Reduce the Stigma, or, Why I Wrote a Book About Mental Health

The Theory of Deviance is out today. It’s a book I’ve had cooking in my head since March 2015, when I decided I wanted to write a story about a heroine who was struggling emotionally. There are lots of topics in this book – religion, bisexuality, poly relationships, but the one that means the most is mental health. Why? Because I’ve been struggling with anxiety, OCD and PTSD for decades, and I wanted to write a story about someone who was suffering, too.

We don’t talk about mental health much in romance. Most of our heroes and heroines, while troubled in some way, have their shit together. They don’t sit on therapy couches once a week, don’t have full-on days when they can’t get out of bed, don’t have afternoons when they’re walking through the grocery store and can’t stop shaking for some unknown reason. We don’t write stories about how difficult it can be to be trapped in your own head. How awful it is to be dealing with the ghosts of people who have long since left your life. Waging wars against monsters that aren’t really there. We don’t write about characters who don’t believe in themselves, who think they’re not good enough to be loved. We don’t talk about mental health much in romance, but we should. Because that’s how we help reduce the stigma.

In the beginning of The Theory of Deviance, Krissy believes she has her bipolar disorder under control, but sees herself as too messed up to be anyone’s girlfriend. Keeping the roller coaster of her emotions in check is hard enough without adding in the complications of a relationship. It’s why she hides her illness from Mikey despite her burgeoning feelings for him, and why she satisfies her sexual desires in a friends-with-benefits situation with her hetero-flexible roommate, Rafe. As the story progresses, Krissy eventually admits the truth to Mikey. She explains how she’s ashamed of what happened when her condition first reared its ugly head. She talks about how she feels like a pariah around her family, and how she tries to keep to the very rigid routine her therapist prescribed for her, needing to prove to herself that she’s all right. The truth underneath all that is, she’s crumbling.

I fight this battle all the time. Why did I write that into this book? Because I wanted to focus on the fight.

Yes this is a menage story with plenty of sexytimes. Yes, it’s also a story about two bisexual heroes, their own issues with religion and family, and the girl they both love. But Krissy’s journey in this story is about her fight. It’s about her recovering her strength. It’s about her hitting rock bottom for the second time in her life, and how she picks herself up, dusts herself off, and starts again. It’s about the transformative power of love, and how it can help you believe you are good enough.

We need to be writing stories with these kinds of characters. The more we do, the more we reduce that stigma around mental illness. The more we tell other people who are suffering that they’re worthy of someone caring for them too. I wrote this story for anyone who believes they’re too broken for love. It’s Krissy’s fight song. It’s my fight song. And, as Rachel Platten said, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.

The Theory of Deviance is available in print and ebook today.

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