Wednesday 14 July 2021

Millions Like Me: A Conversation with John Medl

Writer, poet, and mental health advocate John Medl hails from Ohio, USA. I chatted with him recently to discuss his life and work.

MB: Hello John, could you tell us a little about yourself?

JM: I’m an author and mental health advocate from Cincinnati, Ohio USA. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features in 2006, and I have general anxiety and panic attacks. I will be forty years old in October.

MB: When did you start writing?

JM: I’ve been writing since high school, but my first book wasn’t published until 2014. That first book was out of desperation. I didn’t know if I was going to survive. I wanted to tell my story in case anything happened to me.

MB: That’s a powerful motivation. How many books have you written?

JM: Five altogether. The first was Millions Like Me: My Struggle with Mental Illness, followed by Poems From a Bipolar Mind, The Last Day of July: 13 Years of Madness, The Entropy of Bipolar Disorder, and Mental Illness Is An Actual Illness. They are all available on Amazon in paperback, for Kindle, and as audiobooks.

MB: I listened to the audiobook previews and I have to say I was really impressed. How did they come about?

JM: Reading is difficult for me, and I jumped on the chance to produce audiobooks.

MB: You used the same reader for each book, I think?

JM: Yes, because she was so good. I didn’t know how a female voice would work, but I like it.

MB: Me too. I wonder if I could ask about your poetry. In our book, High Tide, Low Tide, we describe how Fran was inspired to write poetry for the very first time during a period of mania, shortly after we met in 2011. She wrote incessantly for months but her poetry stopped when she fell into depression. When she finally emerged she began writing again but the new poems were very different from her mania ones. Would you say the style of your poetry is influenced by the different phases of bipolar disorder and your mental health in general?

JM: Most of my poetry was written during mania when I felt more energetic and creative. However, some poems were written while I was more sedated. The poems were written both before and after I was diagnosed and medicated.

MB: Where can people hear more about your story?

JM: I’ve recorded podcast interviews on The Mark Howard Show, Screaming Chuy Show, and Tindel’s Razor talking about my books and my life.

MB: Fran and I have recorded a few podcasts and always enjoyed doing them. How did yours come about?

JM: Mark Howard saw that I was giving away free books in a writers’ group, and asked me to do a podcast interview with him. The other two podcast interviews were referrals from friends or colleagues.

MB: Are you on social media, if people would like to connect with you?

JM: I am on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I also run a Facebook page called Mental Health Awareness and Support.

MB: Thanks. I will include links for all these and your books of course. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any more books in the pipeline?

JM: I finished my fifth book a few months ago, so I’m enjoying a little free time now. It was a goal of mine to convert my books into audiobooks too, and I’ve accomplished that. I’ve started painting and cooking as hobbies because I was too involved with my advocacy work. I was getting burned out. To answer your question, I’m in a little bit of a limbo right now, but I don’t plan on writing any more books.

MB: If there was one thing you’d like to share with others about what it means to live with mental illness, what would it be?

JM: So much to say! It took me five books to say everything I wanted to. Having mental illness is difficult and a lot of work, but happiness and contentment are possible. There are going to be people who don’t believe you, or even believe in mental illness. People are going to judge you for taking medication. I think the most important thing is honesty. Be honest with health professionals and yourself. Sometimes, it takes a few attempts to get the correct medications. There’s no magic pill either. Mental illness can feel a lot like work sometimes. My doctor told me once that he was there to help me, not hurt me, and that comforted me.

MB: Thank you so much, John. It’s been great to chat with you. Good luck with all you do.

Book Excerpts

Excerpt from Millions Like Me: My Struggle with Mental Illness:

There are many purposes to this book. One is to educate and inform the reader of the disorders I have (and millions of others that are affected). Another is to help motivate and inspire those with mental illness. Lastly, I want the reader to try and see what mental illness looks like from someone who suffers from it. There are many people with no experience in these matters, and it is hard to convince some that mental illness is even an illness at all. Some people think you can will your way out of it either through diet and exercise, or positive thinking, prayer, or whatever “cure” they think there is. Some people believe mental illness affects the weak-minded. Mental illness affects people at all levels of intelligence.

There are those that I could educate until I am blue in the face, but they will not be convinced otherwise. A friend described it as there being two types of people: the receptive and the non-receptive. As someone with mental illness, it’s important to know the difference and focus on the ones who will be receptive. They could be receptive to a variety of things; my symptoms and feelings for example. Just like any belief really. Like politics or religion. I think this will end up being therapeutic for me also. I use humor a lot, even though this book isn’t supposed to be humorous exactly.

Excerpt from Poems From a Bipolar Mind:

There Is Hope

I lose my mind from time to time But I always seem to find it I sometimes get excited about the future But my past looms right behind it.

Pain that pity and recovery can’t resolve An assortment of memories involved And plans that never blossomed.

But if anyone thinks for one second I will give up my hopes and dreams Just to spite the daily screams. There’s just some things I can’t repress I try to give my all and nothing less.

When I started to come out of “the fog” of the sedatives, I was feeling hopeful because my life was starting to come back together again. I want everyone to know that there is life beyond mental illness, and that “there is hope”.


John Medl’s books are available on Amazon in print, for Kindle, and as audiobooks.

Millions Like Me: My Struggle with Mental Illness (2014)

Amazon link

This is my life story. This is what mental illness looks like. This is how it breathes. A real-life account of a man that is going through mental illness from the state of Ohio.

Poems From a Bipolar Mind (2017)

Amazon link

This book is a follow-up to “Millions Like Me: My Struggle with Mental Illness”. It is a collection of poems from someone who suffers from mental illness.

The Last Day of July: 13 Years of Madness (2019)

Amazon link

This is a journal detailing what it’s like to live with mental illness. Everyone is different, but this is how I experience mental illness every day.

The Entropy of Bipolar Disorder (2020)

Amazon link

This book is a collection of journal entries and social media posts related to mental illness in general and bipolar disorder specifically.

Mental Illness Is An Actual Illness (2021)

Amazon link

This book gives more insight into the total package that mental illness brings, from physical to mental ailments. It’s a collection of thoughts and philosophy from someone who suffers from mental illness.

Podcast Interviews

The Mark Howard Show (55 mins)

Screaming Chuy Show (52 mins)

Tindel’s Razor (53 mins)

Social Media

You can find John Medl on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. His Facebook page is Mental Health Awareness and Support.

Photo credit: Barbara McGraw.


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