Surprise! You never know when someone will pick up your book!

Every author I know seeks out places to get their book reviewed and hopes for a positive spin on their work. I was pleasantly surprised when I read Megan Wildhood’s review of Crash on the Mad in America blog in September. Here’s a bot of what she had to say:

Book Review of Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery by Ann Bracken

By

 Megan Wildhood

 – 

August 31, 2023

Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery (Charing Cross Press, 2022) by Ann Bracken

It sneaks up on you—depression, overmedication, and just depressed and overmedicated author of Crash Ann Bracken was by the time she realized that depression was the least of her worries. One minute, the reader is immersed in an isolated world of a terrified child whose mother never “comes back” from “mental illness” and the treatment she endured for decades. The next minute, the reader’s heart pounds, his or her head swims, and breath catches in his or her chest right along with Bracken’s. When did Ann’s migraine start? How many medications is she taking? How long has her husband been speaking to her like that? Why does every one of Bracken’s doctors sound the same?

Crash Cover

Why does every one of her doctors sound the same indeed—including the fact that not one of them asked her about her relationships (or anything else about her environment) before they adjusted (usually increased) her medication both in terms of dosage and variety. Bracken weaves together research on the harmful side effects, known since at least the 1970s, of psychotropic medication, especially the interactions of multiple psych meds, with her personal experience of some of these exact harms as well as finally understanding what she as a child witnessed of her mother’s experience of these harms. Her portrayal of herself as a dutiful, compliant patient in order to avoid the harshest treatments but also because she at one point trusted her doctors implicitly (as many do) makes the length of time she was in an abusive marriage all the more heartbreaking.

If you’d like to read the rest of Megan’s review, click here.

Megan recently interviewed me for her podcast, and I’ll provide the link when it’s available.

Have you ever done everything a doctor told you, only to find yourself sicker than before you began treatment?

I’m thrilled to have my memoir, Crash, reviewed on the Mad in America Blog by the fine reporter, writer, and storyteller Amy Biancolli.

Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery by Ann Bracken (Charing Cross Press)

Cover art for "Crash"; an illustration depicting a spilled bottle of pills

“Have you ever done everything a doctor told you, only to find yourself sicker than before you began treatment?”

So asks Bracken in the first paragraph of her memoir, a devastatingly honest, ultimately hopeful account of personal and family anguish marked by crashes both literal and figurative. She zips back and forth in time, describing both her mother’s decades in the system and her own long arc of anguish and recovery—and touching on her daughter’s story as well.

The multigenerational saga begins in 1959, with her mother’s hospitalization for depression, and cycles through a decades-long ordeal that led to 37 ECT sessions (with minimal anesthesia) and psych drug upon psych drug upon psych drug. As a kid, Bracken had questions (where’s mom? why are the grownups whispering?); as an adult, she found answers in 30 years’ worth of medical documents meticulously preserved by her father.

The revelations were many. A full list of Helen Dempsey’s meds in the appendix includes barbiturates. Amphetamines. Tranquilizers. Antidepressants. The benzodiazepine Dalmane. The anticonvulsant Dilantin. Beyond all those medications and ECT, Dempsey also received some talk therapy—“but I’m not sure how helpful it was for my mother to talk with her male psychiatrists,” Bracken writes, “especially given the medical establishment and cultural attitudes toward women at the time.”

You can read the rest of Amy’s review here, and check out the other books featured this month as well.

So, what’s your new book about?

You may have seen my blog post announcing my new book, Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Healing. Now you’d like to know what the book is about before you consider reading it. Here are a few details:

Crash is about a little girl whose mother disappeared, and no one would tell her where she’d gone.

Ann's first day of school
Ann’s first day of school

Crash is about a woman who did everything her doctors told her, and yet she never got well.

Crash is about the woman’s daughter who vowed she’d never be like her mother only to find herself trapped in a similar cycle of overmedication, numerous doctors, and intractable physical and emotional pain.

Crash is a story of one woman’s determination and optimism when it seemed like all of her traditional remedies and supports had failed her.

When all of the other remedies had failed, I looked for another explanation for my pain.

Because I have a deep belief in many forms of healing, I began to embrace a similar path to the one that mythologist and author Michale Meade advocates. Here’s what he as to say about facing your darkness (depression and pain) and healing:

“Wholeness and unity are what all healing seeks, but a genuine transformation requires a descent to the underworld of the soul. There we find that our woundedness is not a static state, but rather a dynamic condition through which we incarnate more fully. In going through the wound the greater self within us is revealed.”

Register here for the book launch on October 13th, 7pm ET on Zoom. Hope to see you there!

Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery

I’m pleased to announce that my memoir, Crash,is available for purchase on the following platforms: BookshopAmazon, and Barnes & Noble, &  Ebook Versions,  as well as here on my website.  Putting this book together was like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle—fitting experiences together with research helped me to develop a deeper understanding of what happened to me when I sought help for a severe depression and chronic migraine. Contrary to many of the upbeat and happy images you see in the commercials for antidepressants, my journey was one of trying one drug after another, yet never finding relief. The research I did for the book revealed that I was far from alone in that experience–only about 15% of the people who take antidepressants experience improvement greater than what’s accounted for beyond the placebo effect. 

Crash Cover
Book cover

Part of the reason I’m so interested in the topic is because I grew up in a home with a mother who suffered from chronic, unremitting depression for nearly 40 years.  Mom did everything the doctors told her, yet she could never escape the heavy pall of darkness. I kept wondering: Why could I recover and Mom couldn’t? I found the answers buried in an old folder in my sister’s attic. Crash braids my story with my mother’s to explore her journey using Dad’s detailed records from 30 years of her care, interwoven with research and vignettes from my past. 

All through my illnesses, “I’ll never be like my mother,” was my fervent mantra. I vowed to escape her fate despite year after year of unsuccessful treatments with numerous drugs and many rounds of electroconvulsive therapy. Crash is the story of what I learned about treating depression and chronic pain and the steps I took to finally recover. My memoir serves as a missive to women struggling to heal, carve their own path, and demand better care.

Here’s what some noted people in the field of psychiatric reform had to say about Crash

“Ann Bracken’s evocative memoir powerfully tells of how psychiatry’s diagnoses and treatments can lead to loss, illness, and despair, and how escaping from that paradigm of care can be a starting point for a full and robust recovery.”

            ~Robert Whitaker, Author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Ann Bracken artfully braids her path out of chronic pain and major depression, while questioning the system designed to help her, and reaching back into her mother’s history to find a way to help her as well. Bracken gives us permission to ask questions about our current mental health treatment; read and educate ourselves on the risks, benefits, and alternatives to psychiatry’s status quo; and above all, not to quit until we find our own path to a healed life.”

~Angela Peacock, MSW, mental health advocate and featured in award-winning documentary, Medicating Normal

“A fascinating memoir of two generations of medical and psychiatric mismanagement and suffering, and how one brave woman figured out what was happening and successfully took control of her health and well being… and prevented a third generation from following the same path.” 

~Stuart Shipko, MD, author of Surviving Panic Disorder and Xanax Withdrawal

A Conversation About Poetry

Grace Cavalieri, Maryland’s Poet Laureate, interviewed me for her long-running radio podcast called The Poet and the Poem. Sharing the voices of Maryland’s poets is one of Grace’s goals for her work as our state’s laureate. I’ve known Grace for over ten years and feel blessed to call her a friend. Her generosity of spirit shies through in this broadcast where she kindly invited me to share my work.

The endless procession of time

An Evening of the Arts

before reading
Ann, Morna, and Brian chatting before the show

On January 10, 2020, Morna McNulty exhibited her collection of photos from deserted spots in and around Ellicott City, MD. I read from my three poetry collections, and my son, Brian Potts, accompanied me on a variety of percussion instruments. We had a great turnout! Everyone enjoyed the art, poetry, music, and refreshments. Here are a couple of photos from the event. Enjoy and hope to see you next time!

drummer
Brian Potts on the drums

Searching for a Way Out of Pain

In 2018, I participated in a Baltimore storytelling event called Stoop Stories, hosted by Jessica Henkin and Laura Wexler. At that event, all of us told a story about drugs: addiction, accidents, recreation, and recovery. Here’s a link to my story (at 11:54) where I talk about how a car accident saved my life.

Stoop Story with Twigg Harper and Ann Bracken

Upcoming Classes and Events

I have a few summer events scheduled as well as one for September. I’ll have more details and registration links once they are posted. Hope to see you in a class soon!

Thanks to everyone who came to the Roland Park reading. You were a great crowd, and I appreciate your support!

Hamilton Street Club, June 5, 2019, Baltimore  12pm-2pm
I will discuss and read poetry from my 2015 volume, The Altar of Innocence, which explores ideas associated with family secrets and trauma and the many ways a family is affected by the serious emotional struggles of other family members. Because I have training and wide experience in using poetry and the arts in healing, I  will also  discuss how poetry and journaling can be used to reach those who struggle with the all-too-common human experiences of severe emotional distress.

Currere Exchange: Conference in Oxford, Ohio  June 12-14, 2019
I’ll be presenting a proposal for an art installation exploring my mother’s journey to conquer her nearly 40 years of depression and anxiety. Using a variety of artifacts, including letters, prescription records, and insurance forms, I detail my mother’s journey and raise questions about the nature of depression and the current models of treatment.

Jump-start Your Creative Writing: East Columbia Library, September 11, 2019 1-2:30pm (registration details coming soon)
Do you have stories inside just begging to be told? Do lots of great ideas fill your imagination? Is there something you want to say but you don’t know where to begin?  Then this class is for you. Ann Bracken has published numerous essays, interviews and two books of poetry since she began her writing career. During this class, students will explore a variety of basic techniques to enhance any type of creative writing you want to pursue, including memoir, fiction, and poetry.  In this class, we’ll explore and practice using image and figurative language, specific and concrete details, and varying the pacing and rhythm of lines and sentences. All of these techniques can help to propel your writing from good to great.

Stoop Stories: On Drugs: Dependence, Destruction, and Salvation

I’m thrilled to be one of the storytellers for the upcoming Stoop Stories in Baltimore at the Senator Theater on April 19th at 8pm. I have a story to tell that will probably surprise many of you, and I want to tell it because I believe very much in the power of the mind-body connection. Come to the event on April 19th and hear some great stories of courage and triumph.

Thanks to Jessica Myles Henkin and Laura Wexler for their excellent coaching and support in our presentations.

Here’s a teaser for my story:

All Ann Bracken wanted was a life without pain.  A continuous migraine banged away in her head for seven years. The numerous hospitalizations failed.
Her doctor offered her one last drug: methadone.  But when Ann crashed her car twice after falling asleep, she rejected the methadone, the doctors, and the hospitals. She decided to heal herself. This story is an excerpt from Noncompliant,her memoir in search of a publisher.

More stories about the role of drugs and alcohol in my life can be found in my first poetry collection, The Altar of Innocence. 

Tickets and information: click here