Monday, November 10, 2014

Guest Post: Allie Burke Author of Paper Souls

When I started down this bumpy road of self publishing, Allie Burke was one of the first authors I met in a Facebook group filled with incredibly supportive indie writers. Recently, I read Allie's latest book, Paper Souls, and I was blown away. Having worked in the field of psychology for more years than I care to share, this story about a young woman diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia was so painful for me to read, knowing how accurate it is with the ups and downs of mental illness that I've seen in my own clients, and yet it left me with such hope in the end. One of the things I love about this story is the fact that Allie was able to create a woman who struggles with mental illness, but yet she is a strong person, who runs a successful business and has a loyal support group of close friends. I am proud to say that Allie agreed to do a guest post for me. I applaud her bravery, and I'm grateful that she is willing to speak out about her own struggles to raise awareness for those with mental illness. And now...Allie Burke.

The truth about Paper Souls is that I was having such a hard time at life for so many years that I really felt as if I needed to get it all out so I would feel better. I did eventually get it all out, and it did make me feel better.

Until it didn’t.

For me, the hardest thing about Paranoid Schizophrenia—which I was diagnosed with in 2011—is the judgment. Why doesn’t that guy want to be with me? or Why did I say that? Jesus, I am such a horrible person or Oh my god, everyone hates me. I still have these issues. It’s an extreme self-confidence issue, not necessarily based on the illness itself but the experiences I’ve had while also dealing with the illness. My doctor, who is not your ‘typical psychiatrist’, once told me that it can be compared to the three pigs and the wolf story. The three pigs are having a grand old time in the woods and the wolf comes after them, so they run to safety into their home. They slam the door behind them and they are okay. They are all standing against the wall, breathing heavily, exclaiming how the wolf almost got them and they could have died. An hour later, two of the pigs are on the couch relaxing, but the remaining pig is still against the wall, gasping for air, saying over and over, “he could have killed me.” Six hours later, two of the pigs are sleeping, and the remaining pig is still against the wall, gasping for air, saying over and over, “he could have killed me.”

That self-conscious pig is me, the girl with Schizophrenia. When I say something that upsets someone, or do something that was the wrong thing to do, I can’t let it go. I analyze the situation over and over, turning it around in my head, thinking how I could have handled the situation better or why life is so hard or why people don’t understand what I meant or why I did what I did. It is how I learned never to act on anything when I’m upset or in the heat of the moment, because it has always gotten me into trouble. When any little thing happens to someone with Schizophrenia that is not the best thing that has ever happened, it is the end of the world. If someone reacts to something I do in a negative way, I truly feel as if everyone hates me and there is no remaining reason for me to exist. The number of times the idea of suicide has crossed my brain is insurmountable. But this is not a trait of only those with Schizophrenia, it is a trait of Bipolar Disorder, of Depression, Anxiety, of Autism. Pretty much every mental illness that ever existed ever. And I think that’s why those of us with a mental illness are so quick to take the medication that is given to us by doctors. Because they numb the problem. Anti-psychotics, which are given to people with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, numb everything. They cross the blood-brain-barrier to literally numb your mental (and physical) existence to promote sleep for as long as you are on it. As with every drug there are side effects—you cannot sweat, you cannot see, you cannot concentrate—and you really just want to sleep. When you’re on it, nothing—such as a reaction to a mistake that you think you made—can touch you. The same goes for anxiety medication, which doubles as an anti-depressant. It numbs the effects of your problems. It does not solve them. Medication combined with therapy and probably a thousand life changes can solve your problems, with an end-game of getting off the medication, but taking a pill every day does not solve your issue. The woman who raised two autistic children who spends her time helping other children with this illness—that can solve your issue. Personally, I wished I never took the medication that was prescribed to me (which happened to be anti-psychotics AND anti-depressants) because 1. it was that much harder to get off of them and 2. the ideal that I can just take the medication and everything will be better will always be in the back of my mind.
To date, more than three years after I was diagnosed, went through a divorce, changed jobs and my place of residence, I continue to be very affected by my illness and the symptoms that it causes. I haven’t mentioned the hallucinations because really, that’s such a small thing to me. Something I can easily deal with. It is the mental turmoil one puts themselves through by thinking they are an alien and that everyone hates them that is so hard. Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days—my good days just happen to be really good and my bad days, really bad. That’s how it was for Emily and that’s how it is for a lot of people affected by this illness, I think. And that really is the point of Paper Souls. To bring up awareness that people in general can be bad people, not just people with problems. And vice versa. People with problems can be good. Or they can try really hard to be.

Schizophrenia is a thing that is hard, but life in general, can be hard. If we choose not to be defined by things such as Schizophrenia, we can make it. My definition of making it might just be different than yours.

Author Bio
An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal. 

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales. 

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
Visit Allie at

Check out Paper Souls

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