mental health, book reviews, medical, writer, writing tips, author, author interviews
Trauma Survivor Kelly Hanwright Talks About Schizophrenia and her Survival Memoir The Locust YearsRead Now
How did you become interested in the subject of mental health?
I really got interested in mental health awareness after learning in therapy that my mother had untreated schizophrenia all of my life. My mom was diagnosed with a “hormone imbalance” in the 1950’s after experiencing a psychotic break in her teens. Always terrified of being institutionalized or being on any long-term medications, she refused to ever seek treatment.
Some of my mother’s paranoid delusions were that my father was demon possessed, that random people were after us, and more. They were all terrifying. Once when I was about 10 or 11, she actually took us in the middle of the night to a preacher a few towns over who was supposed to be able to cast out demons. She didn’t even believe the preacher when he told her my dad was not possessed!
Her illness also caused a lot of neglect. She would have these fits – I don’t know how to describe them exactly. She would scream and cry. Sometimes she would take all her clothes off and beat on herself. Then she would just go to bed. I remember opening cans of corn or eating cold hot dogs out of the fridge. But hey, at least there was food around. I learned to fend for myself in a hurry!
Our house was always filthy and she never took a bath or shower. As I got older, she strongly discouraged me from bathing. When I finally decided bathing was important, I had to sneak and do it or I’d get yelled at. My neighbors gave me a toothbrush and a teacher taught me how to tie my shoes. Around age 8, my hair got so matted one time that I ended up having to get it cut really short. Personal hygiene was just not a thing for my mother at best, and at worst she almost seemed to fear it.
What do you write?
I dabble in a lot of things, but my main genre is poetry. My writing tends to explore my own mental health struggles and tries to share hope. I think I turn to poetry a lot because I’m a very visual thinker and it helps me express my feelings (not always an easy feat) when I can put them into the metaphors and imagery that poetry thrives on.
I’ve found writing poetry very therapeutic and I highly recommend it to anyone who has been through any type of trauma. This year, I published my first book – a trauma and survival memoir called The Locust Years.
Why do you write what you do?
More than anything, I guess I’d say that I write for mental health awareness. It’s a topic that is very important. As a kid, and even as an adult reflecting on my experiences growing up with an untreated schizophrenic, which was a lot like growing up in an alternate reality, I felt extremely isolated. And it was impressed upon me from a very young age that there were all these secrets no one else could know about our day-to-day lives.
The Locust Years started out as a collection of private poetry written in an attempt to process the traumatic experiences I’d been through including neglect, abuse, and the terrors of living in what felt like a daily war zone, as well as come to terms with my diagnosis of complex PTSD that those experiences caused.
It dawned on me that even though it is a very private topic with a lot of embarrassing things intertwined, if I remained silent about my story I would actually reinforce the stigma that caused my mom to decide against seeking treatment! I look at my book, my blog, and what I post on my Facebook page as ways to be a mental health activist.
My mom needed treatment – therapy… medicine... She needed love and support from the people around her. And I have to say that, looking back, I can trace the reactions of neighbors and supposed “friends” and realize they knew deep down something was wrong. But instead of trying to help, they turned a blind eye and avoided us. (My poem “Power of Neighbors” is about that.) Not only could I not contribute to that tradition, but I also knew I wanted to stand in solidarity with others and help break the stigma. Mental health is health! And it’s just as important as physical health. It’s high time we pay appropriate attention to it. We all have some type of mental health struggles. Lets just admit it and support each other!
Follow Kelly on Facebook and Instagram, check out her blog at kellyhanwright.com
and her survival memoir in poetry, The Locust Years. Please leave a review if you like it. It is Kelly’s sincere wish that you find it helpful in some way. <3
Leave a Reply.
RW Hague is a registered nurse with over eight years of experience within the medical field. Using her medical expertise, she writes stories that are gritty and compelling.