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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The Kirkus Review Is In

Robin, Daniel and I have been anxiously awaiting the Kirkus review of our book. It arrived a couple of days ago. It can’t be excerpted or published in any form until after I give the go ahead for Kirkus to put it up on their website. Before I give them that go ahead, I want the book to be ready to buy on Amazon. So, I will share the review here when I can, but it will probably take a few weeks for us to finish up the publishing process. Then, I will have much to say about the Kirkus review.

I will say this…my prediction was that it would be a good, but not great, review. I think I was right. But, I am not objective. I will leave it to you, our readers, to decide for yourselves once you have read the actual finished book and the review. There were some things about the review that were disappointing to me, which I will explain. I’ve been reminding myself that it is one person’s opinion. The most important people…the people who will benefit from Robin’s story, haven’t yet read the book.

After the Kirkus review is published on their website, readers will be able to go and make comments about the book. Obviously, when the book is available on Amazon there will also be the opportunity to write comments. I will ask in advance for anyone who reads the book and likes it, to please go to these sites and express your opinion.

Daniel is working on finishing up the cover. It will be done this weekend sometime. That is the last piece they are waiting for at CreateSpace, the company that is publishing the book for us. I can’t wait to see the final product!

In the meantime, here is another excerpt from Part Two of the book, in Robin’s own words:

My improved spiritual framework was tested in January of 2007, when my dad succumbed to the cancer that had been making his life hell for years. It obviously wasn’t a surprise, but it was traumatic nevertheless. He collapsed at home prior to a doctor’s appointment. My mom came home to take him to the appointment and found him in the bathroom. She called 911, then called me. It was early in the morning, and I’ve always hated early morning phone calls. They are almost never a good thing. I raced over to my parents’ home, where the EMTs were providing CPR to my dad in the living room. It was a chaotic scene, with my parents’ dog shut in a room, barking nonstop, not helping the situation. I followed the ambulance to the hospital. My brother and sister in law soon arrived, and we all sat in a private waiting room at the ER.

It wasn’t very long before a hospital staffer came in and asked us if we had a priest or minister we wanted to contact. That’s when it became real. It hit me that this was probably the end for my dad. They intubated him and he was placed in the ICU. Phone calls were made to extended family members, who gathered in the waiting area outside his room. We took turns visiting him throughout the day, and my mom spent the night in the waiting room.

The next day, my dad’s condition worsened. The doctor told us that he no longer had reflexes, and was not likely to wake up. My mom gathered with my brother and me, and said my dad wouldn’t want to live this way. We agreed, and the decision was made to unhook the breathing tube. Prior to doing this, the extended family members were allowed in a couple at a time to say goodbye. Then they all left, and my immediate family was in the room when they unhooked the tube and my dad soon died. The whole experience was very surreal for me. The emotions were very intense, and at times I dissociated.

Prior to my Meltdown and the work Sharon and I did in terms of shifting my spiritual beliefs, my dad dying would have reinforced my “life sucks and then you die” philosophy. I would have seen it as yet another way in which I was being punished. But instead, when he died I was able to look at it from a bigger picture perspective. I believed that his death was about him, not me. It was his time, for whatever reason. It was part of his plan. This did not minimize my sadness over the loss of him. But I was sad…not suicidal, which showed me how far I had come since my Meltdown.

My dad died at the age of 60, coincidentally on my maternal aunt’s birthday. This same aunt was ill at the time of his funeral, but everyone thought it was bronchitis. She was hospitalized a couple of days after my dad’s funeral, and we were shocked to learn that she had to have immediate surgery due to stage 4 colon cancer. The cancer had traveled to her lungs, which caused the bronchitis-like symptoms. My family was devastated, but she started chemotherapy and we were ready to fight the fight with her. Her breathing worsened though, and she remained in the hospital where her health continued to deteriorate.

We decided as a family that someone should be with her overnight, and I insisted on doing it. Everyone else, besides my grandma, had to work, and I didn’t want her to have to do it. I wasn’t working, so it made the most sense for me to stay overnight with my aunt. I slept in a reclining chair with a blanket, brought into the room by the nurse. I had insomnia anyway, so I wasn’t worried about disturbing my sleep.

One night, my aunt woke up in the middle of the night, struggling to breath and in obvious distress, so I alerted the nurse. The on-call doctor, who was a jerk, came in and said her breathing had deteriorated to the point where she needed to make the decision whether to go on a breathing tube, or just “be made comfortable.” My aunt looked at me desperately, unsure what she should do, at which point the doctor snapped at her “Don’t look at her, you need to decide.” As I said, he was a jerk.

The doctor was basically telling her she had to decide between giving up or continuing to fight with no promise that it would do any good. She chose to be intubated, and was taken to the ICU. It was about 4:00 a.m. by this point, and I immediately called my mom, who then called the rest of the family who all came to the hospital. The nurse allowed us to go into the ICU room in bunches, even though policy allowed only two at a time. My aunt’s condition worsened due to complications with her meds, and her blood sugar dropped considerably. She was miserable, and quite obviously dying.

Later that day my aunt finally made the decision to have the medications that were controlling her symptoms stopped, which made the jerk doctor angry, but he complied. We all crowded into the room to say our goodbyes to my aunt, and she died a little later, coincidentally on my other aunt’s birthday. The whole situation was very agonizing, and brought up feelings about my dad’s death three weeks earlier. I lost two very close family members within a month, in very traumatic situations.

The fact that I was the one from my family to stay with my aunt overnight, only three weeks after my dad’s death, was a sign of how much progress I had made in treatment. I think I was still in shock about my dad, but I felt clear I needed to be the one to be there for my aunt. I just kept thinking about my belief that she would be going to heaven. The fact that I was able to do what I did during that time, without becoming overwhelmed, depressed or suicidal, helped me to gain some confidence. It made me feel better in a way, because I was able to be helpful and I suddenly felt like I had a purpose for the first time in a long time.

Before my Meltdown this whole traumatic time would have been completely overwhelming to me, and I would not have wanted to be any part of it. I hated hospitals and I would likely have had difficulty even going to visit my dad or my aunt. It would have just reinforced my whole negative belief system. It was a clear sign of progress that I was able to hold up through the crises.

 

 

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Robin’s Story Continues…

We continue to work toward publishing our book. Today I got the draft “marketing copy” from CreateSpace, the company that is helping us self-publish the book. This is the description of the book that will go on Amazon, along with the back cover copy. Overall, Robin and I both liked it. There are a few minor changes we will make, but mostly we are happy with it and excited to be making progress. Daniel is working on the cover, and we continue to await our Kirkus review.

In the meantime, here is another excerpt from Part Two. Robin continues to tell her story about what happened after her Meltdown year…

Once Vocational Rehabilitation finally came through, they referred me to a program that provided employment seeking assistance. This program happened to be run by the agency where Sharon worked, and where I received treatment. They actually made it a point to try to help people find jobs at the agency if they were interested in working there, as their employees were more likely than others to be understanding about the struggles of people with chronic mental illnesses. The agency had many different programs in their many different buildings. As long as I didn’t work in the departments where Sharon and Dr. Greene were working, it was okay for me to interview for jobs there. Because it was so large, and had so many different programs, there were actually quite a few options for me at that time.

I first applied for a job providing case management services to chronically mentally ill adults, a population that I worked with previously as a group facilitator. I did poorly in this interview, and was not hired. I was way too nervous. The VR counselor gave me feedback in order to help me present better. According to the person who interviewed me, I had flat affect and was fidgeting with my skirt. Apparently my low self-confidence was visible. This was not easy to hear, and caused me to feel more discouraged about the prospect of working in the mental health field. And, it made subsequent interviews even more anxiety provoking because I had to think consciously about not fidgeting. It was terrible!

I then applied for a position as a staff member at a day treatment program (a “Clubhouse”) for chronically mentally ill adults. I did better in this interview. I worked harder at being engaging and personable, and to not move my hands so I would not be accused of fidgeting too much. The feedback from this interviewer to the VR counselor was better, but the supervisor was taking time to interview other prospects.

I also interviewed for a job as a staff member at an Alzheimer’s assisted living program. The job would have involved the day to day care of patients with dementia including helping them with tasks of daily living like bathing, dressing and eating. I was offered and could’ve accepted this position, but it would only be temporary since the licensing expectations would change in a few months, requiring CNA certification which I lacked. I also had no experience working with the elderly population, which made this job seem much less comfortable for me.

In the meantime, I also interviewed for a child and adolescent case management position that came up. This had always remained my ultimate goal, and I must have done well in the interview, because I got the job.

It was January 2005, two years after my Meltdown. I was very excited to have finally achieved my long held goal of returning to a job in case management within the mental health field. At the same time, I was very anxious about whether I would be able to manage the stress involved in starting a whole new position in a new agency with a different system from what I had been used to. I was so anxious I was not sleeping well in the time leading up to my first day, and I got very little sleep the night before.

My new co-workers seemed like good people, but I was trying so hard to come across as a “normal” person, that it was stressful just to interact with them. I was terrified about not being able to handle the stress. I spent a couple weeks in training, shadowing other case managers and learning the paperwork. This was a helpful experience, but I felt like I was in the way. We would be going to clients’ homes, where the case manager and client knew each other, and it felt awkward for me to be there. But this was a necessary part of learning the ropes of the job.

I was assigned my own clients gradually once training was over, and I was finally a case manager again. Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t up to the task. The main difference between this job and what I had done previously was that this program required the case manager to lead meetings with members of the community and family supports. This was stressful for me, as I have social anxiety to begin with and my confidence was low from my experiences of the past few years. There was also a ton of paperwork with this position, more even than at my previous employer. Finally, the expectation in terms of the number of clients I would see was higher.

I always feel stressed at new jobs (who doesn’t?), but I was overwhelmed quickly in my new position. My sleep was affected, which just made the overwhelming stress worse. I was extremely anxious and feeling depressed, and it didn’t take long for the suicidal thoughts to kick in as I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to accept that I wasn’t capable of doing case management any longer, which meant really having to give up my identity and start all over with a new life. I had struggled for two years, attempting and failing at interviewing and working, to get back to my old life in order to not have to accept the reality that it wasn’t possible. To lose this hard earned job opportunity was devastating to me. The obsessive suicidal thoughts took over again, and I ended up in the hospital. I quit the job while I was hospitalized, knowing that I wouldn’t be returning.

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How Did Robin Finally Heal?

As I’ve said, our long awaited (by us, at least) manuscript has been sent out to Kirkus for review. This past week I also began the process with CreateSpace to get the book self-published. One way or another we will have a book ready for purchase within the next few months. Robin continues to be stable as she settles into her new life in Florida, and I am relieved to have some time freed up to start writing more on my other blog. I’m also very happy to have more time to catch up with the blogs of our followers, as I have not had much time for that during the process of editing and finishing the book.

Those of you who have read this blog are aware the story stopped after Robin became stabilized at the end of 2003. This was after a monumental meltdown that, in her mind at the time, completely destroyed her life. Part One of our book is a shortened, edited version of what is written on this blog, with a bit more written by Robin. Part Two is what happened after 2003. How did Robin get from that awful place where she felt like her life was ruined, to where she is today? She talks about that in Part Two of the book.

Our plan is for Robin to write about how she ended up moving to Florida, and to begin posting her own updates once the book is published and available. In the meantime, I want our loyal readers to have a preview of Part Two. I will be posting excerpts from Robin’s recounting of her process of healing, along with updates on how the publishing process is going, over the next couple of months.

So, what happened to Robin after 2003? Here is the beginning of Part Two, written in her own words:

In January 2004, after everything I had gone through in the previous year, I was determined to get my life back to some semblance of normal. The panacea, as I saw it, was returning to work as a case manager at my previous employer. This was my obsessive focus at that time. I was convinced I just needed to go back to work in case management and everything else would be resolved. Of course, it made no sense that I wanted to return to my prior life, as it really hadn’t been working all that well for me. I don’t deal well at all with change, though.

The thought of starting over at a new job caused me great anxiety, especially when I had no self-confidence and no way to trust my ability to manage stress. But at the same time, I did not want to continue to be on disability. I wanted to have a normal life again, with a full-time job and health insurance like all the other people I knew in my age group. The only feasible way to accomplish this, it seemed to me, was to go back to my previous job with my supportive co-workers as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any openings on my old case management team at that time, so I applied for the next best thing…a position on a different team with the same employer. Like my old job, this team also did home-based case management with children and adolescents. The difference was that the clients weren’t referred by the welfare department’s Office of Family and Children (OFC), so there wasn’t a probation officer or caseworker from OFC involved in the cases. The clients were kids who had mental health issues and were seeing therapists and/or psychiatrists. The biggest difference for me was that I would have to start with all new co-workers. I wouldn’t be able to go back to working with the people I knew, who were already very supportive to me.

Six weeks after submitting my application for a position on this team, a decision still had not been made about whether I, or anyone else, would be hired. There had been some delay in the funding of the position which dragged the whole process out. As time went on, I became more and more anxious. On the one hand I was afraid I wouldn’t get the job. In my still depressed state I knew I would respond badly to the feelings of rejection I would experience if I didn’t get the position. I also thought being turned down for this particular job would hurt my chances of getting another job at the agency if one came up (on my old team, for example).

Even scarier to me than the thought of not getting hired for this opening was the possibility of actually getting the job. This freaked me out, and should’ve been an indicator to me that I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t looking too deeply into my fear at that time, I just panicked at the idea that I would get a case management job on a new team. My fear revolved around being hired, then not being able to handle it. The possibility of failure loomed large in my mind. I knew it would be my last chance at this agency, as nobody else would hire me if I failed as a case manager again.

Finally, I couldn’t take the uncertainty any longer, and left a voicemail for the supervisor withdrawing myself from consideration for the position. I think I realized on some level that I could no longer be a full time mental health employee. I just was not ready to fully acknowledge it yet.

It was March 2004. I decided at that time, after plenty of feedback from Sharon, that it was a good idea to start out slowly rather than jump back into full time case management. With that as my new goal, I applied for a part time mental health tech (MHT) position at the child and adolescent inpatient hospital at the agency where I had previously worked. This was a very different role compared to my job in case management, but it was possible to vary the hours based on how I was doing. My past experience in a residential setting involved similar responsibilities, so the job felt doable. Also, a former coworker had been promoted to social worker on this unit, and even better, my former supervisor on the case management team had been promoted to manager of inpatient services at the agency. I had a positive relationship with him, and felt comfortable calling him about hiring me.

This person, knowing all I had been through in the previous year, was glad to give me a chance to be successful. I was quickly hired on a part time basis as an MHT. I worked eight hour shifts, shadowing the other MHTs on the inpatient unit to learn my role and responsibilities. As I expected, it really wasn’t that different from my role in residential treatment in the past. It required supervision of the patients and de-escalating them when they acted out. The MHTs were also responsible for leading various therapeutic group activities with the patients. This position should’ve been easy for me compared to my previous job. Unfortunately, though, I only lasted a few days.

As one might expect, the patients acted out even more than the kids I worked with in residential treatment, and physical intervention was common as well as verbal de-escalation techniques. It was just too stressful for me. There was frequent verbal and physical acting out by the patients, often directed at the MHTs. The unit was often in chaos, and even when there wasn’t any crisis playing out, I felt tense, waiting for it. I was simply unable to cope with the stress of the situation, so I resigned after several days. On some level I realized I had hurt my chances of going back as a case manager at this agency, but I didn’t consciously acknowledge this. I was still not ready to face this reality.

 

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