[Guest Post]: On Writing a Character With Anxiety + Mental Health Book Recommendations (Shattering Stigmas)

October 4, 2017 books, recs, writing 8

I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Marie Landry to the blog today! Marie is an author, and she is going to tell you about her writing process and how much of herself she puts into her own characters in this post. She will also give you a couple of book recommendations for YA/NA books discussing mental health. Make sure to check out Waiting for the Storm and Marie’s other books. I’ll let Marie take over from here.

Shattering Stigmas graphic
Shattering Stigmas is a two-week blogging event focused on mental health in literature and mental health generally – check back for guest posts, reviews and discussions around mental health.

Marie’s story

When I started writing my YA book Waiting for the Storm five years ago, I didn’t intend for it to be about a girl with anxiety. Initially it was about a girl, Charlotte, who had finished high school at home while taking care of her terminally ill mother. After being shut away for almost a year, she had become anxious and jumpy, afraid of things that never bothered her before, and unable to cope with her emotions. As I continued writing and Charlotte became more fully formed in my mind, her actions – things like jumping to conclusions and overreacting – seemed familiar.

From the beginning, I knew Charlotte would be the character I put the most of myself into. We have the same interests (like reading, book blogging, and a love of certain TV shows), and many of the same personality traits. I didn’t realize at first I was putting something else of myself into her: my anxiety. But that was exactly what I was doing, and even though I knew some people wouldn’t understand some of Charlotte’s actions, they made sense to me, and would likely make sense to other people who battle with anxiety and depression. As Charlotte realized her dad’s depression was more than ‘situational’ depression over losing his wife, she had to face the fact her own behavior was more than just grief, and it was time to seek professional help, even though it was scary.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen more and more discussions about the importance of seeing yourself in books, especially when you’re part of a minority. For many people, books are their world. They’re a touchstone that keeps us sane, keeps us grounded, lets us know we’re not alone. For those people, it can be crucial to see characters similar to themselves, going through similar struggles, dealing with similar issues. A teenager (or adult) might read a book about a character with anxiety and think ‘This is how I’ve been acting. Maybe there’s not really something ‘wrong’ with me, and I can get help’. They can read books where characters are seeking help, going to therapy, taking medication, learning coping mechanisms, leaning on friends, learning to talk openly about their struggles, and any number of other things, and realize there’s no shame in any of it, and there’s also no need to suffer in silence.

The more we see these types of characters in books and the more we talk about mental health, we’re working to shatter the stigmas surrounding mental illness. The more we stress the fact it’s not okay to refer to someone as ‘bipolar’ if they’re moody or say ‘I’m OCD’ because they’re super organized or particular about things, the easier it gets to be open and honest about mental health.

If you’re looking for a YA book about a girl with anxiety written by a girl with anxiety, I hope you’ll check out Waiting for the Storm. I also have a few other recommendations for books (4 Young Adult, 1 New Adult) with mental health representation.

Marie’s Recommendations

The Upside of Unrequited
by Becky Albertalli – Anxiety

Eliza and Her Monsters
by Francesca Zappia – Anxiety and depression

Girl Against the Universe
by Paula Stokes – PTSD

The Best Possible Answer
by E Katherine Kottaras – Anxiety

London Belongs to Me
by Jacquelyn Middleton – Anxiety and panic attacks

Marie Landry author picture Marie Landry’s life revolves around books; when she’s not writing them, she’s reading them, taking pictures of them for bookstagram, or blogging about them. An avid reader from a young age, she loves getting lost in characters’ worlds, whether they’re of her own making or someone else’s. She particularly loves coming-of-age stories with as much of an emphasis on self-discovery as on romance…but don’t leave out the romance!

When not doing bookish things, Marie can be found daydreaming (in general, but often about travelling through Europe), binge-watching shows on Netflix, and taking photographs. She lives in a cozy apartment in Ontario, Canada with the best roommate ever, and only sometimes imagines it’s actually a flat in London.

Where to find Marie

Marie loves to chat, especially with fellow book lovers. Here’s where you can find her:

Blog: Ramblings of a Daydreamer
Instagram: SweetMarie_83 (bookish pics) or Rambling_Daydreamer (non-bookish pics)
Twitter: @SweetMarie83
Facebook: Marie Landry, Author

Where to find Waiting for the Storm


Amazon US // Amazon UK // Amazon CA


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Marie! Show Marie some love in the comments. If you’re a writer, how much of yourself do you put into your characters? If you’re a reader, do you have any more recommendations for books with good mental health rep?

8 Responses to “[Guest Post]: On Writing a Character With Anxiety + Mental Health Book Recommendations (Shattering Stigmas)”

  1. Dina

    Ah, it’s nice to hear from someone who’s already written a book that reflects on their experiences. I wish I can do that one day, but I get so anxious of alienating anyone in the process. Ah! I have The Upside of Unrequited and it just got higher on my TBR list, because ANXIETY REP IS IMPORTANT! (Sorry for yelling. I’m just very excited about reading a story where anxiety is acknowledged).
    This post was so welcoming. It felt nice to hang out here.

    • Marie Landry

      Thank you, Dina! I understand what you mean about worrying you’ll alienate people, but I think if you have a story to tell – one you think people need to read, that might help them or comfort them or make them feel seen – it’s worth the risk. Everyone experiences anxiety and depression differently, and when people read books that deal with mental health, I always hope they remember no experience is universal. Also, definitely bump up The Upside of Unrequited – great anxiety rep that includes a main character who takes medication, which is super rare. Plus it’s just funny and swoony and wonderful in general! ;-)

  2. Valerie

    Thank you so much for sharing Marie! I will have to be on the lookout for Waiting for the Storm (and I should probably check it out on GR now). The last book I read had a MC with anxiety, and I was surprised (yet not) with how much I connected with her. I’ve only read 2 out of the 5 recommendations that you had, so I guess I’ll pick those up at some point!

  3. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Such a fabulous post, Marie! I agree completely- it is so important for people to see themselves in books. And with mental health, it is nice to feel less alone. I have read two of the books you listed (Upside and Eliza) and have Girl Against the Universe on my shelf! But I need to check out the others, too- and your books, of course! Thank you so much for sharing your story!
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…Guest Post: #ShatteringStigmas Book Recommendations!My Profile

  4. Holly J

    It’s so great that there are more books out there now that are openly talking about and dealing with mental illness. It’s SO important to see that – it’s so important for people to see themselves in books. And I love that we have stories like yours and others to help people, especially teenagers. People like to be so dismissive because of their age, and it doesn’t help that there are still so many harmful stigmas regarding mental health. So I’m glad we have fiction to help us fight back against them. Lovely post, Marie!
    Holly J recently posted…A Lingering SadnessMy Profile

  5. Olivia Roach

    I have to admit that I haven’t read any of the recommended. I have read other novels by Francesca Zappia and also Paula Stokes, but I have those two recommended ones in particular on my TBR now as well. I think it is so important to see yourself in literature. Often we read to escape, but it is so good sometimes to be able to know there is someone out there like you, who also struggles through it all, and to identify with someone else…
    Olivia Roach recently posted…Top 10: Things I Learned from Reading Every DayMy Profile

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