Interview with Stephanie Anne Allen, author of My Mental Madness Memoir–The provocative true journey through my struggles with mental illness

Who is the author?

My pen name is Stephanie Anne Allen.  I was born, raised, and still reside in Michigan USA.  I am 38 years old.  I have a BA in clinical psychology from Siena Heights University.  I have extensive experience with mental illness on both professional and personal levels.

What is the title of your newest book?

It is called My Mental Madness Memoir.  However, that is the new title.  The original title was The Beggar They Hung to a Cross, but too many readers questioned the title and thought it to be a religious book.  So, in my opinion, I believed it would be best to retitle it to get the right reader audience.

What is My Mental Madness Memoir about?

The simple answer is that this book is the true story of my life.  To go more into depth, it focuses on my struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

Could you tell us more about your struggles with depression?

Sure.  My clinical depression was diagnosed at about age 16.  I suffered all the classic symptoms, including suicide attempts.  It was a very dark and painful time.  I just didn’t want to live.

What can you tell us about your battle with bipolar disorder?

I wasn’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder until about age 18, but the first symptoms appeared at about age 15.  No one was able to identify the symptoms at that time.  It was so sad.  I would battle with depression one day and the next I would be so high emotionally.  I had rapid-cycling bipolar.

Could you please tell us about your schizophrenia and what symptoms you experienced?

Well I had extreme and multiple delusions and hallucinations.  I don’t want to give away the story so that is all I will say.

Did you experience any psychosis?

Yes, absolutely.  It was a very scary and fearful time.  I have never met or heard of anyone that had such severe psychosis as I did.

Will you tell us about your delusions?

Well, I had delusions about almost everything.  I believed my delusions to be real and I had very distorted thinking.

Could you tell us about your hallucinations?

Again, I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that I had hallucinations of all five senses.

What percentage of your memoir is true?

100%.  I believe in total honesty and I reflect that in my book.

Why did you write this book?

I wrote this book to help others with mental illness, their families and friends, and anyone looking to understand what a mental ill person goes through.

What is your definition of success?

Success to me is helping someone each and every day to help them obtain happiness and satisfaction within their own life.

What are your future goals and hopes?

I want to see this book make the best seller list.  Also, I am working on turning into an audiobook and a screenplay, which will be used to turn the storyline of this book into a movie.  Then I will complete my second book, which will be out next year.

What is your definition of recovery, and do you honestly believe that recovery from mental illness is possible?

Recovery is when a mentally ill person achieves and maintains stability for a certain period of time.  And yes, I do believe that recovery is possible with the proper treatment.  I am a prime example and role model!

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The hardest part was having to revisit and re-experience all that pain in my past.  But it was also very therapeutic.

What are some positive things readers have told you about your book?

Readers have told me how helpful the book was to them and how they didn’t feel so alone anymore.  I have also heard how I have lots of “strength and courage” to share my story and that I am “very well-spoken”.

What are some things that readers have given you as criticism on your book?

Criticism?  Umm.  Well, a few readers commented on the title and that is why I changed it.  Also, I received criticism from one reader about the psychosis part of my book being “hard to follow”.  That might be true, but it is an exact conceptualization of what it is actually like to be psychotic, as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are thought disorders.  I will NOT edit or change this part or any part of my book.  I will accept the criticism and move forward.  I feel that editing the book would change the entire tone and meaning behind the book.

What was your most rewarding experience as a mental health professional?

When I worked as a case manager I made a difference in my client’s lives.  I loved helping people and grew to a greater understanding of what it is truly life to suffer from mental illness.  It was just a very rewarding job.  I loved it!

What was the lowest, most devastating time of your life?

Well, I am not going to answer that, as my story will tell all.  But I’ve had so many low times…  Just read my memoir and you can judge for yourself what my worst time in life was.

What was the best point in your life?

The best part of my life was when I was working as  a case manager and was in a long-term relationship.  I was 24 and I felt like I had it all.

Tell us what you believe t0 be the purpose behind your life?

My purpose in life is to help, encourage, motivate, and inspire as many people as possible!

Do you believe that everyone in life has a purpose?

Yes, everyone has purpose.  I believe that God has a reason for putting each and every person on this Earth.  You just have to accept God’s will.

How important was faith in your recovery?

Faith in myself and God was a major part in my recovery.

What types of treatment did you receive as a result of having mental illness?

I have had therapy, been on multiple meds, been to support groups, had both inpatient and partial hospitalizations.  I have never had ECT though.

Would you say that mental health professionals act appropriately?

I have experienced much unprofessional experience from people who are unable to understand what a psychotic person is going through.  Due to their inability to understand, they make it much worse for the mentally ill patient.  I am hoping that many professionals read this story so they can gain a better understanding of what’s really going on in a mentally ill patient’s mind.

What is the biggest myth regarding mental illness?

The biggest myth I have come across is that mentally ill people are “stupid”.  This is by far not true.  Some studies have actually shown that mentally ill people have higher IQs than the general population.

What are you most grateful for in your life?

I am most grateful just to be alive each day and get to experience each new day filled with much opportunity.

What is your biggest regret?

My biggest regret?  Well…  Read my book and see if you can pick one out!

What makes you happy?

Happiness is a beautiful thing.  I  love helping others feel joy within their lives.  That is so rewarding.  I always say, “Spread the love!”

Do you believe having a mental illness makes a person bad?

Absolutely not.  Having an illness of any kind, is not the person fault!  And a mentally ill person is no different.  There are bad mentally ill people but not in any greater degree than the others in society.

What is something you want readers to know?

I would just like to say that I hope you take the time to read My Mental Madness Memoir, as I know you will find it helpful to you and that you may be able to use it to help others in your life.  It will give you a knowledge base and a chance to really understand what a mentally ill person is experiencing within their minds.  Much love to everyone!