Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: January 3, 2017

Author Louise Gornall is right. It's time for people to not feel shame when talking about their mental illness. Nothing irritates me more than the misconceptions thrown around. Like the author and the main character in the book, when I was in the worst part of my life, I also heard "snap out of it," "it's all in your head, so stop thinking about it," or "all you have to do is stop worrying and your panic attacks will go away."

When a panic attack hits from nowhere, teen Norah Deane's life changes in drastic ways. She becomes scared to leave her home and turns to homeschooling. She sees a counselor for OCD, agoraphobia, and her crippling anxiety disorder. No matter what happens, Norah is held prisoner to her mental illness. And then Luke moves in next door.

For the first time in her life, Norah finds herself drawn to Luke. She wants to get to know him, yet her mental illness has her terrified of ever leaving the house. How can you act like a normal teen when nothing about you seems to be normal?

Here's the deal. No matter how exaggerated Norah's actions may seem, they're real. That's a big reason why this book hit so hard. It's fiction, but it's real.

At the age of 27, when my daughter was one, I had a panic attack one night while lying in bed. It came out of nowhere.  At first, I was diagnosed as having supraventricular tachycardias by my primary physician and put on beta blockers, that diagnosis was later ruled out by a cardiologist after a cardiolyte stress test, echocardiogram, etc. The cardiologist said that I just had weird spells of a racing heart rate, so I was told to stay on beta blockers and digitalis was added.

When my father and father-in-law were both diagnosed with cancer, I got really bad and wouldn't leave the bed, let alone leave the sofa. Going out onto the porch to see my son get onto the school bus was next to impossible. More trips to specialists and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Six months later, I found an online chat group about anxiety disorder and took a self-assessment test a member there recommended that was on ADAA.org. Suddenly, I found myself armed with information I needed and went back to my primary physician.

I went into therapy and didn't find it of much use, but the book she used definitely helped. Using the tools in this book, I made baby steps and eventually found myself able to walk to the mailbox and back. Over months, I worked slowly and made it to the corner, the back yard, and eventually all the way around the block. After that, I started getting back into driving, going out to stores, etc. Fifteen years later, I know I'll never be the same person, but I can function. For that reason, I got Norah's character and understood exactly how she felt, acted, and reacted.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is so powerful. It's real. It's painful sure, but there are thousands of people who battle mental illness like this every day. Compassion and understanding go a long way in helping them get back to some semblance of living, even if they'll never be perfect.


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