Friday, April 22, 2016

This book will change your life!

Let's be realistic right now, life can be a complete and total ass. It can give you amazing victories, only to be followed by what seems to be never ending downfalls. When you have anxiety/depression, it can seem 1000 times worse. 

I've been personally dealing with the loss of someone very near and dear to my heart. Someone who, while I knew her time would come, I wasn't prepared to lose. I don't think you can ever truly be prepared. It's also hard when you are struggling with self identity issues, feeling hopeless, and filled with questions no one can answer. You can often feel as if no one will understand what you're going through or feeling. While I do have many outlets for my anxiety/depression, one in particular has been a huge help. Books. 

Recently I took a trip to my local Barnes and Nobles with a mission to find some sort of young adult book (my favorites) that told a story of tragic loss. Some sort of story that would show me how someone common could deal with being beaten down mentally, with more and more turmoil piling on. I asked a few BN associates, only to be redirected to "Gone Girl". Yes, she dealt with a huge amount of turmoil, but I've seen the movie. I need new, fresh, real, raw. I don't like self help books, because to me their too 'business like". I want similarities and to know the person has dealt with something like I have. Even if it is fiction. 

I browsed for a good hour, skimming through countless books searching for the right one for right now. I came across "How Many Letters Are In Goodbye?" by Yvonne Cassidy. After reading the summary, along with the first 2 pages, I was hooked. 

Rhea is a 17 year old girl from Ireland. Her mother died when she was 3 and she wants so desperately wants to know the truth. What happened to her mother. Her father became and alcoholic after Rhea looses her arm in a meat grinder, his meat grinder, at the age of 7. Being that she has no other family in Ireland, she's alone with her drunken father. The only connection to has to her mother is her Aunt Ruth who lives in the USA with her boyfriend Cooper and his daughter Laurie. 

Rhea's father dies in a car crash after driving drunk, forcing her to move to the US with Aunt Ruth. Rhea's already struggling with questions, anger, confusion, and frustration, but to top everything off she's also struggling with her identity and sexuality. Something that was always considered a big "no-no" in the small town of Ireland where she grew up. 

Laurie, a girl with a serious attitude problem and childish antics, is a year younger than Rhea. Her and Rhea end up hooking up, only to be found by Laurie's father Cooper. He punches Rhea in the face and blurts out that her mother didn't just die by drowning, she committed suicide. Laurie denies having sexual feelings for Rhea and claims that she only participated out of fear. Aunt Ruth doesn't believe Laurie, but doesn't necessarily stand up for Rhea either, leaving Rhea to feel alone once again. 

In an attempt to find out the truth of her mother's death and escape her cruel reality, Rhea runs away to the last place she knew her mother had lived before moving to Ireland. New York. 

There she makes friends, some good and some very toxic. She's homeless and only eating through the help of her male prostitute "friend". She counts her money, sleeps on benches, and is rescued by an AA group. After almost being found at a local soup kitchen, she's given the opportunity to make a little money at a camp for foster kids. She'll have food, money, and a place to stay. Hesitant, she goes with the help of her new found friend, and ex-alcoholic, Winnie. 

Her aunt ends up finding her, not to whisk her away as she's already turned 18 years old, but to apologize and try to make amends. Aunt Ruth's only communication to Rhea is through letters. Ruth ends up admitting that she knows more about Rhea's mom than she let on. She also has a secret. She kept the last 5 letters she every received from Rhea's mom. In an effort to re-connect with Rhea, Aunt Ruth sends the letters to Rhea for her to read the inner workings of her mother's mind before her demise. After reading the final letter of the 5 sent, Rhea is hit with the hard hitting truth and is given a letter her mother wrote directly to her. 

The truth affects Rhea harder than imagined, causing her to feel as if though she too has "failed". She attempts suicide in a similar fashion as her mother, but has a change of heart. Thankfully she's rescued physically, but mentally she's more broken than ever before. 

Through "therapy" with the camp counselor, a face to face with Aunt Ruth AND Laurie, a new love interest from camp, and some answers, Rhea goes on to accept the reality. She accepts that she is truly gay, her mother's death does not lay ground for her future, that she is worth more, and that she will be ok. 

This story touched my heart as I have personally dealt with anger, depression, identity issues, confusion, feeling alone, and turmoil. After reading this story, I've grown to have a better appreciation for the little things I haven't had to deal with. Although I've had bad times, I'm still alive. There is so much taken for granted that sometimes it takes a book like this to help you wake up and tell you "You aren't alone. You are going to make it. You aren't going to be lost forever." Yvonne Cassidy not only gave me real, raw, and new, but she gave me hope. This may be fictional, but the feelings you will experience are not. I have a new appreciation for the good AND bad. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, read this book. You will gain a deeper understanding. Also remember, it's ok to ask for help. This book teaches you that as well. Rhea was stubborn and never wanted to admit that she needed help, as she thought it meant accepting defeat. In actuality it meant that she was stronger for asking. You are too.

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