Questions to an Author: Martha Graham-Waldon


nothing-like-normal

Hello World, during this month of May which is Mental Health Awareness month, I am as you must have noticed, doing interviews with authors who have written on mental health, especially about their personal experiences.

I have done a modest review of Martha’s memorable memoir on my blog, and it is my honour to interview her too. Having had a sibling with a mental illness (bipolar disorder), I can relate with much of what Martha writes.

1) The Profile

  1. Let’s Start with a brief introduction of yourself – your background – and a tiny bit about your Childhood:

Thank you, Marie. I was born and raised in Southern California in a family with four kids, I was the youngest. I have to say that my childhood was pretty idyllic. We were raised with an appreciation for nature and a social consciousness as well. When my sister entered adolescence, problems surfaced that affected our entire family and particularly me since I looked up to her so much.

  1. About your Memoir, how did you come up with this poignant title?

When I first starting writing, my working title was A Normal Life. This was based on a feeling I had during those challenging years that I just wanted “a normal life” although I finally realized that there really is no such thing. However, a fellow author pointed out to me that this title could be construed as sounding boring. I posed the question to the other authors in my publisher’s author group and someone came up with Nothing Like Normal which can be interpreted as either a good thing or a bad thing or both! I thought this was perfect so I went with it after adding the subtitle Surviving a Sibling’s Schizophrenia.

2) The Soul Journey

  1. What is your take about mental health?

I think it is important for anyone dealing with a mental health challenge or that of a family member to realize they are not alone in what they are experiencing. Mental Illness is very widespread. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five youth experience a mental disorder at some time and the figure is one in four for adults. Therefore it’s important to not be fearful of accepting a diagnosis of mental illness. It needs to be treated like any other medical illness and families and individuals should take advantage of the many resources that are available to help them cope with these conditions.

  1. Did your feel guilty for your sibling’s deteriorating mental health? If yes what did you think or do, if no please explain some to us.

In my memoir, there is a chapter that talks about siblings experiencing a “survivor syndrome” in which they wonder why their sibling was afflicted with a mental illness when they were not. Often times a sibling or parent may feel helpless when they are unable to “fix” the problem that their loved one is experiencing. My advice is that you must focus first on being healthy in your own life. Achieving your own happiness and stability is the best way to help your family member because you will be coming from a place of love as well as empathy.

  1. Can you tell if there was a difference in the way your sibling was treated before and after she got that diagnosis?

There is a definite stigma surrounding mental illness and this was even worse in the 1970s when my sister was first diagnosed. Stigma is a negative label that was placed on her and caused people to treat her differently. Stigma is hurtful and makes people feel ashamed of themselves or their family member. Feeling stigmatized and criticized can lead to individuals not seeking help for their mental health issues. To combat stigma, it’s important to realize and explain to others that mental illness is actually a medical illness like any other physical illness. Just like diabetes is a disease of the pancreas for example, mental illness affects the brain.

  1. If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell us any short or long term effect to your own mental health as a result of your sibling’s mental illness?

I became very depressed as an adolescent because that is a difficult time for most people when hormones and societal expectations create pressure on one’s sense of well-being. I did develop coping mechanisms like meditating, playing the piano and writing that helped me feel more whole and I continue to use these healthy outlets to this day.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow, thank you

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4 thoughts on “Questions to an Author: Martha Graham-Waldon”

  1. There is great confusion and misconceptions about mental health and its potential imbalances. Your interviews provide a perspective that clears up many of these issues and enlightens the average person about the REALITY faced by those experiencing these challenges. This is important because it is the world’s responsibility (not just the individual) to learn and understand their role to prevent exacerbating mental health problems.

    1. Thank you doctor, maybe just as hard as it is to make an impact with all I share, so is it hard with all you share. I guess my part is in the researching and sharing, the impact I can’t truly measure anyway. What do you think?

      1. We don’t really have to measure our results. It is our (self inflicted) job to research and share a PERSPECTIVE that many are NEVER exposed to. It is their job (if they choose) to determine the impact it makes on their ACTIONS taken. Most people will “follow the herd.” This is NOT meant in judgement. It is simply a REALITY people are entitled to. Our message will not make much impact on their lives. Others, however, are desperately seeking NEW TRUTHS and better understanding to develop their lives in purposeful meaningful ways. These people are the ones I hope our message finds.

      2. I agree with you doctor. This is so reassuring. Hence I strive on, the best thing for me today is I watch after myself first not scared to be vulnerable too. Thank you so much for your perspective and different messages.

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