I’m chatting with Linda Naomi Baron-Katz today about two of her books: a memoir, Surviving Mental Illness, My Story and a children’s fiction picture book, Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story.
Linda Naomi Baron-Katz born on March 21, 1969, by the name of Linda Naomi Baron, raised as a modern orthodox Jew, where mental illness became a factor throughout her life. It had started with her mother when she was in the fifth grade. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with acute depression. This gave Linda and her family a huge amount of stress. As she was growing up into adulthood, her mother's illness affected her in various ways. Linda had difficulties making friends, developing positive relationships, and maintaining employment. After she graduated college, she also suffered from a mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Through the years, she was faced with challenges that were difficult to overcome, but worked hard to achieve recovery. As part of her recovery from mental illness, she became active and volunteered for a variety of mental health organizations.
Linda became a member of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness or formerly called National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) and published articles about her life in New York City Voices, a newspaper for people with mental illness to share their personal recovery stories. Both of these agencies helped fight against stigma and other issues pertaining to mental illness. Soon after, Linda found employment working for agencies that help others with mental illness reach their goals and dreams.
Today, Linda is happily married, an author who has published two books. One is titled Surviving Mental Illness, My Story which won a Silver Medal Award by Readers Favorite for best non-fiction/autobiography and came in first place and won the Life Journeys Award for best memoir/biography from Readers Views. Through this book she describes all of her challenges that she dealt with while having a mental illness and how she found her way back towards establishing a wellness by staying mentally and physically strong.
The second book, titled Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story, which she co-authored with her husband Charles Katz, is about two adults who struggle with mental illness and get better with medication and necessary support by family and friends. It is a story that children will love and understand that with help people can recover from mental illness.
Linda wrote these two books to show that mental illness is not something to be afraid of and that anyone can overcome life’s challenges and achieve a happy life.
Welcome, Linda. Please tell us about your books.
My current release is a children’s book titled Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children’s Story. It is about two adults who struggle with depression and mania as they cope with the challenges of life and get better with medication and support by family and friends.
The other book, titled Surviving Mental Illness, My Story, is a memoir of the heartbreaks and challenges I faced growing up with a mental illness and shows the road that I took to find my way back towards mental health, what is known as recovery.
What inspired you to write these books?
I wrote both books to teach adults and children that despite the challenges in life, people with mental illness can get better with treatment and support (family, friends, peer group, employment program) and continue to live a life happily that is full of hope and dreams.
Excerpt from Surviving Mental Illness, My Story:
In 1993, I had my first manic attack. The first time this happened frightened my family, yet in my mind, I was on top of the world. It started with Al, the boy that I had an infatuation with during college. I could not get him out of my mind. I heard a variety of voices in my head, but none of them were as powerful as those I heard about Al. I thought these voices were real, so I listened to them. I told my friends that Al was my boyfriend, when in reality he was not. When I volunteered at Forest Hills Community House, a senior citizen center, I met an elderly woman who I thought was Al’s grandmother, and a young woman who I believed was his sister. Once, when the community house took the senior citizens to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to visit a museum, another racing thought about Al came to my mind. In this thought, I believed I was getting married to him and having his five children. When I told these things to my friend, she told me that Al did not have a sister and that I was not going to be married to him because he did not feel the same way. Can you imagine what my friends thought of me?
During that same time, I went to see the Hillel director at Queens College, and for some reason, told him that Al and I were getting married. I had no idea what was wrong with me. At Hillel, I went from room to room going crazy as I looked for him because I kept hearing him call my name. The director knew that I was not being myself and believed I was on drugs. He called my father and asked him to come right away. My father knew immediately that I was suffering from some type of mental illness, the same way my mother had. He told the Hillel director that I was not on drugs, but was mentally troubled.
At times, I would have hallucinations, as if I were viewing them on a TV screen. One hallucination was that Al and I got married and several of our friends from Queens College were our bridesmaids and ushers. Of course, this was not real, and after a few sessions with Dr. Nass, I began to see the light and realize the reality of my situation. This world I was in was so unreal that when the delusions started to fade away gradually, I began to wake up, as if coming out of a dream. I could not understand where these voices, thoughts and hallucinations were coming from. It is hard to understand how the mind works, but I knew that my mind would not let me do or say such things, unless there was a part inside me that wanted all this to be true.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now I am focusing on promoting these two books. I am not sure if I will write a third one because the cost of marketing a book is expensive. However, I think I will write more articles on mental illness and review other books on my blog.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think when I was in high school or college that I knew I could write, but I never dreamed that one day I would write a book and become an author.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do not write full time but I do work part time as a Certified Peer Specialist in mental health and try to schedule the rest of my days marketing my book and do speaking engagements from time to time.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I never really given it much thought. I am not sure if I have a writing quirk. I just like to write about topics that represent hope and dreams.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child I wanted to be a teacher but as I grew up I found out that being able to discipline children was very difficult to do.
Thanks for being here today, Linda!