Matthew Heneghan is the author of A Medic’s Mind, his memoirs of working as a medic with both the armed forces and in a civilian capacity. His account of dealing with PTSD, family, alcoholism and more are vividly and candidly explored in his debut publication. At the time of this writing, A Medic’s Mind is on “The Very Best!” Book Awards 2020 longlist for Best First Book (Non-Fiction).
Miramichi Reader: Tell us a bit about your background, education, employment, etc.
Sure! I moved to Canada with my family from the U.K. when I was just 5. I grew up in a small town within the interior B.C., a truly breathtaking place to spend one’s formative years.
After high school, I joined the army as a medic and served for six years. Upon completion of my time in service, I released and became a civilian paramedic. I worked mostly out west in Alberta. But I moved to Toronto in 2014 and worked in the GTA as a medic until 2017—I stopped working once given a diagnosis of PTSD.
MR: Tell us about some of the books or authors or other people (such as teachers) that may have influenced you to become a writer.
My path to becoming a writer is a little atypical, really… I wouldn’t say that I was or have been influenced towards the direction of prose; it’s just something I have always done—whether on paper or in my mind.
That said, my favourite author of all time is none other than Charles Dickens! The way he writes and describes the worlds within his books are a literary splendour to feast upon. I love all his books, but A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol will always hold spots of adoration in my boyish heart.
MR: Do you have a favourite book, one that you like to revisit from time to time?
Oh yes! A Christmas Carol. Every year at the start of November, without fail nor tire. I have an indefatigable infatuation for that story.
MR: Your book, A Medic’s Mind is one of the best first-person accounts of PTSD affliction and alcoholism recovery that I’ve read, and a lot of it has to do not only with its openness but also your writing skills. Just how difficult was it for you to write A Medic’s Mind?
Thank you for saying that, it’s very kind. The process of writing the book was extremely difficult and laborious. Parts of it were nice, the lighter parts. I spend much of my days saturated by the sombre ruminations of a less than pleasant past; being able to recall some of the more lighthearted and fun times of my life and career was a nice respite from the norm.Being open and honest (even to a flaw) felt like the only to truly tell my story. None of us are perfect and sometimes it’s hard to admit that… but I did… on all 300 pages… I had to.
MR: Where has your book taken you since its publication? Did you foresee any of this?
The book and all that has followed has been a real trip. Book signings and radio interviews are all unique and fun for me. It is fascinating to me that people who come to the signings speak as if they know me and yet, we have never laid eyes on one another before… incredible stuff. Deeply humbling.
As for what I anticipated from the book release… nothing, really. This was kind of a selfish project that I used as a way of helping me put some things to rest, everything that has happened since release has been a pleasant surprise for me.
MR: You are also a podcaster. Tell us about it and the type of content you cover in each episode. What is its focus?
Yeah, I have a podcast by the same name: A Medic’s Mind. I suppose you could say the focus is just that: my mind. I generally read some of my blogs but I do so with an old-time radio-style flair. I have found that being able to control the pace, volume and content of my stories has given a sense of control over some of the more perfidious symptoms of my PTSD.
I would say that each episode is just an honest take on what I am feeling or experiencing during that moment or week.
MR: What are you working on now? Any plans for more writing?
Always more writing. I think I will write until the pen of life runs out… then I’ll just weave stories in the stars. I am hoping to publish another book (keeping that hush-hush for now).
MR: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I enjoy going for late-night walks along the pier and being by the water. Something soothing about the vastness of it all. I generally live in my head most of the time, so I am still relearning what “fun” is. It’s work in progress.