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Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Kinds of Resistance

In my book, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, coming in 2013 from Covenant, I encountered all kinds of resistance: from my own fears, from writing something quite different from anything I'd ever written before, and even from my characters, who resisted sharing their problems because of their own primitive fears.

Stephanie Burnett, a 20-something daughter in the family, has experienced some serious bouts of depression; she fears she will end up like her Grandma Judith, whose intense schizophrenia caused disaster for herself and her family.

After much resistance, Steph sits down with her mother to reveal her story. Here is a small part of their conversation from Stephanie's point of view. Steph's mother, Karen, has just told the whole story of Grandma Judith's mental illness:

When she had unreeled it all, she said, “Steph, sweetheart, I can’t promise you that you’ll never have the experiences your grandmother had. You are obviously prone to depression, but it helps that you’re wise enough to understand it. You’ve already begun fighting it in some very healthy ways --”

“But, Mom –“

“Shhh, darling. Now it’s my turn.”

I quieted.

“Honey, we can get you medical help.”

“But shouldn’t I just be stronger? Just handle it on my own?” “It isn’t a question of strong, Baby.” Mom was gently stroking the scars on my arm. She looked like her heart was breaking, and I couldn’t help wishing I’d never felt the need to say any of these things. “You’re plenty strong,” she said. “Just look at you!” Despite the tears on her face, there was pride in her eyes and I was grateful. I had feared my mother’s shame.

“Mental illness is illness, Sweetheart. True, some people have behavioral problems that can look a lot the same, but real schizophrenia isn’t caused by a lack of discipline. Your grandmother couldn’t help being ill. Depression isn’t a choice, either – at least, not for most people. Why would anyone want to feel like that?”

“Mom, I ..."/p>

“Hush,” she said again, so gently. “Listen, Baby, you’ve read about chemical imbalances, right?”

“Not really.”

“Then do so, whenever you find a minute. Go to some credible web sites and read up on depression. That will help you understand some of the reasons why you occasionally feel very dark. Another thing that may help is reading the differences between depression and schizophrenia. Just because you have one problem doesn’t mean you’re in line for the other.”

You can't imagine how I resisted writing that scene -- almost as much as Stephanie resisted sharing her problem with her mother. The catharsis for both of us was wonderful.

Overcome the resistance. Tell the truth. Change the world -- or at least, your own little corner of it. Remember: Resistance is futile.

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