Mental Health In Literature: Giving a Voice to Those Suffering in Silence
Long time, no type. (Sorry)
It's back to school here amid pandemic 2.0 here in Florida and things have been, well..
I often refer to myself as a mental health warrior. What the heck does that mean? Do I have a Xena Warrior Princess costume hiding in the back of my closet> You know, a little plether number that I dust off one a year for the Ren Fest?
Simmer down CosPlay crew. I love the Ren Fest.
When I say I'm a mental heath warrior I'm talking about rolling up my sleeves and getting involved in the personal struggle and public perception battle that is mental health awareness.
Mental illness can be a personal struggle just to make it through the day.
Mental illness can be a chronic struggle that feels like a rollercoaster with no end in sight.
Mental illness can cause us to feel helpless while watching a friend or family member suffer.
Mental illness can be can be fighting the stigma that society, friends and family, or even our houses of worship can lay at our feet.
Mental health is a battle. Sometimes it is fought on the inside. Sometimes it is fought on the outside. Usually its both. I believe there is healing and hope in solidarity. THAT is what I am fighting for.
Grace upon grace.
Last year I was featured on Rebecca Lombardo's blog. If you don't know her, you should. Her's her brief personal story:
She and I share a passion for mental health awareness. We are both mental health warriors in our own way. In addition to being a blogger and author, she also hosts and podcast and has contributed to the Mighty and HuffPost. I was an honor to be interviewed by her and featured on her blog.
Rebecca interviewed me because I am also a published author. I write poetry (and perform spoken word) about mental health. I have 3 books of poetry as of this writing, though I had only one out at the time we communicated.
Here's the interview:
Hello! Thank you for your interest in my new project. Tell me your name and a little bit about you.
My love for writing began in the advertising field. I graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York as an Advertising and Graphic Design Double Major. I worked as a copywriter and then a Creative Director for a wide variety of brands, but was most interested in the health-related clients. My passion for health took me from advertising―a soul-sucking business for me―to holistic mental health. I have since earned a B.S, a Masters, and a PhD in the health and science fields. Today, I have a private practice as a Chinese Medical Doctor and Counselor, specializing in mental health. I still write every day, but now I write about what interests me. I am driven by a desire to destigmatize mental health and help those who need compassionate and competent care find it without fear or shame.
Rebecca: Did you always have a passion for writing?
Gianina: I know exactly writing became my passion. I was finishing up a summer job at an advertising agency before my final year of college. I had a Creative Director ask me “When do you feel most fulfilled, when you write the headline or when you finish the design?” I said, “The headline, because that is the idea that carries the whole piece.” “Great,” he said, “you’re a writer. Keep studying design, but be a writer. It’s in your blood.” It has been over 20 years since I got that advice and it is still true. I’ve written ads, radio, TV, blogs, articles and one to may birthday cards for friends who ask for help. Last year, I finally wrote my own book. It was a labor of love bringing together my love for writing and my passion for mainstreaming mental health awareness and better mental health care.
Rebecca: What was the catalyst for your first book? Have you or will you write more books in the future?
I volunteer for Acupuncturist Without Borders. When the Parkland shooting, 2 miles from my office happened, I worked with AWB and in my clinic with the survivors in my community. Between caring for those affected and listening to people in the community talk about mental health, some in very negative, stigmatizing ways, I started writing again to put feelings to paper. Soon I realized I was writing a book. My first book, Whisper Screaming in the Middle of a Crowded Room was born from that tragedy. My next book is in the editing process now.
Rebecca: Give me a brief description of your book.
My first published book, Whisper Screaming in the Middle of a Crowded Room, explores mental health struggles via poetry from a first person point of view in an effort to humanize the struggle. My aim was to make those who struggle feel understood and less alone, and for those who do not understand to find some empathy.
My current work in progress is called Pain Is My Spirit Animal, and it explores the human experience of pain from four angles, pain of the body, mind, heart, and soul.
Rebecca: Who would you say your book with resonate the most with? Who did you have in mind when you wrote it?
My published book, Whisper Screaming in the Middle of a Crowded Room has resonated tremendously with individuals with various mental health struggles. The conversations I have had with some people who have taken the time to contact me privately or review the book have been enormously humbling. I have also had a few people tell me the book helped them understand a loved one better. I could not have hoped for a better response.
Rebecca: Where can it be purchased?
My book/s can be purchased on Amazon, Walmart, Abe Books, Discover Books but is they are also available worldwide through other online book sellers.
Rebecca: Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with that?
Writer’s block? no. Crappy writing syndrome? Yes. The advertising business taught me to write under pressure. Now that I write what I want to write about I can always make myself write, especially when I think I have nothing to say. I am always thinking, which means those thoughts can be put down on paper. It might start off as garbage, but I think the habit is important.
Rebecca: Did you find telling your story cathartic?
Yes. It’s a dark and twisty book and the title is very personal. I think a lot of people throw the promise “that someone is always willing to listen” around, but almost anyone with a mental health struggle will tell you it is either not true or they have been placated, admonished, or quickly dismissed at one time or another by someone they trusted. I wasn’t interested in making anyone comfortable. I was interested in being honest, even if that honesty was scary.
Rebecca: What was the publication process like for you? What, if anything, would you change in that process?
I spent a year researching the indy or traditional route. I knew very early that self pub was for me due to how personal this project was for me. My goal, once I have more books under my belt, is to make this book permafree. I’d like to keep the conversation about mental health going in my own small way.
Rebecca: Do you have any advice for someone attempting to get their story published?
Yes. Do what feels right to you, not what someone else is doing or what someone else tells you “you have to do” to be a “serious” author. There are pros and cons to both routes and at the end of the day, this is your baby.
Rebecca: Do you personally experience any mental health issues? How has this impacted your mental health?
I think everyone has experienced a mental health issue―just as everyone has experienced a physical issue at one time or another―and I am no exception. I think knowing a specific diagnosis is critical for the individual, their healthcare provider, and loved ones, so that proper education, treatment, and support can happen. I have patients, friends, and family members who are very open about their diagnosis and struggles, and others who choose to keep them private. I respect both choices. I think what matters is that as a society we move toward a future where whatever a person chooses, we are okay with that choice because it is that person’s to make. Affording one another empathy and privacy is key to ending the stigma. In my personal life I practice what I preach. I am pro-doctor, pro-therapy/counseling, pro-medicine, pro-holistic medicine, and pro-positive self-talk.
Rebecca: What are your goals for the future?
My goal is to get my second book out by this fall. I am also working on some classes, which I may offer at my clinic and then offer online, to help teach empathy, understanding, and temperament to families to help them better communicate, understand, and love one another.
Rebecca: What are your social media links?
Gianina: Yes, I do.
This Is Not What I Signed Up For, LLC
For more on Rebecca Lombardo, you can check her out on here:
@BekaLombardo (Also follow her frequent hashtag #KeepTalkingMH)
If you want to find all my current published works you can find there here:
Thanks for reading. Until next time,
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