Mental Health – 365
When life happens…
Insight From CN Nash
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When Life Happens…
To be completely frank, when I first sat down to write my novel, Mirroring Effect, I had an entirely different message to address. I had been in a different space…a different stage in my life. I had been a different person. Originally, I had intended for the novel to be more dry-witted and cheeky with the purpose of highlighting some of the social dynamics that seemed to plague women regardless of age and background. That changed after life happened and I found myself battling with issues more dire than gossip and shade.

In that particular season of my life, I faced grief due to loss- loss of significant relationships and friendships, and even my job. And because my identity- who I thought I was- had been built of those very things I no longer had, I also faced grief over the subsequent loss of said identity.

That particular loss ushered me into a new chapter of my life I had not anticipated: my battle with depression. In retrospect, I was very fortunate for my clinical background because I had been able to detect the signs of depression early into my experience- the hit to my self-esteem and sense of worthiness, the feelings of loneliness and emotional isolation, even the physical signs such as tearfulness, low energy, and restlessness.  And although my early detection had been extremely beneficial, it still didn’t make the battle any easier, especially after life continued to happen.  I began to re-experience cycles of grief following the death of several family members.

So, yes- the version of the novel I decided to step out with faith and publish was quite different from its original simply because things were different. I had evolved and I wanted my novel to reflect the things I had learned during that time. For instance, I learned that life had a way of bringing out the good and not-so-good in us; the things deep within us only seemed to come out when we felt pressed or pressured…when life started to bear down on us. Secondly, I learned that even professionals working in the mental health field weren’t immune to mental health stressors. Exposure didn’t make us resistant.
Profesional Meets Personal…
Because of my clinical background, I had been a witness to the impact mental health had on our lives.  As a helper, it had been natural for me to uplift and encourage individuals as I walked with them through that specific chapter of their lives.  I saw the benefits of seeking support, including increasing one’s capacity to cope.  I also saw the dangers that could occur whenever an individual wasn’t honest or upfront about needing support.  For years while working in crisis intervention, I had been on the receiving end of calls where the individuals had voiced thoughts of wanting to kill themselves.  I had spent many hours sitting inside a hospital room with individuals who had survived their suicidal attempts.  I knew from professional experience the dangers linked to unchecked mental health, so when it appeared on my own doorstep, I knew I didn’t want my mental health to get to a point where I had to make that call, survive through an attempt, or worse…not survive.   
The Stigma…
From both professional and personal aspects, I noticed a correlation between a person’s ability to enhance his/her overall mental well-being with his/her actual awareness of mental health.  In other words, the more that person embraced the impact mental health had on his/her quality of life, the more motivated s/he grew in taking personal responsibility towards improving that quality of life.  And although I was aware of this, I was also aware of the influence stigmas had on mental health.

If we were sick with the flu, we would seek medical attention.  If we had a broken leg, we would get immediately get help.  For some reason, this didn’t connect with the mental health component… 

If someone passed away, we would send flowers, food, and our condolences.  We would proudly show our solidarity with those who battled cancer or those who had survived.  For some reason, that support hasn’t been as readily available to those who battled with mental health stressors.  The reason?  Stigma- that misperception that says mental health is a weak person’s issue and a result of deliberate laziness- has unfortunately stifled the voices of those needing help.

Let me be clear- anyone facing mental health stressors has the power to combat, overcome, and in certain cases, even decrease their chances of experiencing stressors related to mental health; however, no one is immune to the impact of mental health simply because no one is immune to life.  And although we can personally take an active stance and proactively strive towards mental wellness, we don’t have control over biological predisposition, which places some at higher risks of dealing with mental health disorders.  Just like some individuals face higher chances of being diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes due to genetics, there are some mental health disorders that have been linked to biology.  If individuals at risk of developing medical conditions are encouraged to consult with a medical professional, follow recommendations, and even adjust their lifestyles to prevent and treat those ailments, why should we expect mental wellness and prevention to be any differently?

Suicide is 100% preventable because the symptoms are treatable.  We must get over this stigma, this misperception, this mislabel of mental health because we no longer have the luxury to remain silent or passive.

Beauty From Ashes…
I wrote Mirroring Effect during a chapter of my life when I was in a valley and it had been cathartic for me, simply put.  I wanted to share this story in hopes that it would also encourage others to: 1) speak up and seek the support they deserve; 2) show more compassion to others dealing with life; and 3) seek humility in the event they haven’t faced mental health stressors. 

When it comes to being mentally healthy, what some may think is solely of their own doing should consider the fact that their wellness is also in conjunction with God’s grace covering you.  Again, no one is immune to the impact of mental health.

More About Mirroring Effect…
Mirroring Effect was birthed from my desire to talk about mental health in a non-threatening, non-judgmental, and non-intimidating way.  It’s still a YA book; it deals with coming of age and being a teenager- it also happens to deal with one girl’s journey to navigate through high school after life happens. You have main character, Desi who is wise enough to know that “if you’re the smartest person in your circle of friends, you should change your circle of friends,” and yet Desi’s innocence is highlighted during awkward conversations with guys and failed attempts to exert just enough energy towards being blasé about school sports and dances.  In a way, Desi prides herself on being completely different from her older sister who had cared about all the things Desi thought were superficial.  However, the good and not-so-good traits always come out whenever life happens, and Desi is completely shocked and scared when she discovers that she and her deceased sister have more in common than Desi realizes.

This story narrates both sisters’ journeys and shows not only the benefits of seeking help, but also the potential risks of not speaking up.  

So many times, we use severe or extreme displays of mental health struggles as references to what mental health looks like for everyone.  That misperception is what makes education on mental health so critical. 

 My desire is that our educational systems incorporate Mirroring Effect into their high school reading curriculums because it addresses so many things our teenagers face on a daily basis, such as self-esteem and identity, mean girls, and friendships, while still tackling harder subjects such as intimacy, underage drinking…and yes, mental health.

Inside Look Into Mirroring Effect
Cn Nash

For DESIREE “DESI” VANDER, the only events marking an overrated adolescence were completing art projects and accepting defeat in the battle with her unruly hair.  Desi soon discovers the harsh reality of life after her sister commits suicide.  Her sister, DEMETRIA“DEMI” VANDER, had the glamorous life- she dated the school jock and hung with the most popular people at school.  Popular girls didn’t commit suicide, right?  So what happened to Demi?

Following her sister’s funeral, Desi decides to go right back to school, but has a “small” melt down prompting her parents to plug her into counseling with a psychologist.  DR. NEIL, or “NEIL” as Desi calls her, is a “book-hoarding, cat-loving, crochet-stitching, oldies-but-goodies listening kind of gal” based on Desi’s quick assessment.  Although Neil attempts to guide Desi through the Stages of Grief, Desi decides she wants answers instead of closure.  

Coming across Demi’s old journals that reveal she wasn’t as happy as she had appeared, Desi begrudgingly mingles with Demi’s best friends, “THE CLIQUE,” a group comprised of the most superficial, albeit popular, students Demi idolized.  

First there’s LEIGHLYN, who is pretty, but in a 90210 way.  There’s also CHRYSTAL who gives new meaning to frenemy, and BRANDON who is kind of dense, but has the most alluring smile Desi has ever seen. Desi even has to face her sister’s boyfriend, CALEB, another member of “The Clique” and EMMA, Demi’s best friend who is also processing through her own grief. 

As she grows closer to Demi’s friends, Desi begins to distance herself from her best friend, APRIL.  And even though RYAN, a moody and judgmental peer in her art class, points out Desi’s clear shift, she chooses to ignore him too.  

In the process of finding the truth about her sister, Desi loses herself.  And when upsets continue to surface, Desi fears she is too vulnerable to heal, and like her sister, too broken to repair. 

Desi realizes that in order to be strong she must embrace her weaknesses, and to gain acceptance she must embrace the limits of her own control.  These things prepare Desi for her most important task- finding beauty in life following her sister’s death.

You can purchase the book on Amazon in paperback for $16.99 or Kindle for free

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