First, tell us all about your book! When did you start writing it, and what led you to the decision to start creating it?
My Mental Madness Memoir by [pen name] Stephanie Anne Allen is my TRUE life journey through all the challenges and difficulties I faced due to suffering from several severe mental illnesses. It is an intriguing and chilling story that takes you deep inside the insanity, disturbing behaviors, oppressive symptoms, and the various feelings associated with mental illness. Discussed topics include, but are not limited to, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and borderline personality disorder. I endured suicidal thoughts, self-mutilation, mania, paranoia, and psychosis, with intense hallucinations of all five senses, and multiple delusions including the belief that I was the “second coming of Christ.” Just as I thought I could take no more, I turned my life around. I learned to accept and deal with my illnesses. I became grateful for all that I am blessed with in my life.
I began writing My Mental Madness Memoir in February of 2017. It was originally titled as “The Beggar They Hung to a Cross” but was retitled after being confused with a religious book. I made the decision to write this book in an effort to bring hope and inspiration to others by proving that recovery from mental illness is possible. It was published in an attempt to stop the stigma associated with the mentally ill and bring awareness to all.
What was the process of writing like for you? What difficulties did you experience, and did you gain insights about yourself?
I will be 100% honest, just like my book is. It was not easy revisiting all the mental pain and agony I went through. I spent many hours daily trying to write a story that would benefit others. As I was writing it, it was almost as if I was actually experiencing all the previous chaos I had been through. But I continued to write as I was hoping to reach out and help as many people as possible, whether they be the mentally ill, their families and friends, or just someone interested in learning what a mentally ill person goes through. I also gained much insight into my own mental health. So yes, I would say it was helpful to me as well.
What is your current mental health diagnosis?
Currently my diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder which is both a mood and a thought disorder.
My journey has not been easy to any degree, as you will see when you read my book. But going through all the heartache and pain made me into the individual I am today. Without the mental anguish, I would have not been able to write this book and help others.
What is your favorite book on mental health or Borderline Personality Disorder?
Actually I have two! The first being the DSM-V, which is very informative of the guidelines used to diagnose mental illness. The second is The Quiet Room which is an interesting and informative read as well.
What is your best online resource for mental health information?
There are several sites available, but not all of them are accurate. You have to be careful. Writers who have stigma about mental illness often write biased material. So if you are looking for a resource, I would recommend the DSM-V.
What do you consider to be the most significant differences between the DSM-IV and the DSM-V?
Well, to make this short, the DSM-V is just an “updated” edition of the DSM-IV. The DSM-V is less biased and is based on the newest research available.
What is your opinion on the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder?
BPD treatment is essential if the person wants to be able to construct any kind of healthy relationship in their life. For this illness, I would say that intense therapy is a must. Medication may also be helpful for some of the symptoms of BPD, but honestly of the two I would say that therapy is the most effective for this illness.
Also, there are other things victims can do, including reading self-help books (and even mine) and joining support groups.
What do you believe are the keys to recovery from mental illness?
Recovery from mental illness is a very difficult process. The first step is to admit to yourself that you are indeed sick and may be for the rest of your life. Then you must get treatment from professionals. But also the person must have hope and faith (in self and/or God).
It is very important for a mentally ill person to avoid stress and to not push yourself too hard. Stress often leads to resurfacing of the symptoms. Also, a regular sleep cycle is important. Exercise and healthy diet help. In addition, you must take your medications daily, as prescribed, at the same time each day.
How much of BPD do you think is hereditary, and how much is environmental?
BPD, without a mood or thought disorder diagnosis, is a personality disorder which is caused by outside factors such as past experiences. I honestly do not believe it is hereditary at all. The reason it may seem to run in families is because family members often have the same environmental factors. But I do not think that BDP is inherited.
What do you believe are the keys to finding a good therapist and/or psychiatrist?
Finding a good therapist and psychiatrist is difficult because treatment can be so expensive if you don’t have any medical insurance, but do not let your finances deter you from getting help.
When you are looking for a therapist, you need one that is empathetic to your situation and to your needs. If you do not like your therapist, you are free to select a new one. There are good therapists out there who want to sincerely help you.
As for finding the right psychiatrist, you need to look for one that is educated in newer drug treatments. Don’t be afraid to look around, and if you do not approve of the doctor, it is your right to get a new one.
What is your favorite life skill for maintaining emotions?
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is the most effective skills set to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder. I would suggest for individuals to get involved in this therapy. It will be very profitable to you.
What are your future plans in this area?
Well, I currently hold a B.A. in Clinical Psychology. I am hoping to become a peer support specialist, a mental illness blogger, and get involved in NAMI.
Also, I am working on turning My Mental Madness Memoir into a screenplay to be used in the creation of a movie.
Finally, I have started the creation of a new book, which I also hope you will find interest in.