August 2013, Fierce Fiction, 29 pages, Ebook, Review copy
Summary from Fierce Fiction
In her creative non-fiction piece Learning How To Speak, debut author Crystal Vaughan delves back into her teen years which were filled with frequent bullying, feelings of isolation, and depression. She tells of not fitting in, a rocky homelife and having the first of many anxiety attacks. Vaughan wrote the short to help deconstruct the stigma that often surrounds mental health issues, especially in teenagers.
The writing of the piece is timely, with the recent passing of new cyberbullying laws in Nova Scotia after the suicide of bullied teen Rehtaeh Parsons.
“Depression and anxiety is something that should be openly talked about and better understood by those who struggle with it, their loved ones and society as a whole,” says Vaughan, winner of the 35th Atlantic Writing Competition for non-fiction. “Many teenagers face mental health issues in addition to bullying, hormonal imbalances and significant life changes, and they often feel alone or invisible. These teens need to know that they’re not alone and that help is available.”
Learning How To Speak shows that while high school can be hell for some, it does end and things can get better.
Twenty per cent of proceeds will go to HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development.
First of all I have to say I really admire the authors who’ve written these Fierce Shorts. All of them are recounting difficult issues that they’ve managed to get to the other side of. I’m certain the others are as accurate and compelling to read as Crystal’s. People can veer away from the darker side of depression & anxiety – self-harm & suicidal thoughts. Crystal shows how normal such thoughts can feel to the person at the time and how rational they seem. Most people aren’t totally doolally (crazy), they are ‘normal’ people struggling to cope with their life circumstances so the wiring in their brains goes a little off course and remains in the not quite right circuit.
Admitting to both yourself and someone that you have mental health issues is far from easy, yet is the biggest step someone like Crystal can take. When everything came to a head Crystal began the long road to recovery – which is a word I’m reluctant to use because mental health issues are prone to returning, and sometimes they never go away, it’s more a case of learning how to deal with the ups and downs of depression. The self-harm parts, like the rest of the book, seemed entirely normal to Crystal, although she knew it wasn’t quite right to think about it. They may be hard to read if you haven’t looked at the topic before, but the thought processes behind wanting to hurt herself are in context and are an outlet for extremely strong emotions which she had yet to find a healthier way to dealing with.
I like reading Crystal’s thoughts at the end on how she managed to not only write about this part of her, but managed to read it out loud to an audience which included people she knew. That takes enormous courage, and I hope that some people who may be going through similar situations read Crystal’s story and feel able to take the first step in improving their mental health.
Find out more on Crystal's website.
Another read involving self-harm is Saving Daisy by Phil Earle (Young Adult, 10E/10E)