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Actively Fighting For My Life

Author Interview
Tricia Stafford and Annie Stafford Author Interview

The Apparition is a memoir that charts your journey through the mental health system while providing information and research on various aspects of mental illness, particularly hearing voices. Why was this an important book for you to write?

Tricia: I wanted to lend dignity to people who suffer from extreme mental health challenges. There’s a tremendous amount of shame attached to this kind of suffering, and, as a result, we would rather push it away than admit it to anyone. I wanted to bring the topic down to a very personal, down-to-earth, relatable-to-some level. The educational components of the book are meant to provide at least a primer on the various manifestations of mental illness. Although the reverberations between my own mental health and my daughter’s originally compelled me to write the first part of the book, which took many years, in the end it was the hearing voices population that propelled me to action, the poignancy of their pain that urged me to go public. I wanted to do something for the people who were so distressed by their voices that living a “normal” life was a battle. I wanted to help humanize the phenomenon. I have been aided by the honesty and sincerity of so many writers along the way, and I wanted to contribute, in my small way, to that same body of literature.

Annie: While my mother is the primary author, it was important for me to contribute to this book because the experience of hearing voices is still so misunderstood within the traditional mental health system. I felt compelled to share my journey, both with hearing voices and other mental health challenges, in hopes that others may connect with some pieces and feel less alone in their own struggles. Ultimately, it felt important for my experiences not to have been in vain, but to use them to propel some semblance of change.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you told your story. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Tricia: The personal challenges I wrote about were not things I was eager to share, so none of that was easy. I wondered how family members would react to me knowing these things, and I thought it would be strange for people I knew to suddenly know these most intimate details about me. Would I be straining the relationships in my life? Would I offend anyone or put them off? I have always been an extremely private, introverted person, and it goes against the grain for me to be so public. But I am far along in life now and have the long-view perspective of wanting to contribute something to our greater understanding of mental illness, as well as make meaning of my own experiences.

What I worried about most, though, was possibly causing further damage to my daughter. I did not want her to feel bad about herself in any way. Parts of the story, I knew, would be hard for her to review, but she trusted that I was not out to write an account of “gory details” and I tried hard to honor that trust. On the other hand, she was fully onboard throughout the process, and I was grateful for her contributions.

Annie: The hardest portion for me to write was my ending piece, which details where I am in my life now. During this time, I was actively fighting for my life. It was painful to capture these experiences in brutal honesty. But as difficult as it was, the act of writing helped me to hang on and keep fighting.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is hesitant to seek treatment for their mental health issue?

Tricia: I would try to remind that person that there are times when the weight of our problems is simply too much to bear on our own. I understand the shame one can feel about reaching out for help. I wish that I had not felt that so acutely in my own life, but I did. I think I would have suffered far less if I had allowed myself to be more human and admit I had problems. Not only is there no shame in seeking treatment, but it is equivalent to accessing medical treatment for any debilitating physical condition. Treatment can enable us to look at the problem and set things right, or at least on a better course. Simply put, reaching out for help has the potential to be lifesaving.

Annie: To someone who is hesitant to seek treatment for a mental health issue I would say that you should not have to suffer alone – you deserve support. While it may take time to find treatment that is the right fit for you, do not give up. It takes immense courage to reach out for help, but what lies on the other side could be transformational.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

Tricia: I hope that readers learn something about the different ways the mind can respond to chronic stress. I also hope they develop an appreciation for the complexity of their inner lives and see the detriment of sweeping difficult emotions under the rug. For example, if they feel particularly troubled by a problem which causes them to repeatedly stumble, perhaps they can do something about it. As mentioned in the book, in my own life social anxiety was a particular scourge. Although I was a pretty good student, I dreaded the classroom environment because of the stress it caused me. I wished I could have spoken up when I was a young person, but I did not know how, nor did I have the strength or courage to do that. Perhaps in the future, knowing how hard it is for people to admit they suffer from social anxiety, students could be screened for it and offered a more comfortable learning environment. We have made great strides in the school system with other learning differences, and perhaps this could be another one we learn to accommodate. I also hope readers take away the knowledge that listening deeply and with compassion to someone who is struggling goes a long way toward easing their pain and discomfort.

Annie: What I hope readers take away from the book is the power of unconditional love. My mother’s love made more of a difference in my healing than any service or medication ever could. When I lost hope, she held that hope for me. Unwavering, consistent love is one of the few forces that can transcend even the most difficult of mental health conditions. I wish this kind of love for everyone.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

When Tricia Stafford’s seven-year-old daughter Annie suffered incapacitating anxiety after a traumatic encounter with a Catholic nun, she had no idea that it was just the beginning of more serious mental health struggles – for both her and her daughter.

While Annie battled OCD and depression, Tricia’s own history of anxiety re-emerged and led to an emotional breakdown. At age twelve, Annie also began hearing voices, but in 2012 they met Ron Coleman, an activist in the Hearing Voices Movement, who offered them a new kind of hope.

This deeply personal account charts their long journey through the mental health system, while weaving in relevant information and research on various aspects of mental illness, particularly, hearing voices. In sharing her story, Stafford shines a light on our country’s mental health crisis and challenges us all to seek a better understanding of, and more compassionate treatment for, those suffering from any form of mental illness.

The Apparition

A reckoning with madness in the true sense of the word. This book gives a very personal account of Stafford and her daughter’s experience of mental health issues as the duo traverse across uncharted territories together, trying to understand their trauma and proactively working towards healing, continuously seeking alternative treatment methods and support systems while constantly battling some of the most debilitating physical conditions. It recounts the numerous ordeals that they faced and exposes us to the tumultuous world of voice hearers. To that effect, it is both inspiring and informative, encouraging readers to visualize the amount of emotional stress Annie or any person who hears voices has to endure on a daily basis.

To say the narrative follows a chronological order or has a linear timeline would be limiting, because this book is anything but a series of events highlighted one after the other. In fact, it is sometimes akin to a research paper in how it makes references to literature on and around the subject of mental illness, hearing voices or suicidal ideation, etc. Other times it flows with the melancholic drift and confessional tone of an autobiography or memoir as it closely retells the lived experiences of the mother and daughter, almost reminiscent of a survivor’s tale.

What is particularly interesting to note is the conviction with which the mother supports her daughter and never fails to believe in her overall potential to overcome these challenges. Her honesty and candor makes the book humane and more accessible instead of painting their struggles as an isolating experience. She single-handedly becomes the stability Annie craves, the solid ground for her to stay anchored to when everything else convinces her she is crazy. Stafford tells her daughter’s story with immense empathy and a subtle pride, evoking in us in turn a sense of compassion, understanding and awe.

Although painfully fragmented, Annie’s voice still rings clear through the extracts her mother deftly curated and dispersed throughout the length of the work. Albeit some parts of the book where the topic veered into religion, theology or mysterious spiritual awakenings, the narrative sometimes seemed disordered yet there is much in this book that is eye-opening.

Pages: 242 | ASIN: B0BL1CSCJX

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What Your Doctor Wants You to Know to Crush Medical Debt

What Your Doctor Wants You to Know to Crush Medical Debt by Virgie Bright Ellington gives readers hope of achieving financial freedom from extensive medical debt. They say ‘good health is wealth,’ and in Dr. Ellington’s book, the author expounds in detail on how trying to lead a healthy lifestyle will save you money and free you from medical bankruptcy.

The average American knows how expensive health care is and the impact of medical bills. In this educational book, the reader is enlightened on navigating medical bills, negotiating for better health care, how insurance companies operate, handling Covid-19 and its implications, and debt management tips, among other things. Dr. Ellington is kind enough to share her story, her experiences with the American healthcare system, and the lessons she has picked along the way.

What Your Doctor Wants You to Know to Crush Medical Debt is divided into three parts, each focusing on diverse topics and answering questions Americans have regarding the healthcare system. The author starts by discussing how to crush your medical bills and advises on how to locate mistakes in your medical bills. Dr. Ellington is thorough, explains using simple terms, and even decrypts medical terms and codes. By doing this, she enables the reader to fully grasp the subject being discussed.

One of the most profound quotes in the book is, “Americans are one serious medical illness or injury away from financial catastrophe.” This statement is tragic and true at the same time. I appreciate the author for her boldness and for exposing the damage that is the U.S healthcare system. While she appears to lament in some pages, she also offers solutions. I appreciate the vulnerability Dr. Ellington displays as it gives the reader a true picture of how the situation is.

Some of the key topics in the book are discussed in the chapters that cover insurance plans, documenting conversations, and negotiating medical bills. The author also writes that no one is immune from being overbilled and gives steps on how to avoid overbilling. The complete book is helpful. The author’s experiences and the expert opinion she has given are enough to help you avoid medical bankruptcy. Dr. Virgie Bright Ellington’s style of writing enables young readers and senior citizens to understand the content without difficulty. I recommend What Your Doctor Wants You to Know to Crush Medical Debt to every reader, mindful of their financial and health status. Dr. Ellington made complex topics easy to read.

Pages: 100 | ASIN : B09VJ577FZ

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Ellie Visits the Dentist

Ellie loves everything sweet, from ice cream to cookies. Her mother tries her best to have her eat a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables and go easy on the sweets. Ellie goes to the dentist for a routine cleaning and discovers that she has two cavities. Scared that she has to come back to the dentist to fix the sugar bugs, Ellie starts to get nervous. After an amazing visit with the dentist to fix her cavities Ellie realizes that even though her experience wasn’t scary, she must eat a balanced diet and go easy on the sweets to avoid getting cavities.

Ellie Visits the Dentist is a captivating children’s book that will help young readers feel better about going to the dentist. Author Katie Specht teaches children that it is okay to eat sweets, but in moderation. I appreciated that she is honest with her audience but approaches this experience in a sensitive and inviting manner. Going to the dentist can be a daunting experience even for adults, but after reading about Ellie’s experience even I wanted to go to the dentist!

The illustrations throughout this educational kids book are colorful and vivid and offers readers plenty of eye-candy to look at while their parents read the story to them. Each character is expressive and their emotions are easy to identify, making this a perfect book to read to young children who are still learning to identify emotions. This is also a great book for elementary students who are starting to read on their own as the language used throughout the book is easy to understand.

With the support of Ellie’s mother and the dentist, Ellie had a wonderful experience. Ellie Visits the Dentist will inspire children to eat their fruits and vegetables to avoid getting cavities.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B0B5M8FDVQ

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Acknowledge Fear And Indecision

JP Mac Author Interview

How to Run a Marathon in 13 Years details the variety of obstacles you faced while fighting to regain the ability to run a marathon again. Why was this an important book for you to write?

At first, I thought it would be a fun book about running. But as I went back over the years, I saw my life had been collapsing financially, physically, emotionally; pretty much in all areas.

Running became the scaffolding upon which I hung my reactions to the challenges that arose. Hopefully, readers will glean a few good lessons.

I appreciated how candid you were in your book. What was the hardest moment in your life to write about?

The deaths of family and friends. Recalling their passing triggered varied memories and emotions, often reminding me of times when I was petty or mean.

I can’t repair the past, only strive to be less self-centered in future.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is struggling to find motivation?

Acknowledge fear and indecision, then think of one tiny action you might do right that moment that will guide you toward your goal. Small things, little deeds got me in motion.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from your story?

We never lose the choice of how to respond to the cruelty of time and the unfairness of life. And maybe a couple of laughs.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Website

“. . . a real, raw, beautiful journey . . . . “

— Coach Kate Martini Freeman, ultramarathoner, Ironman finisher, co-founder of Coyote Runners Training Group
Injured while training for a marathon, distance runner JP Mac learns his knee is wrecked. He’s finished for good. Or is he? Discovering a revolutionary new method of running, Mac attempts to reinvent his form. But over time, fate unleashes a series of cruel challenges.
Knee surgery is followed by shoulder surgery. Mac is diagnosed with cancer. A new form of cancer strikes next. Massive weight gain balloons him above 270 pounds. Mac plunges into a Marianas Trench of depression. He battles self-destructive urges. But the hope of running another marathon will not fade nor “go gentle into that good night.”
Part training log, part diary, this award-winning, non-fiction memoir relates Mac’s incredible journey from washed-up marathoner to reborn runner. If you’ve ever been injured in a sport, this astonishing story is for you. If you’ve ever watched a dream slip away, this breath-taking tale is for you. Learn the amazing power of perseverance and mental toughness. Buy this book and discover the wonders that await when you allow your reach to exceed your grasp.

A Complex Multi-systemic Disorder

Christie Cox Author Interview

Holding It All Together When You’re Hypermobile explores the physical effects of hypermobile Ehlers Danlos syndrome, its emotional impacts, and provides readers with a prescription for healing. Why was this an important book for you to write?

I struggled for 17 years to find the correct diagnosis for unrecognizable chronic health conditions. I wrote the book so other patients wouldn’t have to do the same. To be able to find answers without dismissive providers discounting their physical and emotional pain was the driving force.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about EDS?

Most people have never heard of EDS unless you know someone impacted. It used to once be thought of as rare. But scientists at MUSC working on it now say it affects 1 in every 500 people so it’s not rare, but rarely diagnosed. Getting the right diagnosis for a complex multi-systemic disorder is challenging in our US healthcare system of siloed practioners. No one is looking at you hostistically. Medical schools aren’t teaching about connective tissue disorders or mention it in one paragraph of a lesson. Patients often have to crowdsource their care to connect the dots. In fact, some medical providers do not yet believe hypermobility is a real diagnosis and write patients off as it being in their head. The misconception is we are just double-jointed and flexible on the outside but what people don’t realize is all of the elasticity is going on in every level within our bodies affecting veins, muscles, joints, and organ systems simultaneously. That often is a very painful and debilitating process.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Self-advocacy and empowerment are vital to waging any war on disease. Yet slowing down to take care of yourself fully is also important. The two are not always aligned with each other. We often face cycles of boom and bust where we overdo it on a good day – only to need recovery time from any sort of exertion. EDS is an invisible illness. We might look normal and even seem capable on one day or week, then quietly fall apart. It is a difficult rollercoaster ride not on physically but emotionally. I wanted to offer inspiration and hope to others along with practical suggestions on exactly how to cope with those challenges.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I hope to write more on the autonomic nervous system within the human body and how we can utilize practical tools for calming down the chaos of chronic illness from within. “Dis-ease” is a state we should not get comfortable living in and is too commonly found today. I also hope to create more materials to support other patients better advocate for themselves withing the constraints of our existing medical system for better outcomes.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

How to Deal and Heal for those with Rare Chronic Illness like EDS
Tired of being told there’s no name or treatment for your illness? That it’s all in your head or that your pain can’t be real because you’re too young/old/pretty/bright/healthy/normal to have a chronic disorder? Have you been dismissed by doctors or disbelieved by loved ones? What if instead, there was someone who knew what you were going through and could teach you strategies for coping with chronic illness?
This is not a false hope. You can turn pain into possibility with this life-changing book that can help everyone with elusive hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) – from those newly diagnosed to those who have suffered in silence for decades. Wherever you are on your journey navigating the complexities of chronic illness, you’re not alone.
In Holding It All Together When You’re Hypermobile, Christie Cox explores not only the physical effects of hypermobile Ehlers Danlos syndrome (a connective tissue disorder) but its emotional impact as well. As a fellow patient and medical rarity, known to doctors as zebras, she’s experienced her body’s betrayal and suffered through the myriad complications stemming from this disease. But she’s also found a way out from the depths of this life-altering disorder with wisdom you can turn into hope.
As a self-advocacy guide, she offers practical, no-nonsense advice about living with chronic illness and the concrete steps you can take to achieve a new normal. In her book, you’ll discover…A healing prescription for the miracle of the modern mindset
A look at the latest scientific research on the edge of answers
Q&A interviews with expert doctors and advocacy groups
Guidance for how to help loved ones better understand hEDS
Christie’s own inspiring story of how she came to live her best life
Lessons, questions and quotes to inspire your search for answers
Holding It All Together When You’re Hypermobile gives you the tools and resources you need to get back to living the life you want. Reading it will not only boost your confidence but empower you to change your life for the better.

The book was a “joint effort” of patients, providers, and advocates coming together to help an underserved community. Participants who were interviewed and shared in the book include:

EDS Medical SpecialistsDr. Sunil Patel, Neurosurgeon, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
Dr. Chip Norris, The Norris Lab researching hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), MUSC
Dr. Cortney Gensemer, Norris Lab (has hEDS)
Dr. Amanda Miller, Progress Physical Therapy (speciality in hypermobility)
Dr. Eric Singman, Professor of Ophthalmology, Neuro-ophthalmologist, University of Maryland Medical School and Former Chief of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins
Industry Leading AdvocatesLauren Stiles, President and Co-Founder, Dysautonomia International
Lara Bloom, President, The Ehlers Danlos Society
Dorothy Poppe, President, Bobby Jones Chiari & Syringomyelia Foundation
Gwenn Herman, Clinical Director, US Pain Foundation
Trisha Torrey, Founder, The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates
Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020 (who has EDS)
Ben Glass, Long-term disability lawyer, Ben Glass Law
To learn more about Christie’s book, visit http://www.holdingitalltogether.com.
If you want to learn more about Christie’s advocacy work, visit http://www.journey2joyous.com

What This Illness Truly Is

Scott Ellis Author Interview

Chasing Numbers details your battle with Anorexia Nervosa and your path toward recovery. Why was this an important book for you to write?

It was important for me to write the book because there are not a lot of stories out there of those who have battled this illness, less so from a male perspective. There are also a lot of misconceptions about eating disorders. Many studies have shown that 40% of the population still do not believe eating disorders are a serious mental illness when in fact they have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The book has also been so helpful for parents navigating the illness with their child. It is so hard to understand the illness unless you have gone through it. I wanted others to have the most raw and honest picture of what this illness truly is. I have also been donating 100% of the proceeds from Chasing Numbers to those seeking treatment with an eating disorder in Canada. This made it even more important that I really put everything I had into the book.

I appreciated how candid you were in your book. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

The hardest part of writing the book was telling the story in a way where blame wouldn’t be placed on my parents. My parents did so much for me throughout my recovery and I knew it was hard on them. It was actually the reason I talked less about them in the book than I otherwise would have. It is so hard to see the illness in someone. It was even harder since I was so good at hiding it while I was around them. Parents often feel responsible for bad things that happen to their child so I was doing everything I could do to avoid them thinking that any of this was because of their actions or something they didn’t do.

What were some ideas that were important for you to share in this book?

One of the biggest ideas that I wanted this book to give to the reader that eating disorders are widespread and can impact anyone. When people think of eating disorders, they often think of a white college girl who is starving themselves. I wanted people to know that this is not the case and there are many diverse people that also suffer. Secondly, while presenting a story that showed how horrible Anorexia Nervosa can be, I also wanted to present a hopeful ending that shows others the illness can be beaten.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about anorexia?

A common misconception is that only females get Anorexia Nervosa. While it is much more common in females, a person of any gender can be diagnosed. 

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook

In Chasing Numbers, Ellis walks you through the journey of his battle with Anorexia Nervosa. From the early habits and thoughts that kickstarted his eating disorder to the most intense stages of the illness and his eventual recovery, Ellis shares his story in its most raw and honest form. Despite millions of Canadians suffering from eating disorders, they are not widely talked about or understood. Through his book, Ellis hopes to show you that no matter how impossible recovery may seem, it can be done. He did it and you can too.

All proceeds from Chasing Numbers will be donated to Eating Disorders Nova Scotia in order to help fund programs that support individuals who are suffering from eating disorders.

Holding It All Together When You’re Hypermobile

Christie Cox’s life changed forever the day she fell asleep behind the wheel and rear-ended the car in front of her. This was the last of many times she found herself swerving due to unexplained drowsiness. After a lifetime of seeking answers as to why she seemed so accident-prone and being dismissed by one doctor after another, she finally had the answer to all her questions. The severe neck injury she sustained due to her car accident led to a battery of tests that gave a name to her condition. Cox now knew–she had hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS).

Holding it All Together When You’re Hypermobile, by Christie Cox, is the author’s own story of her battle to find a diagnosis that accurately explained the chronic symptoms she experienced throughout her life. In this open, caring, and motivating piece, Cox gives hope to others who suffer from chronic disorders and are fighting what seems to be a losing battle when it comes to finding a physician they can trust, finally receiving an accurate diagnosis, and managing their own healing habits.

Cox provides readers with an intimate look at her own experience and explains in great detail what makes EDS so incredibly debilitating. It’s this type of openness and willingness to share personal stories that helps others suffering with the same condition know they are not alone. In addition, patients and family members of those with EDS can find, not only solace, but information about EDS. Cox goes out of her way to provide hope and reassurance to readers, and this is a welcome tone in a book that contains facts that could easily become overwhelming.

The list of calming and healing techniques Cox offers is extensive. This is one of my favorite parts of her writing. She goes out of her way to offer readers dozens of strategies for coping on their most challenging days. Meditation is an important part of the advice Cox provides. She helps readers both recognize when they need to try meditation and instructs them on the most effective techniques for their situation. Everything about her writing exhibits care and concern for her readers and fellow patients.

It is difficult to share deeply personal stories, especially those that deal with debilitating diseases and the struggles with medical diagnoses. Cox manages to do so with grace while broadening readers’ knowledge and giving them the hope they so desperately seek. I recommend Cox’s book to anyone who has been diagnosed with EDS or POTS or believes they may suffer from them. I also believe Cox’s story can provide immense comfort to family members and caregivers of anyone with a chronic illness. 

Pages: 374 | ASIN: B0B7QGX5BD

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