JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Agyei Ekundayo, author of Hindsight is 20/20: How an African American Girl Grows Up Mentally Ill and is Dead Last to Find Out
Hindsight is 20/20 is a twisted maze of undiagnosed mental illness, misdiagnosis and patient abuse. This novel is a sordid conundrum of generational dysfunction, self-sabotage, and in some cases, unbridled erotica.
What do you get when you mix ten doctors, thirteen prescriptions, and five psych wards? You become immersed in the complex mood swings of a volatile teenager that eventually spirals into the full on madness of a suicidal adult. Hindsight is 20/20 is a cogent analysis of a burdened healthcare systems’ many fractured components to the extent that it dismantles the lives of everyday people.
Readers will get a hawks’ eye glimpse into the daily struggles of life with mental illness, the crippling effects of early childhood trauma, transcribed notes from a transgender woman’s experience with hospital neglect and a hilarious series of romantic fails.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write Hindsight is 20/20?
Agyei Ekundayo: I wrote Hindsight is 20/20 out of frustration and anger. I got tired of being funneled from one broken system to the other. Therapists disagreed with one another and took out their incompetencies on my medical records.
I received seven diagnoses in one year. Insurance companies changed their minds from a sliding fee payment agreement to a zero payment agreement to exorbitant copays. I was seen at three different practices in four months and was basically a number in a bee line of other hopeless mentally ill people. Social Services also showed their true colors by limiting what special programs I could benefit from because I didn’t (insert italics) have a substance abuse problem. You’re basically too crazy to be trusted alone, not crazy enough to receive adequate care or not strung out enough to qualify for specialized treatment.
I don’t want anyone to have to endure my struggles, so I became an advocate. I educated myself on medication side effects, patient rights and how to challenge the system. This is what I try to teach to others. It hasn’t been easy, but well worth it.
JP: What sets Hindsight is 20/20 apart from other books in the same genre?
AE: Hindsight is 20/20 is a wealth of weighty information spoon fed to readers in big chunks. I not only tell my story, but I’ve inserted pages upon pages of medical records with no shortage of comedy to explain the jargon and drive my point home. (And just in case the doctors that I mentioned catch a sudden case of amnesia).
There are transcribed interviews with other mentally ill people of different demographics, so that the book doesn’t come off as an angry black woman’s rant. Readers will also enjoy a satirical crossword puzzle that I designed myself, fly on the wall emails printed directly from my Hotmail archives and a few poems and playlists for my fellow music junkies.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that lead to Hindsight is 20/20 getting out to the public?
AE: I find my niche with very targeted speaking engagements. Although Hindsight is 20/20 was written for any reader, it was really the clinicians and other members of the mental health community who shared their insight (and in a professors case, clout) who help this book take off. That’s a different kind of word of mouth.
I also designed catchy phrases/content sensitive T-shirts to act as my own billboard. Social media is also my stream of free advertising. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr almost daily posting my two cents, current events and shared stories from others in the fight. It’s all about awareness.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish Hindsight is 20/20?
AE: I once heard an author refer to the writing process as self-imposed lunacy. Truer words have never been spoken. I gave birth to a 500 page baby that I carried for two years and pushed through my backside, spine first.
None of this was easy. I had to petition two states for my sealed medical records. I spent hundreds of hours consulting with four therapists to tell tell a story and not just state facts. I even suffered a four-month procrastination spell due to a particularly debilitating flashback and subsequent panic attack.
I persevered, however. I lost count at revision number eight and still would like to do another overhaul, to be honest, but… I’m tired, my editor is exhausted and I think the customer service reps at CreateSpace hate me.
JP: What’s next for Agyei Ekundayo?
AE: I don’t know what’s next. It’s highly probable that I may never write another book. For now, I’d like to spend the next couple of years trying to get Hindsight is 20/20 in the hands of a major publisher. I fought and sweated way too hard for things to end any other way.