Why I wrote Me and Her?

‘Me and Her: a Memoir of Madness’ … After parents harass me at school, I reach breaking point and my Personality and Mood begins to change.
The true events surrounding my mental breakdown are stranger than any fiction novel you might read.

In the beginning severe anxiety and insomnia stretching over a year changed my mood. I  became euphoric and with a surge of energy, an obsessive /compulsive urge to write possessed me. It forced me to chronicle the changes and confusion I perceived, trying to make sense of what was happening deep inside me.

The first version of ‘Me and Her’ titled ‘Harnessing Bipolarity’ was a collection of journal and diary entries with reflections and interviews with doctors and patients. From my hospital room, in the depths of psychosis and mania, I sent a short unedited version to two Sydney publishers in 2006. I wonder what they made of it?

Writing became both a hindrance and a catharsis in my recovery.
It was a hindrance when my obsessive/compulsive drive to write prevented me from listening to reason and becoming well. When I was ready to accept my diagnosis and treatment, a balanced regime of writing helped me to recover and stay positive.

Two episodes later and  several months of therapy, I sought membership with a local writing group and the Queensland Writers Centre. A little later, I had two Editorial Consultations, one with writer Anita Bell the other with ex-publisher Craig Munro, both offering excellent advice and suggestions to improve my memoir.
Determined to improve my manuscript, I enrolled in every available writing workshop to develop my writing skills. In 2007, I had my manuscript assessed by Sydney Editor, Selena Hanet-Hutchinson. The verdict: it needed more insight.

Further time and distance has given me perspective to understand my illness and the ability to reflect upon it.
My memoir is essentially about ME ─ teacher, writer, mother. And my other side ─ HER ─ manic, psychic, healer … and so psychotic.

My memoir humanises the face of mental illness, exposing how mental illness can affect any of us … We’re all vulnerable.

‘Me and Her: a Memoir of Madness’ … the story that MUST be told.

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16 comments to Why I wrote Me and Her?

  • Well, I know all of this and have explored in the part written Mad Dog Black Dog, which on proposal to publishers and institutions I was told I had to be a famous person with a mental illness before they were interested in what I had to say.

    Sadly and apparently only famous people are allowed to speak about mental illness, everyone else is some poor cousin who should be ignored. ‘Poor thing, ain’t right in the head.’

    Your journey, like so many journeys need voices to allow those who have no idea to have some idea what it is like to live with something that can at times defy explanation.

    Pull your socks up mate, I have been told. Just $#$#@ off I would say in response. Why? because, to be honest, if it were so easy don’t you think I would have already done that?

    Karen, speak loudly and for as long as it takes; maybe your voice will be heard where others have been ignored or silenced by off handed remarks and victimization and stigmatization by those who see mental illness as a reason to hurt others.

    The book is written; now it must be read, or could be read if people were allowed to learn such things.

    Good work, and stay the distance – it is hard

  • Thanks Robert for your words of wisdom and experience. You know how hard it’ll be to get “Me and Her” Published. If I was FAMOUS it would be on the book shelves by now. I challenge Publishers out there to take the courage to Publish “Me and Her”. There’s an audience out there who are eager to read about Mental Illness from the perspective of an ordinary person … an ordinary teacher who reached her breaking point … Karen :))

  • Madonna

    Karen your work is what me and people like me want to read! Genetically my family is predisposed to depression. So I am particularly interested to hear what you have to say.It is a personal interest story to captivate many. Your willingness to dig deep and lay your soul bare is an exceptional quality, a place many fear to go. I think you are an extremely exquisite person and writer. Your delicate nature pours through your words onto the page like a liquid. I have developed a thirst, which only the publication of Me and Her: a Memoir of Madness can quench. So I am hoping your publishers dare to take sip from the same chalice as your would be readers. xo M … I’m here with you all the way

  • Thanks Madonna for your kind supportive words. Like your family predisposition to depression there are also many who are predisposed to anxiety … like me.
    In the community the statistics for mental illness is staggering. And because of our stressful society its on the sharp incline.
    Thank you for sharing your family history … Everyone has been touched by mental illness … a friend … a colleague … a family member.
    There’s a growing interest in the community for mental illness and a demand for memoirs on the topic. Karen :))

  • Hi, Karen.

    I think I’ve said before your willingness to share your story is both brave and generous. Perhaps the way people think about mental illness is beginning to change but there is still a stigma attached. I’ve recently been diagnosed with depression, after a work situation pushed all the right buttons, leaving me in tears an unable to cope. I shut down for about a fortnight. While the diagnosis was no great surprise to me (I’ve known that for years and have thought “Well, just get on with it.”) but I was staggered at how debilitated I became, and easily I became debilitated.

    People find me outgoing and humourous, and no one would guess I had depression. It’s not obvious. It the way I think, constantly undermining myself, my abilities, and my worth. (One reason I’ve had so much trouble finishing any writing has been my capacity for self-sabotage!). Now, after just several counselling sessions and a minimal dose of an anti-depressant, it’s remarkable how much stronger I feel mentally.

    My doctor told me how common depression and anxiety disorders really are. For this reason alone, mental illnesses, both short term and long term, minor and serious, should be discussed in the open. This is why your (and your friend’s)memoir is so important.

    To those following your blog who think they suffer from some form of illness, or know someone who may be, I would stress how important it is to talk to someone. I went to my GP and she has been absolutely fantastic. Like me, someone might think their problem is minor, they have it under control, they’ll sort it out eventually. But under the right circumstances, it can blow up in your face.

    So, Karen, if it feel like it’s getting harder and harder to get your memoir published, look back on the comments people have left here for you. Think ‘necessary, brave, generous.’

  • Hi Ian,
    Your disclosure both shocked and surprised me, bringing a tear to my eye. Thank you for your candour.
    I support your plea to the public … If you are suffering out there with any sort of mental illness you need to seek treatment. First go to your GP. Acceptance and diagnosis are the first steps to recovery.
    I am determined to get ‘Me and Her’ in 2010 and with your support ( and other Readers) I’m half way there …Thanks … Karen :))

  • Hi, Karen
    You have written your book at an opportune time.
    I think that the Australian of the Year, 2010, Professor Patrick McGorry (youth mental health expert), will help to raise the profile of mental illness and reduce the stigmatisation of mental illness.
    This will hopefully see your book ‘snapped up’ by publishers as it would be an interesting read for health care professionals and for those living with mental illnesss.
    All the best, and it’s been great hearing about your overseas travel.
    Joanna :))

  • Hi Joanna, With Professor Mc Gorry as embassador for the cause of Mental Illness, it will open up lounge room discussion.
    I hope you’re right about Publishers snapping up my book … I have so many intriguing and startling revelations in my story… Karen :))

  • Karen, I think you’re very brave to write your story. I would buy a book like that to read for sure. I hope that a publisher comes along and snaps it up. I’m sure it will be a best seller. There are so many people with mental illness, but are afraid to say because of being treated badly.

    Keep sending out your manuscripts. You’ll get there in the end.
    Good luck.

  • Thanks Trish, I’ve become braver in the last six months because of the support and encouragement of lovely friends like you. I do believe it’s only a matter of time before a publisher realises the wide support I have for Me and Her … Karen :))

  • I encourage you with all my hearts to keep writing and to seek a publishing/distribution deal. Don’t give up! xxxx

  • Lexie Mitchell

    What a gutsy lady you are, Karen. Keep being strong. You are an inspiration, and you obviously have talent. I think your determination to succeed will win through.

  • Hi Gabrielle,
    Don’t worry I’m not giving up! I’m following as many writing + networking paths I can, hoping to gain the interest of my FUTURE publisher, who’s out there somewhere. I really appreciate your support. Thanks, Karen :))

  • Hi Lexie, Nice to meet you here. Each Day I’m becoming Braver and more forthright with my stand on mental illness. (Just 6 months ago I shied away from it. LOL)
    I’m here for the long-haul … and I’ll keep writing and blogging away. Thanx Lexie for your support … Karen :))

  • Dave

    Karen, I somehow stumbled across your blog and I just want to say that as a fellow writer, not to mention one with bipolar, and with his first book in the hands of publishers making agonisingly slow decisions on whether to publish or not, I think I feel qualified to say I know just where you’re coming from!

    Thank you for writing what sounds like an incredibly brave book. I can’t wait to read it!


  • Dave, as I’m barreling down the road towards Publishing, I’m really focused on maintaining my good health … I wish you well with your book. Is it a memoir too? I really thank-you for your support. Cheers, Karen :))

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