#MHYALit: Writing a Therapy-Positive Book, a guest post by Marisa Reichardt
Today we are honored to share a guest post by author Marisa Reichardt. You can read my review of Marisa’s book, Underwater, here. For an index of all of the posts in our Mental Health in YA Literature project, please visit our #MHYALit hub.
I’ve been terrified to write this blog post.
I’m not an expert when it comes to mental health. What if I say something wrong? Or what if I say something truthful and real but it gets misinterpreted? But then I remember I had those same fears when writing Underwater. And it was exactly those fears that made me push myself.
So here I am.
Like my main character Morgan Grant in Underwater, I am not a stranger to anxiety. I am not a stranger to needing therapy. I am not a stranger to having emergency pills in my medicine cabinet for the extra rough days.
But it wasn’t always that way. When I was in high school, I didn’t know what was happening to me when I had a panic attack that was so bad I thought I was dying. I didn’t know because I didn’t talk about it. I felt like I couldn’t.
In the middle of my worst attacks, I would drag a sleeping bag into my brother’s room and sleep on the floor just so I didn’t have to be alone. Just so I could hear someone else breathing.
I was a teenager who needed therapy and didn’t have it.
When I was in high school, people didn’t talk about mental health the way they do now. So I accepted there was something inherently wrong with me. That there was nothing I could do about the way I felt. I tried to embrace what my mother and friends told me—that I was “too emotional” or just needed to “get over it” when it came to the things that triggered me. As a result, I kept the nervous energy inside of me until it manifested in stomachaches and throwing up at sleepovers.
But how did this all start for me? I think it was when my father passed away from cancer when I was in fourth grade. It was traumatic and terrifying and he was horribly and painfully sick for two years. I was too young to fully comprehend what was happening but since my brother was even younger, I somehow became the mature one. I was the one who could handle it. The one who had to be there for my sibling because my mom and dad were too busy dealing with the thing that would change our lives forever.
I was a kid who needed grief counseling and didn’t have it.
It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I found therapy on my own. I talked. I began to heal. I tried things like biofeedback and meditation. But I am still seeking because therapy isn’t a one and done journey. Sometimes you have to find your way back to it. Life is dynamic and unexpected. This debut author experience has made it clear that I need to find someone to talk to again. And I will.
Because therapy isn’t a dirty secret.
The most important thing to me in writing Underwater was to write a therapy-positive book because therapy literally saves lives. I could’ve used it as a kid. I could’ve used it as a teenager. I’m glad I found it as an adult. But even though I’ve had my own personal experiences with therapy and anxiety, I knew it wasn’t enough for me to think I could tackle a whole book about it just because I’d been there. For Underwater, I interviewed a psychologist who works specifically with women and teen girls who struggle with anxiety and agoraphobia. Her feedback became crucial to me throughout the writing process.
The result was a book of my heart. I’m glad I wrote what scares me. I’m glad I took this journey with Morgan and got to know Brenda. My world became bigger. My understanding went deeper. Writing Underwater helped me feel less alone.
I hope it will help others feel less alone too.
Meet Marisa Reichardt
Marisa Reichardt is a SoCal native who has paid the bills by shucking oysters, waiting tables, peddling swimwear, tutoring, and writing. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family and can usually be found huddled over her laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean. She has a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and dual undergraduate degrees in literature and creative writing from UC San Diego. Underwater is her debut novel. Find her online at her website marisareichardt.com, on Twitter @youngadultish, on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/YoungAdultish, and on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/marisareichardtbooks/
Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive-first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself. But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school. When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside. Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 01/12/2016
Filed under: #MHYALit
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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