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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.
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.
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.
It is almost impossible for me to believe this, but I just now submitted the final, final, final manuscript of our book to Kirkus for review. This is a moment that is over two and a half years in the making. I am beyond excited! Of course, we have no idea whether the review will be positive or negative. It doesn’t even matter at this point. Robin and I, along with Daniel (our editor) and many people in our lives who have supported us, have put much time, energy and emotion into this project.
I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, each and every reader of this blog who has taken the time to stop in and check it out. Whether you read from beginning to end or just stopped by and moved on, you have helped to push us forward to this point.
A couple days ago I talked to a representative from Create Space, which is the company we have chosen to help us self-publish our book. While we are waiting for Kirkus to do their thing, we will be working to get the book ready to publish both in print form and as an e-book. If the Kirkus review is positive, excerpts from it will go on the back cover and then we will have the review published on the Kirkus website. If the review is not positive, then at least we tried. We will still self-publish the book and, either way, a link will be placed on this blog to buy it from Amazon.
Daniel is not only a great editor but also a talented artist, and is working on the cover design. I can’t wait to see it all come together over the next couple of months!
Stay tuned. I will continue to update our progress!
I apologize for dropping off the radar for so long. The reality is, a lot has been happening apart from our attempts to finish our book. As I said in my last post, Robin actually moved to Florida! Anyone who read the story of her “Meltdown” year detailed on this blog, knows that Robin, historically, has been very stressed by change. So, in late February when she announced she was moving, I have to say I was shocked and a bit worried about how she would deal with the transition.
When the book is finally published it will detail how Robin got from where she was at the end of 2003 to where she is now, which is stable (eight years without a hospitalization) and happy with her life. But, stable here in the town where she grew up and has friends and family, and stable in a whole new state are two different things. I supported her decision to move, of course, because it is not up to me to interfere with Robin continuing on her own path. But, I was a bit concerned that all the changes would cause her to destabilize for the first time in a long time.
I am very pleased to report that Robin is moved, settled, has found a job and is doing well. Her “triumph” over her severe mental illness continues. I will continue to provide updates as things progress, especially after we get the book published.
As for me, I have not been very consistent about writing on my new blog. It has been a busy summer for me, mostly just working and having fun with my family and friends. For those of you who have been following my story and are interested, I had my second post-bladder cancer check-up a couple of weeks ago and continue to be cancer free…thank God!
Anyone who has been following my other blog (see the link on the upper right corner of this page) knows I have been dealing with the absurdity of car insurance companies. Wow, are there unbelievable things to report in terms of the process of trying to settle the claim from that car accident I experienced last December! I will be continuing that story on my other blog soon.
I want to thank those of you who still care about our book and are still waiting. We are just making sure it is as good as it can possibly be before we publish it. I hope it will be worth the wait!
Just an update for those still waiting for our book Despair to Deliverance: A True Story of Triumph Over Severe Mental Illness to be published. As I said in my last update, we had basically re-written the book in response to feedback from our first set of readers and I then handed it off to our second set of readers. I have just a couple people left to finish reading, but so far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Daniel, my adorable nephew, has finished his part in terms of editing. I cannot reiterate enough how helpful he has been. What a great thing to have him be a part of this process! He is a talented artist as well as a talented writer, and is helping to design the cover of the book. For those who are interested, he has a webpage of items he has designed that are for purchase at the following link: https://society6.com/danieldevinney. I know, shameless promotion. I can’t help it…I am a proud aunt.
Daniel is getting ready to head off to graduate school next month at the University of Illinois in Champaign. What will he be studying, you might ask? Rhetoric. That’s right, he is going to get a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. I have asked him several times to explain to me what that means, but when he starts talking about it I have no idea what he is actually saying. He is much smarter than me…
Robin actually left our town in Indiana yesterday for the last time on her way to live in Florida permanently. She will be back here and there to visit friends and family, but she is starting a whole new chapter in her life. It remains amazing to me how well she is doing. I can’t wait for everyone to be able to read the new and improved version of what was originally written on this blog, and to learn the rest of Robin’s amazing story. We are getting there.
Once I have the final, final, final draft of the book completed, the next step is going to be to have it reviewed by Kirkus. For those not familiar with this organization, for a fee you can have your book reviewed by a professional reader who then writes a summary of their opinion. A good Kirkus review is a big deal, and if this happens it will go on the back cover of the book when we self-publish it. Apparently if you get a good review from Kirkus it opens up some avenues in terms of promoting and marketing the book (not a strength for either me or Robin). Mostly, we are just anxious to have a professional, objective opinion. Of course, we will share with you all what we hear…good, bad or ugly.
As for me, I have not been doing as much writing on my other blog as I would have liked, mostly because I have been having fun. During the last couple of months I took my husband on a surprise trip for his 60th birthday, and then spent a week at a house on Lake Michigan with my family (eight of my nine nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 24 down to 7, were there). We had tons of fun!
My next blog post on the other blog will be about my efforts to settle the insurance claim from my car accident last December. As I predicted, the whole thing has gotten absurd. A perfect topic to write about. Watch for it!