AUTHOR BLOG: Fiction and mental health

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It is my privilege to welcome you to 2019 and the first Instant Apostle author blog!

I am writing this when there is a problem with my work-in-progress. I have invested a great deal of time and energy trying to create something a little different. Maybe I was a little too experimental or submitted it before it was ready, but the reader review sent me into a swirl of negative thoughts about my writing ability. Like many other authors, my confidence was shaken.

However, my temporary feelings of sadness and rejection were nothing compared to the symptoms stifling those who have a diagnosis of clinical depression. Likewise, you or I may be nervous or stressed about new experiences outside our comfort zones, but even then we know only a tiny fraction of the terror and panic felt by a person struggling with an anxiety disorder.

When I worked as a clinical psychologist, I met many clients with really interesting lives who were written off by some people, neglected by friends, told to ‘pull themselves together’ by family or ‘to get right with God’ by the church – all because of mental health disorders. Their conditions had worsened greatly because of the attitudes of others. My work with them included dealing with the stigma as well as managing their condition. They needed professional help plus the support of friends, family and church.

Mental disorders are not a new phenomena. The Bible gives us many instances, e.g. Nebuchadnezzar had an episode of mental illness when he began to eat grass and lived like an animal (Daniel 4:33). Then there was Elijah as he slumped into depression after victory over the prophets of Baal, indicating a traumatic stress reaction (1 King’s 19:1-21). Despite such conditions being a part of life like physical problems, understanding and acceptance are often lacking.

Back in 2010, as part of my ongoing professional development, I attended a seminar on therapeutical approaches with children and young adults with facial differences. The resources the experts used were on display. There was some great fiction – for boys. No stories about girls. By the time I reached my car I knew that God was telling me to write a novel for young people using a female protagonist. On the journey home I mentally constructed the story arc and characters. Thus my first published novel, Losing Face, was born.

But this was before Instant Apostle was on the scene – I have continued writing fiction about mental health, trying to get right inside my protagonist’s mind to help others see that there are feelings too difficult to process for those with psychological problems, but that this certainly does not make them any lesser as people. Any triumph over struggles to cope with everyday life and new circumstances makes them heroes even before they have done something generally considered to be extraordinary.

So far, Instant Apostle have published two of my novels featuring a fictional psychologist, Dr Mike Lewis. The first, Trying to Fly, is the story of a lady who has experienced trauma as a child and is struggling to overcome agoraphobia. But more than that, there is a mystery to be solved and a new friend to help her. Out of Silence revolves around unravelling the history of a mute asylum seeker and helping him with post-traumatic stress symptoms, while Dr Lewis struggles with his own grief.

Did you notice the phrase ‘so far’ at the beginning of the last paragraph? It signals hope. I shall look at the manuscript I sent Instant Apostle, revise it, then resubmit. I can already see how I can make it a much better book, thanks to the reader review. Someone with chronic depression would have dropped further into the abyss of their dark mood of despair and hopelessness – I pray that my writing will help others to understand this important difference.

  • Annie Try

    Annie Try lives in West Norfolk with husband Ken, their Old English Sheepdog and rescue cat. She began her writing...

  • Trying to Fly

    Annie Try

    Jenny Drake has never forgotten what she saw on that Devon beach. Just a small girl at the time, those frightening events have overshadowed her...

  • Out of Silence

    Annie Try

    Jaded Clinical Psychologist Dr Mike Lewis is on the edge. Separated from his wife, Ella, and deeply wounded by the death of their child, the...