The representation of mental health issues (specifically anxiety and depression) are a huge part of the Evie Cappelli series. The very first scene is Evie preparing to leave an in-patient facility, three months after a failed suicide attempt. Throughout the entire series, she struggles not only with the outside influences trying to destroy her, but with her own cracked psyche.
There were a lot of scenes that were very, very difficult to write. Many of Evie’s experiences are based on things that happened to me, or were inspired by them, even if they aren’t identical. While I wouldn’t say it was triggering at any point, I will say there were times when I had to walk away from the manuscript, or days I couldn’t work on it because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and knew it could be triggering.
When I first started writing it, I had no intention of publishing it. I was trying to cope with my own depression, but at the time I didn’t have a diagnoses, and was basically being told “Well, you get up, go to work and school, and function normally. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
For years, I thought being completely miserable was normal.
I thought only really special people got to be happy. I thought people like me didn’t deserve it.
It was only through the process of writing THE SPIDER’S WEB, of reaching out to friends and to doctors and counselors that I realized I was wrong.
When the book starts, Evie is just leaving an inpatient facility. After three months of intensive treatment, she hopes to be able to live her life. Maybe go back to school. But she quickly learns that just taking the medication isn’t enough. Her family doesn’t provide enough–or any–support for her recovery, and she finds herself spiraling back into the same place she was before treatment. In a last ditch effort, she asks to go live with her aunt, Izzy, in another province.
Izzy is not a caregiver. She has absolutely no idea what to do with an eighteen-year-old girl with scars on her wrists and social anxiety. Unsure, she does the only two things that make sense to her, the things she would want in the same situation: space, and support. She allows Evie to make mistakes. To explore on her own, within a set of ground rules. She doesn’t force her to talk, but makes it clear she’ll listen. She invites Evie to spend time with her, to open up to her, but doesn’t pressure or or get upset when she says no. She celebrates her accomplishments, and commiserates and comforts her when she’s in pain.
On the other side of things, Adam and Micha both try to pull Evie out of her shell, in safe, healthy ways. They listen. They give gentle pushes. The point out when she is wrong in kind, loving–and sometimes funny–ways.
This is a drastic change for her. Evie spent years feeling like she was being punished for not being “normal.” That’s something most of us neuro-divergents can relate to.
More than anything, I wanted this book to give readers hope. Despite her internal and external challenges, Evie still saves the day, and herself.
The fight is hard. It happens every day, from the time the alarm goes off until long after REM kicks in. But you can win.
Just a reminder, the drawing for a signed copy of THE SPIDER’S WEB will end May 24. You can still enter. Details here.