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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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Taming Fear in the Age of Covid

As an individual that struggles with anxiety and depression that have worsened in the last few years, Taming Fear in the Age of Covid by Dr. Winfried Sedhoff is the perfect place to begin tackling fears. This beautiful book is divided into two parts: Fear is a Charlatan and From Fear Monster to Friend.

The first part of the book goes into detail about the trauma experienced by most human beings and the power it takes to tame this fear. Through real-life experiences (including his own), Dr. Winfried goes into the science of the human brain and how it can rewrite fears.

The second part of this book goes into actionable steps that one can take to overcome their fear. He shares the feeling of lack of interpersonal communication and isolation during COVID, transmission and how it occurs, and unknowns associated with the COVID-19 virus. One of the tips that he gave that has increased my productivity instead of obsessing over unfinished work is the notepad trick. He shares that when he was an intern, he carried with him a large notepad everywhere, and he wrote down everything. A daytime task diary has become part of his routine and is now part of my routine to increase efficiency. This helps us stay in the present and not stress about the future. After all, “Mindfulness taps into a secret about the fear we have just learned: the brain can only be afraid if it considers the future.”

It is important to know that this is not the kind of book one can read in one sitting. The actionable steps in part two of the book require practice and mindfulness before moving on to the next stage of practice. Yes, there are stories about how certain people overcome anxiety and depression. However, healing does not take one day, just as Rome was not built in a day. I rate the book four out of five stars. Through the practices that Dr. Winfried gives, one releases so much tension and anxiety that one was not aware they carried, which is both a beautiful and sad experience.   

Pages: 304 | ASIN : B0BF8213Z6

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MARGARET’S STORY

Margaret’s Story by Annette Creswell is a captivating and intriguing story about loss, trauma, toxicity, mental illness, the effects of adoption, and the lifelong pursuit of happiness in the lives of a highly dysfunctional family.  Creswell does an impeccable job of illustrating how mental illness and trauma affect a family and the life following thereafter. Margaret’s Story is brilliantly beautiful, intermingled with life and loss, and daringly bold in its complicated plot lines. This insightful novel sheds light on how the actions of people always yield results— for better or worse. 

I greatly enjoyed this book.  It made me evaluate how my relationship with my family directly affects the decisions I make.  It also gives me perspective on how others deal with dysfunctional families.  Margaret’s Story revolves highly around family and how intertwined relationships become with lifelines and decisions. This book was intriguing and truly made me think.  The story itself was captivating and kept me wanting more.  The characters were relatable and rich in personality, and the plot was thick with twists and turns.

This book deals with difficult topics sheds light on things that are not talked about or considered taboo and has a beautiful story that one can return to. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a family, deals with mental illness, and has a history of trauma.  This recommendation is not based on the topics of these potential triggers; rather, it is based on how these are dealt with and can open up doors for opportunities. 

Margaret’s Story is an emotionally charged family saga novel that touches on family life’s messy and complicated aspects. This book is highly recommended, and readers will find themselves invested in the story, wanting more until the end.

Pages: 190 | ASIN : B0BBW696N8

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Finding Us

This book draws on the life and experiences of a mother’s journey as the parent of an eleven-year-old with a sudden onset of panic disorder. It discusses the role of a primary caregiver and her dilemmas in making complex decisions for the safety of her daughter and those around her. The shame and judgment associated with people suffering from mental health issues, as well as the consequent assumptions and frequent misunderstandings, are draining. The overall impact it has on the patient, and their immediate family members gradually spread to include more people. It stands as a testament to all those going through a similarly difficult phase in life.

Kristen’s memoir gives a voice to the touching story of a mother’s unconditional love, patience, and understanding for her child. But the reality of parenting a child with mental illness is far from simply inspiring. It is filled with hours of dreadful administrative work, relentlessly chasing healthcare personnel, making phone calls, and constantly living with a sense of utter helplessness. The unpredictable nature of the manifestation of mental illnesses and the dire shortage of medical resources for children suffering from them often drives families to despair. In the face of such challenges, Kristen reminds herself time and again that life goes on, and so must we.

What is interesting to note is the disarming candor and complete transparency with which the book has been written. The language used works as a channel of communication and is devoid of unnecessary ornamentation. Yet there are instances of subtle humor that keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. The fundamental aim of the story is to encourage people to be more compassionate and to spread awareness about pediatric mental health issues. Despite the hardships, what remains unforgettable is the family’s indomitable spirit and unfaltering support. To sum it up, in the words of the littlest, they are survivors. The message is delivered loud and clear.

Finding Us by Kristin Rohman Rehkamp is an inspiring, empowering, and eye-opening memoir. This book is a must-read for everyone as you never know who is battling a situation like this. Kristin’s story is one that many parents and caregivers face and often feel alone. Sharing their story lets others know they are not alone and there is still hope.

Pages: 128 | ISBN : 1639885250

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Rooted HEIR – Book Trailer

A memoir that speaks through scars and helps transform trauma into wisdom.

Trauma f*ucking sucks! There is nothing gentle, pretty, or rosy about it! Its painful, dark, and lonely. Rooted HEIR is a vivid and transparent memoir that takes you on one woman’s journey of suffering, self-discovery, and forgiveness.

In a span of three days the illusion bubble burst. Christina finds herself sitting in a dark room feeling so small and insignificant. She has a choice to make, more of the same or change. After more than two decades of avoiding the painful truth, running from herself, and pretending it was time to drop the shackles of shame.

Have you ever asked yourself, who am I, when you strip away the titles and roles that you’ve been defined by? Well, she did, and she didn’t have a clue. She needed to hold up the mirror, grab the shovel, and start unearthing the traumas that held her freedom. But where do you start? …At the beginning.

In her own words Christina reveals the most intimate parts of her life from the childhood abuses to her own self-destructive ways, and the lessons she has learned along the way. Rooted HEIR is a courageous story filled with the voice of brutal honesty. Her voice that was silenced so many times now can be heard in hopes that others will know they too can speak. Let’s heal, be empowered, be inspired, and redefine our lives. THE TIME IS NOW!

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind – Book Trailer

Close Encounters of the Worst Kind is the most comprehensive, most trustworthy, and most widely utilized narcissistic abuse guide among survivors, concerned supporters, and helping professionals. The first edition was released in 2017. The Second Edition added three new chapters and updated much of the content throughout the book. Close Encounters, now in its Second Edition, is a compassionate and supportive guide to understanding the unique and complex nature of narcissistic abuse and the emotionally crippling syndrome that results from it. This groundbreaking book provides a complete roadmap through the healing process, into recovery, and ultimately to the freedom and happiness survivors deserve. Readers will find the most up-to-date information on the psychological, emotional and physical effects of NPD abuse. They will learn how narcissistic abuse infiltrates various settings including work, family-of-origin, romantic relationships and friendships. Written in a non-labeling, non-judgmental style, survivors will find this book highly educating, comforting and empowering.

Dark Night of the Soul

If you are experiencing grief, heartbreak, or life-changing moments, then Dark Night of the Soul by Trinity Royal is the inspirational book to guide you through your strife. This educational book is the red pill to get out of a matrix of suffering and repetition of sabotage and terrible habits in life. The author takes readers into a rabbit hole of self-examination and querying their soul on what it requires and the reason behind any suffering. It goes through the stages of stage metamorphosis, which is quite a fascinating cycle.

One of the book’s most controversial topics is that there will be suffering during the darkest night of the soul. However, this suffering reshapes a person’s character into a shiny diamond. The book illustrates the reasons for soul searching, why we suffer from depression, what to do during this process, and the possible reason for any unexpected suffering. The book also demonstrates some practical and effective healing techniques.

This is a book I would recommend for anyone undergoing any soul searching, depression, or stuck in a ‘rut’ (which, given the last couple of years, I feel like we all are in some sort of trouble here). I feel that this book can be appreciated by people who are going through a tough time in life and are ready for a change. If one is not open to the ideas in the book, they may find it repetitive and a bit ‘new age’. If you are looking for your soul’s purpose, I will leave you with the words, “Diamond is a piece of coal that has been subjected to extreme pressure and temperature.” I hope you find the healing, love, and peace that this book desperately aims for.

Pages: 241 | ASIN : B0B1QQCH22

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