Amanda Green is an English self-published author of seven inspiring books: memoir, short stories and a self-help book.
Aside from writing and social networking, she spends a lot of time with her pets; a handsome cat called Titus, a pretty kitten called Millie and tropical fish. She strongly believes in pet animal therapy as being good for the mind, body and soul and she promotes the fostering and adopting of animals as opposed to private breeding and purchase. She detests animal cruelty and protects the vulnerable. Amanda campaigns to ‘stop the stigma surrounding mental illness’; something very close to her heart.
She has travelled on/off across the world, taking in twenty-five Countries – living and working at times in Japan, Thailand and Australia and has enjoyed a very mixed bag of jobs. She is currently finishing her level 4 Counselling skills Diploma at college as she loves to help others’ facing issues. Her placement is with homeless people who need help to move on from their adversities.
Time to chat with Amanda!
What is your latest book?
I have just published my seventh book Living with Depression and Anxiety: 26 ways to get you out of the fog, into the sunshine
First of all, my supervisor (I am a counsellor) read my books and suggested I could write a self-help book, especially with my counselling and writing experience. I have had so much feedback from readers of my memoirs that my story, tips and experiences have inspired them and helped them on their recovery, I thought that maybe I could continue to help with a self-help book. The idea was well received by many, so I set about planning it, and took off with the idea quickly.
‘YOU LOOK ALRIGHT’ – A major issue which can hinder the process of getting help, particularly from the NHS, a workplace or within a close circle of friends and family, is when, to the outside world, the person looks alright. But the thing is, a person can be a master at covering up their real emotions, and the outside world does not see them when they are indoors, suffering at times. If a person dresses nicely and washes their hair, or smiles a lot, it can seem like life is treating the person well. The human race can be masters at smiling through adversity, and using different personas for different people or experiences, so it is not surprising that the audience do not recognise or accept the underlying, negative issues being covered up. This persona issue can very much stop a person from getting help or support of any kind. If the act is dropped, and a person can be more honest and real about their feelings, it will be much easier to gain understanding and support from those who matter.
To get help the person needs to come to terms with their problem, take it on as their own, and seek help, but to disbelieve someone has depression because they look OK only encourages sufferers to cover up even more.
How can each of us do our part to help de-stigmatize mental illness? What are the most common misconceptions?
Many people with mental illness feel lonely and isolated. Their journey through life can be filled with adversity and mental turmoil. For others, their symptoms are more easily dealt with through medications and/or therapy, and they have a very good quality of life. It all depends upon the individual. One thing they have in common through, is the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Stigma against people with mental illness hurts them. It can make them worse. It can even make people take their own lives. It is essentially a form of bullying based upon a person’s ignorance or lack of understanding and empathy.
Mentally ill people should not feel ashamed of themselves or their illness any more than anyone else with a physical illness, so it is very important not to discriminate.
The kindest thing you can do for anyone with mental illness is to try to understand the person’s illness. Try to create empathy for that person. It’s not about sympathy; it’s about empathy – really trying to understand things from the other’s point of view. I have written articles on my website about how you can help stop stigma if you’d like to take a look sometime.
There is one big thing a sufferer can do… Share their stories to help others’ understanding of mental illness.
Social networking and personal blogs are a valid addition to the world of mental health. Not only do professionals share their knowledge but sufferers and families of sufferers are sharing more and more the stories of their journeys through mental health issues. This not only brings the subject out in the open more, it helps people to understand this often misunderstood area of illnesses.
Although there are symptom lists for each condition, people are individual and when it comes to the brain, it can depend upon the person’s base personality make up to start with as to how a mental health issues will affect them.
The subject of stigma is one which, thankfully, many people are now fighting. Mental health charities, advocates and many individuals are campaigning to stop others’ negative attitudes to mental health issues. They do this knowingly. However, sometimes unknowingly, some individuals are helping to reduce stigma by way of writing on their personal blogs or social networking and I applaud them. Just by sharing our stories of mental illness, we are helping tackle the stigma that surrounds the subject.
How easy or difficult is it to write about such personal issues?
I kept every little memento of my life until I wrote my first memoir in my late thirties: diaries, airline tickets, photos, letters, emails, text messages, cinema tickets and notes from people – everything and anything. I always had an inkling from a young age that my life was different, and that I might one day write my story. This was later compounded by the thought I might not have children, so who would remember me? I decided I wanted to leave my legacy in words: my words, my story, my perspective.
I’ve always thought how sad it is, that when people die they take their memories with them. Things they have experienced that no-one else knows are gone forever. Their house, their life’s worth of objects can be sold or put in a loft and forgotten– everything that was precious suddenly seems worthless. But if they wrote it down they could at least leave their story behind. Family and friends could read it, it could be passed down to other family members, and their life would still have meaning – their words would still go on.
What could be more precious?
Years later, I realised what was different about me – that thing I could never put my finger on – I suffered with mental health issues and dissociated from distressing events in my life. I had been having various therapies over the years, since I was in my twenties, and had been offered counselling for depression when I was fifteen. Every therapist I saw delved deeper into my past, trying to uncover the underlying reasons. When my problems and moods started to get out of control, in my thirties, I became so distressed and confused I decided to start looking into my past again – by myself. If I had had the money to have a professional therapist help me, I would have, but I didn’t.
I read some childhood diaries first, and came across an eight-page typed document, describing in detail the day I was raped. I had written the story the day after the event occurred, when I was fifteen, and had obviously dissociated completely from it. You can only imagine the shock I felt when I discovered it, tucked into one of my old diaries. As I read, it was as if that person wasn’t me: I guess that was my first encounter with my alien self. I stopped writing my life after that, it scared me, and then in 2008 I finally saw a psychiatrist who gave me a correct diagnosis, a name for the condition that could account for all those years of depression, chronic mood changes and dissociation. But even then I was still in denial.
I always thought of myself as a happy-go-lucky girl, as did everyone else, but I also knew the stigma of mental illness because I’d grown up with a mother with schizophrenia. Eventually I knew I had to open the Pandora’s Box of my life memories – it would be the only way to get everything out in the open, to understand how I turned into that alien me and then maybe I could find myself again and close the box forever. All I wanted was to move on and concentrate on being happy in my future.
So I wrote my story as a type of self-therapy, but it took every bit of strength to do it, and it caused my issues to escalate, as the dark events of the past came back, one by one. At that time, I also read memoirs by other sufferers, which helped me to understand myself a little more, and also made me feel less alone with my problems. Not that I wanted anyone else to be going through the same traumas, just to know there were others suffering as I was, at times, became a great comfort. So with that in mind, I decided to turn my story into a book that might help others too, so that something good could come out of the pain.
Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?
Yes, these are from my first memoir My Alien Self: My Journey Back to me
“I felt so many of my own excruciating experiences shared with her, as I read it got very synchronous at times… The levels of understanding, sympathy & empathy did not stop rising until at a peak near the end. A lady who has worked hard to push through many boundaries, not just to get this book written but also to change herself, as much as one is able.”
“I found it compulsive, disturbing and ultimately inspiring. These issues are unique to the individual, but there are many more out there with similar problems, who don’t have the eloquence, courage or motivation to write such a thought-provoking, honest, heart breaking inspiring book, chronicling all the pain and emotion that mental illness can load onto a person, a family… this should be read by everyone out there who has any compassion for their fellow man… it will open a whole range of new experience and knowledge, which is the first major step in removing the stigma that damns us all.”
“I love the journal entries and the visceral approach to the truth as you approach healing and discovery”
“You are inspiring to have suffered so much and found the courage to write your story, which will undoubtedly help others.”
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
I originally wrote under the pen name ‘Amanda Green’ to protect my identity and my family, since I had written such brutal truths about myself. But, some time ago, I decided to ‘come out’ and reveal my true identity. Because of the following I have, I continue to write as Amanda Green, but only because it is better for me to continue to promote myself and my work under the same name.
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
I am going to attend my first author signing even this June (2016), at the Essex Author Extravaganza in Southend-on-sea, Essex, England, and I am very excited. I have all my ‘swag’ ready – pens, banner, business cards – and will be taking four of my seven books with me – my paperbacks.
Two memoirs, several short stories, a novelette and a novella.
Do you have any advice for first-time authors?
Just write and keep writing, only edit once you have finished or you will lose your natural rhythm and focus.
Write when you are in all sorts of moods – it amazes me how my writing changes when I am in different moods – happy, sad, angry…
Unplanned writing – Write instead of doing something else that is planned. My writing is often at its best as I am not expecting to write and have no set goal as to what I want to write or how much I want to write. Sometimes setting goals around writing can put too much pressure on me and if I don’t set a goal, I write and write and write
Warm up writing. I love to write a journal each day and this is often my warm up to writing some really good narrative – all the babble comes out so I can focus on my words.
If planning to publish a piece of writing or a book, get an editor or at least a proofreader! This is essential as no matter how much we read our own stories, we will always miss things and no-one wants to read repetition or misspellings!
Read other people’s books! You will learn so much from them – what you like, don’t like, what grips you…
If you are a beginner to writing or just want to better your writing, then writing courses can be very helpful
Writing magazines can provide lots of tips!
If you do publish, make sure your piece of writing or book is the best it can be – do not rush to publish it, as once it is done it is often too late to go back.
And a final tip is to be quiet and to think of nothing for a few minutes each day. It might seem hard to find those few minutes to do this, but it is worth it. Often, thinking of nothing will result in many ideas coming to you once your mind is clear – many of my best ideas have come to me from doing this mind de-clutter!
Make sure you keep to your genre – it is not an autobiography, it is about a theme. Mine was mental illness, so I concentrated on telling the story of why I had mental illness, showing I had mental illness, or showing my recovery, and I had to lose a lot of the stuff I wanted in there, such as fabulous holidays, events etc that did not move the story on or fit with the theme of the story. My editor (Debz Hobbs-Wyatt) taught me this and it took me a long time to be able to edit things out as easily as she could!
I guess if you keeping thinking that a memoir is about ‘memories’ of a certain type (your theme) then it will get you going!
When I was suffering mental health and felt alone, I read other people’s memoirs and they helped me a lot. I knew I had a story to share that would show just how mental illness forms, what makes it worse, and all I had to do was get better to have the ending! It took many years, but I managed it and I knew that mental illness was my theme, so I took out any irrelevant events and descriptions from my life, diaries etc. My second memoir is about life after mental illness and nearly reaching the age of forty a childless woman – it focuses much more on the positives in life with a more ‘uplifting’ tone.
Although writing a memoir does need to have a story line, flow and peaks/troughs, it does not require the same story arc of a novel. Also the protagonist in a memoir just does what they do rather than a fictional character that needs to tick certain boxes. It is harder to write a memoir because it is so close to you, the author, but then it’s easier in many other ways, because the story is already there.
I had some interest from a couple of agents, who I sent my draft manuscript to, and it gave me the strength to go forth and self-publish, so I published my memoir as an e-book through Amazon.
I self-published both of my memoirs and am very proud of that fact, because I was able to write them exactly as I wanted them to be written, with the help from my editor at the time. Whilst a publisher and agent do offer a lot of help and contacts, they do narrow down what is published, so I took on the journey to publish and market both books myself. After my first two books, where I had an editor, I decided to edit and proof-read myself.
Tips for self-publishing
Never publish it until you are 100% sure you have done the best you can with it – editing, proof reading etc.
Take time to ensure that the file conversion for an e-book, of any kind, is perfect. You do not want sentences, words or even paragraphs misaligned with the rest of the content, or bullet points starting halfway across the page! If it is too daunting to do it yourself, then seek the assistance of a professional and get it right first time.
Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?
Yes, I touch type, almost fast enough to keep up with the speed my brain churns out what I want to say! This is essential for me, as I would be impatient otherwise!
Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?
My personal favourite is Behind Those Eyes; Life on the streets of London – my novella.
Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?
Evaluate it in case you can learn from it, but never reply to a negative review justifying yourself, and always remember that even the best books in the world get negative reviews – you just cannot please everyone J
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Roast dinners and Indian curry. I cannot eat cheese L
What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?
Being told by my boyfriend I am being taken on my trip of a lifetime, to see the Orangutan and wildlife of Borneo, and to organize the whole itinerary exactly how I wanted it. We trekked, we saw awesome wildlife in the forests and along rivers, we visited Orangutan rehabilitation centres and I got to hold an orphan baby Orangutan – the most special moment of my life!
Two thirds to animal charities, one third between charities supporting children and elderly.
If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?
I would have it as my counselling room – a lovely warm, comfortable room for myself and my clients.
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
Gone with the Wind (film) and possibly The Clergyman’s Daughter (book) by George Orwell.
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
Only once –The Mask. I didn’t like Jim Carey’s character one bit!
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Be kind to one another; think before we say something we regret.
Rehabilitate people who do bad things.
Respect and look out for elderly people, plus animals and children and any other vulnerable being.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
My cats, people helping one another, hot chocolate, getting into bed when I have just changed the bedsheets… so many things!
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