Angela Kamugasa Nsimbi, is an award-winning journalist, mental health activist, mindset Coach, Speaker, Worshipper, entrepreneur, a mother of 5 lovely children and wife. She and her family live in Uganda, East Africa.
She is a psychiatric survivor and Co-founder of a non-profit organization; My Story Initiative Ltd whose objective is to advocate for rights and empower people with psychosocial challenges.
She runs an online mental health awareness campaign, by also drawing experiences from the HEART2HEART CHAT support group she founded; https://www.facebook.com/mentalrecoverystory/
Angela is a Peer Support Worker and member of the Mental Health Innovation Network, Black Mental Health Matters, Promoting African Mental Health and Network of African Mental Health Practitioners.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
I have loved writing since my childhood. I always wrote down inspiring quotes from books l read and pinned them on my wall. I would even use calligraphy a creative and artistic way of writing to write these quotes because of my creative streak.
I love to create! With writing I just love the power of healing that oozes out. Writing is empowering. Writing is liberating. When l write, l am able to make my imprint in the literary world without the restriction of conforming.
Writing is for posterity that is what l love most about it! My literary works will outlive me; through it I will be able to influence generations!
The most frustrating part is when I do not feel inspired to write. I cannot write unless am inspired.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My book was written after instruction while in my prayer closet, 5 years ago. I am a woman of faith. I wrote it 4years later during the COVID19 pandemic and published my first book this year in April 2021. My book; BREAKING FREE; I am not bipolar a journey of hope, healing and restoration, like the title spells out is about my bipolar recovery journey. It is about the uncertainty a mental disorder brings in one’s life. I had to grope in the dark through the pit of depression twice when I had major episodes that left me drained and confused. Through my experience, I labor to educate masses about the harsh reality of mental illness and how it can damage one’s identity! The need for families and spouses and the rest of the community to be loving and compassionate is my call to action; for governments not just in my country but the globe to make mental health a priority through budgetary allocation so that many are supported to live purposefully.
But it is not all gloom. I got my epiphany when bipolar affective disorder came knocking at my door! I broke through the ceiling of fear and limitation as l discovered my true worth and potential by reading the bible. My favorite verse during my crisis; was Psalm 139:14 for l am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful l know that full well. I started to bloom, glow and grow! Church and family were pivotal in offering me support!!
I am a mother to 5 awesome children, which is a role that l cherish a lot. I am also a wife, mental health activist, journalist, mindset coach and author! I am a Founder of Heart2Heart Chat Mental Health Support, a group that empowers members through sharing our experiences. It comprises of caregivers, peers (people with mental health challenges and those with lived experience) and medical professionals.
I am a Co-founder of My Story Initiative a nonprofit organization that empowers and advocates for people with psychosocial disabilities. I wear many hats as a; Human Rights Defender, l sit, on our local advisory board UPSIDES an EU funded project that is developing the concept of peer support in the recovery of people who are severely mentally ill at Butabika Hospital National Referral hospital in Uganda and been a three-time WEGO Finalist Judge (2019-2021).
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
I drew my inspiration from my life experience after being diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder. I broke the silence surrounding mental health challenges because I desire to reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding it. I also desire for people to be comfortable to speak up and seek help. By sharing my story l desire for it to be relatable and transforming! Weaving the good, the bad and the ugly profoundly skillfully in words, I immerse myself into my writing to give hope to the hopeless!!
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
Sometimes it is on the spur of the moment. Other times, I plan at least thrice a week for my social media platforms where l also draw inspiration for new projects depending on the mental health conversation on social media.
Sure, I have outlined two books now. One is about other people’s mental health stories. This is because l am in a space where l have the privilege of hearing firsthand from caregivers and people with mental health challenges share from the heart on the platform of Heart2Heart chat. Another book is a devotional designed for women to know their true worth and identity through the eyes of God. I convey mental health through the pages of the bible in this devotional project.
It takes me a year to finish a book. My current project as l earlier mentioned is to share the rich mental health experiences of caregivers and peers. I am also working on a mental health devotional.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
A woman of substance authored by Barbara Taylor Bradford. The main character Emma Harte was so resilient that she never gave up on her dreams regardless of the challenges that she faced. She dared to dream big and went on to become a millionaire of her time and she was able to take her place at the table of influence no longer was she the victim!
One of my favorite authors is Esther Fleece who authored ‘No more faking fine’. She talks about her emotional struggles growing up and the challenges of being raised by separated parents. She also narrates her dilemma of having a mentally ill father.
The book l am currently reading is ‘Becoming a Vessel of Honour’ by Rebecca Brown. It powerful portrays what it takes to live an upright life! It is deep!
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
I am a nominee for African Christian Authors Book Award program 2021 first Edition. At the gala event my book cover design came in the 6th of the 12 finalists out of the 74books that featured.
In 2018, l was given an award of appreciation by the African Center of Policy for covering issues of disability positively in the media.
About my plans for the next 5years, l intends to create a space where information on mental health stories of people that l represent are told to reduce stigma and discrimination.
I want to normalize the mental health conversation by sharing more experiences through my writing to create awareness around the subject which consequently propels communities and governments to action. With these documented experiences of several success stories will also convey the message of hope if we all position ourselves to support the mental health cause.
I am committed to ministering healing and encouragement. I live to share the power of healing of minds to enrich young people and build strong families.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
In the earlier years of my journalism career, it was tough handling the rejection. When an editor told me to repeat an article more than twice, it was discouraging but it also gave me resilience to perfect my writing skills. It was tough when some articles never saw the light of day, but l kept writing.
When it came to writing my book, as a self-published author, I did not have to face the hurdles one has to deal with in the traditional publishing space.
Navigating self-publishing means that you must be ready to work it as an author. I have found that it is not enough to get the book published, in fact the work has just begun!! There is need to market the book, develop a book program as well so that you develop a sustainable business concept that makes the book relevant. This is one of the ways of keeping your book constantly in the face of people.
It is key to remain open to positive criticism this helped me improve content and structural development of the book. Thankfully with self-publishing unlike traditional publishing one does not need to be tied down on how to use their book, you are your own boss and you set the rules.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
It is an amazing experience. It is work! I have taken good advantage of my journalist networks by keeping the mental health conversation in the public domain which has also enabled me keep referring to my book. To attract the corporate people to my book, l had a photo shoot of myself, my book and family. This has been one of my best investments because these are pictures l use for speaking engagements when there is need to design flyers to market the talks.
Recently, l completed a Master Class where l used plenty of my pictures for my assignments which also enabled me to market my book among the participants.
Being an author has opened doors for me with people paying more attention to what l have to say and offer. For instance, recently I was a nominee for a book program award, this has been a great opportunity to market my book this year. Since the program attracts several publishers and authors, it has been easier to gain more visibility for my book through book tours in this book program.
Under this book program it has enabled me to have a fruitful relationship with the organizers CLC Kenya. Now, my book is being availed on different platforms to increase my scope of reach. It is an added advantage of having a page of my mental health awareness campaign has boosted promoting of my book. https://www.facebook.com/mentalrecoverystory/
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
I actually, enjoy reading my own work. I put my heart into this so reading it back to myself helps me know and understand what l need to include in my second edition. I feel the emotions as well, because l tried to be as authentic as l possibly could.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
What is a late start? I started writing published work as a journalist in my early 20s. I have written my first book in my 40s. A great book can happen any time as long as it is offering the current generation solutions it is welcome whenever it comes! I believe there is a season for certain things, and it is not the same for everyone. What is important is to continue being relevant till we leave the world’s stage. For instance, novelist Barbara Cartland published 728books for over a period of 76years. She died at 98!
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
God has called me in the healing ministry to bind up the broken hearted! With my purpose in this line, my writing is actually authentic! I do my best to share my story without masks!! I dare to be vulnerable! Mental health crisis is not an easy talk about let alone to write about given the stigma! Those walking the journey of mental health challenges will see through this façade!
So, l, write, to be heard! I write to change the narrative of what the world thinks l ought to be or for that matter anyone who has suffered or is suffering a mental health challenge! I write to break mental chains with hope of reducing stigma and discrimination of people with psychosocial disabilities. I write to heal! I write to give hope! I write to encourage!