May is Mental Health Awareness Month! We interviewed Laitie Montai, author of “Heart of Dragon” (the latest piece published on our Literary Magazine) and loyal member of our Discord Writer’s Haven to highlight authors with mental illnesses and to raise awareness of mental health issues in the creative world.
Mayra Pérez González: Thank you for joining us Laitie, and for allows us to talk to you for Mental Health Awareness Month. First of all, introduce yourself to our readers! Tell us a little about yourself.
Laitie Montai: Hi! Thank you for having me! I’m excited to talk about Mental Health Awareness Month with you today.
Hi, Readers! I’m Laitie. I’m 26 years old and live alone with my betta fish, Kahlo. It can get kinda lonely, here, haha! I’ve always been distracted from the real world, daydreaming about my own little worlds and adventures. It’s part of who I am, and I love sharing that part of me with anyone willing to read it.
Nice to meet you, Laitie!
It’s so great to meet you, too, Mayra!
Would you mind sharing a bit more about your experience with mental health illnesses?
I was diagnosed as ADD (now ADHD) before I started school. My brother has it and he’d experienced a lot of struggles with it. My ADHD was much more inattentive than hyperactive. I didn’t have much energy to go crazy with. But I would space out thinking about my stories all the time. Even when medicated, I struggled to pay attention to people.
Then near the end of college, a Big Bad happened to me and I literally woke up one morning without any motivation. I was diagnosed with depression that weekend and it’s been an ongoing fight for five years (until just recently! :D).
While treating my depression, one of my therapists suggested that I may have Asperger’s. I looked into it and realized that I just might. A lot of who I am and how I behave aligns with women with Asperger’s (Aspergirls). The more I communicate with these women, the more I feel like I do have it. However, diagnosis for this is expensive and hard and, for my life, inconsequential.
Personally, I’ve found that to be a common problem: a lot of mental illnesses go undiagnosed either for lack or resources or medical care or because individuals don’t feel comfortable seeking help.
How has it been for you, personally, to not be officially diagnosed with Asperger’s?
It’s been rough sometimes. I had a psychiatrist refuse to test me for it and I left the office in tears. I was thinking “So I’m just weird like this because I’m a freak?” It’s annoying to feel the need to clarify to people when I talk about it that I’m “self-diagnosed,” which is kind of a problem in itself. But it is a common issue that women and girls fly under the radar for Asperger’s. I’m quite high-functioning, too, which makes it harder.
I also noticed recently–when my depression was properly treated–that I’ve definitely always had depression. I always thought I was lazy. But now I have more energy than I could ever imagine. It bugs me that the psychiatrist that had to see me every month or so for my ADHD meds didn’t pick up on anything like that. But, again, I suppose I was pretty high-functioning.
That’s definitely upsetting.
What advice can you give to those who may be facing similar situations?
I know you’re in pain, and I know you can’t see the way out. But keep going. Keep trying medication and other treatments. Try ALL of them. Mix them up in different ways. Please.
And you don’t always need a diagnosis to cope. If you know you relate to someone, then you relate to them. You’re not a freak, and it’s not at all your fault that you’re “like this.” Any “like this.” Anything at all, it’s not your fault. Just don’t mix treatments up by yourself.
Like someone very close to me keeps reminding me, you are a warrior. We all are. So keep going.
Oh, thank you
Thank you for sharing that with us!
I was happy to! Thank you for having me
Let’s shift the focus a bit: how have you experienced mental health illnesses in regards to reading and/or writing?
Reading and writing will often get difficult when I’m struggling with mental illness. With depression, I would have no desire/motivation to do it. Even though it usually brings me joy. With ADHD, I’ll often be too off-the-walls and unfocused to pay attention to the book or writing. That makes things very frustrating because I’ll definitely WANT to read or write, but can’t focus. With Asperger’s I may have some sensory issues to deal with before getting ready to read and write. Like perhaps there’s an odd stench in the air, or my hands are too dry for me to feel comfortable touching the pages.
Mental illnesses, by their very definition, are not good. But, have you by chance come across any unintended positive effects of being a writer with mental illnesses?
There are a couple positives to my mental illnesses. First of all, they taught me that I am my mother’s daughter. By that, I mean that when I was growing up, I could tell just by looking at my mom that she was strong and amazing. I never thought I could be strong like her. But all these struggles I’m going through have taught me that I really am. That she did give me her strength, and I am the warrior my friend always calls me. I think we all are.
The mental illnesses have also greatly sparked my creativity. Depression and Asperger’s have given me a frame of reference for understanding people that I would never have otherwise. ADHD has given me the strong desire (or perhaps need) to daydream my stories and characters all the time. I’d have nothing if not for the creativity my ADHD gives me.
Wow! I’m tearing up!
Haha. Thank you.
Mental illness is definitely an emotional topic.
How do you think of yourself in regards to mental illnesses? Do you consider yourself a part of them or them a part of you? In other words, do you feel like they’re an essential part of who you are? Are they something you have or something you are?
It depends on the illness. Depression seems to be something I have, because this new treatment seems to take all the bad things away. But Asperger’s and ADHD are much more complicated. There have been studies that they aren’t really disorders or anything. Rather, they’re just results of the brain working differently from other people’s. While depression can be treated, ADHD and Asperger’s are more complicated to treat. Sure I can take a pill for ADHD, but that doesn’t stop my creativity. It doesn’t stop my ability to zone out if I want to and daydream. And it certainly doesn’t stop my ability to hyperfocus. ADHD and Asperger’s are a part of who I am. Depression I can do without.
Do you feel it’s important to raise awareness about mental illnesses? Have had experiences where they’re misrepresented?
It is super important. One time, I went to the website for Autism Speaks because I’d heard bad things about it and wanted to see for myself. Basically, the first thing I read on the site was “Autism is the worst thing that can happen to a family.” Well, let me just tell you I was not OK with that.
I can’t tell my employers or potential employers that I have depression, ADHD, or Asperger’s because they may find excuses to refuse to hire me or to let me go. This is not OK, because my issues are manageable in the workplace. I just need my employers and coworkers to work with me.
Things could have gone a lot easier in my life if my depression and/or Asperger’s were noticed before. I don’t want to say “if only” because I’m grateful for the strength my struggle gave me. But I’m not really OK with letting it happen to other people/children. So many children are missing out because they’re misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. They’re being made to feel incompetent and stupid. They’re feeling unworthy and unloved. And that needs to change.
Children that are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed with mental illnesses are feeling unworthy and unloved. And that needs to change.
Our magazine’s primary audience are readers and writers. As such, how would you suggest other writers and readers like yourself can raise awareness, both within or outside of reading and writing?
Talk about it. Never, ever be afraid to talk about it. Talk about yours. Ask your friends about it. Keep up with them and make them feel safe. Also, write about it. I have many characters with mental illness. Many probably also have high-functioning Asperger’s, since I don’t know any life without it.
Or you can blog. I have a blog, Broken Crayon Coloring, where I talk about my struggles and triumphs. I was told that it helped one person with their own struggles with depression. That was enough to show me that I’m making a difference. Even if it’s just in one person’s life, even if it’s just your own life, it’s worth it.
Very insightful! I will definitely check out your blog!
Thank you. I hope you like it!
How do you see yourself continuing your journey as a writer and as an individual with or in spite of mental illnesses?
I see myself continuing “normally” as one might say. Just your average writer doing her thing at her own pace. That’s something I’m working on learning. That everything in life happens at YOUR own pace. I hope to someday actually publish a book, have a family, etc. My mental illnesses are just a part of this life of mine that I’m working through.
Life is about the lessons you learn. I’ve learned a lot so far thanks to both my mental illnesses and tons of other factors in my existence. To me, they’re just another thing I have to work and learn with. But they won’t stop me from reaching my dreams anymore.
To me, mental illness is just another thing I have to work and learn with. But it won’t stop me from reaching my dreams anymore.
Is there anything you’d like to add or express?
I would just like to re-iterate that we are all warriors. Keep trying different treatments until you find what’s best for you. And it’ll never, ever be your fault. Thank you so much for having me today!
Thank you so much, Laitie, for sharing your insight and wisdom with us! We truly appreciate it! Thanks for joining us!
Of course! Thank you so much for having me!
Visit her blog, Broken Crayon, at www.brokencrayoncoloring.wordpress.com