Lou Reed’s Sister Opens Up About His Childhood Struggles

Posted on: April 15th, 2015 at 5:18 am by

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Lou Reed on East Houston, March 2011

On the eve of his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Lou Reed’s sister, Merrill Reed Weiner opens up about his controversial childhood. Namely, the mental health issues and electroshock therapy treatments. The piece is a great mini-memoir that sets the record straight on a misunderstood time in his life.

We’ve re-published a few choice excerpts here, but you must read the whole megilla over at Medium.

Lou Reed passed away in 2013 from liver failure. He was 71.

At 17, the decision was made that Lou would attend New York University. My parents sent him off with pride and possible trepidation. They were about to encounter some very difficult issues with their son and the “help” they received from the medical community set into motion the dissolution of my family of origin for the rest of our lives.

Sometime during his freshman year at NYU, when I was 12, my parents went to the city and returned with Lou, limp and unresponsive. I was terrified and uncomprehending. They said he had a “nervous breakdown.” The family secret was tightly kept and the entire matter was concealed from relatives and from friends. It was our private and unspoken burden. Even at 12 I knew to keep silent, and I did.

Lou was not able to function at that time. He was depressed, anxious, and socially unresponsive. If people came into our home, he hid in his room.

Despite their misgivings, my parents took a deep breath and brought Lou to a psychiatrist. Who knows what happened in the therapy setting? I only know that the treating psychiatrist recommended electroshock therapy.

Each of us suffered the loss of our dear sweet Lou in our own private hell, unhelped and undercut by the medical profession. The advent of family therapy unfortunately was not yet available to us. We were captured in a moment in time.

Our family was torn apart the day they began those wretched treatments. I watched my brother as my parents assisted him coming back into our home afterwards, unable to walk, stupor-like. It damaged his short term memory horribly and throughout his life he struggled with memory retention, probably directly as a result of those treatments.

But Lou did get better. After he recovered, he and my parents decided he should go off to Syracuse University and begin again. And he did. The rest, as they say, is history.

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