Welcome to the third day of Shattering Stigmas! From now until October 22 I’ll be highlighting voices from the book community on mental health. I’m co-hosting this event with Taylor from Stay on the Page, Shannon from It Starts at Midnight, and Amber from YA Indulgences so make sure to check their blogs out each day to see different content.
Hi, Candace! Thank you so much for participating in this event. What exactly does shattering stigmas mean to you?
It means declaring who you are — all of you — without shame. It means being you, 100%, without apology. It means owning every part of you, flaws and all, and embracing the stigmas as just another piece of you — not all of you.
You’ve said that in your new book, Six Goodbyes We Never Said, “every disorder, every weird tic, and every oddity between Naima and Dew are all you.” Was it hard to put so much of yourself out for the world to see in this one book or was it freeing to say “hey, this is me and I’m not ashamed of it”?
I’ve been writing and speaking about my disorders, traumas, and struggles as long as I’ve been writing, so it’s never uncomfortable. At times, I feel a little too exposed, but then I hear from readers that my truths helped them feel validated in their own. This is why I’m here, I believe; my purpose. We’re more alike than different so it’s my job to show you where we connect — no matter how different our mental health experiences.
Why is it important to you that we’re open about our struggles when it comes to mental health?
No one should feel alone. Though mental health is an individual journey, so many can relate to the overall arc of how it interferes with life. The intricacies don’t matter; the details don’t matter. What matters is getting more people to talk about their struggles in an honest way — to show life isn’t Instagram perfect for anyone — so those of us crying alone in the dark can say, “hey, I’m not the only one who feels that way.” It’s my hope that some day, we can all talk about mental health the same way we talk about physical health. That one day we can say “I’m having these dark thoughts and I need help” just as easily as we say “I have a cold and need to go to the doctor.”
I greatly appreciated the Author’s Note you wrote for the beginning of Six Goodbyes We Never Said. In it, you spoke about social anxiety and how “others can’t quite see how much it hurts but we so wish they could.” Do you have any tips for somebody that doesn’t struggle with this to understand how debilitating social anxiety can be?
Oh, boy. Yes — stop judging us! We’re not rude, usually the opposite but unsure of how others perceive us. We’re not antisocial, typically the opposite but can’t figure out how to fit in certain social circles and situations. We’re not able to “get over it” or “snap out of it.” For me, sometimes the only answer is to remove myself from the situation. Other times, I can breathe my way through. Everyone is different so please remind yourself that you don’t know what others are experiencing behind closed doors. Their “strange” or “odd” behavior may be due to reasons sometimes even they can’t articulate.
Can you share some of your personal self-care and coping mechanisms you use during bad mental health days?
I’ve done it all. Breathing exercises, guided meditation, exercise, grounding techniques, visualization, EMDR therapy, medication, journaling, talk therapy — you name it, I’ve tried it. These days, I’m on the right medication (which helps), but there are still tough days when I need to cocoon and shield myself from the pains of the world. I’m a total empath so if someone is having a bad day when I am, as much as I’d love to help, I can’t; I have to protect my own mental health. I know my limits, what works, what doesn’t. Sometimes you have to let me count the seconds however many times my brain tells me to. Others, you can breathe deeply with me and it’ll work. Then there are days nothing helps and I just have to wait it out.
Mental health isn’t a one-size-fits all, so there can’t be any one solution for all — not even one solution for an individual. It’s important to have an arsenal of tools to try during times of distress. It may be a dedicated list of “safe” and supportive people you can reach out to, because reaching out is key. Or, it could be something as simple as indulging in something you never have the time to (like reading a book…Six Goodbyes maybe?!). The point is, my bad mental health days are unpredictable, just as life is. I’ve learned to deal with them as they come, because eventually they will [come]. The rest is focusing on what I *can* control. So that’s it. Honestly, in a world full of unknowns, that’s all any of us can do to stay sane.
Candace Ganger is a young adult author, contributing writer for Hello Giggles, and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.
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- Shattering Stigmas: Hindsight is 20/20: How I Missed All the Signs by J.L. Tate
- Shattering Stigmas: A Day in My Life (As a Person with Borderline Personality Disorder) by Wendy from What the Log
- Shattering Stigmas: The War Within by Tamara Basic
- A Personal Essay by Dana from Devour Books with Dana
- Review: By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery
- Author Interview with Ronni Davis
- Up All Night for Suicide Prevention by Lindsey Turnbull
- On Perfectionism as a Debut Author by Zack Smedley
- Jamie at Books and Ladders’ Review of Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
- Handholds for in the Dark by Heidi
- Autism and How It Intersects My Chronic Depression and Anxiety Disorder by Mina from Bookish Enby
- Ted Revolutionizes the Toaster by Anonymous
- How My Mental Illness Effects Me as a Reader and a Blogger by Amber from The Book Bratz
- Accepting Help by Shon from Books and Bugs