Nikki Dubose: Washed Away

Trigger Warning:  eating disorders, rape, domestic violence, sexual abuse, addiction, self harm, mental illness, obsessive behavior

Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is a memoir that recounts the experiences of model Nikki DuBose as she overcomes a more than seventeen-year battle with abuse, child sexual victimization, eating disorders, psychosis, alcoholism, drugs, depression, suicide attempts, body dysmorphic disorder, and various other mental health issues, all while trying to navigate through the dark side of the fashion industry.

Her journey began as a young, introverted child with a florid imagination growing up in Charleston, South Carolina. By the age of eight she had been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused and had developed an eating disorder. The abuse warped Nikki’s self-perception and sparked patterns of psychosis, depression and destructive behavior that stayed with her into adulthood. In her early twenties she began working as a television host and started a career in modeling. Eventually Nikki attained success, appearing on the covers of magazines such as Maxim, shooting for editorials like Vanity Fair, Glamour and FHM, and appearing in campaigns for Perry Ellis.

Cast into a world of excess, superficiality, and vanity, Nikki traveled the globe and experienced the finest that the material world had to offer, all while feeling empty inside. Her disorders, addictions and mental health issues took her to the brink of mortality and only through a deeply painful inner-battle and her mother’s death was she able to reconnect the lost pieces of her soul and see the person she had so long rejected.

Her recovery from a nearly lifelong struggle with PTSD, psychosis, addictions and eating disorders has left Nikki with a passionate longing to help others who are also suffering by advocating for mental health and self-acceptance. Washed Away: From Darkness to Light will serve as a testimony to others to let them know that they are not alone in their fears, doubts, and frustrations, and that through recovery all things are possible.

 

Remember back when I read Lady Injury, when I told you that I liked a book…but then warned you not to read it? That’s exactly how I feel about Washed Away. In fact, the books are as similar as they are different, just as the two women are. Both books are about eating disorders and extremely severe mental illness. Both books are horrifically triggering and devastating. But, just as no two people are the same, no two mental illnesses are the same–and thus, no two memoirs could be the same either.

Washed Away is the story of two women, actually–not just Nikki herself, but also her mother. Nikki’s story illustrates just how strong the ties of mental illness can be–both nature and nurture. Her life was basically just a boulder rolling down a mountain–there was no way to stop it until the very bottom–and that boulder crushed everything in its path.

And Nikki was crushed by everything imaginable. I don’t often put a trigger warning at the beginning of my reviews, but it was necessary for this one. It is so easy to feel hopeless while reading a book like this because there seemingly is no end to the tragedy that this woman went through in her life. But she found her way out. I cannot imagine how impossible recovery seemed, but her epilogue was full of all the hope that was missing in the rest of the pages. It’s worth reading the rest just for that.

If you are looking for a story about someone who got out, someone who fought through bulimia and mental illness and came out on the other side–maybe look at Nikki’s book. Just be aware that this is a very triggering story, so take care.

I received a copy of this book from Book Publicity Services for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Jacqueline Woodson: Feathers

“Hope is the thing with feathers,” starts the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn’t thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more holy.”There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’is not white. Who is he?

During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light:—her brother Sean’s deafness, her mother’s fear, the class bully’s anger, her best friend’s faith and her own desire for the thing with feathers.”

Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl’s heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface.

Oh Jacqueline Woodson, you strike again. When I read Brown Girl DreamingI added this one to my TBR right away. I fell in love with her poetry and wanted to read more of her incredible writing.

I was not disappointed. Feathers is prose instead of poetry, but it is just as gorgeous. Written for middle-grade, her story combines so many different facets into a book under 150 pages. We see a young girl learning about life alongside a mother with depression and a brother who is deaf, and that gives her a unique outlook when a new boy comes to school needing a bit of compassion.

This is for sure going on my list of books to recommend when my parent friends reach out to me for their kids. If you have a child in middle school, definitely add this to your shelves.

DiversityBingo2017: D/dEAF/HARD OF HEARING MC

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Frayed

Ava Hale will do anything to find her sister’s killer…although she’ll wish she hadn’t. Because the harder Ava looks, the more secrets she uncovers about Kesley, and the more she begins to think that the girl she called sister was a liar. A sneak. A stranger.

And Kesley’s murderer could be much closer than she thought…

First things first, Frayed deals with a lot of really intense mental illnesses. PTSD, depression, grief, and others are all prevalent in here. There are also some heavy PTSD flashbacks, so be careful if you will be triggered by those.

Because of those characterizations, I really wanted to like Frayed. In fact, it is the reason I kept going. Unfortunately, while the story has the potential to be interesting…it reads more like a first draft than a book ready for publication. I’m really hoping that there has been much editing done after the ARC went out.

My main complaint about the book is that the pronouns and tenses are all over the place. At times the narrator talks straight to her sister, Kesley, in an attempted letter format. Other times, it’s just simple first person narration. However, there’s no barrier or switch off between the two. And I say “attempted letter” because there’s no “Dear Kesley” or “Love Ava” except at the very beginning and end. So the whole thing is supposed to be letter, I guess…except that it isn’t.

There are other little pieces about the plot that are just thrown in suddenly. Oh, here’s something important! Here’s something else! Oh, wait, you need to know this! There isn’t anything subtle about the book. The ending has a “Big Twist,” but doesn’t really make much sense.

There’s potential here. It just needs work–better transitions, better formatting. From what I can see on Goodreads, the author looks very young. I think she’s going to great things–her creativity is obviously very strong, and it’s easy to see she did a lot of research on the illnesses she used. I’ll look for more work from her in the future to see how she develops!

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NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases June 1.

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Goodbye Dallas

Dallas.

This week two years ago we announced to everyone that we were moving south. I was excited, scared, anxious. It was the first time I had ever moved out of Indiana. While doing so was something I’d always wanted to do, when it finally happened, moving so far from my family wasn’t everything I expected.

Making friends was almost impossible. We met people we could talk to, but those conversations never lasted longer than one brewery meetup. And as prepared as I thought I was for that first holiday away from home, it hit me like a semi-truck.

Dallas. You threw me into the biggest mental breakdown I’ve ever had. I didn’t know depression could be like that. My anxiety essentially exploded. Everything about my personality has intensified.

But maybe that’s not all such a bad thing. Because of my time in Dallas, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever have before. I’ve learned to listen to my body and my brain and not to ignore when it calls. Being sick doesn’t make me weak. It actually makes me stronger.

My husband and I are closer, because we’ve had to be. Communication is crucial when we’ve gone through as much in four years as we have.

I also fell head over heals for Paws in the City and the people involved. Volunteering with them probably had more to do with my recovery than anything else did. What started as an every other day Twitter gig quickly turned into a friendship with a super supportive group of people who wanted to see me succeed. Not to mention the dog therapy, as I called it.

If you’re ever feeling depressed, volunteer for a dog shelter or foster organization, and roll around on the floor with a bunch of dogs (or cats). It may not totally cure you, but it’ll sure lift your spirits. And the dogs benefit quite a bit too.

By the way, all the dogs in this post (except the last one, she’s MINE) are available for adoption in Dallas, or you can donate HERE.

Dallas, even after all you put me through the first year, you made up for it in the second. I will miss you. It’s been hard to say goodbye these last few weeks. You’ve given me some great friends and wonderful memories.

But, it’s time to move on. See you guys next time from Peoria!

MYSELF

MYSELF

You were holding something of mine,
Something in a closed, grey box,
And I couldn’t see what was inside until
I took it from you and
Laid it on the table.

The light from the window
Illuminated the box on the
Dark wood table–

I opened the lid.
I saw the child.
Burned.
A baby, as long as the inside of the box–
Crisp, dead, like petrified wood.

I didn’t want to believe.

I didn’t want to take the lid all the way off
And I didn’t want to touch the baby
And I didn’t know how to look at her.
But I didn’t want to give her away.

I handed the baby to
My father
And knew the lid needed to stay on.
He mustn’t see it–
This burned child;
He would only turn away in disgust.

I didn’t want him to be ashamed
Of me,
So I took it back.
I took her away from him
Because he really didn’t want her anyway.

I blew a small patch of skin onto her face,
And another by her ear,
Near the jawbone.
And I covered her body with a soft blanket.
A grey-blue blanket.

I picked her up
Out of the box,
Inside the blanket,
So I didn’t have to touch her burned skin
And I held her
And I knew I didn’t want you to have her, either.

I knew you wouldn’t know what to do with her.
You made sure she remained burned.
I made sure you kept her like petrified wood.

Where else could she go?
If she wasn’t burned,
If you didn’t hold her,
If the lid didn’t stay on the box,
If you didn’t keep her burned body inside the box
Where could she go?

Would it be all right if I held her?
Would the two of us have to remain alone
Forever?

What else,
My husbands,
My lovers,
What else can I give you
Besides custody of my burned self?

–Jessie Close, “MYSELF,” From Resilience:  Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness

Why Self-Care is So Important

I’ve never taken great care of myself. I don’t primp. I don’t run. I HATE getting my face wet to the point that I keep a dry towel in my shower for stray droplets–which means washing my face is not a chore I am fond of.

I recently discovered LUSH, and it has been the best thing ever for my daily routines. I found a soap that I like to use on my face. Hair bars that cure my itchy scalp. And I even like taking baths now!

But self-care goes way beyond fancy soap. Daily routines are so important to those of us with sick brains, because there are so many days when it is hard enough just to get out of bed. Those routines at least give us something we must do. Or at least try, anyway.

I love this article at Lifehacker by Kristin Wong. She gives a bunch of ideas for ways to care for yourself when you are fighting the monster, and reasons for doing it. To Kristin, Self-Care shouldn’t be a reward, it should be a daily thing that we do every day.

Kristen Bell on Anxiety & Depression

While we know many celebrities suffer from mental illness, we don’t get to hear them talk candidly about it very often. Kristen Bell sat down with Sam Jones of Off Camera, and spoke very openly about how depression runs in her family and that there is no shame in taking medication for it.

Furiously Happy

I know that I am crazy. And that has made all the difference.

I read Jenny Lawson’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened a few years ago–not when it first came out, but after it had moved to the general shelves at Half-Price. I didn’t know what it was, I just found this silly book with a mouse on the cover and it was ridiculous enough, and on sale enough, to pick up. I probably got through the first few sentences before I was in love with her.

As soon as I found out The Bloggess was coming out with a new book, I started looking for updates. Due to my awesome Twitter skills, I won a contest and Jenny herself sent me a copy of her book! Yay!

Let me just tell you. Guys. Oh man. I was already laughing and crying by the end of the Note From the Author. Not even kidding. Furiously Happy is so much more intense than the first one. Jenny has gotten REAL about her battle with mental illness. I already admired her, but now she is basically my idol. This woman is badASS. To have struggled so intensely with brain fuckery and come out on the other side with such an incredible sense of humor and bombastic desire for life…sometimes it’s just hard to believe this is possible.

Sometimes it can be dangerous for one person with severe anxiety to talk to another person with severe anxiety. For example, before reading this book, I had never considered the concept of toilet corpses. I have OCCASIONALLY, especially after binging on cop shows, panicked about finding dead bodies in cars or ditches or other…normal…places. But in toilet stalls, nope. Thanks Jen. ‘Preciate that one. I can never pee again.

Furiously Happy is the kind of book I want to write someday. Jenny Lawson gives me so much hope that we can beat this stigma. Maybe not today. Maybe not this year. But there are people like me, people like Jenny out there who are not afraid to stand up and say I AM SICK AND IT IS OK TO LOVE ME ANYWAY.

“When I look at my life I see high-water marks of happiness and I see the lower places where I had to convince myself that suicide wasn’t an answer. And in between I see my life. I see that the sadness and tragedy in my life made the euphoria and delicious ecstasy that much more sweet. I see that stretching out my soul to feel every inch of horrific depression gave me room to grow and enjoy the beauty of life that others might not ever appreciate. I see that there is dust in the air that will eventually settle onto the floor to be swept out the door as a nuisance, but before that, for one brilliant moment I see the dust motes catch the sunlight and sparkle and dance like stardust. I see the beginning and end of all things. I see my life. It is beautifully ugly and tarnished in just the right way. It sparkles with debris. There is wonder and joy in the simplest of things. My mother was right.

It’s all in how you look at it.”

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I won a free copy of this book by tweeting really fast.

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This is How I’m Feeling

I’ve shared many of my experiences here, but I want you to see other people’s perspectives too. Depression and Anxiety rear their ugly heads in many different ways in many different people.

Lindsay DeFranco is a YouTuber, married to Philip DeFranco, and host of the family vlog TheDeFrancoFam. She’s been super candid about her mental health issues in the past, and a few weeks ago, she posted a video about her recent struggle to balance depression, anxiety, and parenting.

Her confession is beautiful and personal, and I wanted to share it with you. Since I don’t have children, I thought many of you might benefit from seeing such a strong voice speaking out about dealing with this and being a mom at the same time.

The Noonday Demon

“I cannot find it in me to regret entirely the course my life has taken. Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy?”

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I have just been through a monumental study of depression, via Andrew Solomon’s work of nonfiction, The Noonday Demon. And as I sit here, after an entire week of reading nothing but this, I have absolutely no idea where to even start. There is a part of me that just wants to quote the whole damn book…but I’ve already done mostly that on my tumblr page, so it would be redundant. It wouldn’t make for a very good review either, would it?

I am not typically a marker of books–it just isn’t a compulsion I have. But more than once…a dozen times at least…I had to sit on my hand as not to highlight quotes and mark all over the margins of this library copy of The Noonday Demon. It’s not a light read, and the subtitle An Atlas of Depression is extremely fitting. You will study this and take notes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a college psych syllabus. Even though Solomon is not medically trained or licensed, the research is extremely thorough and he dives deep into the subject of depression.

I did find this book very wordy. Every paragraph is massive–full of not only Solomon’s thoughts, but also quotes and statistics. All are formatted into one giant block of text with no break or indentation, which makes it hard to discern who is providing the information–Solomon or third party, especially when it switches back and forth. The chapters are just as massive, 25-30 pages each. There are a few breaks within the chapters, but with so much text and information coming at you at once, it can get overwhelming at times.

However, as much information as there, it is all good and helpful information. If you ever need to read a book to remind you that your mental illness is not your fault–this is just the book. Solomon breaks down not just the history of mental illness discovery and treatment, but the very evolution behind our brains’ development and why we feel the way we do. He talks to several people suffering from depression throughout the book, and writes openly about his own breakdowns. The goal of The Noonday Demon is to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness through education, and this is a great tool for anyone willing to take a deep dive into depression.

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