Shot in the Head

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UMD Alumna Katherine Flannery Dering: Her Memoir of Caregiving

Katherine Dering  
Katherine Flannery Dering  

“I’ve done enough, I wanted to say. Second of the ten children, I’d had enough of cleaning up after little siblings. Enough feedings and bottles and diapers and bath times and tending to cuts and bruises. But 'family first,' as Mother always used to say.”  Excerpt from Shot in the Head.

Alumna Katherine Flannery Dering’s memoir Shot in the Head tells her story about caring for her schizophrenic brother, Paul, while he was also suffering from lung cancer.

“Originally, I was developing a memoir about my experiences as female executive in the 1980s and 1990s,” said Dering. “However, when I became a more involved as a caretaker for Paul, I started finding myself writing vignettes about him and not focusing on the original memoir anymore.”

Paul suffered his first psychotic episode at the age of 16. Soon after that, he was moved from his home in White Plains, New York, into a mental hospital. Most of his life was spent living in different mental hospitals.

After release, he lived in adults homes that Dering felt were inadequate. "He spent the last year of his life in a more caring nursing home," Dering recalled

“The book is of interest for more than the mental health aspect,” she said. “It talks about issues that every family faces or could face. It also includes information about our medical system as a whole.”

Dering has earned three masters degrees. She has a MA in Spanish Lit. from the University of Buffalo, a MBA from UMD, and a MFA from Manhattanville College.

“When I went to UMD, the MBA program was in its infancy,” she said “However, I look back with fondness at my time there, where the professors presented challenging courses but also had a heart, and where classmates supported each other.”

Dering graduated with her MBA from the Labovitz School of Business and Economics in 1981. After graduating, she made her way back to her family in New York where she found a job with American Can Company.  After a few years, she moved to banking, working for ten years as Chief Financial Officer of a large community bank, before retiring.

“I learned throughout my time as a businesswomen that you can be good at business without being cut throat,” she said “Caring men and women get just as far.”

Paul passed away in 2008 after months of treatment for lung cancer. Dering has since become an advocate for better research and housing for individuals with serious mental illnesses. She travels to talk about her journey with Paul and is now working on her original memoir.




Written by Katarina Menze, September 2014.


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