Book Spotlight: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

Book Summary:

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

From the Author, Barbara Claypole White:

I write hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. My aim is to create characters who challenge stereotypes of invisible disabilities and navigate everyday life with extraordinary courage. All of them are inspired by my poet-musician son, who has battled OCD for nearly twenty years. OCD is a chronic, much misunderstood, illness. It terrorizes you with unwanted thoughts, relentless what-ifs, and crippling irrational fear. Like diabetes, OCD demands constant management. The difference is that no one cracks jokes about insulin shots.

 

Popular culture is quick to focus on either the quirkiness of OCD or compulsive behaviors such as hand washing. For many, however, the struggle is purely mental and easily hidden. This is often the case with postpartum OCD, which tends to manifest as intrusive, obsessive, horrific images of harming your baby. The heroine of my fifth novel, THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, is trapped in a private hell with such thoughts. Unable to escape the misbelief that she’s Norman Bates in dirty yoga pants, Katelyn abandons her baby to protect her, to keep her safe.

 

Many new parents and grandparents suffer with postpartum OCD in silence, too ashamed to seek help. I wish we could obliterate that shame; I wish we could celebrate the strength it takes to live with mental illness and the scars it leaves. In Japan cracked objects are mended with gold—to enhance the notion that damage brings history and beauty. Or, as Leonard Cohen suggested, cracks let in the light. Amen—to finding light and gold.

 

Book Spotlight: THIS I KNOW by Eldonna Edwards

Eldonna Edwards is ​the author of best-selling memoir LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION, which follows her mission to give away a kidney to a stranger. She now brings us a story of a mother struggling with depression. Her book will release in April of 2018. It is set in a small Midwest town in the late 1960s. 

Eleven-year-old Grace Carter has a talent for hiding things. She’s had plenty of practice, burying thoughts and feelings that might anger her strict Evangelical pastor father, and concealing the deep intuition she carries inside. The Knowing, as Grace calls it, offers glimpses of people’s pasts and futures. It enables her to see into the depth of her mother’s sadness, and even allows Grace to talk to Isaac, her twin brother who died at birth. To her wise, loving Aunt Pearl, the Knowing is a family gift; to her daddy, it’s close to witchcraft.

Grace can’t see into someone’s thoughts without their permission. But it doesn’t take her special talent to know that her small community is harboring its share of secrets. A young girl has gone missing. Within Grace’s own family too, the cracks are widening, as her sisters Hope, Joy, and Chastity enjoy the normal life that eludes Grace. It’s Grace’s kinship with other outsiders that keeps her afloat–Lyle, a gentle, homeless man, and Lola, a free-spirited new girl at school. But when her mother lapses into deep depression after bringing home a new baby, Grace will face a life-changing choice–ignore her gift and become the obedient daughter her father demands, or find the courage to make herself heard, even if it means standing apart .

Read this lovely blog post about coping with depression and coming up with the story from the author herself.

When Things Fall Apart

by Eldonna Edwards

Reblogged with permission from: eldonnaedwards.blogspot.com/2017/11/when-things-fall-apart.html

We’ve all done it; pasted on a happy face to cover our fear, our sadness, our fragility. Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer and drag others down with them, right? So we stuff our vulnerable selves deep into our core and pull out a mask bearing an appropriately put-together shell. One that appears happy and confident. But on the inside, things are still falling apart.“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps inside me.” –Sylvia Plath

Growing up in the Midwest I learned from an early age that you need to “buck up” or ” “grin and bear it” when times get tough. We were taught to smile through our pain or discomfort because appearances mattered more than feelings. I was a sensitive child and cried easily so I heard it a lot. Of course, I carried this idea of stuffing your feelings well into my adulthood, until that point when I realized that a river of repressed emotions will eventually breach the damn. This flood of truth might manifest as anger or addiction or even suicide if not treated.

Such is the case for Isabelle Carter, wife of the Rev. Henry Carter, who suffers from a combination of postpartum depression and unfulfilled desires. She wanted to be a famous gospel singer. What she got instead was life as a rural minister’s wife and mother to five daughters, one of whom reminds her of long-forgotten self.

Daddy brought Mama back home two days ago. She doesn’t seem very rested if you ask me. She still naps a lot and when she is up and around she bumps into the walls. Joy won’t let Mama hold the baby unless she’s sitting down. Mama reminds me of a Dilly Bar from the Dairy Queen, like there’s only a thin shell covering what’s melting inside.

In this scene from THIS I KNOW, Mama has just come from a place where she was sent to “rest” but returns home looking anything but recovered. I wanted to underscore the disconnect that people (mostly women) from that era suffered. Faces disguised with pleasant, Stepford-like eeriness. These women were often over-prescribed “nerve pills” to calm them or “diet pills” to give them energy. Many self-medicated with alcohol and other forms of escapism. Or as in Mrs. Carter’s case, told to pray away the malaise when what she most needed was simply to be allowed to feel what she was feeling. In retrospect, it’s no wonder we’re currently struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic crisis. People want to feel good and will do anything to make the pain go away.
I enjoy what most friends and acquaintances would describe as a happy disposition. But where there is light, there is shadow. For several years I endured depression that might have been postpartum or might have been circumstantial due to life events. Or maybe it was just good old-fashioned clinical depression. What I remember most was feeling terribly ashamed, that old tape of “get over yourself” looping endlessly in my head. Eventually I sought help, got counseling, and was able to talk openly about my feelings as I surfed the waves of melancholy and despair.

During that time I learned that what depressed people most need is acceptance and support. Things young Grace strives to give her mama as the reverend’s wife struggles to find her way back to happiness  and contentmentIn THIS I KNOW, Grace’s way of helping happens to involve using her uncanny abilities to break through the membrane of consciousness to reach her sullen mother. Because sometimes a little magic is the best medicine.

Buy this book on Amazon

How Did I Come Up With This Story, Anyway: Part II

I was looking for a great story of a woman to go with a ring that would be found in an antique shop. The story came to me quickly but in a sad way. My grandmother, Zoya, passed away and left me a diary filled with pages of family history. One of the pages discussed early life of my great-grandfather, Mark. She described that, as he resided within the Jewish settlement of Ukraine, he was denied entry to Ukrainian universities and had to travel to Switzerland in order to study in medical school. He spent years studying in Switzerland and then returned during the Russian Revolution.

I’ve never heard this particular family story before, so I began to do some research. I found that, in the late 19th century/early 20th century, many Russian/Ukrainian students sought education in Switzerland as women and Jews were denied entry to Russian and Ukrainian universities. However, Swiss and some German universities were very progressive and allowed women and foreigners. This resulted in hundreds of Jewish students receiving medical and science degrees abroad prior to returning home during the Revolution.

Swiss universities were not just educating the Russian and Ukrainian students. Starting in 1870s, they were also educating large numbers of Swiss and European women in science, law, and medicine and granting assistant and associate professorships to them, while, elsewhere in the world, it was still not possible for women to achieve such status.

I contacted many historians to request historical information regarding the Swiss universities, but was told there is none available. It’s a little-known subject outside of Switzerland. Swiss don’t like to brag about it. I was left to search archives and read autobiographies written by students who studied in Bern, Geneva, and Zurich at the beginning of the 20th century. I found this quite fascinating and very much enjoyed imagining what life would have been like for these students.

Women medical students. 1910. Philadelphia Archives.

Too Much Holiday Stress? Tips For Surviving The Holiday Season.

If looking at the schedule of holiday events makes you have a panic attack, make 3 lists:

  1. Holiday events you enjoy and they wouldn’t take much effort
  2. Holiday events you must attend or there will be severe consequences (family will never talk to you again, you will be fired from your job, your friends will never forgive you, your girlfriend will break up with you, your children will always tell their therapist about this one)
  3. Holiday events you are supposed to go to but you hate and there will be no severe consequences for missing

Most of the events that end up on your schedule should be from list 1. List 3.       should be very long. List 2. should have no more than 3-5 events on it (e.g. Hanukah     Dinner with parents, Christmas breakfast with fiancé)

In 2017, there is no excuse to spend precious holiday time shopping at the mall. Buy all gifts online and spend time with your friends and people you love. Go to the movies, eat meals out, laugh, do outdoor activities, and do anything but make holidays be about overcrowded shopping places.

Don’t change your routine for the holidays. Don’t allow others to change it. Make it better and more relaxing. If you normally go to the gym, don’t skip during the holidays, add sauna or spa. If you normally don’t go to the gym, don’t rush and start exercising. You’ll only add stress to the season. Instead, make sure to eat as much of your regular diet on days you are not going to parties.

Sleep 8 hours per night as much as possible. We tend to stay up late during the holidays. One of the best ways to decrease stress is to get more sleep. So, instead of rushing out to stores on the weekends for holiday deals, just stay in bed and get that sleep.

When feeling overwhelmed and stressed, just say NO to any holiday activities. Stay home and watch your favorite TV show with your loved ones. That’s what holidays should be about—spending time with people you love.

2017 APA Stress in America™ Survey Results — 60% Of Americans Are Significantly Stressed.

 

These are the worst stress levels found by the American Psychological Association yet.

  • Americans worry about the future of our nation — 63% indicated this as a significant source of stress.
  • Americans worry about money — 62% indicated this as a significant source of stress.
  • Americans worry about their jobs — 61% indicated this as a significant source of stress.

More than half of those who responded to the survey (59%) reported this time in US history as THE LOWEST POINT that they remember. Many of those responders have lived through the WWII and other significant traumatic events, such as September 11.

  • More than half of responders (59%) reported being stressed by the political division in this country.  Although both Democrats and Republicans were stressed.
  • More than half of responders (56%) reported feeling stress from watching the news).

Additionally, the most common issues related to stress levels were health care, the economy, trust in government, crime, conflict with other countries, terrorist attacks, unemployment, and climate change.

 

The encouraging news is that the survey also found that more than half of the responders reported that the state of the nation and the stress they have experienced have led to their desire to volunteer or support more causes than they have in the past. Most responders have either volunteered or signed petitions or boycotted a company or product in response to its social or political views or actions.

As the survey has always found, women reported significantly higher stress levels than men and Black and Hispanic men also reported a significantly higher average stress level than white men.

To read the full Stress in America report, visit Stress in America.

For additional information on stress, lifestyle and behaviors, visit the Psychology Help Center.