I've had this feeling before. Drowning...suffocating. Like my ankle was tied to this hundred-pound anchor as I was being cast into deep oceans.
June was a fantastic month, in part because I was able to meet talented authors like C.N. Nash at the first Southern Literary Arts Festival in Memphis. She is not only an amazing author, but also a licensed therapist. Her first novel, Mirroring Effect, while written about a young teenager's grief at her sister's suicide, is largely informed by the author's experience in the mental health field.
Nash's work inside and outside the office is crucial, given the many misconceptions about mental health.
Nash suberbly handles the severe and nauanced emotions that come with the territory of a story abour grief. Both Desi and Demi's stories are realisitic and relatable. Furthermore, the introduction and explanation of the grieving process is extremely useful to dispel misinformation about the recovery process as well.
An Interview With C.N. Nash
Your novel Mirroring Effect centers around a teen girl’s grief after her sister’s suicide. How did you discover the balance Desi’s despair after her sister’s death, and the youthful desire to still enjoy life?
I wanted to emphasize the normalcy of it all and show the progression through the grieving process. Yes, life happens and although there are moments that truly (for a lack of a better word) suck, there are moments of happiness and laughter. I think at times when we deal with heavy topics, such as grief and depression, we think every hour in every day is dark, and that’s not always true. They may feel random, and we may wish they last longer, but we do have these moments where we experience other emotions besides pain. It was important for me to show that with Desi.
Sometimes we can have extreme or polarizing notions about mental health. I didn’t want to go to the extremes, because Desi truly is your typical teen. That’s what makes her so relatable. She still hates algebra. She’s still quirky and awkward. She’s still trying to figure out life, just like anyone else. She’s doing this in the wake of her sister’s suicide and I wanted to show that part- her life after her sister’s death.
On the flip side, I still consider her sister, Demi, as your typical teen as well and wanted to show her regression. High school can be rough. I wanted to show how these two girls chose to deal with the circumstances in their lives. I felt Demi deserved compassion instead of shame; however, I didn’t want to minimize or overlook the seriousness of her decision. Although it may feel hopeless, suicide is never the only option.
How do you view fiction in regards to how it portrays mental health?
Of course I believe mental health awareness is critical.Our perception of what we think it is may not match how mental health plays out on the day-to-day basis. One of the things I enjoy most about fiction, and writing in general, is that it distinguishes the voices of different writers. Each story paints a different perspective about mental health. No one’s experience with mental health is exactly the same as someone else’s. That’s why fiction is relevant and necessary- it has the ability to be just as diverse as the subject it chooses to spotlight.
As licensed mental health professional, what are common misconceptions your clients have coming into therapy?
The biggest concerns center on judgment. People want to know they won’t be judged. You know, when we as a society do talk about mental health it’s often a result of seeing severe displays of untreated mental health. Mental wellness spans over a spectrum. We all fall somewhere on that spectrum and because of the stigma and fear of being labeled “crazy” or “insane,” I sympathize with those who hesitate to fully commit to counseling, especially in the initial stages. As a result, I always strive to emphasize, again, the normalcy of it all. Life happens and we all need support.
Second misconception- for some reason (and I’d be happy to lay this baby to rest), there’s this misconception that the therapist is the expert and reveals all of life’s hidden secrets during the therapeutic process. In truth, clients may find that they have to do a lot of work in therapy! Another thing to note: therapy and growth take time. I wouldn’t expect to see a complete body transformation after one training session at the gym. The same can be said for therapy.
What is the most challenging thing about writing for you?
The beginning of the writing process is always a challenge- the points between character development and building the scenes. It’s like that awkward stage in conversations after meeting someone new. You both accidentally talk over the other, and then you laugh and wait for the other person to continue. But they don’t, so you resume talking and they do the same, and the awkwardness starts all over again. During those moments in writing, I have to force myself not to over-think or prematurely edit!
What was your publishing journey like? What made you choose to become an indie author?
It’s been such a huge learning curve and I’m still learning the ropes. But, self publishing has been a blessing in disguise. Initially, I wanted to go the traditional route but life happened (ie agent rejections). Based on feedback from agents, marketing presented as a challenge. So, I had to decide if I wanted to commit to developing a business mindset in order to share my creative projects. I decided to self-publish because I knew God led me through that writing process for a reason. I knew He gave me the overall vision for my book for a reason. If I wanted people to see that vision, I knew I had to be the one to share it.
For those struggling with mental health, or wanting to learn more about mental health issues, what resources would you suggest?
There are so many! I had to add a resource page to my website because there’s a lot of information out there. National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) are good starting points.
I must give caution: although conducting research on the Internet can be extremely helpful, please also consider reaching out to a professional in person. Professionals are trained to look at symptoms through context and diagnosed and treat accordingly. Put it like this: the last time I used a search engine to check into a persistent cough and sinus issue, I walked away thinking I had cancer. (Well played, Memphis in Spring…well played).
If you are contemplating suicide or facing a crisis related to mental health, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-272-8255.
In your biography, you said you traveled a lot growing up. Which city did you love the most, and which city most influenced your writing?
That’s so hard to answer! I associate different emotions with each city because of their very specific, very exact influences on my writing. I would say, Tupelo, MS will always draw me back, no matter how far I drift.
If you could gift someone one book, what would it be?
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s a fiction book that emphasizes the truth that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.
I would like to thank C.N. Nash for her time and wonderful answers! I highly suggest checking out Mirroring Effect, which is available as an e-book or paperback.