Throwing the book at stigma

Hey y'all. I've been here before, and loved it so much I've persuaded Scott to let me come back. Not to muck around this time, though - I have something important to share.   Graffiti Hair fb   Mental illness. It seems to be one of those awkward topics still - you know, one of the ones where there areΒ  overtones (and undertones (and hiding-out-in-the-middle-of-the-blatantly-obvious tones))), which suggest that just maybe, even in talking about it, you run the risk of maybekindasorta identifying with it, publicly. It becomes something which people either feel they need to brazen out, a bit defensively, or else steer clear of altogether lest they become associated (or worse, implicated) with it. And that's a situation which needs more change.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think the circumstances are static or insurmountable – things are changing for the better, but slowly and ponderously, and when you think of the number of lives lost each year for reasons associated with mental illness, it becomes starkly apparent that slow and ponderous change is something that a portion of society just doesn’t have time for.

And yet…we know that the best way to support and encourage people with mental health problems is to include them, accept them, engage with them and be present for them…but we’re not all superheroes, and we don’t all have unlimited amounts of time to spend on people who are, frankly, quite often very complex and difficult to deal with.

Mental illness can be an intensely isolating experience, both for the person who has it, and for the people around them. In my own encounters with it (both from within the grips of it, and from the position of trying to support other people as they grapple with their conditions) I’ve observed that feelings of desperate loneliness and aloneness can combine with feelings of low self-worth, and convince the sufferer that their friends-and-relations, their acquaintances and colleagues, and indeed the world at large, are better off without them.

Sometimes the lie is understood to be such, but even with understanding, the feelings are rarely mitigated, and it takes time and effort and huge support before an even keel can be reached again (assuming that’s even an achievable outcome). Often, in order to ‘protect’ those closest to them, the sufferer will actively push them away and reject them, adopting this as an effective measure to loosen the chords of friendship.

In those times, it’s incredibly frustrating to have your attempts at connection consistently rebuffed, blocked, and sometimes just ignored. Finding a way in can be a nightmare, and quite often, there just isn’t the time or energy to invest into that kind of interaction – life goes on beyond the mentally-ill person’s condition, and houses need cleaning, children and spouses need feeding and money needs earning.

Fortunately there are an increasing number of resources to aid connection.

One I stumbled across recently was an up-and-coming book – Dear Stephanie – which chronicles the life and times of one Paige Preston: a fiercely intelligent, beautiful lady of leisure, with an augmented body, as many hook-ups as she chooses to pursue, and a proclivity for cocaine (it’s NOT a habit). She’s also a tortured soul whose cripplingly low self-esteem, depression and determination to push people away result in her trying to take her own life.

This is a book which describes, in agonising detail, some of the very darkest thoughts of mental illness, as well as the toll it can take on the person trying to live with it and carry on as if everything was fine.

It also makes you care about Paige, and the outcomes for her (believe me – once you’ve gotten over your shock at how outrageous she is at the start of the book, you begin to see a vulnerable, beautiful person below the mask, and gently as a feather-kiss, you fall for her and start to empathise), and most importantly, it demonstrates that ANYONE can have mental health problems. Anyone.

For the sufferer, that’s HUGE, because they know that not only are they not alone, they are SO not alone that someone like them has broken through the taboos and made it into new literature as the protagonist.

For the supporter, it’s HUGE because it might just prove to be a way in; after all – books are great escapism, and this tale, compellingly told by Mandi Castle, has the potential to serve as an arena for engagement and frank communication.

For the bystander it matters because it normalises mental illness and brings it into the mainstream. It helps to destigmatise it and make it a safer topic to talk about (especially in the context of a smartly-written and hella sexy, hot-off-the-press piece of literature), which might mean that when they encounter someone with a mental illness, they react with compassion rather than anxiety, and engagement rather than fear.

Those connections, once made, might prove the difference between someone feeling so terrible and alone that they try to kill themselves, because believe me, when you’re on a knife-edge, it doesn’t take a huge amount to sway you either way (though obviously I can only speak from the side of having been swayed back towards life, and that was because of the intervention and thought of the people who love me, and how I couldn’t hurt them by removing myself from their lives (but for me to feel that, there first had to be those deep connections)).

Which means that resources like this, which engage and promote understanding and compassion, might not only be pretty stories – they might save lives.

Throwing the book at stigma

Dear Stephanie, by Mandi Castle, will be released on Monday 11th May, 2015 – pre-order your copy now – for you, for someone you care about who’s going through a rough patch or experiencing mental illness, or just because.

Talking about it matters, and reading about it HELPS.Β  How do you connect with people who are struggling with mental illness? Do you think that bringing mental health issues ‘to the water cooler’ will help? Could books like Dear Stephanie be the answer?

 

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About Lizzi (1 Article)
Seeker of Good, purveyor of *twinklysparklygoodness*, and weaver of words; living life in #SilverLinings. Determined believer that Love Wins.

44 Comments on Throwing the book at stigma

  1. Just pre-ordered and looking forward to reading Mandi’s book (especially the sexy bits)!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kristi Campbell - findingninee // May 3, 2015 at 11:15 pm // Reply

    YES! Anyone (ANYONE!!!) can have mental illness. Thank you for your words and holyfuck FRIST

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kristi Campbell - findingninee // May 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm // Reply

    Ok had to get FRIST there FRIST but really- so true. I think that so many people struggle and don’t even realize it. So many including myself have struggled and don’t think that it’s any brain thing but just think that we suck at being present or whatever. THANK YOU and I will get this book!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah – it’s all so hidden and because it’s kept behind closed doors, how will we ever know? It’s a frustrating catch-22 because the people who need support and help NEED this knowledge out there – that these kinds of conditions EXIST and that they’re not going to experience prejudice because of them, and that there IS help available, and that there ARE relatable people, even if only in works of fiction, with whom they can identify.

      Like

    • That was my goal in writing a character that looked like she had it all, that even if those who have access to money, are stunningly beautiful, intellectual, and sophisticated, might struggle with mental illness, and they too don’t want to admit. Paige is a mess, but she’s human like you, like me, and she develops into someone who will have you cheering for her. I hope you do read the book and that you like it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Kristi Campbell - findingninee // May 3, 2015 at 11:16 pm // Reply

    FUCK wasn’t first.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lizzi… you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes, too, the stigma (or perhaps pride) prevents one from even entertaining the idea one might even be suffering from mental illness, as was the case with me for so long.

    I’m very much looking forward to Mandi’s book… even more so now.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know I resisted for far, far too long before going to the doctor, and it did me NO GOOD, and in the end life could have been so much simpler if I’d just stepped down from my ego and gotten myself medicated for those few awful months I didn’t…
      …any kind of destigmatisation is SO important.

      And Mandi’s book is SOso good. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • Scott!!! Thank you for letting Lizzi write here today about this subject. May is mental health awareness month, and I think the best thing we can do is to shed some light on this darkness so that fewer people fall into it. I know you’ve experienced loss because of mental illness. I have, too, and I wonder if perhaps it wasn’t so scary to talk about, if my friends would have sought help, and if so, would they be here today?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. BOOOM. Well done….ohhhhhhh SO well done on every single count. Love this. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think what Mandi’s book illustrated is that sometimes people overcompensate, and the people that look like they’re having the most fun; the people that seem carefree are not. What you see as joie de vivre and a carefree spirit is actually recklessness and self-destructive behaviour, borne of self-loathing and apathy.

    I think these types of depressives often fall under the radar, because on the surface, everything seems fine — they seem happy.

    The other type of depressive, unfortunately, are the types that withdraw, and have their behaviour termed as rude or socially awkward or inappropriate. People think they’re an asshole, when really, they just can’t deal with people in a proper way. Or so I’m told.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Both types need to be better understood and approached with empathy, compassion, and understanding, rather than face-value reactions and knee-jerk dismissal.

      I think that’s one of the things which is so powerful about this book – it pulls you into the story long enough to make you care about the ‘behind the scenes’ Paige.

      Like

    • Bingo. You hit the nail on the head with that. Paige is exactly who you described up there, overcompensating because she’s terrified for anyone to know that she struggles, so she puts on an Oscar winning performance every single day. How many people out there are doing the same?

      And then those who seem to withdraw and are considered rude: we need to be more gentle with them, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ll have to wait until I get paid, but this is going to be on my list! Looks good.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. TheMomCafe.com // May 4, 2015 at 11:41 am // Reply

    I am really anxious to read this book!!! It sounds amazing… and I still need to go read your post you had with her in it. Hope to get over there SOON!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. One of the powerful elements of literature is its ability to move people — a character that a reader comes to care for; a unconsidered perspective. It takes good craft or it can become preachy or contrived. Healing begins with awareness. Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ABSOLUTELY, I can’t tell you how much I agree with you there, Charli, and Mandi managed to find that sweet balance with Paige – it’s not in the slightest bit preachy, and it’s such an unusual story that there’s nothing hackneyed – it’s new and fresh and sexy and vital and desperate and glorious, and it’s incredibly powerful.

      Like

    • Part of the reason I write is because I’ve been so moved by fictional characters that I’ve met in books. They become real to me, and I find that they are part of me long after I finish the book. I wanted to create a character to whom people could relate but who also represents a different lifestyle to prove that ANYONE can battle mental illness. I really hope Paige’s story can help bring awareness.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wonderful post! Thank you Lizzi and Scott for reminding us of this stigma. I already love Paige and can’t wait to read more about her! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

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