It’s time for another blog book tour from our friends at WOW (Women on Writing). Today’s guest author is Ms. Renee Antonia, author of I’m not Okay. Today’s post will include an interview with Ms. Antonia, a review of her book AND a guest post about mental health misconceptions. As you always do, make Ms. Antonia feel welcome and feel free to ask any questions about her work, mental illness, and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). Comment all you like. Enjoy each other’s company. I will be dropping in from time to time to answer comments. So enjoy!!!
Mental Health Misconceptions
One of the hardest things about living with any mental illness are the never ending misconceptions that are thrown around in today’s society. It isn’t that I don’t know that they are all fabricated lies, because I do. I am aware that the people who say that anyone who is clean and neat are OCD or that anyone struggling with depression is suicidal are wrong. I know these things, but the rest of the world, the world that doesn’t struggle with mental illness, don’t.
Every misconception is taken as gospel, and since mental health is still a pretty taboo topic, people who suffer aren’t given the opportunity to defend themselves. Hearing what people think about my mental illness weighs heavily on me, especially on days where it’s at its worse. However, those are the days that I have to take a step back and remember how wrong these fallacies are. And, this is how I do it:
- Nobody knows what it feels like to live with my mental illness. No matter how much research they do, they will never know how I feel, how I cope, or how I live. Because of this, their words are nothing more than sounds coming out of someone’s body. Once you start to look at their words of ignorance as just white noise, ignoring them become easier.
- Do you think you’re crazy? Violent? Weird? No? Okay, then that’s all you have to worry about. I’m not saying that hearing those names won’t hurt, but if you know they aren’t true, then they have no control over you. This was definitely something that I had to practice. Hearing people who know nothing more than your diagnosis, call you disgusting and heartless names is difficult. It definitely wore on my confidence, but after I realized that these people saying these things didn’t know who I actually was, I was able to get over all of their comments.
- Your mental illness is NOT you. You are not anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenic, obsessive compulsive. You are so much more than your diagnosis. Their misconceptions forget to factor that in. So, just remember when they’re talking about anxiety, they are not talking about you. They are talking about a small part of you. A part of you that isn’t as important as every other part.
- I feel like the hardest part of living and struggling with mental illness is the isolation that it tends to brings. However, mental illness and mental health is no longer as taboo as it once was. There are huge communities who are willing to not only accept you, but help you grow and learn.
At the end of the day, misconceptions about mental health will always be around. There will always be people who believe they know the best for you, and everyone who suffers from mental illness. Not allowing those people to dictate how you feel about yourself is how you take control of your life.
Interview with Renee Antonia:
Q: I did a little bit of research on you and I see that you are a fellow blogger. Is blogging therapy for you?
A: Blogging is definitely therapy for me. I write short stories for my blog, but every short story that I write almost always comes from something that I am going through or something that I have went through. I find it comforting to be able to put my feelings out into the world without explicitly making it my story.
Q: Tell us about your background. What made you decide to write about mental illness? About anxiety?
A: I decided to write about mental illness because I suffer from both anxiety and depression. When I first began writing I’m Not Okay, I was going through a really hard time in my life with my own mental illness and I needed a way to express myself. While I was writing it, I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to go through with publishing it, but I knew that I had to. I’m Not Okay really helped me grow and understand that my mental illness wasn’t something I had to be ashamed of, and if one person reads it and finds the same, then it would all be worth it.
Q: When can we expect your next book?
A: Well, my next book is definitely completely different from I’m Not Okay. I am currently in the process of writing the first book of a duology. The book follows a teenage boy who lives in the underground city of Seattle, and the reader gets to follow his quest to move away from the Underground City and to live in Seattle. It’s completely different from what I have written before, but it has been a lot of fun to create this new world and I am very excited to see where it can go.
Q: You can use this space to give yourself a shameless plug?
A: When I am not writing for my next book, I love writing short stories. Most of my short stories can be found on my website at www.writingsbyrenee.com, where you can also find a link to my book and other information. I also write exclusive Patreon- Exclusive stories on my Patreon account, https://www.patreon.com/reneeantonia.
I’m not Okay is the story of Alejandra Vanessa Sanchez, a nineteen old college student who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is a mental illness that is characterized by uncontrollable, irrational worry as well as apprehensive expectation about events and activities. This excessive worry interferes with the person’s everyday life. These irrational fears can be triggered by almost anything in the person’s life (job issues, financial problems, family problems, etc.).
People who have GAD also suffer from physical symptoms like headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, etc. In order to be formally diagnosed, sufferers must have had these symptoms for at least six months. Cognitive behavior therapy (also known as CBT) combined with medication have been proven to be effective in reducing severity of symptoms.
There are several things I like about this book. The first thing I like is that it’s written in first person. Since we’re talking about mental illness, it’s always more interesting to hear about the reality of mental illnesses from the viewpoint of the actual sufferer and not just what you read in text books or the DSM-5. It makes the illness more humane and helps you to put a face on it.
I like how descriptive Ms. Antonia’s writing style is. Especially when she describes the reactions Alex’s family has to finding out about her illness. Especially the sister who always took care of her internalizing, sort of taking blame for the diagnosis. As though she didn’t do enough to make Alex feel secure enough to tell her sooner about her issues. Classic caretaker mindset.
I also like the fact that Ms. Antonia not only sheds a spotlight on the whole issue of mental illness, but also talks about the whole issue of women feeling as they have to be “strong” and “keep a stiff upper lip” while inside they are crumbling. I’m not Okay makes it okay to not be okay and admit it and remove the shame that often accompanies mental illness. This book is an excellent read and comes highly recommended!!!