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The following story features Luanne Rice, a 60-year-old novelist and participant in our Deconstructing Stigma: A Change in Thought Can Change a Life mental health public awareness campaign.
“My throat hurt. I was holding back tears and words.”
For Luanne, writing is therapeutic. She creates characters in her best-selling novels that are rich in the dark experiences of her own life. Growing up in a close, middle class, Connecticut family, she remembers a constant, heavy sadness as she worried about everything. In fact, she missed a lot of school—sometimes, as much as half the school year.
“I said I had a stomachache or a sore throat. But really what I had was depression and anxiety. I was afraid that if I left the house, something bad would happen to my family.”
It wasn’t until she attended high school that a caring, insightful teacher suggested she see a counselor. That therapist helped Luanne express her feelings by drawing pictures.
“Just having someone who understood made a world of difference.”
Luanne’s depression has surfaced a number of times in her life. At one point, the darkness grew to the point she needed to be hospitalized.
“I’ve never been healed or cured. I’ve had periods of remission. But knowing the illness is there forces me to be vigilant and have the best help possible by my side.”
Being vigilant means taking her antidepressant medication on time and seeing her therapist regularly. Luanne is lucky, she says, to have turned writing into a successful career. After publishing 33 novels, her most recent is for adolescents. The Beautiful Lost revolves around a teenage girl with depression who becomes hospitalized. Luanne hopes the story will lead to a kinship with this young audience, so readers know they don’t need to hide their pain.
“Secret-keeping eats you up and that leads to self-hatred and then suicide. Share what you’re feeling. Talk about it. Write about it. It’s serious, but there is help.”
Be sure to check out Luanne’s great blog about the campaign on her website.