Ann Bracken has published three poetry collections, The Altar of Innocence, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom, Once You’re Inside: Poetry Exploring Incarceration, and a memoir entitled Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery (Charing Cross Press, 2022). She serves as a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review and co-facilitates the Wilde Readings Poetry Series in Columbia, Maryland, and she’s a frequent contributor to Mad in America’s family section. She volunteers as a correspondent for the Justice Arts Coalition, exchanging letters with incarcerated people to foster their use of the arts. Her poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, her work has been featured on Best American Poetry, and she’s been a guest on Grace Cavalieri’s The Poet and The Poem radio show. Her advocacy work promotes using the arts to foster paradigm change in the areas of emotional wellness, education, and prison abolition.
This interview focuses on Once You're Inside as well as Crash: A Memoir of Overmedication and Recovery. Crash is the story of Helen Dempsey and her daughter Ann who both fall victim to the same regimen of overmedication at the hands of the mental health system. Helen struggles with intractable depression and initially turns to self-medication with alcohol, but finds herself unable to recover despite numerous drugs, hospitalizations, and electroconvulsive therapy. Ann vows to build a different life for herself, but eventually descends into the pain of a mysterious migraine and intractable darkness lasting for many years. She was severely overmedicated with opioids and psychiatric drugs and then Methadone, DHE-45 injections, Migrant nasal spray (for headaches) and injecribele Demerol (for really bad days) once she was off opiates. To keep her out of depression (maintenance), she was prescribed Wellbutrin, Elavil, Topamax, and Valium; Ann crashes her car twice. It took her 4 months of energy healing to discontinue the pain meds and two years later, about a year to get off of psych drugs. Because traditional medical treatments have failed her, she challenges her doctors' advice and discovers ways to heal the source of her physical and emotional pain without drugs. The question of why her mother never got well continues to haunt her long after her mother's death until she finds the missing puzzle pieces she'd searched for all her life stashed in a dusty box in her sister's attic.
You can find more about Ann as well as her books and other writings here.
You can learn more about Megan Wildhood at meganwildhood.com.