Interview with Stephanie Schroeder

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Stephanie Schroeder is a successful writer, a law school graduate and LGBT activist. She's also someone who suffers from depression and is a survivor of lesbian domestic violence. Stephanie decided to write her story because like coming out for LGBT people, she believes coming out about depression and domestic violence will help others who may be in similar situations. She wants others to know that they are not alone and there are resources available to help.

In fact, she lists a lot of those resources in the back of her book. Stephanie spoke to us about her memoir Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide:

Lesbian Life: First of all, thanks for writing this book. I’ve been a fan of your writing here on About.com and other places, but I had no idea that you suffered from depression and that you’d attempted suicide three times. What was your reason for writing Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide?

Stephanie Schroeder: First, I needed to tell my story. Not because it’s exceptional, but because it is all too common, and as a writer with a public presence I had the platform and resources to do so. Unfortunately, it’s the norm for people suffering with mental illness to remain silent about their psychological and emotional pain. It’s the norm not to reach out for help and also to be stigmatized by others when we do – including by those who purport to love and care about us. Stomping on the stigma was the underlying reason, but my book is a damn good read, too.

You wrote this story so others could learn from it. What do you hope they’ll learn?

I wanted people to know they can speak out, that their voices matter more than they know—not only for them, but for all of us.

I heard from a nurse who read my book about a young gay man who read my book, as she suggested. He had been refusing treatment, both psychotherapy and medication because his boyfriend didn’t want him to get involved with either. After reading my book, the young man decided to get into treatment, he said he saw himself in my situation and understood that it was not his illness that was holding him back, but rather his relationship.

One of the things that was amazing to me is how you were able to keep working despite all the struggles you were going through. Do you think there’s a misconception about people with mental illness and what they can accomplish?

I was a functioning depressive. There are loads of us in the workforce. Yes, there is a huge misconception about depression. It's the sad clown syndrome--put a plastic smile on and just get through it all the while pretending to be happy. The concept of presenteeism, of employees being present physically, but absent mentally, is something corporate America is trying to solve with the growing epidemic of employee depression. I think it's a bogus problem to "solve" because why are we all doing jobs we mostly hate anyway in this corporate, capitalist production economy? Also, the link between creativity and mental illness, which is not scientifically proven, is I believe a major part of my makeup and a lot of others I know with mental illnesses. We can do a lot, many of us – not all, and that is not a judgment. Maybe we do things in a different manner that others do. And there is nothing wrong with that, though our society will tell you there is something very wrong when you don’t conform. But that is the lie.

In addition to dealing with mental health issues, you also talk frankly about your involvement in an abusive relationship. I know there are probably a lot of people out there reading your book who can relate to that part of your story. What do you want lesbians in abusive relationships to take away from your book?

Women can be violent. Lesbians can be violent. Toward each other. Know it, watch for it, look for red flags before getting entrenched in a relationship. Because it usually begins slowly, with psychological and emotional abuse – belittling, picking, undermining and constant criticism. Intimate partner violence often escalates to total isolation and, sometimes, physical abuse.

Stephanie, you’re never one to shy away from difficult topics. For example, you have an essay in Here Come the Brides, where most people are celebrating same-sex marriage, you’re questioning why in the world gays would want such a thing. Have you gotten any backlash from your memoir or your other writings?

Not really. Actually, I receive a lot of messages on Facebook from people who see themselves in my book, as a survivor of domestic violence or someone with a mental illness, or loving someone with such an illness, or just as someone who is different and doesn’t believe in upholding the status quo when it is so damn messed up. In terms of Here Come the Brides, the same thing has happened. People tell me privately what they won’t say publically: that they really don’t believe in the institution of marriage. They might want the option, but only to reject it. And, they also believe the fight for same-sex marriage is a huge drain on the support and fight for issues of affordable of healthcare and housing for all people. And to me, those two particular issues are far more pressing.

If someone is suffering from depression and feels suicidal, what do you recommend?

Tell someone. Call a friend to talk you through it and then make an appointment to see a therapist or psychiatrist. You can bring your friend, partner or someone else you trust. If you don't have anyone, and a lot of people don't because they are isolated by their illness, please go to your local psychiatric emergency room to get assistance. Just please ask for help—you really are not alone!
For more about Stephanie Schroeder and her memoir, visit Beautifulwreck.com or compare prices for Beautiful Wreck.
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