According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year.” That’s a staggering statistic (and one I’ve been a part of), especially for something we don’t talk about all that much. And there are more like it. Mental illness affects you or someone you know – sometimes diagnosed, sometimes left untreated, sometimes mild and sometimes severe. Mental illness is, in a sense, normal, so it makes sense to have a protagonist with a mental illness.
This post was originally shared on the Real World Bible Study Blog
But it’s something we don’t dig into that often.
Maybe we should. Alana Terry does this really well (in the same way that she tackles all sorts of uncomfortable issues!). And I’m trying to talk more openly about my own experiences with depression and anxiety. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s this: we can’t do this life on our own. We’re not designed to. And to have real relationships, we have to be real with what’s going on in our lives. For me, my Christian therapist was the first person that I was 100% real with. And that time has been a huge part of healing for me, and a journey of managing my mental health that is ongoing. (It was terrifying at first. I went because my life was spiraling out of control. But, believe it or not, I usually look forward to those appointments now!)
Last week, I read a book about a protagonist with mental illness far more severe than what I have personally experienced.
And, like many of us, she is surrounded by others who struggle with their own mental challenges. Her dad is bipolar. Both parents were addicts. She spends her time working with the homeless, encountering the full spectrum of mental health conditions (roughly 1/4 of homeless living in shelters in the US suffer from serious mental illness). And Shannon herself deals with anxiety, depression, and PTSD on a regular basis.
Her story is about mental illness, but it’s also about forgiveness. It’s about figuring out healthy boundaries. It’s about the struggle to let people in. To be real with someone about what is happening in her life and in her head. I’ve been there. And these are things we all have to work through, mental illness or not.
I enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book.
I’m glad the book was written, too, because I want to live in a world where people talk openly about this stuff. I do think the author may have tackled too many issues in one book. But I found myself wrestling with my own struggle of how to manage forgiveness and healthy boundaries at the same time. And even though that’s an ongoing process, that alone made Shine the Light worth the read. This book did “shine the light,” not just on a protagonist with mental illness, but on conditions for homeless, and even maybe on the state of our hearts.
Shine the Light is on Tour with Celebrate Lit!
Shannon is out to save the world one caring act at a time. She’s stood by her best friend, Amber, through their whole lives especially when Amber lost her sight. She has an active outreach ministry to the homeless and disenfranchised. And she’s even let down her guard long enough to let a boyfriend, Justin, into her life.
Her life has settled into a pleasing routine of teaching, freelance photography work, quiet dinners with Justin, and taking Amber on treks to find new subjects for her visionary paintings. But when a man from her past shows up, her secure world crumbles into triggered PTSD episodes that threaten everything she relies on. Will she be able to overcome these old memories, or will her past crush any hopes she had for a future?
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About the Author
April McGowan loves to read and write inspirational fiction. She and her husband, two children, and her ‘mews’ (three cats!), live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. April is a member of Oregon Christian Writers, the Christian Author’s Network, and American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not writing, homeschooling her son, or playing board games, you might find her at her drum kit, imagining she’s on a world tour. Hey, it could happen.
More from April
Writing About Tough Subjects—with Hope
I began writing over twenty years ago. And technically I wrote long before that as well. But those pieces were ‘just for fun.’ However, as I look back on my short stories, blog posts, and now my published work, there’s a definite theme: overcoming. Overcoming childhood abuse, overcoming an abusive marriage, overcoming loss—physical and emotional. And those overcoming stories were not about overcoming through our own strength, which is so often flawed and lacking, but by relying on the One who can heal us from every wrong, every hurt, and every loss.
After my first novel, Jasmine, I asked my readers what they’d like me to focus on in my next books—what subjects were overlooked in fiction today? The overwhelming consensus was adoption, loss, and mental illness.
As a contemporary fiction author, I stay current on social issues, so that wasn’t a huge jump for me. My readers saw a gap, and I did, too.
Not that it’s wrong to simply read for entertainment—shoot, I do! But I’ve always loved gripping stories with people I could identify with who were overcoming obstacles I’d faced, or watched a loved one face—stories that offer real hope in the face of tragedy.
So began my journey. In book one of this series, Hold the Light, I wrote about sight loss and adoption. I wrote about best friends who were solidly there for each other in the face of great hardship and pain. And in book two, Shine the Light, I’m doing the same—with a twist.
There’s a lack of representation and writing concerning mental illness and how it affects the sufferer and those around them. There is a stigma that is significantly changing, but it’s something we’re still hesitant to discuss. Myself and many I know are deeply touched by this issue, and I think we’re long past due letting those that suffer from mental illness and their families know that they are not alone. Or if they are, that they don’t have to be.
Book two, Shine the Light, is about Shannon’s life. Her love for the downtrodden, the lost, and the injured. Her passion for the underdog. How she became the stalwart friend she is to Amber in Hold the Light, the obstacles she’s overcome, and those she has to continue to grapple through with God’s help.
As with all of my books, I’ve vetted this story with people who have faced these situations and am very careful to respect their stories as well as staying true to my characters. I hope you’ll dive in and find Shannon to be a deep and real and identifiable character. I hope you’ll discover in her a friend.
I know you’ll grow to love her as I do.
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The Power of Words, May 4
Godly Book Reviews, May 5
Simple Harvest Reads, May 6 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Through the Fire Blogs, May 7
Real World Bible Study, May 9
Retrospective Spines, May 9
For Him and My Family, May 10
Mary Hake, May 10
Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, May 11
janicesbookreviews, May 11
Pause for Tales, May 12
A Reader’s Brain, May 12
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 13
The Christian Fiction Girl, May 14
Carpe Diem, May 15
Inklings and notions, May 15
Inspired by Fiction, May 16
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 17
Texas Book-aholic, May 17