My first hospitalization at Summit Ridge greatly influenced the most recent book that I am working on. While I hated being there because I felt like I was in Kindergarten, I always enjoyed the group therapies because everyone had a different story to tell for why he or she was at Summit Ridge. There were people who attempted suicide, people struggling with suicidal ideation and self-harm (like I did), people who were there because they had violent breakdowns, people who wanted to be kept safe from themselves, people unstable on meds, or people just unable to care for themselves.
There was one man I met who inspired my main character’s, Gene’s, diagnosis. This man was struggling with treatment-resistant depression. He had already undergone three treatments of ECT (electric convulsion therapy) when I arrived there. I asked him if he felt the treatments working, and he told me he didn’t.
This was terrifying to me, to think you could be depressed forever with nothing ever working for you. You can have therapy and positive thinking, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have to work 100x harder than a mentally healthy person to get things done. Or to live. To even just breathe.
Being who I am, I was terrified that I’d be one of those people, especially after my second hospitalization. Finding medication stability with bipolar is not easy. You can’t be on antidepressants–any type–because you could go manic. So you have to rely on mood stabilizers to get you to where you are, but they have crappy side effects, so you really spend time trying to find the right medicinal cocktail with the least crummy side effects. But it was these experiences that shaped my main character, Gene.
There are plenty of YA books that deal with depression, but I haven’t found any that deal with a teen who must learn to live with such a morose disease. It’s always books about teens with untreated mental illnesses that once they are diagnosed, the doctors make the treatment seem so easy. So I decided to be the one to write that book where the treatment isn’t easy. So my fears and my dealings with psychiatric units have shaped what it would be like to live with treatment-resistant depression. People with hard-to-treat depression often have to learn how to live this way. It is unfortunate many believe that suicide is the only way out because it is tough to live with depression. It’s a terrible disease that warps your thoughts and has physical effects on you too. So in order to create Gene, I asked myself, ‘What would it be like to be a teen living with treatment-resistant depression?’
I want Gene to exist for teens, for anyone out there who feels he or she cannot go on because he/she knows the depression is forever. Gene’s depression is pretty much terminal, but he has to learn how to live with it. So Stolentime is a book about a depressed teen going through trials that will teach him the value of his own life. I know in real life people aren’t going to be tested the way Gene is, but I hope they look into Gene’s character and find the hope they need so they can live to be the hope for others going through similar trials.
To me, suicide is tragic not because it is the end of a human life but because it is the end of hope, the end of potential, the end of someone else’s reason to live.
Currently I am 32,000 words into the book. If I continue writing a chapter a day, I will have the book finished the week after next. Once I begin revisions, I will be able to start talking more about this book. And hopefully by then I will have more information on When Stars Die.
- Dancing in the Rain (thedancingwriterblog.wordpress.com)