Five years public: A reflection and a request

It’s Sunday evening as I type this, and it is a beautiful night. And, as Facebook was kind enough to remind me, it’s also a sad anniversary: Today, five years ago, we lost Robin Williams to suicide.

William’s suicide inspired a slew of memorials, sadness and outpourings of grief. It also reinvigorated a conversation about mental illness in American society that desperately needed to happen – and now, needs to continue. Williams had always struggled with mental illness and addiction, and had always been very open about his pain. Now, the extent of his demons were laid bare for all to see.

I was letting my dog out in the backyard when my wife texted me the news of William’s death and suicide. And it hit me hard. As I’ve said repeatedly, if a man like Robin William’s could lose his battle, what hope did I have?

Then, while scrolling through a Facebook status, this comment, from someone I defriended on the spot: “So sad Robin Williams committed suicide. He just needed more faith in Jesus!”

That comment crystallized it for me: People really were this dumb about mental illness.

And that resulted in this Op-Ed in the Allentown Morning Call, by State Representative Mike Schlossberg: Reflections on a Personal Journey with Depression.

From the op-ed, words I had never said publicly before:

It was October 2001 when I began my journey with depression. A freshman at Muhlenberg College, I had been sad before, but never like this. It was a hopelessness that felt like a black cloud smothering everything I did.

It felt like my future was a wall — that there would never be any brighter days. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression at the time, but I do remember I couldn’t see any hope. The words of friends and parents were largely irrelevant, and I didn’t understand how I would ever feel OK again. After suffering through that blackness for many weeks and months, I began to contemplate if suicide wasn’t the better option.

Monday’s tragic suicide of Robin Williams has left millions of Americans baffled. How could a man of such talent, humor and power choose to end his own life? The sad and tragic truth is that mental illness, depression and suicide know no boundaries.

My path to recovery began with Rick at the Muhlenberg College counseling center, who helped teach me how to change my thinking, cope with the stress of a new school and how to deal with a breakup with my girlfriend from New Jersey.

When it became clear words weren’t enough and the anxiety attacks began getting stronger, he recommended me to a psychiatrist, who put me on an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pill, which I still take to this day. I type these words without any shame. Why would I be ashamed? Are any of you embarrassed to be taking Lipitor for your cholesterol or Prilosec for your heartburn?

My point is this: Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness, and millions recover. There is no shame in saying you are depressed, you are anxious, and you need help.

There are many real tragedies which flowed from Robin Williams’ death. First and foremost is the human one: A husband, father, artist and inspiration left us way too soon. But it can’t be forgotten that William’s death likely caused others to end their lives as well, as a direct result of the suicide contagion effect. One study attributed as many as potentially 2,000 suicides to William’s public suicide. This heaps unmitigated pain on a nightmare.

What studies like this don’t quantify is how many others, like me, chose to go public in the aftermath of William’s suicide. I was one of many, many people to do so – and I can’t imagine the collective, positive impact that all of us combined have made. Nothing occurs in isolation. My struggle and the hope that I hope I was able to inspire only came from William’s suicide.

So today, on this important five year anniversary for me, a request: Share your story, share your pain. It doesn’t require an op-ed or a Facebook status. But relieve yourself of the secret shame which may be surrounding you. It doesn’t have to be bottled up. If my experience as a public official has shown anything to me, it’s that the general public is much more understanding than I ever would have anticipated. Telling my story has improved my life in a million different ways, and many of them deeply personal.

Tell your story. Tell it loudly, proudly and publicly. Be part of the moment which saves someone else.

 

The Spades Trilogy & Redemption: An Update!

One of the basic principles of blogging is to not be too self-promotional – say, promote yourself 1 out of every 10 entries. This webpage is hosted on “www.mikeschlossbergauthor.com” so it’s probably no surprise for you to hear that I’ve done this, in part, to help promote my book, Redemption.

That being said, I, err…forgot to promote the book on the blog. My bad.

For those of you who are unaware, I wrote a book! Redemption is a Young Adult, Mental Health, Science Fiction tale on depression, anxiety and saving the world:

Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.

Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.

Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy.

Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.

If you’re interested, go here for ordering info (including how to order a copy direct from me), or here to order off Amazon. You can also download the first chapter, absolutely free.

The book came out a year ago, so, let me give an update about what’s next!

The Trilogy

It is the Spades Trilogy, after all, so you may be wondering, where is Book Two?

Here’s the good news: It is actually written. So, yay! My publisher currently has it, and I’m hoping it will enter the editing process in the near future. It required some rewrites to make it a better product, so that slowed things down a bit, but appropriately so: I’d rather get something to you that’s really good than something that’s been done really quick.

I’m not sharing the title yet, but I will, I promise. I’ll say this: The original title was Reclamation. That got changed because it just sounded weird and didn’t work with the theme of the book. Also, my wife made fun of me, saying it wasn’t a real name.

When will it be published? That one I don’t have an answer for. It depends on how long the editing process takes. My guess – and this is just a guess – is at least a year.

And, for the record, Book Three is also written, and I should finish my edits on it within a month or so. So, yes, I know how the story ends. But that one is nowhere near ready for publication.

The writing process is a long one. The first book took four years, start to finish – although that was because I also had to get a book proposal ready and find a publisher. Hopefully 2 & 3 won’t be as long.

Writing about depression, anxiety, Spades, Ash, Alexis & the rest of the crew of the Redemption has been one of the more joyful experiences I’ve had professionally. I love what the book evolved into. It has given me a chance to attack mental illness in a completely new arena, and I have loved every second of it. And I can’t wait for the rest of the story to get share with the world.

Here’s the first chapter of Redemption!

Alright, alright, alright!

I had a few folks ask for it without the Email gate, so, here you go. Click here to download the first Chapter of Redemption. If you want to buy the book, here’s the Amazon link, and here’s the page on my website for other formats and how to buy a signed copy from me.

Enjoy!

Get the first chapter of Redemption for free!

Hiya!

If you’ve read the blog before, you’ve heard me talk about Redemption. For those of you who are curious, good news! You can now download the first chapter of the book for free. To do so, you can sign-up for my newsletter, and the welcome Email will have a link to download the book.

Do you already get the newsletter? Well, just check the link in there to access the first chapter.

Enjoy!

Redemption and me, live on TV

(Hey, if my titles rhyme more often, will I get more views?)

Anyway, morning, everyone!

As the title said, the good people at WFMZ were kind enough to interview me on Saturday. The topic was Redemption, and here’s the interview.

A sincere thanks to WFMZ for the interview. As always, if you want to purchase the book, you can get it directly from me or on Amazon.

Enjoy!

Want to tell your story? Great. Here’s how.

Last week, I wrote an entry about why telling your story – your own personal experience with mental illness (or anything, really) is so important. Study after study shows that the best way to reduce stigma is to put a human face on it. The power of saying, “Me too” cannot be underestimated – that’s why it is literally called the #MeToo movement.

That being said, telling your story can be absolutely terrifying. You may have no idea what to say, how to say it, or what the reaction is going to be. The fundamental truth is that once you put yourself out there, there’s a before and after in your life. As I’ve said repeatedly about my own life, I found the ability to tell my story in the courage of those who told there’s. To that end: Here are some tips about what to say, and how to say it:

Pick your medium. You don’t need an op-ed. You don’t need to stand on a chair and scream, “I HAVE DEPRESSION!” Telling your story may be as simple as opening up to a friend of colleague, or resolving yourself to do so in the future. It may be a long-winded Facebook post or blog entry (and I am the MASTER of those, with an emphasis on long-winded!). In all seriousness, understand that different medium will have different impacts. Pick the one that works best for you.

Read/watch others. Reading and watching what other people have said will give you a much better idea of how to say what you want to say. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. More importantly, paying attention to the stories of others will remind you of a fundamental and very important truth: You aren’t the first, and you aren’t alone.

Read from the experts. Related to the point above: Read what others say when discussing your particular issue. Know what words and phrases are good, and what don’t work as well.

Understand that most people will be overwhelmingly supportive. In a weird sort of way, one of the things that disoriented me the most was how kind people were. It never felt like something that was “so brave” or anything like that – it just felt like something that had to be done. And that became almost a source of anxiety – that now I had this standard to live up to. So, as strange as it may sound, brace yourself for the weird sensation of people being really, really nice and appreciative.

Understand that some will not. There will always be morons and unkind people. Just keep in mind that when someone inevitably says something ignorant, it says more about them than you.

If medium-appropriate, make it a story. Part of making in impact with your story is telling it as a story. When I discuss my own battles, I always begin with something like this: “On August 11, 2014, my life changed forever. That was the day that Robin Williams killed himself.” I think that’s a good hook and a good way to start. Anyone reading will think, “Huh. That’s interesting. Why did that have an impact on him?” And it goes from there. Tell your story as a story. Be specific. Use visuals. Give dates, times and locations. Don’t approach your personal story as an academic book report, replete with cold numbers that fail to convey passion – tell your story with the personal power it deserves.

Understand the impact. This is the one that I missed the most. Depending on who you are and how you choose to say your piece, you may wind up having a greater impact than you realize. When I told my best friend what I was going to do, he correctly noted that this would have a much greater impact on me or my career than I could have ever anticipated. When I told my mentor, she told me that she’d be surprised if the piece I wrote didn’t make state-wide news. Both were correct. Understand that people will look at you differently – and probably in a better light.

There. Hopefully, this post can serve as a guide to help you tell your story. As always, let me conclude with a question: What did I miss? What helped you tell your story? What didn’t? Please let us know in the comments!

The importance of sharing your story

You are all probably sick of me hearing me talk about my own depression/anxiety by now, and why I made the decision to tell the world about it. But, using my personal experience, let me pivot to another topic: Why I think you should tell your story.

I shared my story as a way of trying to make people realize that anyone, anywhere can suffer from mental illness, and in an effort to help destigmatize this terrible disease. As I thrust myself into the issue, I researched more and more ways to try and do just that. What I found, uniformly, was this: The most effect way to fight the stigma that surrounds mental illness is to engage in a contact strategy.

What is a contact strategy? Well, just what it sounds like: Make sure that more people have contact with someone with mental illness. Have those people – regular, ordinary people – discuss who they are, what they suffer from, and how they are able to live a successful and productive life despite their illness.

Does the same strategy work for fighting suicide? Absolutely, and this can come from family members who have lost or those who survived a suicide attempt. While there are guidelines and best practices for sharing those stories, doing so can be hugely beneficial:

Stories of suicide loss told from the heart are powerful. They promote healing for those who are newly bereaved, educate the public about how to support survivors of suicide loss, and increase awareness of suicide risk factors and warning signs.

As you have likely seen in the news lately, many celebrities and other prominent officials have discussed their own battles with mental illness or suicidal ideation. This is wonderful in that it can lower the overall effect of stigma. But, I’ll never forget one particular piece of research that I read: While it’s important, it is not as effective as a “normal, regular” person discussing their own pain and battles. That’s because celebrities are seen as “other” – they are different than normal people in that they occupy an elevated societal plane. Thus, while celebrities going public is great, it has to come from the heart and be a ordinary person who discusses their story.

And that’s where you come in. I’ve previously noted that the most important thing I felt I did when it comes to mental illness was share my story with the world. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to do the same. Not only is it good for everyone else – mental illness needs a human face – but it’s good for you as well! I know that sounds strange, but trust me on that. There is something deeply freeing about letting lose your deepest, darkest secret in public – particularly when that “secret” is nothing you should be ashamed of.

In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss this concept further, including tips on the best way to share your story. But for now, please, if you are able, consider going public with your mental illness. It’s the best decision I ever made in my life, and I’d encourage you to do it if you can.

The book did a cool thing! The book did a cool thing!

As you can see from that picture, I am currently beside myself.

The book is selling – it is selling well – and is currently NUMBER ONE in new releases in a topic near and dear to my heart: Teen & Young Adult Mental Illness Fiction eBooks.

For whatever it is worth, to those of you who are sad, who are depressed, anxious or alone: I was once so depressed I thought killing myself might be the only option to move forward. I’ve learned how to live my life and turned my depression into a good story. Redemption, a story about depression, anxiety and saving the world, is inspired by my own darkest moments. It may now make a difference because I tried to find a way to live.

Please remember that in your own worst days.

Order today from Amazon
Order today on the Nook
Order today on iTunes
Order today from Kobo
Order today from Smashwords

To order a print copy directly from the author, follow this link (it wills say “Pocket Protector Games but that’s just the name of my LLC, I promise!).

Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.

Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.

Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy. 

Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.

Redemption – my book – is now available

Today’s the day. A really, really big day, for me. Today, my book, Redemptionis available for order.

First, the logistics: If you pre-ordered it on your Kindle, it should be there! If you want to order it for Kindle or order a print copy on Amazon, go right to the website. To order it in other formats, or to order a printed copy directly from me (which I will sign and ship!), visit my website. Also, if you use Goodreads, you can check out the book’s page here.

Again, here’s what the book is about:

Twenty young people wake aboard the spaceship Redemption with no memory how they got there.

Asher Maddox went to sleep a college dropout with clinical depression and anxiety. He wakes one hundred sixty years in the future to assume the role as captain aboard a spaceship he knows nothing about, with a crew as in the dark as he is.

Yanked from their everyday lives, the crew learns that Earth has been ravaged by the Spades virus – a deadly disease planted by aliens. They are tasked with obtaining the vaccine that will save humanity, while forced to hide from an unidentified, but highly advanced enemy.

Half a galaxy away from Earth, the crew sets out to complete the quest against impossible odds. As the enemy draws closer, they learn to run the ship despite their own flaws and rivalries. But they have another enemy . . . time. And it’s running out.

Okay. Now for the personal stuff.

This book was written during one of the ugliest, most depressed periods of my adult life. I was in a bad funk, my wife was having a hard time at work, and we were both just struggling. I had started seeing my therapist again, I had increased my medication, but I was still in a really bad way. And I made a decision that I needed to do more, and remembered how writing had saved me when I was a teenager. I’d already written a non-fiction book – Tweets and Consequences – and while I’d enjoyed that process, I wanted to do more. I wanted to write something that was truly meaningful to me on a personal level.

Twenty years ago – probably more – I had this idea as a young teenage writer about kids winding up on a spaceship with no idea why. While I was thinking about writing, I remembered this kernel of a plot. I wanted to write about mental illness as well, since that cause has become such a part of my life.

And thus, Redemption.

As for why this is so important to me. Please understand that this isn’t just a book. It’s difficult to explain how meaningful writing this was on a personal level. The best way I can put it is this: When you write, if it is about an issue that you really care about, you’re not just creating words. You’re putting a piece of your heart out for the world to see. This book is a huge piece of who I am and my personal mission of helping people who suffer from mental illness find hope and recovery. I hope this book can do for others what it did for me – help pull me from the darkness. I hope it can help people realize that they can live good lives, even with depression, anxiety and mental illness. And I hope it’s a good read.

Anyway, world, meet Redemption. I hope you enjoy it!

The first review is in for Redemption!

Okay, this made me really happy. G.S. Jennsen, author of STARSHINE, was kind enough to review Redemption. The review below and it’s…well, it’s good, and that’s awesome. 🙂 I’m glad she enjoyed it, and I hope you will too.

As a reminder, Redemption comes out on June 5. You can pre-order a print copy now for just $3.99.

Review below:

“A moving, hopeful tale of personal struggle and unlikely heroism masquerading as an adrenaline-fueled sci-fi action thriller of a novel.

Like the characters onboard the Redemption, we as readers are thrown into the middle of a crisis on page one; like those characters, we have absolutely NO IDEA what’s going on. Thus begin the dual journeys of the reader and the Redemption crew—journeys that travel through terror, shock, anger, despondency and renewed hope. Several times.

In the early pages of the book, I wasn’t sure that Ash Maddox, a young man thrust into the role of captain of a spaceship under the worst possible circumstances, was going to be able to successfully carry the mantle of leadership or of primary protagonist. In fairness, Ash wasn’t sure, either. But he surprised us both. As much as Redemption is a pulse-pounding action tale of the race to retrieve a cure for an alien virus and save Earth from a deadly epidemic, it’s a thoughtful, inspiring tale of a group of people fighting through adversity, fear and their own personal demons—not to mention mysterious enemies frequently shooting at them—to rise above their circumstances, come together and become, yes, heroes.

Of course, it isn’t quite that simple or straightforward; in good stories it never is. But the Ash we leave at the end of the book is not the same man we met on page one. Other characters evolve as well, but it’s Ash’s journey that truly matters here. After all, he is the captain.”