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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Louise Gornall: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

How do some books just find you at the perfect time? It seems that I’ve read bad book after bad book lately (with one or two exceptions), and then blammo, right when I needed it, this book happened. Two days after I was FINALLY diagnosed with OCD, I pick up Under Rose-Tainted Skies.

I was hooked within the first couple pages. The narrator described her obsessions almost the exact same way I had written about them in my journal the day before my therapist appointment, and I got CHILLS. So much of what she talked about rang true with me. Mine is not near as severe, and I don’t have agoraphobia, but it was incredible to have such representation in a book.

But enough about me and back to the review. There are a lot of similarities between Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything and Under Rose-Tainted Skies. However, Norah doesn’t have to be “fixed” to have a relationship with Luke. Instead, he comes to her. He makes an effort to learn about her disorder. In the process of their relationship, she does heal some, but she isn’t magically better. It’s baby steps, or “new pathways,” as her therapist would call them. Luke helps her grow a bit out of her comfort zone.

This book is going to be triggering for some people. There is a component of self-harm, and a very traumatic scene. Norah also experiences panic attacks throughout the book–those were difficult for me to experience, as they were very vivid. Right on target, but also hard to read through if you are one who has panic attacks yourself. Representation is everything, and amazing…but just proceed with caution if you also suffer from these kinds of mental illness.

I loved this book, I found it so helpful to read about someone like me. We need so many more Own Voices books about people with mental illness in this world. Definitely put this on your list for 2017!

DiversityBingo2017:  MC with an Invisible Disability

NetGalley and Clarion Books provided an ARC for unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.

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Hannah Hart: Buffering

The wildly popular YouTube personality and author of the New York Times bestseller My Drunk Kitchen is back! This time, she’s stirring up memories and tales from her past.

By combing through the journals that Hannah has kept for much of her life, this collection of narrative essays deliver a fuller picture of her life, her experiences, and the things she’s figured out about family, faith, love, sexuality, self-worth, friendship and fame.

Revealing what makes Hannah tick, this sometimes cringe-worthy, poignant collection of stories is sure to deliver plenty of Hannah’s wit and wisdom, and hopefully encourage you to try your hand at her patented brand of reckless optimism.

Personal note:

Hello, my darlings! I am incredibly pleased to present BUFFERING: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded!

As a big fan of memoirs, I wanted to try my hand at writing about the events of my life that deserve a little more consideration than can be accomplished in 140-characters or a 6-minute vlog. Now on the cusp of turning 30, I’m ready to expose some parts of my life that I haven’t shared before. Before, it was all about privacy, process and time. And now the time has come! I’m ready to put myself out there, for you.  

I’m a little nervous about all these vulnerable words going into the world, these tales about my love life, the wrestling I’ve done with faith, how I feel about sex and my family and myself. I’ve had a lot of trials, a lot of errors, but also a lot of passion. Here’s the thing–I’ve always found comfort in the stories shared by others, so I hope my stories, now that I feel ready to tell them, will bring you some comfort too.

And when you read this book please remember: Buffering is just the time it takes to process.

Enjoy!

Love,

Hannah 

OH. OH HANNAH.

I was going to start this blog off by gushing over how much of a Hannah Hart crush I have. “Mild Obsession” wouldn’t be too far off base.

But oh, Hannah. This book.

She’d told us many times that she was revealing all her secrets in this book. And I knew it would be packed full of gayness. I knew that she came from a religious background, and that she suffered from mental illness. I expected some darkness. I know there is a lot of depth behind her bright and shiney coat of happy.

But oh. Oh Hannah.

I was sobbing by page 11. And not like, internal, this is an emotional book, I feel sad but I’m not actually outwardly crying, “sobbing.” No. SOBBING. Full on WEEPING by page 11.

I’m not going to tell you what Hannah’s secrets are. They aren’t mine to tell. But there is a reason that her introduction is called Trigger Warning. This wonderful, beautiful woman who makes us laugh with her silly puns, her goofy kitchen antics, her smooth scotchy wisdom–I don’t know how she got there. How a person goes through the seven circles of hell and emerges with such a fresh outlook on life amazes me. Those people are my heroes–and Hannah Hart is one of them.

Buffering is not “just another Youtuber book.” Don’t throw it on the pile. Pick it up as soon as possible, whether you are a fan of hers or not. It will change your perspective on life–I promise you.

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Stop the Stigma

I was discussing mental illness this morning with a dear friend of mine. She too has suffered for a long time–much longer, and much harder than I have. Now that we’ve found each other, we know each other’s moods and trigger points. While we don’t live in the same city, we try to care for each other as best we can.

We do disagree sometimes, however, and this morning was one of those times. Today is Self Injury Awareness Day (SIAD). In a nation of wacky celebrations like Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or Root Beer Float Day–actual awareness days can sometimes get lost in the mix. When I mentioned to her that today was SIAD, she asked me if I thought days like today cheapened the struggle. That sparked a lively debate. Her opinions are her own, so I’m not going to share them here. But the conversation did really make me think about my own reasons for participating in days like today, and writing so ferociously about mental illness.

While I now know that I have been living with mental illness for many years, my diagnosis is only a year old. Since that time, I have really ramped up my study in psychology. What was a mild interest has now become a serious passion. I am extremely invested in learning as much as I can about psychology, the brain, and everything mental health related. There’s a reason you have seen such an uptick in nonfiction on this blog!

Through my research, I’ve found a wonderfully welcoming mental health community online. Social media has brought together so many different people to form a unique kind of group therapy. On just about any platform, you can find forums and outlets for depression, anxiety, BPD, eating disorders, self-harm, the list goes on and on. Youtubers like Kati Morton provide informative videos, journal prompts, and worksheets to help fill in the gaps between actual therapy. Bloggers (Like me! But also Allie Brosh and Jenny Lawson) write about their own experiences–how they suffered, got help, their coping mechanisms, good days, bad days.

Some of this is general, some of it gets really personal–but for me, it is all extremely helpful. The more conversation, the better.

Today is Self Injury Awareness Day. This is not an issue I deal with personally, but I know people who do. And after reading Lady Injury recently, I grasp much more fully how terrifyingly dangerous it can be. I encourage you to pay attention to the discussions happening on social media today. If you are able, participate. Be careful though, and take care of yourself. If you don’t understand what is happening yet, listen, ask questions.

Today, and other days like today, are about awareness and education. Today is every single one of us joining hands and saying “Hello, I am here for you. I love you. Do you need help?” AND ALSO “I am sick. I need help. Here is what is happening.” AND ALSO “I love you. I want to know more. Help me understand so I can help.”

Help us reduce the stigma on mental illness. The more we share our stories, the more people can learn and understand. The more people who learn and understand, the better chance we have of improved mental health care and treatment. With less stigma, we will also have more people asking for help when they need it, as there will be less shame placed on those who are sick. We need real conversations happening around dinner tables and in classrooms and between girlfriends at lunch and in bars between bros.

START THE CONVERSATION. STOP THE STIGMA.

Lady Injury

Oh Melissa…

It’s not often I read a book that I like, and then tell you not to read it. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

But to be fair, even the author tells you not to read her book. And then the person doing the introduction tells you not to read the book.

I’ve never seen an author include such an intense trigger warning before. We talk about them in reviews and in comment sections, but they usually aren’t actually included in the narrative. But Melissa Water understands triggers better than most. Water has severe anxiety–some of the worst I’ve ever read about. That anxiety makes her self-harm, and she has destroyed her body.

Melissa kept constant journals while being hospitalized for her mental illness, and Lady Injury is the narrative of those journals. This memoir is bloody, devastating, and painful. There were parts of it that all but had me curled up in the fetal position. It definitely made me anxious–if I were a cutter I am not sure I would have been able to resist. Melissa puts the written stop sign at the beginning for a reason.

I am so proud of her for telling her story, though. As hard as this book is to read, I’m sure it was harder to write–and nearly impossible to live through. Water’s voice is one of many that needs to be heard.

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