First Break is a story I’ve worked on for 6 years. It’s the story of 17-year-old Paige who leaves her small town to attend college at an urban university and two weeks in hears voices telling her to kill herself. After trying to make the voices stop with a bottle of her roommate’s Ambien, she ends up on a 72 hour hold, then goes on to stay in an adolescent psychiatric hospital where she turns 18. In the US, this puts her in charge of her own mental health decisions. We go through the journey with her as she wrestles with those choices.
It is my hope that by telling the story of Paige’s journey through the vortex of a first psychotic break–what going through a first psychotic break feels and looks like–readers will walk away with an accurate perception of what mental illness is and how they can help someone (or themselves) when it crosses their path.
Keeping ourselves mentally healthy means not turning our cultural back on others who need mental health support. A reporter from the Press Register in Mobile, Alabama called me last week because they were doing a series of stories on mental health in the wake of Sandy Hook. Alabama had the most severe cuts to their mental health programs of any state, I believe. They were the only ones I saw that chose to focus on the mental health issue involved instead of the gun scapegoat. I dream of the day when the mental health lobby is as strong as the NRA. Then, perhaps, we can see real change in this country.
When I sell this book, my dream is to start a non-profit focused on helping single-parent families with children who need mental health help. I will take some of the profits from that book to start that so that kids who are in pain (by no fault of their own) can get into a balanced state and thrive.
As I walk down this path, I’m grateful. Grateful for all the people who have shared their stories with me, who have walked with me through my story, and for the brave people living with mental illness who inspire me each day. You are my heroes.