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About 'Climbing out of Darkness'

This Q and A was prepared in advance of an interview with Fresh Hope founder Brad Hoefs, about the new book Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness by Mike Jacquart (with Marina London LCSW). Since the content in the actual Q and A upcoming podcast, differed greatly, here is an alternate version of that conversation.

What made you decide to write this book?

Michelle Marez’s 2021 memoir book, Blue Eyes Brown, which I had the privilege of helping edit. Michelle did an awesome job discussing specific names, places, and abuse and neglect experiences in her life. Later, I was told that a male perspective on this subject matter was sorely lacking and I was encouraged to pursue my own story.

Who was your biggest inspiration in writing this book?

Probably my late friend, who took his life more than a decade ago. Like me, he had a lot of trouble keeping jobs, areas that I am sure, like me, were due to his mental health challenges. Like me, he was taking the problems with him from job to job, so after initial success in the workplace, the issues were bound to rear their ugly head again. I could definitely relate. But unlike me, his story did not end well. He had a bad reaction to the medication he was prescribed, and some other close friends felt, if it had not been for that, he would still be with us. While there is no doubt the unfortunate reaction played a role in his completing suicide, in understanding the complexities involved in mental illness more than my friends, I’ve never been convinced that would be the case. But it’s a moot point, and like them, I sure wish he was still around.

Where did you get the idea for the title?

Probably from Gary Mitchem, my McFarland Packers book editor. I originally liked Pastor Brad’s “monster” analogies in his Fresh Hope book but incorporating that into a title could make it look too much like a horror novel, I was told. I think it was Gary who gave me the idea. We were going to call it Climbing out of the darkness, but there are a number of titles with that same basic name. Plus, I was reminded that I made this “climbing out” journey on more than one occasion, and to say “out of the” made it sound like it only happened once.

What was the most enjoyable part about writing this book?

Probably reliving some good memories, including some things I had not thought of in quite some time. Also, awareness of just far I’ve come, and the numerous people and resources that have played a part in my recovery. My faith in God. EAPs. Fresh Hope. Friends. Even music.

What was the hardest part about writing the book?

Having to relive some bad memories from my past. They were not easy to share and made me depressed. Confidentiality/anonymity required some real thought, too. I asked a few former employers to review some specific parts of the book, to make sure they would be okay with what ended up in print.

How long did it take to write it?

About a year, longer than my first two books. I had been busy promoting my second book, Green Bay’s Greatest, so I went at this writing project a little at a time. I had to take about a month and a half off from writing in summer 2022 when I was having severe arm and shoulder pain.

In researching and writing the book, what are some things you learned or were reminded of regarding mental health?

Just how little was known about the effect of emotional abuse on one’s health when I was growing up. Today, schools have anti-bullying campaigns. I don’t remember this at all when I was a kid. Second, I was only vaguely aware how much men, in particular, resist counseling and medication. I did not realize this was true to that extent.

What is the number one takeaway you hope readers will get after reading this book?

The awareness of the impact that mental health has, good or bad, on everyday life. And in some cases, like me, the effect it can have throughout one’s life (as opposed to an isolated incident).

Watch for the upcoming podcast about Mike’s book, developed and distributed by Fresh Hope for Mental Health as well as other upcoming blog posts and podcasts about mental health for men by Fresh Hope for Mental Health.

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