at StoryCorps in Sacramento, Calif. This conversation will be archived along with all StoryCorps interviews at the Library of Congress. The StoryCorps podcast is available on iTunes and at

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.