Sunday, 8 July 2018

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Mental Illness in YA Month: Tom Pollock on How People With Mental Illness Can Be Heroes, Too + Giveaway

Mental Illness in YA Month

I am so happy to have Tom Pollock, YA author of absolutely incredible White Rabbit, Red Wolf, stopping by the blog today, to talk about how there is more to the lives of those of us with mental illness than just our mental illness, and how we can be heroes, too.

Tom PollockI believe in the power of stories.

Hardly a controversial statement, I know, coming from someone who does what I do for a living, but there we are. Stories matter, they shape the way we understand the world, and the way we understand
ourselves. They draw (and push) the boundaries of our imaginations.

But it’s not just the content of the stories, but who's telling them. The closer the storyteller is to us, the more we trust them, the more we're likely to take them to heart. That's a problem for me, as one of the most frequent tellers of the most consistently damaging stories to me is my own brain.

It's been almost 20 years now since I was first diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. One of the stories my brain tells me when I'm in the middle of a depressive episode is that my depression is
all I am. It makes a certain amount of sense. My subjective experience of myself is my experience of my mind, and when I'm depressed and anxious, the suffocating, stultifying fear fills me up, leaving no room for anything else. Moreover, depression and anxiety distort my sense of time, telling me not only that my mental illness is all I am, it's all I've ever been, and all I ever will be.

Suffice to say, this is not an accurate depiction of the world as it is. My brain is lying to me.

White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom PollockThat's one reason, when writing
White Rabbit, Red Wolf, it was important to me to make sure that Pete - a seventeen-year-old math prodigy with severe panic disorder - was depicted as more than just his condition, and moreover, that central themes of his story were more than just his condition. Because for those of us living with it, the fact that we have mental illness doesn’t mean that that’s what our lives have to be about.

That doesn't mean I soft-soaped Pete's symptoms. I rendered his panic attacks and their impact on his life as faithfully and honestly as I could, drawing pretty heavily on my own experience. Still, I wanted to make sure that as well as mentally ill, Pete was talented (he's a dedicated and skilled mathematician), ambitious, funny, occasionally selfish as we all are, but also loving and loved.

(Loved is especially important, because
nobody cares about you is another lie your brain likes to tell you when you're depressed.)

So, I made Pete a hero, a mentally-ill honest to goodness hero in a thriller where he has to solve mysteries and uncover deep dark secrets, and take on the government and flee across the country with his best friend and save his family and crack the occasional dirty joke and get through each day, because sometimes that's heroic too.

Just because we
have mental illness, that doesn’t mean we are mental illness, no matter what that illness itself tries to tell us, and I wanted to write a character and a story that reflected that.

Thank you, Tom, for such a fantastic guest post! I absolutely loved White Rabbit, Red Wolf - especially how, even though Pete has anxiety, White Rabbit, Red Wolf is an exciting, fast-paced thriller, and not at all about anxiety. It's such an incredible book, and it's so refreshing and wonderful to see the protagonist deal with his anxiety, yet also be the hero of action packed romp. It's just brilliant!

Be sure to visit Tom's website, follow him on Twitter, and check out White Rabbit, Red Wolf - and read my review.

And now for a giveaway to win a proof of White Rabbit, Red Wolf!

  • Enter to win a proof of White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock by filling in the Rafflecopter form below.
  • Open to UK entrants only.
  • Giveaway will close on 1st August at 12.00am.
  • The winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter and will be announced in this post.
  • I will email the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address, or a new winner will be chosen.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. This sounds like a great book. I like how his mental health doesn't stop him doing exciting things.

    1. Right? It's such an incredible book! I absolutely loved it!