Interview series questions
First of all, tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Amy Fowler. I live in Lawrence, KS, which is not quite an hour west of Kansas City. My partner and I live together, and we share custody of his two children from his previous marriage—that means that I am a full-time step-mom part of the time. I make a living as an American Sign Language-English interpreter and Cued Language Transliterator. I have been interpreting for more than twenty years. Plus, I spend three weekends a year teaching or volunteering at camps for families who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing. It’s a really important way to give back to the community, and I have made amazing friends all over the country.
What is your connection to the blogging and/or mental health community?
I have lived with depression since I was a teenager, and anxiety for about the past seven or eight years—both of these have impacted my day-to-day life, as well as my physical health. Not quite two years ago, I began writing about my experiences with my mental health needs, and how living with infertility has impacted my mental health. I am working on larger projects, but blogging has helped me to process certain episodes in my life. Because of that, I started my blog, “Raising Someone Else’s Children, and Other Animals,” about a year-and-a-half ago. I have gotten a very positive response to my writing from my friends and family, so I plan to keep the blog going as a way to connect with them, and my wider audience.
What is the hardest part about having a successful blog?
At first, I posted daily. That pace was just too much to keep up, so I changed my expectations about my blog, which I consider a side project. Balancing my expectations and my imagined expectations of my readers was the hardest thing for me.
Any time I have the thought, “I need to…,” I step back and understand that desperation is not a good place to create from. Blogs tend to be slow-growing, so understanding that and cultivating patience around that has been key for me.
What is the biggest challenge the mental heath community faces?
In my experience (because that’s the only experience I can speak to), access to appropriate services has been an issue. My county actually has really good public mental health services in many respects. As someone who does not have health insurance, paying for needed services has been a challenge at times—and I am much better off financially than many people who have serious mental health needs.
One of my biggest frustrations with mental health care is the lack of ability to get what you need to be stable before you crash. My mom recently moved to the town where I live, and has unmet mental health needs.
I can tell the staff what she needs, but due to lack of documentation (which is a huge problem, in and of itself, for many people who need mental health care), and because she is functional (although symptomatic) right now, I am holding my breath, waiting for her to crash, so that she can get the maintenance meds she needs. I hate that she, and many others, have to experience a crisis before they can get their maintenance meds. It’s such a disservice to individuals, their families, and the healthcare system that supports them—and I feel that practitioners get to hide behind Best Practice and/or Policy, which makes me angry, frankly.
As a society, we are getting better at de-stigmatizing talking about our mental health needs, and what we are doing to take care of our mental health. That is one reason I decided to be very open on my blog about my mental health needs and challenges—mental health care should be discussed as openly as physical health.
What are 5 things many people do not know about you?
I love watching shows like “The Dead Files,” “Ghost Adventures,” and the like.
Although I am extremely quick with words (one of my friends calls me “The Speechwriter”), it often takes me a long time to process my personal feelings. Sometimes I don’t realize what’s at the root of something for 6-12 hours, or even longer… sometimes months.
Some people know this, but when I was 26, my mom made me a full-length copy of my baby blanket. I still have it, still sleep with it, and still travel with it. Plus, I also have the original blankie.
I am a perfectionist about a few things, but I’m not competitive.
What is your favorite book and why?
I will never be able to narrow it down to only one. My favorite memoir is, “Not My Father’s Son,” by the actor Alan Cumming. I read it in one sitting(!), on a Sunday afternoon. It is painfully honest and compelling.
My favorite novel I have read this year is, “What We Owe,” by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde. It is a recounting of life by a woman who has just found out she’s at the end of hers. The book was absolutely riveting. I believe I read it in three sittings.
What do you do when you are having a really hard day to lift your spirits?
I love music. I listen to music often. When I’m having a hard day, I usually listen to music more. I seek out comfort in my partner or my closest friends.
Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation. It’s not always possible to lift my spirits in the moment. If I’m having a really hard time, I’ll usually take a nap or go to bed if it’s a reasonable hour. Tomorrow could always be better.
I think we place a lot of value on bravery—maybe too much. It’s ok to not be brave. To me, a lot of things come down to balance. Moving forward the best you can, in spite of what’s going on in life is an act of bravery. Recognizing you need help and asking for it is an act of bravery. Living life is an act of bravery. Sometimes, just continuing to breathe is an act of bravery.
What 3 words would you use to describe yourself and why?
Introverted—I am a dedicated introvert… I truly enjoy time with friends or doing social activities, but I require time to recharge.
What is your biggest flaw?
I am a procrastinator.
What is your greatest strength?
I am a survivor.
What is your best childhood memory?
Hard to choose one. My birthday is near Halloween, which means it’s usually near the end of Daylight Savings Time. The year I turned eight, I had a sleepover, and then a party at ShowBiz Pizza (think Chuck E. Cheese).
My mom forgot to turn the clocks back, and we were an hour early for my birthday party. So my mom got us tokens and turned us loose in the arcade. We still joke about that, 35 years later.
Where do you envision your blog in 5 years?
My goal for my blog in 5 years is to continue it as a part of my writers website. I aim to have at least one of my larger Works In Progress published, and my blog will continue to serve as a companion to that. I hope that people visit my blog to share their comments and interact with the work.
Where do you see the mental health community in 5 years?
That partially depends on where our country goes politically during the next local and national election cycles. In my community, for example, there is a real effort to expand mental health services for transient populations and reduce the number of people with unmet or undermet mental health needs who go to jail… that there will be appropriate services available to them, and that law enforcement and mental health care workers will collaborate in making it a reality. We are working toward equitable funding mechanisms for that.
Nationally… well, it could get a lot better or it could get a lot worse (which is really scary) depending on what happens with our presidential administration.
I think it is crucial for those of us who have any kind of platform to use it to share others’ stories that they have shared with us (being careful never to write those stories for them), and to speak up about managing our own mental health needs.
Who do you follow to stay updated on all things blogging and/or mental health? Share their links below!
I am really new to the blogging community. As a dedicated introvert, I’ve only recently begun engaging with other bloggers. Your blog was one of the first I came across that had a more serious slant.
About the Author
Amy Fowler hails from Lawrence, KS, where she shares a home with her partner, sometimes his two children, one surly Boston Terrier, one Scruffy Mutt, and one geriatric Doberman. Her essays have appeared on The Manifest Station, in the Slaughterhouse Collective, and Sonder Midwest, among others. You can find her blog, “Raising Someone Else’s Children, and Other Animals,” as well as more of her work, at www.amyeff.com.
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