Hello World, without much ado we continue with P2 of our interview started yesterday. It is Mental Health Awareness and my goal is to advocate with fresh content every day of the week my own mental health permitting 🙂
If you wouldn’t mind, can you tell us about your relationship with your twin sister today a few years after the book has been published?
Twelve years after DIVDED MINDS first came out, I have no relationship with my sister except in memory. I love her as my sister but I do not like her.
How have you been coping with your mental illness and yet still been able to function at times enough to write and publish?
I do not believe in the concept of “mental illness” any longer, only in mental suffering. And I do not believe it is anything but calling people names when you label them bipolar or schizophrenic or anything else. I cope when I do, well, and when I dont cope I dont. But like anyone else I have my up times and I do what I do as well as I can. The medications are the real problem, disabling me and most people far more than we can possibly know. All the supposed symptoms of schizophrenia I believe can also be induced and are mostly induced by the antipsychotic medications. So how do you even begin to separate out which is which???
3) The Writing
Did any books/memoirs influence your writing (style, presentation, content)? Not that I recall… No one particular book influences me but I must have read thousands of books. I tell anyone who wants to write to read, read, read, everything you can get your hands on, that way you will not be overly influenced or copy someone else when it comes time to write your own book.
Did you have a writing mentor? No I never did.
Which was the most difficult chapter to write in your memoir and why? The last one was difficult to write because I did not know where I would end it and how…and how to assess the present with an eye for the future is hard. Also to wind up a book I had spend almost a decade writing felt devastating. How to sum up all that in one half a chapter was not easy.
How did you deal with that?
Which was your favourite poem and why? I still like the first one and the last one in the book WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS… But I have no real favorites, My latest poem is usually my current favourite.
Did you learn anything from writing your memoir and what was it?
My notes please: Pammy didn’t have an answer for this question
How long did it take you to write and get the memoir published? I wrote a memoir by myself that took ten years, then when my twin and I rewrote it to make DIVDED MINDS it took 3 years. Publication from start to finish took 2 years.
4) The Message
Do you have any advice for other memoir writers?
Read memoir, first of all. if you do not like to read memoirs, it may be that you wont want to write memoir. But you probably can not write a decent memoir if you do not read it either.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I really mean it when I say I no longer believe in diagnoses for mental illnesses, whether it is schizophrenia or bipolar illness or any personality disorder etc. I do not even care if someday they manage to find an anatomic or genetic “cause” or abnormality that “proves” that there is such a thing. You know, there are all sorts of genetic variants that happen in people but we choose we how we see it; nothing makes normal or abnormal until we define it that way. We have made up a category of behaviors and description of an experience called schizophrenia and defined it as a bad thing for so long we have forgotten that it was and is not always thought of as bad everywhere, nor must it end badly, except when we treat it badly and with medications! If we treat schizophrenia with medications we know almost for certain it will become chronic by definition. Look at the research. No one knows what schizophrenia is nor who really needs or would even slightly benefit from medication. Most antipsychotic medication does nothing good in the end but make people sicker…I mean this. All for very dubious benefit and no chance of cure. Medications harm people directly and deeply even with just the side effects, which are legion, ranging from terrible disfiguring movement disorders to loss of sexual function and desire, loss of all pleasure in life, to loss of teeth due to dry mouth and so. Would you want to take a chance on any of these because doctors have nothing better to offer you? Or would you too want to eschew medical care and try something that at least truly does no harm?
Any other writing projects, blogging etc?
My first poetry book WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, can still be bought from Cavankerrypress.org and my newest poetry book which includes my art LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS will be published in late May 2017. I try to keep my blog going at http://pamelaspirowagner.com
Where can your memoir be found? DIVIDED MINDS can still be bought from Amazon.com but also used copies can be found and you can order it from any bookstore.
Thank you very much Pammy for answering our questions. We hope to stay informed of any updates with your projects. Kindly drop any questions you have for Pammy in the comments section and please do not hesitate to respectfully share any opinions on this interview too…
And before I go to her bio, please do not hesitate to visit Pammy’s Blog for more on her writings and mental health advocacy
Pam’s Awesome Profile
An artist, writer and poet who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia for decades, Pamela Spiro Wagner attended Brown University from 1970-1975. She later went to medical school for one and a half years, before being hospitalized for the third time for psychiatric care. In 2010, she was also diagnosed with PTSD due to trauma resulting from deeply inappropriate and punitive use of seclusion and restraints in psychiatric hospitals.
Wagner won First Place in the 2001/2 international BBC World Service Radio Poetry Competition, judged by Nobelist Wole Soyinke. In 2005, she co-authored, with her twin sister, a psychiatrist, DIVIDED MINDS: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia, which won the national NAMI Outstanding Literature Award and was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award. Four years later, Ms Wagner’s book of poems, WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS was published. Several poems won honorable mentions at New Millennium Writings and two were short-listed for the Bridport Prize in the UK. Her writing has appeared in the The New York TimesSunday Magazine, the Hartford Courant, and Tikkunamong other places.
Doing art under the name, Pamwagg, Ms Wagner was part of a group show in Hartford, Connecticut in 2011, and had two solo shows, one at the Otis Library in Norwich, Connecticut in 2012 and then at the Wethersfield Library in Connecticut. Two paintings and two poems appeared in the Collective DreamArtsMagazine in 2014. In June 2017, her art will be on display at the Hooker-Dunham Gallery in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Despite experiencing much adversity in her 64 years, including the decades-long diagnosis of schizophrenia, Wagner has also been lucky enough to have had four life-changing miracles along the way. The passion to write poetry, starting in 1984, and then, quite suddenly, to take up art in 2008 at the age of 55, were just two of those miracles. She currently resides along with her cat, Beanie Baby, in Brattleboro, Vermont, in northern New England, where she disavows all labels, including those of any mental illness.
Wagner’s books include: DIVIDED MINDS: Twin Sisters and their Journey through Schizophrenia (St Martin’s Press, 2005)
WE MAD CLIMB SHAKY LADDERS, poems (Cavankerry Press, 2009)
LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, poems and art (Green Writers Press/SunDog Poetry 2017)
At the end of this month, I will round up with a summary post of advocacy and my take on the different interviews and opinions and all – please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to be featured on my blog during this month (Mental health related only)
This interview is the longest post I am doing on this blog I promise… don’t unsubscribe please