Are you curious about how, exactly, I address depression in my Recovering Happily Ever After series?
I have yet to come across a certain diversity in how depression is portrayed in fiction, or at least I haven’t found any fiction that intentionally portrays depression in these specific ways.
There are different stages of depression, and there are different stages for people who are suffering for different reasons. For a story to cover all the stages happening in one person’s life in depth, it would probably take over a dozen full-length novels, and it would likely be a really tough read for those of us who are sensitive to depression-related topics. Even the stages of recovery can include new triggers and symptoms.
Each book in my Recovering Happily Ever After series attempts to address at least one stage of depression and/or recovery while also providing an outlet for the pain and a hopeful outlook. Not all of the themes are set in stone yet, but this is what Book 1 does and what I plan to do with the rest.
Book 1 (That Prince Guy): Guy’s depression stems from a very specific source of trauma that occurred in his youth. Not only did something traumatic happen, but the event and what happened in the years that followed have left him with a lot of difficult questions that may never be answered and which leave him feeling even more hopeless. It turns out he can’t find all of those answers and it’s possible that he never will, so some of his healing process is going to involve coming to terms with the fact that he may never know and being at peace with that. His relationships with those around him also get a little bit better, but we don’t see in the book how exactly they play out and how much they’re able to help him. This is only the beginning of his healing process. We will see Guy again later in the series.
Book 2: At a young age, Guy’s sister Dianne reacted to trauma by withdrawing and shutting down, encouraging her own depression’s onset. By the time we meet her character she’s already overcome a lot of her depression on her own, but she’s found that her depression made her selfish and self-absorbed. She can’t remember who she was before she shut down and she hates who she is now that she’s trying to rediscover herself, and thus she faces a new form of depression with new symptoms. Part of her healing process includes trusting herself, accepting that she isn’t who she finds herself stuck as portraying herself as right now and that it will take more work to become who she wants to be, and allowing others to help guide her in the process if they so choose.
Book 3: This book focuses on Cailyn. Cailyn doesn’t seem like she has depression at the beginning of her book, although you’d think she has every reason to be. A young man shows up in her life and begins bringing up new old feelings and concepts, and they’re both confused when Cailyn reacts more adversely with each trigger. After all, she had seemed like a very “normal”, happy person while she was still living in her own little bubble, and the people around her aren’t necessarily doing anything “wrong”. By the end Cailyn is on the verge of succumbing to a dangerous bout of depression, and the people around her aren’t sure yet of what they did to fail her like this or how to help.
Book 4: This is the first book where the main character has no love interest, although (spoilers) it is not the first book where the main character does not end up in a relationship. After all, relationships do not ‘fix’ depression and they don’t necessarily make it easier at all. However, feeling like he’s stuck forever on his own without any kind of friend or family is one of the greatest contributing factors to this character’s depression. I haven’t yet figured out the details of his story–all I know is it’s a Little Red Riding Hood retelling–but his journey may involve coming to terms with the fact that his lack of relationships is not entirely to blame for his depression even if it’s true that having healthy relationships would probably help him. In my experience (and many other people’s), blaming our lack of romantic or platonic relationships actually only leads us to blame and hate ourselves more, because as we see/saw it, the only reason we don’t/didn’t have friends or lovers was because there was something wrong with us–something that made us unlovable.
Book 5: The main character of Book 5 does have a name, but I’m not going to spoil that for you yet. You’ll know by Book 4. This character shares the POV chapters in her book, but not with a love interest. All seven of the main characters from the previous four books get a chapter to themselves to show their POV as well as how much they’ve changed since their book. Meanwhile, the main character has been suffering for years and years. Nobody knows what happened to her and nobody has tried to look for her or help her until now, but at this point it’s hard to believe that anyone can help her. The forces that are making her miserable are too powerful for anyone else to break through, both literally and figuratively. Even if they do reach her, as far as she’s concerned, it might be too late. In this book the other characters have to overcome their personal prejudice, fear, and hatred in order to see her side of the story and realize what needs to be done and how they can help, and the main character has to be willing to accept whatever they might offer her if she has any desire to break free or live. This is never an easy choice for someone who is depressed and suicidal and it can be a difficult topic to both understand and portray. This will be the most difficult book of all of them to write and probably the most difficult to read as well, but I will at least be consistent in my attempt to let the reader walk away feeling more healed than hurt in terms of struggling with their own mental illness, that much I can promise.
P.S. if you’re interested in reading the first book in the series, it is now available on Amazon!