One in five adults in the United State suffer from mental illness each year. These illnesses impact the afflicted individuals as wells as the surrounding loved ones. Launched in New York via a charity event, ‘The Story of My Suffering’ shares six short stories that focus on different forms of neglect caused by a variety of mental illnesses. We got in touch author Furwa J Hussain to discuss how this heart wrenching compilation of short stories came about. Here is what she had to say:
Your book ‘The Story of My Suffering’ is based on true stories. What kind of research went into compiling the book?
There was less research and more of just knowing people with similar experiences. I always say misery loves company, broken sees broken, so I was always surrounded with people who went through abusive childhoods. We just took our pain and made art out of it – paraphrasing Carrie Fisher here. Then of course the validity of the diseases and making sure that things such as addiction are classified as mental illnesses.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The writing is very personal, once we put pen to paper it kind of just flowed. Initially I was going to paraphrase every story but I don’t think I would’ve been able to do justice to the pain you feel when you read each individual story – so its six different stories with six different writing styles. I think that’s what makes this book unique, you’re hearing first-hand accounts of these survivors without any censorship.
The publishing process was much longer than the actual writing. Getting permissions, getting the book edited, cover, changing names etc. I was so frustrated with how long it took because I just wanted to get it out that I left minor errors. I have been told that the stories are so compelling that the lack of commas don’t take away from it so that worked out.
You’ve picked such a bold topic to discuss. What does your family think of your writing?
Funny you ask that… I come from a family or avid readers so there was a lot of pressure. I also come from a South East Asian household, we aren’t very good at expressing our feelings. I was terrified when my father started reading my book. I took the book from him, hid in the bathroom and thought about gluing a few pages together, in my panic I even thought of ripping them out. I finally decided, if not now than when?
I gave my dad the book back and told him there are things in there that you don’t know about, really personal things. I want you to read this with an open mind and not get upset. This is very important to me. He cried after he read it and offered to buy me a pair of these really expensive Prada shades I’ve always wanted.
Despite strong stands from celebrities such as Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut, mental illness is a taboo in South Asian households. How can we eradicate the stigma mental illness cares in our community?
Education! The stigma is present because we don’t educate ourselves about these illnesses. We don’t talk about issues – period, a basic bodily function, is still a taboo in our communities. Our communities don’t place emphasis on social/emotional development. The emphasis instead is placed on external factors such as how many degrees we can get? how much money we can make? how tall we can build my house?
We breed children to show off our success. What we fail to realize is that we are setting our youths up for failure. We are breeding generations of mindless individuals who will fall in to depression or have identity crises once these external factors that make us happy have been accomplished. We are left with people who have no source of happiness, no emotional development to comprehend and go after what makes them happy. These individuals are so susceptible to mental imbalance.
Why do you think Dating in the South East Asian communities is such a joke? That’s a whole other topic of course that needs its own book (in works.)
My point is everything is connected. Your health is so important to take care of, it’s important to eat healthy, exercise but it’s equally as important to take care of your mind. The world is useless if your mind isn’t well. Once we understand that I think we will move towards destigmatizing mental illnesses.
Often times parents tend to neglect mental illness in children by reducing the behavior to childish antic or something that they will eventually grow out of. In such cases it becomes difficult for children to receive treatment in a timely manner. What is your take on the statement?
We are fearful that if we sit across from a therapist we will be diagnosed with a mental illness yet we willingly go to the doctor once a year to get a physical and make sure we are heathy. Such double standards! It’s important for parents to realize that knowledge is power. If your child’s teacher reaches out to you with an observation, you’re doing your child a favor by tackling the issues early on. To simplify it, compare it to cancer, if you find out early you can prevent and treat it, if find out later, you are doomed. Some people might think this is an extreme analogy and cancer kills, I have seen my mother deteriorate mentally by the day. She can’t hold a normal conversation, she has no sense of hygiene, she sits and stares into space, has conversations with herself and there is no cure, no medicine that can fix her. Now tell me my analogy was extreme.
That’s why it’s so crucial to have these conversations. It’s so crucial to share your experiences. Even if one person takes away from it and makes changes you’re doing your part and creating ripples. If you or someone you know has had similar experiences, I urge you to get help, I urge you to be help for someone else.