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I’m Finished with my Book! December 24, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hearing Voices, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
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At my mother’s suggestion, I started my book back in July 2008, right after I was released from my three week stay at the mental hospital.  She and my sister (a licensed mental health counselor) encouraged me, telling me that my story needed to be told, and that it could help other families going through the same situation that they did.

Faced with the prospect of their daughter, wife, and mother tripping into the unknown world of mental illness, they were desperate for anything that would give them a clue about what I was experiencing and what they could do to help me.  And, more importantly, what to expect. Sadly, there was nothing out there to help them understand the detail they were seeking.

There are a few well-written books out there about mental illness in general, written by mentally ill people. But their perspective was all wrong for the specific situation my family found itself in.  An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamision was more along the lines of the impact of mental illness on professional careers and on life after the psych ward. Though an excellent read, there were few gritty details about the day-to-day stay at a mental hospital and very little about the actual delusions themselves (did she hear voices? What did they say specifically?).  Manic by Terri Cheney focused on her delusions a little. Her delusions weren’t laid out in a specific languages format of “he said this, she said that”. Again, no specific voices telling her she was a Mermaid. None of the books I read detailed exactly what the voices were saying (if there even were any voices) and none of them treated the voices as ESP with specific people ranging from bosses to spectacular friendships with the Dalai Lama, Oprah, etc.

None of them feature delusions identical to mine.  Nobody thought they were a Mermaid named Pangea. There were no talking fish, dogs and cats.  No green-skinned people.  No ESP. No intimate conversations with the likes of the Gateses.  And, most importantly, no involuntary commitments to a psych ward.

My 300 page memoir, I Thought I Was A Mermaid, is a chronological breakdown of the nature of my descent into madness.  Insanity from A to Z. Unlike the books described above, because my meltdown was so fresh, I was able to pinpoint various stages of my breakdown with shocking accuracy.  Sadly,  most of the other authors didn’t suffer immediate breakdowns: they were long-drawn-out affairs starting in most cases around puberty and culminating in the actual book-writing many, many years after their initial onset.  My details were “fresh off the press”, so to speak.  My entire nervous breakdown, almost day by day, blow by blow, laid out for the world to see.

Many, if not most, of the mental illness memoirs, tell the story in terms of years and decades. Generally, their stories start at around puberty, which coincides with the onset of most genetic forms of mental illness. Mine, with its onset in the late 40’s, is far easier to write a chronological account of, given its short, compressed nature. The timeframe of my initial breakdown was so compressed (February 2008 to June 2008) that the storytelling behind it is much easier for me.

Initially, my plan was to end the book at the point where I walk into my first Writers Group and announce to them that I’m going to write a book.  At first glance, that seems to be the logical breaking point for my story.

However, I reconsidered that viewpoint today, realizing that the true end is actually the end of my first visit to my psychiatrist. From that point forward, the story is about maintenance of my relative “sanity”, adjustment of medication and medication side effects. Nothing really exciting in that stuff, especially compared to talking fish and friendship with Oprah. I realized today that the timing for the finish of my story is actually the point where the maintenance begins.  So today, I’m officially done with my book, with the exception of the never-ending task of editing.

Wish me luck in finding an agent and publisher!