His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina

His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina

4.3 181
by Danielle Steel

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From the day he was born, Nick Traina was his mother's joy. By nineteen, he was dead. This is Danielle Steel's powerful personal story of the son she lost and the lessons she learned during his courageous battle against darkness. Sharing tender, painful memories and Nick's remarkable journals, Steel brings us a haunting duet between a singular young man and the…  See more details below


From the day he was born, Nick Traina was his mother's joy. By nineteen, he was dead. This is Danielle Steel's powerful personal story of the son she lost and the lessons she learned during his courageous battle against darkness. Sharing tender, painful memories and Nick's remarkable journals, Steel brings us a haunting duet between a singular young man and the mother who loved him - and a harrowing portrait of a masked killer called manic depression, which afflicts between two and three million Americans." "Nick rocketed through life like a shooting star. Signs of his illness were subtle, often paradoxical. He spoke in full sentences at age one. He was a brilliant, charming child who never slept. And at first, even his mother explained away his quicksilver moods. Nick always marched to a different drummer. His gift for writing was extraordinary, his musical talent promised a golden future. But by the time he entered junior high, Danielle Steel saw her beloved son hurtling toward disaster and tried desperately to get Nick the help he needed - the opening salvos of what would become a ferocious, pitched battle for his life." "Even as he struggled, Nick's charisma and accomplishments remained undimmed. He bared his soul in his journal with uncanny insight, in searing prose, poetry, and song. When he was finally diagnosed and treated, it bought time, but too little. In the end, perhaps nothing could have saved him from the insidious disease that had shadowed him from his earliest years.

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Editorial Reviews

I was intrigued by this Danielle Steel book because it is nonfiction, definitely outside of her usual fare. It also had been praised by groups advocating for mentally ill citizens. This is the story of Steel's son Nick Traina, a young man who killed himself at 19 after struggling for years with manic depression. The book is extremely personal and quite sad—as you read, you get wrapped up in the boy's charm and talent; however you also know how it is going to end. The writing is straightforward and the book reads quickly, telling the story of Steel's struggle to get help for Nick and support for herself and her family. The book includes photos, writings by Nick, and guidance for others facing the same challenges. It presents many questions, including how can we help young people like Nick, what sort of support systems individuals and families need to keep their children safe, and, importantly, what do people do who don't have the financial means that Steel does? This book could also benefit young people as Steel does a good job telling the story from Nick's point of view as much as possible. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Dell/Delta, 306p, 24cm, illus, $12.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Sarah Applegate; Libn., River Ridge H.S., Lacey, WA, May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
From the Publisher
The Nick Traina Foundation has been established to benefit mental health, music, and child-related causes, and other charitable organizations for assorted causes. All of the author's proceeds and agent's fees from this book will go to the foundation, which will also receive direct proceeds from the publisher for all copies sold.

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Random House Publishing Group
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6.06(w) x 9.19(h) x 0.72(d)

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This will not be an easy book to write, but there is much to say, in my own words, and my son's. And as hard as it may be to write, it's worth doing, if it helps someone.

It is hard to encapsulate a being, a very special being, a soul, a smile, a boy, a huge talent, an enormous heart, a child, a man, in however many pages. Yet I must try, for him, for myself, for you. And I hope that as I do, you will come to understand who he was, and what he meant to all those who knew him.

This is the story of an extraordinary boy, with a brilliant mind, a heart of gold, and a tortured soul. It is the story of an illness, a fight to live, and a race against death. It is early days for me yet, as I write this. He has been gone a short time. My heart still aches. The days seem endless. I still cry at the sound of his name. I wander into his room and can still smell his familiar smell. His words still echo in my ears. He was alive only days, weeks ago . . . so little time, and yet he is gone. It is still impossible to absorb or understand. Harder still to accept. I look at his photographs, and cannot imagine that all that life and love and energy has vanished. That funny, handsome face, that brilliant smile, the heart I knew better than my own, the best friend he became to me, can they truly be gone? Do they live only in memory? Even now, it remains beyond my comprehension, and is sometimes beyond bearing. How did it all happen? How did we lose him? How could we have tried so hard, and cared so much, and loved him so enormously, and still have lost him? If love alone could have kept him alive, he would have lived to be three hundred years old. But sometimes, evenloving with all your heart and soul and all your mind and will just doesn't do it. Sadly, it didn't do it for Nick.

If I had three wishes, one would be that he had never suffered from mental illness, the other would be of course that he were alive today, but the third would be that someone had warned me, at some point, that his illness—manic depression—could kill him. Perhaps they did. Perhaps they told me in some subtle way. Maybe the inference was there, and I didn't want to hear it. But I listened carefully to everything that was said to me over the years, I examined every nuance, and to the best of my knowledge and abilities, heeded every warning. My recollection is that no one told me. Certainly not clearly. And it was a piece of information that I desperately needed. I'm not sure we would have done things any differently, but at least I would have known, been warned, of what the worst case could be.

His illness killed him as surely as if it had been a cancer. I wish I had known that, that I had been warned how great the risk was. Perhaps then I would have been better prepared for what came later. I'm not sure that in the minds of the public it is clear that bipolar disease, manic depression as it's more commonly called, is potentially fatal. Not always certainly, but in far too many cases. Suicide and accidents appear to be the greatest cause of death for manic-depressives. Neither are uncommon. If I had been told that he had cancer of a major organ, I would have known with certainty how great the risk was. I might have understood how short his life could be, how tragic the implication. I'm sure I would have fought just as hard, just as long, just as ingeniously, but I would have been better prepared for what came later. The defeat might not have been quite as startling or as stunning, though it would surely have been just as devastating.

The purpose of this book is to pay tribute to him, and to what he accomplished in his short life. Nick was an extraordinary human being, with joy and wisdom, and remarkably profound and astute perceptions about himself and others. He faced life with courage and panache and passion and humor. He did everything "more" and better and harder. He loved harder and more, he laughed a lot, and made us laugh, and cry, and try so hard to save him. No one who met him was left unimpressed or unaffected. You couldn't meet him and not give a damn. He made you care and feel and want to be as big as he was. He was very big. The biggest.

I have written this book to honor and remember him. But there is yet another purpose in writing this book. I want to share the story, and the pain, the courage, the love, and what I learned in living through it. I want Nick's life to be not only a tender memory for us, but a gift to others. There is much to learn here, not only about one life, but about a disease that afflicts between two and three million Americans, one third of whom, it is believed, die from it, possibly as many as two thirds. That is a terrifying statistic. The statistics are somewhat "soft" on the issue of fatalities, because often death is attributed to other things, for instance "accidental overdose" rather than suicide, which is determined by the actual amount of fatal substances ingested, rather than by clear motive.

It is debatable as to whether or not those who have died could have been saved, or if those who will die can be. But what of those who will live, and have lived, and are still living? How do we help them? What can we do? Sadly, no one, and certainly not I, has the magic answers to solve the problem. There are different options, different solutions, a variety of ways of coping. But first, you have to see the problem. You have to understand what you're dealing with, to accept that what you're dealing with is the equivalent of not just a bellyache, but liver cancer. You have to know that what you're facing is serious, important, dangerous, and potentially fatal.

Somewhere out there, in apartments, and homes, and hospitals, in ordinary jobs and lives, and not just psychiatric wards, are people coping with a terrible struggle within them. And alongside them are the people who know and love them. I would like to reach out here, and to offer hope and the realities we lived with. I want to make a difference. My hope is that someone will be able to use what we learned, and save a life with it. Maybe you can make a difference, even if I couldn't. If it is true that one third of manic-depressives die of this disease, and its related burdens, then two thirds will live. Two thirds can be helped, and can live a useful existence. And if possible, I would like Nick's story, and Nick's life, to help them, to serve them, perhaps to learn from our mistakes, and our victories.

The greatest lessons I learned were of courage, and love, energy, ingenuity, and persistence. We never gave up, never turned away, never turned on him, never let him go, until he let us go, because he couldn't fight the fight any longer. We not only gave him CPR when he attempted suicide, but we tried to keep his soul alive in every way we could, so that he could keep fighting the fight along with us. And the real victory for him, and for us, was that we gave him a quality of life he might otherwise never have had. He was able to pursue a career he loved, in music. He saw victories that few people do, at twice his age, or who live a great deal longer. He knew the joy and excitement of success, and also knew better than most the price he paid for it. He had friends, a life, a family, a career, he had fun and happiness and sorrow. He moved through the last few years of his life with surprising grace, despite the handicaps he was born with. And we were incredibly proud of him, as a man, a musician, and a human being. He was a talented, brilliant young man with a disease. But the disease did not stop him from being who he was, or us from loving him as he was. In retrospect, I think it was one of the best gifts we gave him. Acceptance of who he was, and unconditional love. In our eyes at least, his illness was only one facet of him, not the whole of him.

There is no denying that it is a hard, hard road, loving someone with bipolar disease. There are times when you want to scream, days when you think you can't do it anymore, weeks when you know you haven't made a difference and only wish you could, moments when you want to turn your back on it. It is their problem, not yours, and yet it becomes yours if you love the person suffering from it. You have no choice. You must stand by them. You are trapped, as surely as the patient is. And you will hate that trap at times, hate what it does to your life, your days, your own sanity. But hate it or not, you are there, and whatever it takes, you have to make the best of it.

I can only tell you what we did, what we tried, what worked, and what failed. You can learn from what we tried to accomplish, and develop better avenues that work for you. We tried a lot of things, and flew by the seat of our pants some of the time. There are no rule books, no manuals, no instruction sheets, no norms. You just have to feel your way along in the dark and do the best you can. You can't do more than that. And if you're very lucky, what you're doing works. If you're not, it won't, and then you try something else. You try anything and everything you can until the very end, and then all you have is knowing how hard you tried. Nick knew. He knew how hard we tried for him, and he tried too. We respected each other so much for it. We loved each other incredibly because we had been through so much together, and we cared so much. He and I were very much alike actually, more than we realized for many years. He said it in the end. He made me laugh. He made me smile. He was not only my son, but my best friend. And I am doing this for him, to honor him, and to help those who need to know what we learned, what we did, what we should have done, and shouldn't have done. And if it helps someone then it is worth reliving it all, and sharing his joys and his agonies with you. I am not doing it to expose him, or myself, but to help you.

Would I do it all again? Yes. In a minute. I wouldn't give away these nineteen years for anything in the world. I wouldn't give up the pain or the torment or the sheer frustration, or the occasional misery of it, because there was so much joy and happiness that went with it. There was nothing better in life than knowing that things were going well for him. I would not have missed a single instant with him. He taught me more about love and joy and courage and the love of life and wonderful outrageousness than anything or anyone else in my life ever will. He gave me the gifts of love and compassion and understanding and acceptance and tolerance and patience, wrapped in laughter, straight from his heart. And now I share these gifts with you.

Love is meant to be shared, and pain is meant to be soothed. If I can share your pain, and soothe it with the love Nick shared with all of us, then his life will be yet one more gift, not only to me and his family this time, but to you.

It was Nick who made it all worthwhile, and worth fighting for. He did it for us, and for himself, and we for him. It was a dance of love from beginning to end. His was a life worth living, whatever the handicaps and challenges. I think he'd agree with that. And I have no doubt of it. I have no regrets, no matter how hard it was. I wouldn't have given up one second with him. And what happened in the end was his destiny. As his song says, "Destiny . . . dance with me, my destiny." And how sweet the music was. The sound of it will forever live on, just like Nick, and our love for him.

He was a priceless gift. He taught me everything worth knowing about life and love. May God bless and keep him, and smile with him, until we meet again.

And may God keep you safe on your journey.


From the Audio Cassette (Unabridged) edition.

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What People are saying about this

Danielle Steel
I want to share the story, and the pain, the courage, the love, and what I learned in living through it. I want Nick's life to be not only a tender memory for us, but a gift to others. . . .My hope is that someone will be able to use what we learned, and save a life with it.

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His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 172 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admit it. I've never read a Danielle Steel book. I've never been interested enough, although I know many people who rave about her. Her stories just aren't necessarily my 'cup of tea.' However, I was highly recommended this true-story book about her son's life by a friend of mine, so I decided to give it a try. I got to experience DS's flair for writing and its conversational style. It was very easy to read and held my interest. Pages flowed into the next. I can see her widespread appeal. Not only was the story sad yet uplifting, but 'His Bright Light' helped me to understand manic depressive behavior intimately as DS learned it herself over the years. It was quite the lesson in psychology for those who don't want to get bogged down with or can't quite grasp the technical or scientific aspects of it. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to know more about the disease, her son's life, as well as DS's life. She provides some great autobiographical material for those interested. It's a quick read, and it'll be worth the effort, especially if you know someone with similar challenges in their own life...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of Nick Traina, is a touching one. The reason I originaly bought the book was because I am a child psychology major at Santa Monica College, and Manic Depression just caught my attention more than any other mental disorder. Danielle Steel wrote an amzing book about her son Nick and his struggle with manic depression. From the moment I opened the book, I could not put it down. Reading this book opened my eyes. It made me realize what so many people in this world and their families have to live with. Manic Depression is a roller coaster ride,only not nearly as amusing. This book opened my mind and touched my heart. I respect Danielle Steel for being brave enough to re-live all of her sons life by writing his biography so the world could understand this disease better. My hat goes off to her. I recomend every one to read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Steele has done an amazing job at casting a light on a silent killer, bi-polar disorder. In this book she discusses her son, Nick, who took his own life due to complications caused by this insideous killer. A must read for anyone with manic depression or anyone dealing with someone who has the illness, you will see hallmark signs and find some rather ingenius ways of handling the disease.
23IA More than 1 year ago
This is a haunting book that pulls you in and leaves you mourning the lose of Nick. It gave me a better understanding of the struggles of mental illness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book inspired me at 19 years old to seek help for my manic depression. I at 18 cut my body, vomitted, and cried constantly for whatever un-known reason. My mother found my journal, and immediately saught help for me from many differant clinics, doctors, and books. This story, was heart stopping for me. It showed me my path and also had helped my mom understand a little more what I was going through. Had I not of gotten the help needed I would not be here today. I turn 24 in October. As a mother and a wife now, I realize how important everyday is, and how wonderful it is to have a child. Ms. Steele showed great courage in printing this book, I only hope that more people who have illnesses or know those people who could be suffering seek help.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed a Mazatlan vacation in 2000 with my best girlfriend, Patti, who was always my best audience and a great 'laugher'. Months later she took her own life. I wish I'd read The Story of Nick Traina in 1998. Now I know so much more about this tragic disease. Wonderfully told, I admire Ms. Steele for presenting her son's life for us so that we can learn to recognize and perhaps help a friend or love one through this disease. Deanna
ZTA More than 1 year ago
It was heartbreaking to read but at the same time so informative. Danielle Steel writes beautifully about this most touching family story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was always a Danielle Steele fan, loved her books but I didn't know anything personal about her, until I day I took my daughter to the library to do some homework for school. Thats when I came across her book about her son, so sad. I didn't get a chance to finish the book and I didn't want to check it out of the library so I decided to buy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was simply amazing. I'm a huge fan of Nick Traina's former band Link 80 and a lot of hardcore/punk/thrash. Reading this book made me notice the challenges he went through and simply amazed me. I've been to a few shows supporting the Nick Traina Foundation. Anybody who respects his musical talent should read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this book. You will not be sorry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical about this book at first, but I loved it. I promote a drug for Bipolar disorder and I witness everyday the negligence of doctors in diagnosing this disease, especially in primary care. I think this is a great portrait of how Bipolar disorder affects patients and their families. I will recommend this book to the rest of my team.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the first chapter to the last. I listen to Nick Traina's band Link 80 and Knowledge so I knew some what about him, and that he died from suicide. But I didnt know he had such a serious disorder until I read this book. Some of the things that Nick went through and his family went through I can relate so well. His Bright Light is my favorite book, and I recommend it to anyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I read this book I cried for her here was a mother who stopped at nothing to save her son from himself. I am a Bipolar with severe manic episodes and throughout my childhood no one picked up on it.I knew something was wrong and I was different,because I was never happy and wanted to die all the time. What Danielle Steel didn't do for her son.If only I would have had such a mother like Nick had,I would not have suffered in such darkness for so long.The courage, understanding,the love she showed her son everyone mother should give to their child as she did hers.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
D.S. did a great job of letting people who have never lived with this illness see the daily ends and outs. You get to see how they are full of life, funny, loving and so giving of themselves......and then they are the opposite of each of those things. Two people in one body. And each day brings a new journey. How you can never give up no matter how hard or how exhausting the fight.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a wonderful and powerful book. Any mother of a bipolar/manic depress child knows that sometimes what may seem right to one person is not right for the other. It angers me that people judge other peoples decisions on THIER experiences. I know now to never judge anyone on the choices they make. I felt her struggle and could relate to her story all to well. Sending her son off for help was for him and the saftey of others. I had to put my son in the hospital for two weeks and it was the hardest thing to do. I am so glad medicine has come this far. God Bless her and the story Nick left to us to LEARN from. Again a wonderful book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Never has a book touched me in a way that this one has. From the moment you pick up the book to the moment you put it down (on top of a load of tissues filled with your tears) you feel for the family, you feel apart of this young man. I not only walked away learning about a terrible disorder, but I walked away with a lighter look on life...maybe our problems are not as bad as we think they are..compared to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's 0015hr, I have just finished this book. It evokes so much feelings...such powerful selfless love, trust, dejection, laughter, hope, disappoinment, strength, courage, fear,... Every page that i flipped, i'm so scared to read that he's dead. But come page 383, my tears flow even more uncontrollably. i wanna scream out loud...You must think i'm crazy...but i feel for Nick, his despair that eventually took him away...have i ever cried so much... smoke...have my heart ache so....i have learnt so much of Nick & his incredible Mommy, Danielle, yes & Julie. This book has touched my heart so...No words, nothing can describe... No, i do not have the fortunate chance to know Nick, & it's a shame. But forever, i know i'll remember Nick...& his greatest love of all, Danielle. i've always been a great fan of Danielle. But this book, this book has said so much more... of her son, Nick, of herself, of their unconditional love...This book has taught so much...It's so heart wrenching...May God frees his soul...
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was excellent it brought many tears to my eyes and sadness, it made me feel as if i was there for all of it, and i feel much pain for you ms steel, god bless you and the remberence of nick will be forever in my heart
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can totally relate to the pain of losing someone, but i could never imagine losing my child. Struggling with depression myself, i can validate that this book was legit to an extent. Because the entire viewpoint of the book was from Ms. Steele, it didnt exactly give the full picture. My heart goes out to Danielle Steele and her family, along with all those that feel the pain ofNick's passing... H. Rodriguez 15/f
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a biography, I found this book to be disappointing. There was very little insight from his friends and siblings. The book became a list of events and places. I don't feel like I have a deep understanding of Nick that I was expecting. My heart goes out to Nick's parents, siblings, and friends. The book does give readers an understanding that mental illness impacts so many around the individual, so in that respect it is a valuable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew Nick. It's a shame that he couldn't live past the realization of not fitting into his mother's world and the world he found for himself (Link, Knowledge). If he could have been able to see past that and grown into a wonderful man..... I miss him so.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed and learned even more from reading this. Thank you for writing about your son.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good book.it was a page turner and an easy read.this book was similar to death angel.don't read them both.except the good nurse was a true story.
thepoetMK More than 1 year ago
I am more than half way through this incredible journey of a young man who tried desperately to seek help with an illness that is so common place today. It's unfortunate that Nick's illness emerged at a time when it was in its infancy. For that very reason, it will educate and guide the general public that manic depression is a real issue that needs dire attention. I feel Danielle Steel's pain and frustration. I feel Nick's desperation. I will do my part to stand up for anyone who is considered mentally ill. I would like to invite the public to join NAMI, an organization devoted to the rights and education of the mentally ill population. We need to take a stand on this dreadful yet misunderstood disease. Thank you, Danielle Steel, for sharing such a touching story. Above all, thank you, Nick, who put a face to this illness and showing us that it is indeed real.