Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

#MHYALit: This Book Will Save Your Life, a guest post by author Kathleen Glasgow

Today we are honored to host author Kathleen Glasgow as part of the #MHYALit Discussion. Her book, GIRL IN PIECES, releases in September from Delacorte Press. You can read all the #MHYALit posts here.

MHYALitlogoofficfial

I could not feel my fingers. And then I could not feel my arms. And then my shoulders, and then, and then, and then….how does the body do it, anyway? I’m still not sure, but it was something, a gift, really, that my body gave me at an early age, in order to escape what was happening in my home. Dissociation made it easier for me to do things that caused me great fear and stress. And I was about to do something that was going to cause me great fear and stress. I was going to be brave. I was going to ask for help.

I had been up all night, pacing my room, listening to music on my headphones in an attempt to calm down, to plan my strategy, my line of reasoning. The minutes stretched into hours, which stretched into black periods of sobbing, of scratching and pinching myself, of waiting, waiting, for bravery.

My mother’s favorite nighttime ritual was settling into her big bed with a glass of wine and a thick book.  When I walked into her room, the sun was rising outside the patio door, pink and creamy orange. The perfect Tucson sunrise. Her book was splayed on the nightstand. There was still some wine in her glass. I drank it. Then I reached out and shook her shoulder until her eyes blinked open.

girlinpieces

“Mommy,” I said, my voice sounding strange and far from me. “If you don’t take me to the hospital, right now, I am going to kill myself.”  I was sixteen. I meant it.

What followed was my mother slipping into robot-mode. She made calls, she smoked cigarettes, she argued with my father on the phone, and by the end of the day I was a new patient at small and somewhat seedy psychiatric hospital.  I was lumped in with adults. There was no separation by disorder, age, or “problem.” As one of my new colleagues put it during a dinner of slimy green beans and something resembling partially-heated Salisbury Steak, “We all fucking crazy in the same fucking crazy salad. You the tomato, she’s the lettuce, I’m the damn dressing.”

I had never felt so safe in my entire life.

When I was younger, growing up in a house filled with violence and fear, I found my solace in books. I read and re-read books obsessively, looking for anything that could lift me away from the darkness of my daily life. I should have been a prime candidate for fantasy or science fiction, but that wasn’t my thing. I latched onto anything that even vaguely resembled what was happening in my life and at that time, the queen of all things realistic was Judy Blume. Being bullied at school? Blubber became my tome. Having body and anxiety problems? Deenie. Curious about sex? The holy grail was, of course, Forever.  Fuck the whole tesseract business (though that was cool, too): I latched onto A Wrinkle in Time for Meg Murry, the lonely outcast.

When I found my mother’s 1954 copy of The Catcher in the Rye, though, Holden Caulfield spoke to me like no one else had. Here was someone who was clearly depressed, suicidal, afraid  of the world, afraid of himself. I still have that book. I still reread that book, every year, because it was the first book that taught me that I was not alone. I saw myself in Holden. It was a salve, a balm, for a long time.

catcherintheryeUntil it wasn’t.

I started cutting myself at fifteen. Little nicks no one could see. Then bigger. Then deeper. It became a relief, a solace against what was eating me up in my mind and heart. My mother sent me to therapy. There were medications. I was expelled from school. My depression and harm were spiraling somewhere dark, somewhere very frightening.

There were no books for me for this, not then. Had I had a book like Girl, Interrupted, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, All the Rage, Cut, It’s Kind of A Funny Story, or All the Bright Places, even Speak, whose main character’s silence mirrored my own selective mutism, where would I be today? Would things have been different for me if I’d been able to find myself in a book and see just a glimmer, just a tiny smidge of creamy pink and orange, over the horizon?

alltherage

Maybe.

Those books, and others like them, didn’t come out until I was in my twenties and well after. I’d already been hospitalized numerous times and damaged myself in dozens of ways. When I found them, though, I devoured them. I became 12 again. I became 13. I became 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.  They talked to the teen I was and told her she was not alone, ever, even in retrospect. They talked about what it was like to be depressed, to be hospitalized, to have horrible things done to you, to feel horrible things, to do horrible things, to feel lonely, but that above all, you could survive.

I still struggle every day with depression. It’s lifelong, and I accept it. I haven’t harmed myself in over 20 years. When I decided to write Charlie’s story in Girl in Pieces, I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was teenager and living in my own hell. I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I was in my twenties and thirties and crawling back to the light. I put the whole crazy salad in there: the tomato, the lettuce, the damn dressing, because I want readers to see themselves in there, somewhere, and feel that creamy pink and orange smidge of hope.

That’s the thing about books. You never know which one will save your life. Or when.

Meet the Author

Kathleen Glasgow’s debut novel GIRL IN PIECES will be published August 30, 2016, by Delacorte. She lives in Tucson, Arizona and write for the radio show, The Writer’s Almanac. She likes stand-up comedy, books, Tyrion and Shireen, and her kids. She is not team Captain America or Iron Man. She is Team Furiosa, all the way. You can find her on Twitter: (@kathglasgow), Instagram: (misskathleenglasgow), or (kathleenglasgowbooks.com).

About GIRL IN PIECES

girlinpiecesCharlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The thick glass of a mason jar cuts deep, and the pain washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge. (September 2016, Delacorte Press)

#MHYALit: The Truth I Forgot to Remember, a guest post by Sashi Kaufman

MHYALitlogoofficfialI’ve been in therapy since I was seventeen years old. My mother is a therapist and growing up, going to therapy just wasn’t that big of a deal. It was kind of like going to the dentist -something you could do preventatively or when plaque started to build up on your feelings.

I worked with a therapist in my late twenties and early thirties as I struggled with how to be an adult -the kind that wasn’t afraid of the dark or my heart stopping suddenly and inexplicably. Anxiety. But I didn’t know that then.

After my first child was born I went back into therapy as I limped out of the crushing depths of postpartum depression. I finally went on medication. And even though up to that point I had lived a pretty successful and fulfilling life by anyone’s standards, until I went on medication for anxiety, I had no idea how much I had been managing.  Managing is a funny word. Managing means you’re coping, you’re dealing. But at what cost?

I’m a grown up now. I’m almost forty so I’d say it’s about time. But really, growing up has no set parameters. I like to think better late than never. And once you know enough adults you know that for some people it’s never. So as my adult self I was talking to my mother on the phone one day and I asked her, “Mom, why did I start going to therapy? It was because I was overwhelmed and confused about picking a college right?”

There was silence.

“No,” my mom said cautiously.

That was the story I told myself. That was what I remembered.

“It was because you were threatening to cut yourself.”

“I did?” How could I not remember? But as soon as she said it, it sounded right. How could this have gotten pushed so far back in my memory?

“Yes. You painted on yourself.”

I remembered the paint. Bright red streaks of it up and down my forearms.

There was paint in my room. I was working on a mural. There was a black angel and a cloud of poison -something I think even I recognized at the time as incredibly angsty and overdone. But there was paint in my room. And I remember feeling so miserable, so lonely and miserable. I remember going downstairs and staring at the knives in knife rack. I could picture the beads of blood that the serrated knife would create and the sharp line that the paring knife would draw if I pressed it into the soft flesh of my inner arm.

I wanted them to know. My parents. I wanted them to know how much I hurt and how miserable I was. I don’t even remember why -but I remember thinking they needed to know and I didn’t know how to make them take me seriously.

I walked away from the knives in the kitchen. I went upstairs and picked up a paintbrush instead.

It wasn’t until postpartum depression, almost 17 years later, that I felt that desire to cut again. When I told my therapist about it she told me something about cutting that resonated with me. She said that cutting has a biochemical trigger. That it’s the brain’s way of preventing you from doing something worse to yourself. There are as many reasons to cut as there are people who do it. But that made sense to me. After all, I never ever wanted to end my life. I simply wanted to do something so that my outside would reflect the emotional hemorrhage that was taking place inside. So that the people who loved me would see and help me do something about it.

God am I lucky they did. I am so lucky that my parents helped me find someone I could talk to. I am blessed that my husband, my family and friends helped me find the way forward when those knives began to sing their sweet seductive song to me again.

I am glad I know now that their song, for me, does not mean I want to die. For me it means that something is out of balance, that I am feeling overwhelmed in a way that is not healthy, that I need a release and I’m struggling to find it.

I had a story I told myself about why I started therapy. And it’s possible that my anxiety and fear about leaving home played into why I was so miserable in the first place. But I’m glad my mother reminded me about the other part. Because that’s the part people don’t talk about too much. That’s the part that most of my friends and family would be surprised by. I’m funny and loud and extroverted, calm and capable and communicative. Even I was surprised to remember the truth about myself. But if I’ve learned nothing else, and I’ve learned plenty, from living through anxiety and depression it’s that when you talk about it, everyone talks about it. All of a sudden, people you may not even know that well are telling you about their favorite meds or their latest diagnosis.

And the more we talk, the less lonely we feel. The less attached we are to the idea that any kind of normal exists and that we are somehow on the outside of that group.

————

You can find Sashi at wwww.sashikaufman.com . Her next book, Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature, comes out this September.

wiredmanPublisher’s Book Description

Ben Wireman is partially deaf and completely insecure. The only two things that make him feel normal are being a soccer goalie and hanging out with his best friend, Tyler.

Tyler Nuson is the golden boy, worshiped by girls and guys alike. But Tyler’s golden facade is cracking, and the dark secrets hidden behind it are oozing to the surface. Ben has no idea what to do when Tyler’s memories of their past start poisoning everything, including their friendship.

Enter Ilona Pierce. With tattoos, blue hair, and almost no friends, she’s exactly the kind of weirdo Ben has tried to avoid his entire life. But without Tyler, Ben isn’t sure who he is anymore, and maybe, just maybe, hanging out with a freak is what he needs.

Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature is a captivating and compelling story about the shifting dynamics between two best friends during their senior year in high school, as their loyalty to each other is tested by betrayal, secrets, girls, and the complex art of growing up. (Carolrholda Labs, September 2016)