Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

I have just finished this fantastic book and I strongly recommend it not only as a great work of fiction but also for people who are looking for books about mental illness. This book impressed me on many levels. The language is witty, intelligent, and emotionally-charged. The charming, and adorable main characters are brought to life on every page. The plot was surprising with every chapter. And I absolutely couldn’t put it down.

Plot Summary from Amazon:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .

The only way to survive is to open your heart.

What I love about this story:

Eleanor struggles with mental illness (PTSD and alcoholism) and her symptoms are portrayed accurately and without judgment. The traumatic experience which caused her PTSD is portrayed appropriately and without traumatizing the reader. Eleanor’s friends are supportive and kind.

Eleanor’s darkest moments are portrayed only to show there is hope and kindness of strangers. Is that overly optimistic? Perhaps. But this is better than the alternative or fiction being too dark and traumatizing someone with a mental illness.

The mental health professional in this novel is accurately described. Her office doesn’t have a stereotypical couch, candles, and strange decor I always caution authors against. The truth is–psychologists keep their offices boring. Therapy sessions are described accurately, the book has clearly had an expert advisor. Therapy is helpful, not hurtful, and I commend the author for portraying therapy in such a manner.


Dawn Among the Stars: Latinas Battling Mental Health and Fighting Aliens

DAMN AMONG THE STARS is a debut science fiction by Samantha Heuwagen, MA LAMFT ACS

Samantha Heuwagen works as a Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in Sex Therapy in Atlanta, GA. She is a graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine where she earned her second Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her first Master’s degree is in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Florida where she first realized her passion for sex education. She is a certified sexologist with the American College of Sexologists. When she isn’t working with clients, she teaches at Kennesaw State University sharing her knowledge about sex and feminism.

From the author:

As a therapist, I’ve seen the best and worst of Humanity. I’ve listened to sexual assault survivors tell their stories with strength and dignity; watched male clients open up emotionally and meet their authentic selves for the very first time. I’ve even helped couples come back together after years of separations and emotional isolation.

Dawn Among the Stars is an opportunity to showcase mental health and change the narrative around individuals who push through every day. I wanted to focus on those fighting the good fight, reaching a place of health.

The main protagonist, Kayin Aves, a twenty-something Latina, strives to make the world a better place. Her primary focus is to keep Earth’s rights in the hands of humans at all costs. However, she meets resistance when the Shielders, a potential Earth ally, push for control of Earth’s governments and resources. Through it all, her panic attacks threaten to derail her everyday life.

Though society tries to say otherwise, people are not weak because they’re depressed, have anxiety, or suffer PTSD. They struggle to do menial daily tasks while a giant cloud follows them. With The Starless Series, I wanted to showcase a character that could handle mental health issues and still be a hero that can save the day.

With my experience as a feminist and a mental health practitioner, I believe I have unique insight into a myriad of perspectives. This perspicacity allows me to write natural characters that would feel at home in any setting despite being thrust into an extraordinary situation. One of my goals with writing, Dawn Among the Stars, has always been to depict mental health issues as realistically as possible–– to open the door to a more realistic view of mental health.  I want readers to connect with the different aspects of Kayin’s struggle and offer them a positive role model instead of the tired, old stereotypes we see in books and movies every day.

My clients are some of the strongest people I have ever met and Dawn Among the Stars is my monument to them and anyone else struggling with mental health.

You can find me writing and doing therapy in Atlanta, GA. If you’re interested in my services as a mental health provider please visit my website.


You can buy this fantastic book below



Check out the author’s Website: SamanthaHeuwagen.com
Find the book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/75884217-samantha-heuwagen





On Bullying and Cyberbullying

My Child Is Being Bullied. What Should I Do?

There are more and more stories from children and media about bullying in the schools. Finding out that your child is being bullied is frightening and you may wonder how much to worry and what to do to help your child. Here are some basic tips on what we know about bullying and ways to handle situations involving your child and bullying.

What is bullying?

  • Spreading rumors
  • Making threats
  • Physical/verbal attacks
  • Excluding someone from a group on purpose
  • Can happen on-line – Cyberbullying

What effect does bullying have on children and teens?

  • Victims, bullies, and witnesses of bullying all experience mental health difficulties from the bullying
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor social functioning
  • Low grades
  • Poor attendance at school
  • Increase in suicide-related behavior

What do we know about children and suicide?

  • According to the CDC, for children ages 10-24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. It results in 4600 deaths each year. 45% of deaths are due to firearms. 40% are due to suffocation. 80% of deaths are males.
  • Involvement in bullying (as a victim or a bully) increases a child’s risk for suicidal thoughts or suicide attempt.
  • Factors that can further increase a bullied child’s risk for suicide are: family conflict, exposure to violence, substance abuse, lack of connectedness at school, lack of access to resources/support, emotional distress, disabilities/learning difficulties, sexual/gender identity differences.

What can parents do?

  • Help your child connect at their school. Enroll your child in clubs, sports, or activities at school. Find an adult at school the child likes and trusts.
  • Teach your child coping/life skills and problem-solving skills. Teach your child to speak to a bully in an assertive manner rather than angry manner.
  • Ask your child frequently about being bullied. Teach your child how to respond to bullying rather than be a passive victim. A child needs to be able to feel more power in the situation. Saying things like, “That’s not cool!” “Keep your hands to yourself” or “I don’t understand why you would say something like that” in a firm voice can be a good first response to bullying.
  • Seek help from a pediatrician, psychologist, or a school counselor if needed.
  • Make sure your school has anti-bullying policies and implements them.
  • Don’t allow your child to have social media accounts until your child is 14. Follow your child on all social media accounts to see any cyberbullying your child may be subjected to.
  • Be sure you know the online communities your child participates in. Review your child’s posts. It’s not an invasion of your child’s privacy. Use of computer, smart phone, or tablet should be a privilege and not a right at your home. Be upfront with your child that you will periodically check on all online activity. Watch out for your child’s secretive behavior on electronics.
  • Watch out for signs of bullying or cyberbullying. These are: depression, anxiety, anger, avoidance of friends, decline in grades, refusal to go to school.
  • Teach your child to never retaliate online or engage in a physical fight. Teach your child to speak to you about bullying. Anger shows weakness, which will encourage more bullying. Assertive and calm responses work better.
  • Save all evidence of bullying or cyberbullying, identify the bullies, and file a complaint with the school or a specific social media site. Contact the bully’s parents if possible via a letter, not in person.
  • Contact the police if there are threats of violence, harassing messages, hate or bias messages, sexual messages, or any other crimes involved against your child by a bully. You can also contact an attorney.

For more information, please contact your Pediatrician, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network http://www.nctsn.org/, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry http://www.aacap.org/, or Center for Disease Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/

Teaching Your Teen to Cope with Stress

According to recent American Psychological Association’s Stress in America Survey, our younger generation is increasingly more stressed. More than 1 in 4 teens and young adults say they do not feel they are doing enough to manage their stress, compared with about 1 in 10 older adults.

The APA’s survey also indicated that teens are more likely to report using passive rather than active coping strategies, which are not always as helpful. Teens rely mainly on taking a nap, listening to music, going online, eating and playing video games to cope with stress and depression. Below are some more active ways of coping which parents can easily discuss and teach to their children.

 Physical Activity

One in five teens and young adults report exercising less than once a week or not at all. Exercise is one of the most effective stress and anxiety relievers. Any of these activities are helpful: yoga, hiking, biking, walking, dancing, running, rock climbing, skateboarding. The best activity is one which involves a social component. Doesn’t need to be a team sport.

Get Enough Sleep

The recommended amount of sleep for teens is 8-10 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2016 recommendations. However, Stress in America Survey found that most teens sleep on average only 7.4 hours. Lack of sleep is related to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and decreased academic performance. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are 4 times as likely to develop depression as those who are well-rested. Optimum sleep hours for young people start at 11 pm and end at 8 am according to research.

 Resist Pressure

Teens are pressured more than ever to make so many choices, to know exactly who they are, to perform perfectly all the time, to achieve greater and greater. There is competition, social judgement, pressure from parents and teachers and society. Teach them they don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to get it right at any age, can always change their minds and their personality when they are older. What they do now will not determine their entire lives.

Reduce Time Spent On Social Media

Psychologist and pediatricians believe that increasing dependence on social media by teenagers is leading to increased rates of depression and anxiety, especially for girls, although boys are not immune. Girls are more likely to use social media and depend on it for communication, exposing them at greater rates to cyberbullying and preventing other healthier ways of social support. Girls are prone to comparing themselves to peers and defining their identify via others’ opinions, making them very vulnerable to depression after repeated exposures to social media.

There are estimates that the average teen spends 7.5 hours on social media on a typical day. That means your teen feels under pressure to be “clever, smart, popular” for the entire day, first at school and then on social media. It also means your teen is being judged and criticized all day long, exposing your teen to constant social pressure. A rumor spread on social media reaches thousands of people in a second.

It’s stressful, draining and damaging.

A recent Swedish study found that teens who spend a lot of time on the internet are as likely to become depressed and suicidal as teens who use drugs and skip school.

Don’t allow your teen on social media until age 14-15. Teach your teen to limit the number of friends they have on social media and limit how many social media apps they use. Follow your teen on social media to monitor their activity. Teach them to block all cyberbullies and only stay in groups that are fun, entertaining, social. Teach your teen no to use social media for mental health support or share their inner most secrets on social media.

Cut Down On Sugar And Eat More Foods That Give Energy

Your teen should always eat breakfast. Teach them to eat foods that are easy to digest but will give them energy: fruit, nuts, yogurt. Teach them to eat more protein and vegetables and less refined carbs and fast foods.

Meditate or Practice Mindfullness

Mindfullness refers to paying attention to life in the present. Being fully aware of your surroundings and what you are doing. Being in the moment and enjoying it fully, rather than constantly being distracted by electronics, social media, etc. When we don’t have the ability to be in the moment, anxiety can sneak up on us. People who are always distracted and always worry about the future, begin to struggle with chronic stress and anxiety.

Teach your teen to put away their phone at the dinner table or turn off your TV next time that your family is eating dinner. Just focus on eating your food and enjoying its flavors. Or next time your teen is watching a Netflix show, teach them to not Tweet about it or talk to friends about it at the same time. Just discuss fully tuning in to the show. It’s that simple.

Talk To Someone About Your Stress

Everyone is feeling more stressed out these day. It’s absolutely OK to talk about it. Teach your teen to talk to you and other family members about it, to talk to their friends, and, finally, ask to talk to a psychologist about it. There are also many books you can browse on the topic.

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