Author Allison Kugel spent a decade conducting in-depth sit-down interviews with hundreds of celebrities, politicians and newsmakers. In her memoir, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record, she spills the stories behind the stories – secrets celebrities confided in her, who was difficult and who was down to earth, celebs’ personal struggles and more. In her revealing tome, Kugel also weaves in and out through her own struggles with extreme bouts of anxiety, panic attacks and OCD as she relates it to many of the celebrities who opened up to her about their own struggles. (Credit: Official Press Release)
I had the chance to talk with Allison about her new book, the stress of the entertainment industry, and her advice she has for everyone. Below is our thought-provoking and enlightening interview about her book, struggle with anxiety, interviews, and the way she is helping people everyday to cope with their problems.
What made you decide to share your story and write Journaling Fame?
Throughout my journalism career I knew that one day I would write a book about all of the celebrity interviews I’d done, and at the time it never even occurred to me to write about my anxiety disorder. For many years I had actually tried to conceal the anxiety and panic. My goal had always been to at some point chronicle my entertainment journalism career. Then in the summer of 2012 I experienced anxiety so severe that it rendered me nonfunctional and quite ill. It took a lot of work to heal and come back to center.
Part of that healing process was to begin journaling about the anxiety I had experienced and what it all meant. At that point I was faced with a quandary: do I write about my journey with anxiety and panic disorder, or do I write about my celebrity interviews which had been my original goal? I resolved not to worry about it and to just keep writing stream-of-consciousness, with faith that the answer would reveal itself in due time. I wrote like this on and off for a few years until I eventually began putting it into chapter form. That is when I realized that I could write about both and create a piece of work that wouldn’t necessarily be easily compartmentalized into a specific genre, but it would be honest and authentic and could really help people.
Have you had people come forward and tell you this book has helped them?
Yes! That has been the most amazing part of writing this book. I have had strangers, acquaintances and even friends I have known most of my life approach me and tell me that they have anxiety, panic attacks, depression, OCD or any of the above, and that they are so grateful to me for telling my story so openly. People have told me that it has made them feel less alone, and they can really relate.
As Journalists we’re told to report, get the interview, and really not have our feelings put in. As you write in the book it's a VERY stressful job. What's the advice you have for fellow media personalities dealing with bad anxiety and depression?
Well for me, my anxiety issues never really translated into being nervous or anxious about doing an interview. In fact, for me the work I did acted as something of an escape; a place I could go to where I could zero in on someone else’s story and forget my own. I still absolutely love communicating with others, listening, sharing advice and just learning about people. One thing I can say is, I was always keenly aware that anyone existing on this earth is no better or worse than me. We are all just human beings, and if anyone was really so much more elevated than I am they likely wouldn’t be here. They would be on some higher plane of existence somewhere. So therefore, anyone on earth is here to learn and to grow same as I am. So no matter who I was interviewing I rarely felt nervous or intimidated. I just felt curious.
What/who has been your favorite interview and why?
It is hard to pick just one because I gained so much from each interview. I can say that the people I interviewed who taught me the most were probably Anne Frank’s first cousin Buddy Elias, Russell Simmons, Deepak Chopra, Gloria Allred, Bret Michaels, Kristin Chenoweth, Jenna Jameson, Giuliana Rancic and Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and author John Gray – the guy who wrote Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. I know that’s a lot more than one, but one would be impossible! Haha
What's the best advice for people who want to start a site or a blog and don't know where to begin?
That’s a tough one because for me it was all very serendipitous how it happened. I had a friend who was starting a then fledgling online newswire. We were all just flying by the seat of our pants and taking crazy risks, because we had nothing to lose. But as time went on I did learn quite a bit. One thing I learned for example, is that hooking up with news syndicators like W.E.N.N., Flash News and people like that really gets your materials distributed and talked about far and wide, if it’s a good fit for them, that is. I also learned that you have to act like you have something before you actually have something. It was basically The Secret before The Secret came out.
Do you feel that having anxiety helped you succeed in your professional career and made you a better person?
I’ve been told time and again that people who have anxiety also tend to be very intelligent, creative, perfectionist and overachievers, and in my case it’s pretty accurate and it definitely helped with my career. But living with anxiety for most of my life has also made me a lot more compassionate and empathetic than I might have otherwise been, and it definitely helped with my career. I was able to form great connections with most everyone I interviewed because I really listened and they saw that I really understood where they were coming from.
What's next for you?
Right now I am focused on continuing to speak with people about my book, sharing my story and helping people through my story. I have been doing speaking engagements, book signings and getting the opportunity to connect with people face to face which has been very rewarding. I don’t know what is beyond that just yet.
Where can we follow you and where is this book sold?
You can follow me on Instagram @theallisonkugel. My book is sold on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Ebay and just about anywhere else books are sold online.
What's the best advice you can give to people suffering with what you suffered in your life? How do they get help?
After 42 years old, I have accrued many tools and techniques for dealing with anxiety and thriving with it, which I share a little bit throughout my book. First, it’s been important for me to recognize that this is no different from any other medical or health condition that needs looking after. At least for me, I have had to look at it that way. That means taking steps to keep myself healthy and balanced. Nutrition, positive visualization techniques, deep diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, exercise, sunshine… all these things are important for me.
I also recognize when it is time for what I call a “tune up” in talk therapy. I have found a lot of healing and inspiration in spirituality as well. I pray, I listen to my favorite sermons and I try to constantly be engaged in something bigger than myself. Whether it’s doing charity work, helping someone in need, doing something for my son, writing a book, pursuing a worthy hobby, or whatever that might be for someone else. I have found my happy place to be being silly with my son, reading a good book, playing with the dogs, riding horses, chipping golf balls (unless I hit my neighbor’s garage by accident!), long walks. Everyone has to find what works for them. It’s about pulling yourself out of time and space and creating lots of “now” moments.