“Robin, What? You’re Moving?”

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to continue the story. Life got in the way. As we all know, it happens. I’ve been working on a whole new plan for marketing our book, which I will discuss in a different update soon. Tonight though, in honor of Robin who is hunkered down and sitting through Hurricane Irma in Florida (she is safe, I promise, and I will be trying to talk her into writing a special post at some point about her experiences), I am ready to continue the story that left our readers hanging so many months ago…

When Robin asked me to go to lunch in March 2016, I didn’t think anything of it. We hadn’t seen each other in awhile, and it was time to catch up. She and her mom had gone to Florida for a vacation and I was anxious to hear about their visit.

We talked about how things went, and talked about how things were generally going in my life. Then, Robin said, “Sharon, I have something to tell you.” Somewhat nervously, but definitively, she said, “My mom and I are planning to move to Florida.”

Okay, I have to back up before I talk about my response to this announcement. After Robin’s mom went to visit her friend Betty in Florida the previous year, she had come home and told Robin she wanted to consider moving there. When Robin told me this at that time, I have to admit I did not respond in the best way. As anyone who has read this story knows, I had been through hell and back with Robin in terms of her mental illness and it’s effects. Robin was finally stable and settled. Honestly, I was very concerned about the impact a major change like moving to Florida would have on her mental health. Her stability had been longstanding, but had never been tested to such a huge extent. I was very concerned about the ramifications of her destabilizing in general, but also having it happen so far away from all the mental health providers who were familiar to her.

I was deeply affected by the year in 2003 when Robin was so suicidal for so long. It’s hard to fully describe the sense of responsibility I felt to keep her alive during that year, no matter how stressful it was for me. Years later I cared for my mother-in-law, who had significant dementia. There were some similarities in terms of the need for me to just keep going, no matter how bad it got, until things changed one way or another. It was stressful, and exhausting.

In the case of my mother-in-law, I had to just keep going until she died. Thankfully, in Robin’s case it was until she was stabilized and didn’t need me to be her caretaker any longer. Years later we were eventually able to navigate the complicated transition from therapist/client, to friends and co-authors. But, I obviously remained very protective of her. And, I am still the person who knows better than anyone else in the world, how quickly and dangerously she can destabilize, given the right circumstances.

So, I have to admit that when Robin told me in 2015 that her mother was talking about the possibility of moving to Florida, I did not react as her friend. I reacted as her ex-therapist who was worried. She had gotten to a point where she was stable, and happy. She had a good job, friends, and was as content as she had ever been as an adult. My reaction came from a place of significant concern about how a major life change might cause her to destabilize. If I’m being totally honest, I was partly worried about getting drawn back into feeling compelled to be her caretaker. We had navigated the transition to me not needing to be in this role any longer. I did not want to deal with the complications of blurring the roles should she become seriously suicidal again. I expressed my concern about all of this to Robin. We had endlessly processed all the complications of the role changes through the years, so none of this surprised her. She seemed to hear me.

Because it was going to be a whole year before her mom returned to Florida for another visit, the topic was dropped. It became a non-issue. But, when Robin made her sudden announcement to me in March 2016, I knew completely why I had not been consulted during the decision making process. I knew why she waited until the decision was final before telling me.

I didn’t blame her. She knew how I would feel. She knew I would be worried, for all the reasons I had verbalized a year earlier. So this time, when she told me the decision had been made, I knew I needed to support her. My concerns were the same as they had been previously. Robin does not deal well with change, under the best of circumstances. I couldn’t imagine how stressful it would be for her to navigate all the significant changes that would be involved in re-locating to a whole new state, far away from her family and friends.

So, what was my response to Robin’s announcement?

My outside voice said, “Wow, Robin! I’m shocked. I didn’t see this coming. You know my concerns, but I am really happy for you.”

My inside voice? What was it saying? “Oh shit! I hope this works for her. God help us both if it doesn’t!”

 

 

 

 

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“Sharon, I Have Something to Tell You.”

At the time Sharon and I finished writing our book together, my life was stable and I was content. My mom and I had been living together for almost eight years and had settled into a routine that worked well for us both. I had a job that worked for me, doctors that I liked and felt comfortable with, and friends who offered a steady social life. Unfortunately, while I was content, my mom was not.

Mom was in her sixties and still working part time at a stressful job. She really needed to retire. I had sensed for a long time that she was feeling like she was in a rut, and needed to make some changes. Mom was ready to move out of the home we had moved into in when I was a child, as keeping up with the landscaping maintenance on the large property and making the necessary repairs was becoming too much, even with my help. She wanted to move into a condo, so she wouldn’t have to worry about yard care and other home maintenance. We had been talking about this for several years, but never seriously starting looking for new places.

Five or six years ago, one of my mom’s friends re-connected with her via Facebook. My mom and Betty had been friends since my mom was nine years old. They had been close enough that Mom was a bridesmaid in Betty’s wedding. Life intervened, and they had lost touch until Betty found Mom on Facebook nearly fifty years later. Betty lives in Florida and after a couple years of communicating via phone calls and Facebook, my mom went to Florida to visit her in February 2015.

During this visit, Betty campaigned to have my mom move to Florida to live near her. Mom came back from that trip and started talking to me about that possibility. We talked about it, but at that time neither of us was ready to consider a huge move.

Mom had really loved the town in Florida where Betty lives, and immediately made plans to return for another visit in February 2016. Because she was thinking about moving there she really wanted me to see it, so I accompanied her on this trip. While we were there, Betty took us around town and showed us different neighborhoods that would be nice to live in.

I loved the area too, and it was great being in Florida in February. The weather was perfect, and we were able to go to the beach and lay out by the pool. When we returned from the trip my mom and I started talking about the possibility of actually moving there.

We discussed the pros and cons of moving to Florida ad nauseum. We talked about getting a condo in the town where we were living, close to family and friends. We talked about the fact that neither of us likes change, and moving to Florida would be a huge change. We made lists of the things we would have to do in order to move out of state, like get new doctors and arrange for long distance movers. Of course, whether we moved to a condo in our current town or to a place in Florida, there would also be the huge job of downsizing our belongings to move to a smaller home.

Even though it seemed like an overwhelming idea to move to a new town, a thousand miles away from loved ones, it was also exciting and energizing. Mitigating the fear about changing our lives so drastically was the assistance of Betty, who supported us and cheered us on through the whole process.

We were going to move out of our current house whether we moved to Florida or not. We discussed it over a period of several weeks. And we both kept remembering how nice it was to be in Florida in February. I don’t remember what made us both finally decide. Neither of us is very decisive. My mom made it very clear she would not move unless I was okay with it, as she was concerned about how I would manage the enormous stress involved. So, I guess I was the one who made the final decision.

It was completely out of character for me to want to move to Florida, given my discomfort with change. I wasn’t in a rut like my mom (or if I was, it was a good rut). I shouldn’t have needed to make a drastic change. I was a little worried, along with my mom, about remaining stable with the enormity of the change I had agreed to. I didn’t really know what to expect from myself. However, I have a streak of impulsivity that battles with my fear of change. I think back to my decision to go to college in Arizona as an 18 year old, which nobody could’ve predicted.

I have to be honest, and admit that my love of the sun and dislike of snow played a part in my decision. I was tired of Midwestern winters and loved the idea of laying in the sun year round. Of course, this is also the biggest reason why I shouldn’t have moved to Florida, given my propensity for skin cancer.

So, in March 2016 I called Sharon and asked if she would meet me for lunch. I had to tell her about my decision…

 

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We Have a Book. We Think It’s Pretty Good. Now What?

We now have a book. We’ve gotten good feedback from people who’ve read it. Recent reviews have been very positive. So now what? People who are experienced in the book publishing world will probably laugh at us, but when Robin and I started writing our book we did not think about getting it in front of the people who would actually want to read it. I know that makes no sense. What is the point of writing a book if you don’t have a plan to promote it?

The truth is, Robin and I actually never thought beyond writing the book and self-publishing it. The goal was just to get it finished. Many good things have come from this process. Most importantly, Robin has told her story. She has done her part in fighting the stigma of mental illness by courageously making herself completely vulnerable. She has shared the most embarrassing details of the way in which her illness has affected her life and continues to do so. At times, this has been difficult for her. Sometime I should ask her to write about this (sorry Robin, you can say no). But she has received incredibly supportive and amazingly positive feedback from her friends and family. I firmly believe that the process of telling her painful story has helped Robin achieve a new level of healing. She remains stable and content.

For me, writing this book helped me become a better writer. I have journaled since I was ten years old. But writing in a journal and writing for an audience are two different things. It was foreign for me at the start of this process to think about being descriptive or focusing on telling a story. I actually had fun working on learning to write in a new way.

Another positive outcome has been sharing a project with Daniel, my nephew who edited our book. He is now in graduate school, but it was fun to learn how good he is at writing and editing. It was a connecting experience for Daniel and I to work together on this book. So for different reasons, whether we ever find our audience and sell lots of books or not, Robin and I are both viewing this project as a complete success.

Robin is working on a blog post or two in which she is telling the story of what made her decide to move to Florida, and how she is doing now. I will be commenting on my own reaction to her announcement that she was planning to make this major move! It is important for our readers to know that she is still doing well. Robin is mostly done with spending time on our book, this blog, and the painful reality of her mental illness. Instead of living in her past, she is now focused on enjoying her new life. I don’t blame her for wanting to put the most painful years of her illness behind her. It is very healthy for her to move on.

I, on the other hand, am feeling compelled to try my best to get our book in the hands of the people who can be helped by it. So without any previous planning, I have found myself immersed in the foreign world of book promotion. I am a psychologist. I am not a book promoter. Talk about a learning curve! To make matters worse, I am in my fifties and have no clue about the whole social media thing. I’ve never been on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Do I really need to be? Yikes! We will see…

I will continue to update our readers about my feeble efforts to promote the book, but for now I just want to thank everyone who has bought or read it. If you have read it and are willing to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads or both, Robin and I would be eternally grateful!

Stay tuned for Robin’s update!

 

 

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Our Book Got a Good Review!

I am very happy to report that we had our book reviewed by Self-Publishing Review.com and received 4.5 stars out of 5! The review can be accessed on their website through the link below.

The Kirkus review, as I said when it came out, appeared to be written by someone who did not understand the point of the book at all and wrote the review as if I was the only author. In contrast, this reviewer definitely “got it.”

Robin and I are thrilled to feel like we have finally been validated by a professional reviewer. This site helps to promote the book as well, so maybe we will get some sales out of it!

Click here to see the review!

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WE HAVE A BOOK!

I’m excited! Yesterday I received my proof copy of the paperback version of our book. I think it looks great! I approved it and today it is already available on Amazon.com. I have added a link to this website at the top of the sidebar that takes you right to the listing on Amazon. There is also a Kindle version, which is currently listed separately. I’ve asked the publisher to combine the paperback and Kindle versions in one listing if possible. For those of you who live in Europe, the book will also be available on Amazon in Europe soon.

I appreciate, so much, those of you who’ve followed the journey Robin and I have taken over the past three years to write and publish this book. And, I am sensitive to the possibility that the cost of the book may be prohibitive for some. If cost is a barrier, I will gladly send a copy of the book, free of charge, to anyone who has “liked” or commented on our blog. Just email me at sedvy@aol.com, identify yourself with your WordPress site, and let me know an address where I can send the book.

For anyone who actually reads the book and is willing to write a positive review about it on Amazon and Kirkus, this would be much appreciated. Also, please pass the word to anyone you think might enjoy or benefit from reading it. We need all the help we can get, and we want anyone who might be helped by the book to read it. Helping people has been our main goal from the beginning of this project.

It is important for me to say that I don’t ever want to be accused of exploiting Robin, my former client, in any way. I have no intention of profiting from the sales of this book, which is Robin’s story. It’s hard for me to imagine it will sell enough copies to even pay for the expenses of self-publishing it, as marketing is not a strength for either Robin or I. We’ve agreed all along that the important thing has been the process of writing it, and we are thrilled to have it done. We have no idea how many people will actually want to buy it. But, if we are surprised and enough copies are sold to actually break even, Robin will be the recipient of any subsequent profits.

The reward for me has been learning how to write better, and learning the actual publishing process (I have more books to write). It has also been rewarding to see the positive effect on Robin to tell her story and receive so much support from people. When I think about where our journey together started in 1993 and how bleak things looked in 2003, it continues to amaze me that Robin is now so stable and content. As I’ve said, she recently made a major life change and moved to a different state. I was concerned about how she would do with so much change all at once, but she has done great. Soon, Robin will post an update on how she made the decision to move and how she is doing now. Stay tuned…

 

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My Review of the Kirkus Review

About a month ago I posted that our Kirkus review was completed, and I would share it after I gave Kirkus permission to publish it on their website. I also said I would talk about my own reaction to the review. I am posting it in its entirety. But it is important to say that it listed only me as the author. Robin’s name, despite the fact that it was completely clear there were two authors when I initially submitted the manuscript, was omitted from the review. Here it is, followed by the letter I sent to Kirkus about it:

The Review

“In this debut memoir, a psychotherapist learns about herself while diagnosing a patient’s bipolar disorder.

The author treated a young woman named Robin Personette for 10 years before she discovered the patient was suicidal. Robin, a mental health case manager, suffered from depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, but concealed suicidal thoughts from her therapist. In 2003, Robin—then 36 years old—finally confessed her obsession with suicide to DeVinney and agreed to hospitalization and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). DeVinney thought her own professional rigidity had stoked Robin’s inability to communicate, so she decided to extend therapeutic boundaries and use a more personal approach. For example, she let Robin know how much she cared about her. Therapist and client eventually formed a closer relationship, and Robin recorded a CD of sad songs to share her pain. In turn, DeVinney responded with a CD she made especially for Robin. Part I of this dark account is aptly titled “Despair,” as it details Robin’s self-described “meltdown” when she could not stop thinking about suicide. Smooth-flowing chapters begin with the author’s professional point of view and end with “Robin’s Thoughts” about her treatment and life. Readers who are struggling to overcome or understand mental illness should appreciate Robin’s difficulties: she ended up in a hospital four times in eight months; her depression resisted ECTs; and her medication needed to be adjusted several times. In addition to worries about her health, Robin had to deal with such financial struggles as coping with bankruptcy and applying for disability. Readers interested in the mental health field should be intrigued by DeVinney’s sometimes clinical, self-critical voice as she recounts the challenges of treating a complex case: for example, not allowing Robin to become dependent on her. Once officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Robin began learning to live with her disease. Part II, “Deliverance,” becomes eye-glazing when some earlier details—like Robin’s obsession with sun-tanning—are repeated and her job search is drawn out. But for the most part, the author’s clear prose weaves a vivid, touching account of strength and tenacity.

An uneven, but affecting portrait of hope for those living with chronic mental illness.”

My Letter to Kirkus

To Whom it May Concern–I have a concern about my review. I would like to publish it on your website, despite the fact that it is not entirely positive. But I am concerned that I am the only author listed. In fact, the review is mostly written as if I am the only author, which actually misses one of the most important points of the book. The book was written by both me (Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.) and my former therapy client (Robin Personette). I am pretty sure I included this information at the time of submission. The fact that we both express our own views about our therapy process is what makes our book most unique.

The negative comments by the reviewer (the “eye glazing” comment and the fact that the book is “uneven”) make complete sense if I was the only author. But Robin was writing about her own experiences, in a writing style different than mine (hence it is “uneven”) about topics most important to her (the “eye glazing” part about her job search and tanning compulsion).

I don’t mean to sound defensive. But I am concerned that the review just seems inaccurate. At the very least, can both authors of the book be listed?

Thanks for your consideration.

Sharon DeVinney, Ph.D.

 

I received an answer from a representative of Kirkus quickly. He added Robin’s name as a co-author, but said he could not change the review because it was the reviewer’s opinion. This is what I expected. I certainly didn’t expect them to admit what I suspected, which is that the reviewer was not a mental health expert. I have no idea whether this is true or not. At this point it doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

For anyone who actually reads the book, I welcome honest feedback about whether the review seems fair…maybe I am being too defensive.

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We Have a Book Cover!

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