by Grant J Everett
We all have tales to tell. Discussing his novelette with Panorama, Steve Anthony tells how he ran afoul of the justice system after a mental health flare up, and discovered what it’s like to be locked away. After some encouragement, Steve put his experiences down on paper so readers could take a peek into a world that many people would know very little about.
PANORAMA: How long did it take for you to write “A Moment of Insanity: My Battle with Mental Illness”?
STEVE: It took 8 years. I started writing it in jail in 2008 on the suggestion of a cellmate, and I completed the final draft in 2016.
Did you write the manuscript all on your own, or did you have help?
I wrote the whole manuscript myself, but my mother helped me to form it into five letters to make it more readable. I thought that dividing it this way would make it more interesting and easy to read.
What will a reader get out of it?
The reassurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you persist with treatment.
Do you think that writing down your experiences was helpful to your recovery?
It was very beneficial to be able to look back and see where I went wrong. As a result of my experiences, I closely evaluate every decision I make. I am learning from my mistakes.
Have you always had an interest in creative writing?
I have been writing for most of my life. I penned a lot of nonfiction about religious concepts (as I grew up in a very religious environment) but my first major attempt at writing something big was a guitar tuition book at 17.
Are you planning on more writing?
I would like to do some more writing, and I have been working on some ideas for a while now. No spoilers!
You mentioned using a lot of marijuana before all of this happened. Do you believe that this contributed to your mental health issues?
From a young age I had grandiose ideas and delusions, especially religious delusions, that seemed to get greatly exacerbated by the marijuana. I don’t think pot was the cause, but it certainly didn’t help.
I was on the run for seven weeks, five weeks in a cave and two weeks in a hospital. When I was in the cave I had no food and nothing but dirty, algae-contaminated water to drink. I actually felt quite peaceful and free when I was on the run, and because of my illness (mania) I was unafraid of the consequences.
How long were you in jail?
Six months on remand. Jail was an extremely traumatic experience, but it was the only thing that could have woken me up to the impact of my insane behaviour.
Did jail provide you with a chance to recover?
My recovery truly began in jail, because being in there finally made me realise that I’d made a lot of wrong choices, and I knew I had to change.
… I didn’t become a Forensic patient until after jail, so I couldn’t go to the Malabar unit (see March 2017 Panorama -Ed). I did spend some time in Silverwater jail and Parklea jail, though.
I am still a Forensic (patient). I’m getting closer to Unconditional (Release, from the Forensic system), but I will have to prove for a long period of time that I can stay well and function in the community. It is very difficult to get free from the system once you are a forensic patient. They don’t hand out Unconditional (Release) to anybody!
I had a major setback when I stopped taking medication in 2012 and ended up in hospital. I’ve been back in the community without issue ever since. Hopefully I’ll never need to go back.
What has helped your recovery?
My family has been absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t have survived jail without their support. The other big factor was getting on the right medication….
What gets you out of bed? Work, study, seeing people?
I visit family and friends regularly, and I work part time. The happy life I have with my wife and family, and wanting to be able to make a nice life for my wife and her daughter, are what keeps me going. As weight gain is one of the side effects of my medication, I also try to exercise as much as possible.
Would you say that you’ve rebuilt your life, or do you still have a way to go?
I’m remarried, I have a nice home and a good relationship with my family and friends, so I would say that I am fully recovered. However, I may never be as capable as I was before the illness set in.
Do you have any advice for our readers?
Being very unwell may feel euphoric at times, but it is unsustainable and will only end up destroying your life and loved ones. Doing all you can to get well is the only way to have any kind of future, because when you are unwell nothing is real or true.
Is there something you wished you’d known before all of this happened?
I wish I hadn’t taken certain parts of the Bible literally, and that God was speaking to me. I wish I knew they were just voices in my head that I had invented.
How is your book available?
It is available as an ebook at the moment, but I can get hard copies at any time if there is a demand.