Happy Tuesday! Lots has happen. Well actually just two things. One, I got into grad school!! Hoary! I am still waiting for one more to, pray to God, accept me.
Two, this Friday I will be presenting my summer research at a region conference. Please send your prayers and wish me the best of luck.
To the post! Guest writer! I haven’t done one of these in a really long time. Here it is:
Raney Simmon’s is a graduate of Columbia College in Columbia South Carolina. Her passion is writing and reading. She will be talking about the impact that literature has in the lives of those struggling with abuse and/or mental illness.
“We don’t create a fantasy world to escape from reality, we create it to be able to stay.” – Lynda Barry
I would say my mental health journey began when my love of the written word grew. It manifested in the form of escapism because I spent so many hours reading that I sometimes wished I could go into the pages of the books I love.
Inkheart is the name of the book that started it all. I know I’ve probably mentioned this book before, but it’s the book that really made me realize reading and writing as my true passions. I read it during the summer before I started 7th grade, recommended as a summer reading choice by my 6th grade English teacher. It’s also the book that made me realize fantasy as one of my favorite genres to read and set me on the path to read what would become my favorite series of all: Harry Potter. Inkheart made me want to immerse myself in the books I read with its promise of characters being able to bring characters from other books into the world. Along with the Harry Potter series, this book (and the two books following it, Inkspell and Inkdeath) really showed me what reading truly had to offer. It’s a book that I’ll always keep close to my heart and a book I read whenever I find myself lacking inspiration.
At the time, escapism was my form of relief from the everyday cycle of reality that had become my life. When I was in 8th grade, my mother got married to a man my sister and I were excited to call stepfather. But it wasn’t until many months later that he revealed his truly terrible persona to us all.
It first came in the form of alcoholism. He’d spend Friday nights going out to drink and come back home aggressively drunk. I remember during this period of time that one day on our way home from going out to dinner with friends, Mom received a call. The police had picked him up and wanted us to come get him. I remember that trip home how he acted, the amount of tears I shed at seeing him in that state, feeling completely sorry for him. At the time I didn’t realize things were only going to get worse from there.
After the drinking, he started becoming verbally and mentally abusive. He was especially verbally abusive towards me. I remember him calling me a “retard” on more than one occasion and even tried to convince me that I had a disorder by trying to diagnose me himself. He even told me to kill myself “because nobody would miss me,” and threatened my well-being during the course of their marriage.
He made me feel worthless, like I was completely alone in the world. So much so that these words did damage to my self-esteem and self worth that I can still feel today.
The marriage truly ended the summer before my senior year of high school when he and my sister got into such a terrible argument that she threatened to leave and not come back. He acted like my sister not coming back was perfectly fine with him so my mother decided she’d had enough so we packed up our things together and left.
It was during these four years of my life that I used reading to escape from what my family was going through. As soon as I’d get home from school, I’d go to my room and read with my bedroom door closed and wouldn’t come out accept to eat. I’d read fantasy books because they were further from the reality I was dealing with and I loved the stories within their pages. Reading helped me cope with what I was dealing with in a safe, judge free environment. But this habit also affected other aspects of my life too, though at the time I never realized how much. I read to escape, but I further isolated myself from those around me who cared.
However, there are two other books I read during this time that helped me make it through these four years of my life. Both these books were my first introduction to young adult literature and centered around real life problems teenagers go through. Speak really stands out to me because it was the first book I ever read that openly talked about rape. It is the story of a young girl who gets raped at a party the summer before she starts her freshman year of high school. She calls the police, who bust the party, resulting in her being the most hated girl in her class. I enjoyed reading this book during this time because even though I’ve never gone through that traumatic experience before, I was going through an experience just as bad and I didn’t feel like I could openly talk about it. I felt like I couldn’t speak out about my experience because nobody would care.
Crank is the name of the second novel that made me interested in young adult literature. It also centers around a young teenage girl, but the story and the way it’s told are completely different. Each page of the story is written in poetry form, giving the reader a completely unique reading experience. But like with Speak, I felt like I was being exposed to another real-life problem for the first time. Instead of rape, I was reading a novel that heavily dealt with drug addiction and the way it can impact those around you. This book had an impact on me because it was the first book I read that talked about a heavy subject matter in poetry format. It exposed me to poetry but also made me better understand my stepfather’s drinking addiction. So it benefited me in two ways: first, it showed me how to express myself through poetry and second, helped me understand why my stepfather is an alcoholic and how his drinking hurt us all.
This experience and escapism both changed me. They made me more introverted, made me prefer the comforts of home over being out in the world. But they also strengthened me and helped me survive so I can hopefully begin to heal. Because while we are out of harm’s way, I know my mental health journey has just begun.
If you like Raney’s writing check out her blog: https://vookthevook.wordpress.com/