Sleeping ~ Instead of Living: a vlog story

Yesterday I published the first full episode of my new vlog series, entitled “Living ~ When You Just Wanna Sleep.” Of course, since I’m me, before sharing it with the world, I shared it with a few friends to get their opinions, and they were fans. Which meant the absolute world to me.

So, girded with their supportive fortitude, I sallied forth into the world of publishing vlogs! It’s a scary world out there, scarier than the world of being painfully open and honest in writing, because in the world of videos, people see your face; they see the way your eyes droop when you’re sad, the way that circle of fat around your (my) belly makes you (me) look like a Pillsbury dough boy, the way your hair floofs out of control and has to be tamed, repeatedly, during one 30-second filming…they see all your pores, the literal and metaphorical ones.

It’s terrifying, but for someone like me, who thrives on being known intimately, it’s also thrilling.

Ever since I was in high school, I had this need, bordering on compulsion, for people to know what was going on behind my eyes. It’s fascinating to me, how little we can truly know about someone. They can smile and laugh and inside they’re mentally throwing knives and screeching and pulling at their hair and sobbing but all we see is happiness. It’s fascinating and more than a little heart-breaking.

And back in high school, my depression was beginning to make me act different, act weird, and I had this intense desire that they should know why.

So in college I began writing about it, and well…the rest is history.

 

These videos are going to be a monthly installment, and hopefully each one will be better than the last. I’ll film bits and pieces and flashes of my life throughout the month — images of myself walking through NYC, myself with friends, myself at home being sad or ultra happy or what have you — and then a narration thread. It’s going to be an inside look at depression; at what it’s like, really and truly and as unfilteredly as possible, to live with depression.

To live, in short, when you’d rather be sleeping.

This video has a few holes, one of which being that I don’t really go into why quitting my job helps my depression, because I’ve talked so much about my love for pizza-slinging. It’s confusing, if you don’t know what all happened in the last few weeks.

Basically, it just…became too much. A combination of the management, angry customers and me being overworked conspired to create a fissure in me, one that needed to be soothed by taking a break. And when I went back to work…it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t in love anymore. I was stressed, having panic attacks in the hours leading up to my shift. I was scared of getting yelled at by any number of people, scared of messing up.

I also lived with a constant fear of losing my job. I can’t go too in-depth as to why, but let’s just say…the restaurant business is a tough one. For everyone involved, from upper management to lower management to employees to guests. It’s fast-paced and high-intensity and it breaks you quickly and easily.

So my mind was filled with a constant rattle of noise, a constant stream of fearful thoughts and confusion and stress and sorrow and BAM! depressive episode.

[Someday maybe I’ll tell you guys what triggered it. It’s a doozy. And yes — it’s work-related.]

So that’s some background on why the vlog in general, why the job-quitting, why all of it…

I know not everyone understands my compulsion to share. Let’s just say, that it helps me as much as it might help others. And if it does help you, my sharing: tell me! It gives me strength on the days when I fear I’m doing nothing but hurting this world. On the days when my brain is eaten alive by lying zombies which hiss that I’m a cancer on society, I remember messages, comments, emails saying the opposite…and I am comforted.

Thank you for that comfort, dear readers and friends and followers. I’m doing this for you. And also for me. 🙂

He is here: Easter reflections on depression and faith

Today is Easter. In my faith, it’s a day created for celebration. Celebration of a death meant to save, and celebration of a resurrection. It’s an important day; without Easter, there’s really no Christianity. Because without Easter, without Christ’s resurrection, well…his movement dies, as does our belief.

So today, today is a day for celebrating. And the weather here in New York played nice: it’s glorious and warm and clear blue skies and simply ideal.

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It’s a beautiful day on a hundred different levels. I should be rejoicing. I should be dancing, laughing, smiling until my cheeks are sore.

Instead I’m sitting on my couch in semi-darkness, wondering where my happiness got chased off to. Wondering where my celebrating spirit is hiding.

It’s not that I don’t believe, don’t have faith. I do, honestly and truly, as wild as it might seem, believe that 2,000 years ago a man died on a cross, and that man was God, and that man rose from the dead, and his sacrifice eradicates sin from me and confirms me to an eternity of heavenly celebration.

I believe that somehow, for some reason, God created me, fashioned me with his power, and smiled upon me, loving what He had made. In the core, secretest part of my heart, I do believe that I am loved by a powerful, eternal being who created all.

And yet. And yet that belief, the knowledge of that love, it doesn’t erase my suffering. It doesn’t cancel out my depression. My faith is incredible and sustaining on so many levels; yet it doesn’t cure my mind of this disease that ravages it.

And so on this day of celebration, I grieve. I grieve not because I have any reason to, not because there is anything lacking in my life or faith; I merely grieve because that is how my brain is wired.

I grieve because sorrow feels ever-present, choking hope from me. As much of a stubborn optimist as I naturally am, depression seeks to cancel that out, seeks to strangle me into a pessimistic person, and sometimes succeeds. So no matter what, I don’t have hope for this life.

If you’re getting down to the meat of it, it’s this: I don’t see a way into lasting happiness. I can’t imagine a future in which this weariness doesn’t claw at my throat, in which the certainty of failure doesn’t hold my hand and match me step for step. I struggle to believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, mortally speaking.

In recent days, I’ve reminded myself, time and again, of the meaning of my tattoo: that He is here. That His presence is undeniable. It doesn’t mean He’s here to walk me out of the darkness, necessarily. It simply means He is with me in the waiting, in the torment, in the grieving.

At a Good Friday service at my church, Hillsong NYC, our pastor Carl Lentz spoke for just a few minutes about the six hours between Christ’s nailing to the cross and the moment He gave up His life. He reminded us that for those six hours, Jesus hung in an agony of physical pain and probably mental anguish and doubt. But he persevered. At any moment he could have given it up, shrugged and used His power to get off the cross.

But He didn’t.

He hung there for those six torturous hours.

I’m in my own six hours. They’ve lasted months if not years and I don’t see an end anytime soon. That doesn’t mean there is no end; relief could come tomorrow for all I know, and I could be released from this depressive episode’s clutches.

Or not. Or the six hours could be the rest of my life on Earth.

And that thought…it sucks. It really sucks. It’s a reason to grieve, and so I’m grieving, because I have little sense of hope of ever being released from this torture that is depression; from this craving to cut, this desire for death.

At the same time…He is here. He is with me. He hung on for six agonizing hours. And he is with me in this darkness.

I was taught growing up that Christ was tempted in all the ways we are, that He suffered all the ways we do. I take comfort in choosing to believe that maybe this means he also despaired. He lost hope. He lost the light.

But He didn’t lose his mission, his faith, his belief in His Father’s presence.

I’m gonna strive to live like that. Live like Christ did for those six hours, even if that’s the rest of my life.

Depression eats hope. And faith, faith takes your hand and walks you through the tunnel.

He is here. With me, in depression.

Thank God.

Mental health update: a bad depressive episode

Hey lovely blog-readers and friends and family peoples. I wanted to give out a little mental health update, and it felt too long and personal and everything to just post on Facebook or Twitter, so I’m blogging about it.

You should be warned going into it, though, that this post will deal with mental health issues including depression and suicidal thoughts.

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Basically…I’m not OK. I wasn’t feeling great all week, beginning with an incident last Friday that led to very strong suicidal feelings (including making a plan to kill myself). It passed—at least the suicidal part did—and although I was still having panic attacks, depressive thoughts and all-around sorrow over the next few days, I though I was past the worst of it.

Cue yesterday. Although I know what the trigger for this latest episode was, it doesn’t change the fact that things have devolved to a point far beyond what I logically should be feeling today. And so, yesterday. Yesterday I began to have a panic attack which quickly turned into uncontrollable sobbing and with that came thoughts—a desire to hurt myself—to potentially do more than that.

I left the house in a rush, worried that I would end up harming myself if I stayed. So I ran out and met a good friend, emailing my therapist and psychiatrist as I went.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetWhich leads us to now. I’m sitting on my best friend’s couch in Alphabet City, view of One World Trade Center to my left, “Friends” on TV and help within easy reach should I need it. I’m taking a break, surrounding myself with friends and staying safe. Because after a chat with my doctor yesterday, we concluded that my options were simple: find somewhere to stay for a few nights and someone(s) to be with for a few days, or go to the emergency room and check myself into a hospital.

For safe-keeping.

Because of the fear that if left alone or to go about my normal life, I might harm myself, temporarily or in a more permanent sense. I say that not to worry or freak you out, but to impress upon you the seriousness of the situation.

There was fear for my life. I felt fear for my life, as did my doctor and others concerned. So I’m hiding out in Manhattan for a few days, taking things slowly, and riding out this latest episode.

Episodes like this don’t last forever. They come, they wrack you and wring you dry, and then they leave. It’s mostly a matter of riding it out as safely as possible until you can return to a semblance of normalcy.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI say “semblance.” There’s little normalcy in life when you’re depressed. Almost every day is another opportunity to be sad, to be wracked with sorrow. Even this past Sunday, as I left a wonderful service at church…I was crying. I took a picture while waiting for the subway cause, well, that’s what I do. I chronicle what depression looks like.

It looks like that. It looks like waking up, getting dressed nicely and crying off all your makeup.

It looks like going out, smiling and laughing with friends but as soon as you’re alone, sinking so quickly you can barely catch your breath.

It looks like being chronically and hopelessly depressed. It looks like knowing that a “cure,” a “healing” is unlikely, and slowly (strugglingly) coming to terms with that. It looks like accepting that sometimes sick days mean mind-sick days, because when your brain is against you there’s little you can do.

And it looks like worrying about this, because I know so many will take these words and be sad about them, when really…this is me being hopeful. This is me saying, “it’s going to be OK.” Because in the end—this is a good scenario.

The bad scenario is one in which I didn’t reach out, didn’t ask for help, didn’t take time off or work to get through this. The bad scenario is one in which I hurt myself or worse. The bad scenario is…it’s really bad.

The good scenario is the yet-sucky one I’m living, and yeah, as much as it stinks that this, what’s happening right now, is considered good…it could be worse. It could be much worse.

So I’m grateful for what I do have: life. Friends who can help me. The ability to reach out. A support system.

I know I have much to be grateful for, and I am grateful for it all. But that doesn’t negate that I have depression, a disease, a chemical imbalance, something hard to manage. It’s real, and it’s hard, and it’s chronic. My depression does not mean I am not happy or joyful or grateful.

All it means is that I have depression. I want y’all to take hope from that. Knowing that even in the darkness, I see light. I know that God is with me even in this time, as dark as it gets, and I know that the act of sinking is not a rejection of Him. It is simply the way it is.

If you have questions—encouragement—concerns—feel free to comment or email or reach out. I can’t promise I’ll respond immediately, but I will read and be grateful. ❤

 

The little things that save my life

I’ve been depressed lately. A lot. In a very real, very scary, very hide-under-the-covers-and-never-come-out way, a very quit-your-job-and-disappear-into-the-woods way. In a way that called up all the memories of past depression. A way that felt like it would totally sink me.

It hasn’t sunk me yet, though. I’m still plugging onward, as much as I wish I could get a doctors’ note to take a three-day break from, well, everything. I’m still going.

And as a gratefulness exercise, here’s a list of the small things that save my life regularly. Well, they’re not all small, not to me. They’re huge to me. To those around me, they might seem miniscule. I guess it’s just a matter of perception…

  1. The sounds of Brooklyn life amplified by an open window on a warm-ish spring day.
  2. “No, Karis,” as said to me by all the guys in the kitchen, a thousand times a night. The way they tease me and ask if I’m going to cry again today.
  3. A silly texting conversation about crushes with a refreshing friend.
  4. Being told I’m “cute, fun and interesting” by a date who is taking a few moments to recover from finding out he’s the first date (LOL).
  5. That specific chill that comes in April and May, that sun-filtered kinda-warmth that’s not cloying or thick, not summer yet.
  6. The messages of love, hope and encouragement sent on Facebook by people who know I’m struggling.
  7. Being taken seriously when I seriously say I wish I were not alive.
  8. Sheila taking the time to say hello.
  9. Selling one Margherita and one coke at 7:45 p.m. every night to the same bright girl.
  10. Having crushes again.
  11. Bashful looks and prospects.
  12. Young adult novels — writing and reading them.
  13. The resurgence of hope that comes after a deep low.
  14. Rowan, and Nick, and Chi, and my Connect Girls, and Bethany, and my roommates (all of them), and Becca and too many more to name.
  15. You guys.

I dunno, I’m sure there’s more. This is just my way of saying: it’s the small things, guys. The smell, the sound, the taste of spring. The silly shenanigans that go on at work. The friends that laugh at my jokes even when I’m so sad. The adrenaline rush that comes from performing, even when you’re not on stage, even when you’re just playing the role “charming pizza-slinger.” The hope of traveling to new places. The knowledge you can’t experience anything new if you’re dead.

These are the things that keep me alive. These are the things that help me go on.

And this — this blog post. Writing. Using words to spread a message. Seeing that message read and understood. Connecting with someone because of how I string together some letters and words and form a sentence and weave an image.

It’s the little things.

Japan, it’s under my skin forever

I don’t think I’ll ever get over Japan.

I’m not sure the day will come that I can think about that trip without a jolt of joy, a pang of hurt; joy that it happened, that I lived it, and hurt that it’s over, that it’s done, a memory, no longer my present.

I will never stop loving the country that embraced me when I needed a hug the most. I will never forget the people who became home when I was far from one. I will never get over the awe of seeing Tokyo from above, vast and blue and stretching, stretching, stretching onto infinity. I will never be able to distance that awe from the depression that swung in hours later, choking me.

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Japan will forever be linked as good and bad in my mind. Because I wrote about finding peace and I meant every last word. I had a breakthrough in Japan, in the strangest of circumstances.

But in nearly the same breath, I wrote:

I am depressed in New York City, when I sling pizzas with a cheery smile and a hearty laugh. I am depressed when I wander the streets at night, crying into my phone and contemplating leaving my fate to chance and Central Park after dark.
I am depressed in Nikko City, when I clap hands with the children and sing to peppy music. I am depressed when I curl up in my retreat center bed and wonder why I thought I had anything to offer.
I am depressed in Trieste, when I walk seven miles to my favorite castle with my best friend, laughing and only pretend groaning. I am depressed when I write poems called “I hate myself” and swear I should have died before breathing.
I am depressed in Brooklyn, when I sit on my couch with my roommates and giggle and share secrets. I am depressed when I dig my nails into my flesh and rip so blood will flow.
I am depressed in South Carolina, when I meet up with my cousins and play golf and read. I am depressed when I pitch a fit and scream myself hoarse.
I am depressed in Marzell, when she tells me I’m a bully and remind her of Hitler and I think I wish I could freeze to death. I am depressed when I collapse on the couch and wrap my arms around my sisters and laugh until I cannot breathe.
I am depressed in Tokyo, when I eat sushi and grimace because the wasabi clears my sinuses and it’s pleasant in its pain. I am depressed when I break from the group and walk, crying, down the alleys.
I am depressed in Europe, America, Asia. I am depressed when I’m happy and when I’m sad. I am depressed here, there, yesterday, now, tomorrow. I am depressed awake or asleep, with a laugh or a smile, with a blade or a fingernail.
I am, simply, depressed.

Japan is a kaleidoscope (hah, get it?) of emotions for me, a swirling, colorful, bountiful mess of happiness and sorrow that are forever intertwined. It makes sense — all the sense in the world — that I wrote those two pieces in the span of a few days.

Because that’s the thing, is that my joy and my depression, they are neighbors, they are sisters, they are forever linked. The one does not take away from the other.

Just because I am depressed does not mean I am not joyful.

I’ve maybe always known that, but it was Jessi who truly made it real for me. See, I was sitting on some steps in some kind of shopping district in Tokyo, sobbing. Hyperventilate-sobbing. And when my teammates asked what was wrong, I said, “It’s OK.”

Not because was OK (I wasn’t) but because I wanted them to know they didn’t have to ask. It was OK if they didn’t want to know. My depression is a heavy burden, and not everyone can help me bear it. I’ve learned that the hard way — by losing friends because of it. And I didn’t want to lose these friends, this family, this home.

And what did they do?

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Mah peeps.

They insisted. They demanded. They said it was OK — for me to burden them. So I did. I confessed that I was speechlessly depressed. That I was having suicidal thoughts — and here I digress for a second to say, suicidal thoughts are far different from suicidal ideation; one is uncontrollable, the wish for death. The other is active, the plan for death. Digression ended — and couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t handle it.

They gathered, they prayed, they squeezed my shoulder and put their arms around me and Jessi (bless her), she thanked God for my joy.

And I realized again that the two, they live together. I am full of joy, full of life, full of love; I am depressed.

The two interact. The two compete. Most days, the joy wins — that’s why I’m here.

And it won in Japan. In the end, joy won.

I don’t have words that go deep enough to tell you how much I loved Japan. How much I lived Japan.

Leaving Japan — it broke my heart. Being back in New York…I’ve struggled, these past few days. Because every once in a while I’d wake up and realize it was over. I was no longer on foreign soil, opposite-the-world from home. I wasn’t breathing different air, ingesting new oxygen, touching something other and beautiful and incredible and amazing. I wasn’t with my team anymore, and that was so hard to handle.

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Best park.

And last night — I drank some wine and left a party early. I danced to “Boom Boom Pow” as I walked through Manhattan; and when I say danced, I mean danced. I saw Bryant Park at night and sprinted across the street, flung my hands into the air and breathed in my city’s air.

And I was so grateful to be home.

Those two can go together, too: missing Japan and loving New York. They’re not irreconcilable, just…different.

Japan is under my skin. I love it forever. There are so many words in my heart to share with you about this trip — I can’t wait to talk about the reawakening of my love (nay, need) for travel; about the struggles of coming home no matter how often you do it; about finding home amongst people I didn’t know; about that, and so much more.

I’ll never get over Japan. Thank God for that.

 

A good-bye to break my heart

This past week in Japan was undeniably good, but also undeniably hard.

There were so many rocky moments, from my crippling insecurities about whether or not I’m actually helpful to the kids, the families, and my team; to the depression that choked me – that’s choking me now – that ripped my brain to shreds; to the tiredness of traveling plus jetlag plus a foreign land plus kids for 12 hours a day. It was so good and also so hard.

And one of the reasons it was good is one of the reasons it was hard. I got so attached to those kids! To the little girl who spells her name like it sounds – SP, literally. There were a brother and sister who were so precious – sweet and polite, always willing to sacrifice for someone else, never asking for themselves – and I wanted to bundle them up in love. I adored the family of four siblings, mostly blond, who were helpful and sassy from the oldest to the youngest.

The kids I spent time with in Nikko absolutely stole my heart.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetAnd then I had to say goodbye.

And oh, the hardest kind of goodbye: the one with little to no hope of being resolved anytime soon. The kind that’s permanent, that you know will stain your heart for weeks, months, possibly ever, and will soon fade for them. That’s what made these goodbyes so hard for me. I’ve been those kids, the ones who are 4, 5, 10, who capture the hearts of the adults who traveled to love on them. I’ve been the kid who loved them too, but whose mind is so young, getting so full, so distracted, that within a blink they were gone.

And so I know – this goodbye is permanent. The chances that I’ll return to Japan are slim. The chances of seeing any of them again before they forget me, even slimmer. And those two facts break my heart.

But do I regret coming?

100%, not even a little.

This trip was just … it was a struggle. I’m bad with kids. I’m bad with adults. I’m bad at a lot, and great at very little. And I’m riddled with insecurities, oppressed by depression, sometimes wishing I could just die. I literally walked through Tokyo at one point and cried because I was so depressed I started having suicidal thoughts again. So yeah, this trip was hard. I often say that when I’m having victories, depression and the devil combine and strike ever harder. That was definitely true on this trip.

But this trip was amazing. There was this moment where I felt God’s peace more truly than I have in a long time. There was a real sense of home that I experienced, not just with the place but with the people. I felt like I truly connected with my teammates and the adults I worked with.

And when I’m being honest and logical, I think I can say I connected with the kids as well. We loved each other and yeah, working with kids is hard and I second-guess everything, but I truly believe I did alright.

And then…good-byes. The children’s good-byes were so hard.

IMG_1965And in less than 24 hours, I’m going to have to say good-bye to my team. And that’s going to be equally hard. These are people I traveled with, experienced a new culture with, struggled with and laughed so wholeheartedly with. I experienced the depths of sorrow in front of them, but traveled to the heights of joy as well. That’s a bonding experience — and so was the communal hot spring (nudity required) that we had to shower in.

I love these guys, and I don’t want to say good-bye because I’m scared.

I’m so scared that I won’t see them again, that this friendship will just…fade. Cause I’ve been on teams like this before, where you grow so close, and you swear you’ll stay this way forever. But the truth is sometimes this closeness is meant for only a moment.

And that shatters my heart to smithereens. Cause I don’t want to say good-bye.

Not again.

 


 

But I will.

And I’ll hope and pray that by some miracle it won’t be as permanent as I’m anticipating. That I’ll see my kids again, stay connected with my team, go on more and more Kaleidoscope trips and love the world radically.

That’s the dream.

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Finding peace with “Oceans” in Japan

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetEarly in the morning, Japan-time, I sat in a cozy lounge with some people I met barely 36 hours earlier, and found peace.

These people, they don’t know my history, not all of it; they barely know my present, they hardly know the person I am, much less what I was, much less all that has come before.

And yet it was with these people, these pseudo-strangers, that I was washed with the peace and grace of God.

These past few weeks — oh, these weeks, I’ve been so lost. I’ve wandered in the dark through a cold forest, noises on every side, danger near and breathing down my neck.

I have been the farthest from safe, from comfort. From peace. I have floundered. Like a kid who learned to swim in a pool, thrown into the ocean for the first time. Yes, he still knows how to swim; but this environment is different, vast, terrifying, and so he splashes and kicks and screams and swallows water and chokes and cries and flounders. That was me.

Shrieking, crying, tearing at my hair — or worse, my skin — sobbing in the dark, desperate for someone to save me.

It didn’t even have to be God, is the thing. I didn’t care who came to save me, as long as someone did. It could have been God; it could have been a best friend, a coworker, a dangerous boy on a bike…who cares? If he’s willing to pull me out of the woods, I will take him, danger be damned.

And so.

Alone, lost, terrified, I boarded a plane to spend a week in Japan, ministering to children. I mean, what was I even thinking? I can barely take care of myself, much less help anyone else! What arrogance, to believe I could add to these kids’ lives when my own is such a shipwreck.

And yet. I digress.

I sat on a couch in a lounge in Japan, and without the help of instruments or a band or any outside paraphernalia, we worshipped.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders… 

The tears began slowly at first, a thought in the back of my mind: I might cry. My trust has so many borders, but oh how I long for them to disintegrate.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters… 

That’s where I am, now, for the past months, for the past years: deepest waters. Floundering. Drowning. Sometimes treading water, sometimes floating, most often sinking.

And keep my eyes above the waters… 

I see nothing. I see waves and nothing but waves. I try to keep my head up but I can’t, I’m alone and I’m sinking and I’m drowning.

The great unknown where feet may fail… 

I am failing. And yet. In this moment, this worshipping moment in a foreign country with people who don’t know me…in this moment my eyes surface above the waves, I can breathe, I feel whole, I feel at home.

When oceans rise / My soul will rest in your embrace. 

Here. The embrace is here. Home is here. I belong. I am not lost.

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I’ve been in Japan for a little over 24 hours. I’ve been on two long walks through the countryside, where I marveled at how beautiful the landscape is. I tie-dyed a T-shirt, ate unfamiliar and delicious food, experienced God’s peace and simply…lived. I’ve met people I didn’t know, made friends, prepared for an intense weekend ahead.

And I look forward to what is to come. I definitely cried this morning, but it was a cleansing cry, a good kind. I thought for a second I’d been healed of my depression, because that’s something I’m always looking out for.

I’m not sure that’s the case, but I do know God found me here. He saw me, he showed me His love, and here I am. At peace. At least for now.

Writing hope: Beth Revis — GIVEAWAY INCLUDED

Last fall, a book about mental illness made me realize I — even I — held stigmas against mentally ill people. That book was A World Without You, by Beth Revis, and her unflinching and real portrayal of a boy with delusions that had far-reaching consequences captivated me. I still think about it sometimes, the way that book snagged my heart and made me feel all the feels.

Beth is also the author of the fantasy series Across the Universewhich involves space travel and being woken up out of time and all sorts of fun stuff like that. She’s an accomplished writer, and you’ll definitely want to look out for her next book — Rebel Risingaka a young adult novel about Jyn Erso, the star of Rogue One — which comes out May 2 and is for sure on the top of my TBR list.

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Photo courtesy of Beth Revis

She grew up in rural North Carolina, daughter to a New Jersey Yankee who tried to keep the Southern accent away…but Beth says, “I still pronounce my ‘i’s long and cannot say ‘can’t’ correctly.” Nature vs. nurture, I guess.

As a kid, Beth was more Hermione Granger than anything else — she recalls taking money from her savings pile to buy books and hiding under the bed in order to fit in more reading time.

Her long, long hair is a tribute to Princess Leia because Beth has always been a Star Wars fangirl, so the fact that she’s writing and publishing a YA novel that’s part of the franchise’s canon is huge. She said, “Every moment of working on that book was surreal and amazing.”

And why is she drawn to young adult as a genre? you may ask.

“YA has everything,” she answers. “You have books about space beside books about Queen Victoria. Tragedy beside comedy, and many with both tragedy and comedy. It’s infinite possibilities.”

She adds that the most important thing to show in these novels for younger readers is reality; “Even in books with magic or spaceships,” she says. “There’s a heart that’s real.”

And one aspect of reality is that there is darkness. Beth referenced the famous G.K. Chesterton quote about fairy tales existing not to teach children that dragons are real, but to show them they can be vanquished, and added, “The books aren’t about darkness. They’re about the light in the darkness. They’re about hope.”

Hope in books is important because “it reminds us that there is still hope in real life.”

She adds that recommendations for these sorts of hopeful books vary depending on who’s doing the reading and in what situation they’re looking for hope.

“The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, is not that hopeful of a book,” she said, “but if you happen to be a society where–and this is a totally random example–but if you’re in a society where a fascist, ill-informed, orange-toned misogynist is in control of your dwindling democracy, reading Margaret Atwood’s book and thinking of the phrase ‘Illegitimi non carborundum’ may be just the hope you need to keep fighting.” [I love it when authors are politically aware and funny, in addition to being great writers, you know?]

Beth’s books chronicle hope; A World Without You, for example, gives hope that reality can be OK, even if it’s not as great as the fantasy.

AWWY-2An interesting factoid about that book is that it wasn’t originally meant to be a contemporary novel; Beth said she began writing it as a straight-up time-travel story.

“It wasn’t until I’d almost finished that the reality started leaking through the pages–not unlike in my own main character’s life,” she said. “[That] reality was more along the lines of my real life peeking into the story, not the other way around. When I described the emotions, for example, that Phoebe has, they were the same emotions that I had when I was her age.”

And the hardest thing about writing?

A World Without You, Beth says.

“All of it. It was simultaneously a complicated work involving time travel and mental illness, but also a personal work that drained me emotionally as its inspiration was rooted in my own past and my brother’s struggle with mental illness.”

Personally, I’m grateful to Beth for doing the hard work of writing this book; it taught me a lot. It’s one you should definitely read if you can.

And make sure to follow Beth. Rebel Rising is bound not to be the last exciting work she produces, and you’ll want to see what comes out next. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook, check out her website and sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date on everything!

AND, if you’d like the chance to win a SIGNED hardcover of “A World Without You,” aka the book that moved me and stung my conscience, enter the giveaway below (just follow the link)! Trust me — you want this book! (US only, though).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

“The Boy Section”

Matteo

I like the world where I love a golden
boy who plays guitar and worships in church,
who smiles shyly from across the room,
who I could never date because he wouldn’t
presume to assume the right to date me
and I would never admit to deserve him.

His awkward, fumbling encounters,
the push-and-pull of “do I kiss him or wait
for him to make the move,” while he twists
his fingers and says he’s glad to see me.
I like the way both his languages
are softened by the unsure accent.

Andrew

I remember the world where I loved the boy
who looked like an A-list actor,
whose grin traced ripples across the beat
of my heart. I feel the thick moisture-air
pervade the gym, where I follow every
step with my eyes, while the handsome boy—
who doesn’t know my name—chases
jerseys and basketballs across the court.

His face peeks around corners in my mind,
corners of the dustiest, boxed-up memories
and six years distant, my heart skips;
in my dreams he appears in front of me,
to clasp my hands and race away
to a world where we make sense together.

James

I live in a world where I love a dark
boy who swears in every breath and smokes
plants and mocks and breaks through walls—
everyone’s walls—and my friends say I’m
too good but I wonder why I’m not
good (enough) for the pretty dark boy I love.

He passes me in the cafeteria and touches
my shoulder, an insistent-soft request
and my mind careens around
sharp corners, past road signs that scream
“he loves you!” and others that spit “you
will never be enough.” Every word he speaks
is confident and bolsters my flagging soul.

“The Boy Section,” a poem by Karis Rogerson. Probably about you 😉