One of the aspects of Etched on Me that I found fascinating was how motherhood impacted Lesley and her mental illness. I asked Ms. Crowell about this, and here is her response:
|Photo by Hedy Bartleson|
I also asked Ms Crowell if writing Etched on Me was a therapeutic process for her.
I don’t view my writing as therapy (I had plenty of professional therapy while writing Etched On Me, as I’m sure you can tell from the acknowledgments page!), but I would say that writing about a topic that you have personal experience with, and breaking the silence our culture places on the stories of people like you, can be very empowering – and it’s critical when you are in the midst of being disempowered by those societal forces.
As an example: During the time I was working on Etched On Me, I was sexually assaulted while on an inpatient ward, and the hospital and police basically treated it like no big deal. Their dismissals communicated to me that, as a woman with mental illness, I was already damaged goods, and therefore my being violated didn’t matter. There were many, many times when I felt like it was a losing battle to speak out and take on the system, but I felt a duty to hang in there and do it for all of us “Phoenix-girls,” as Lesley calls her fellow wardmates. (In the end, we settled out of court and the hospital never admitted fault, but my advocacy efforts with state agencies resulted in some significant changes being made at that hospital.)
Throughout it all, I felt like Lesley and I were fighting the good fight together – there was a real kinship between us that felt, if not therapeutic, then at least rallying.
Etched on Me was a truly powerful book and would like to that Jenn Crowell for taking the time to answer my questions for this guest post!