Monday, April 7, 2014

Art Imitating Life ... Unfortunately

You know how you mull an idea over in your head, but are unsure how to act? And then you get some great cosmic sign, and you know what the answer is.

That happened to me today in the form of Peaches Geldof. Daughter of singer Bob Geldof, she was found dead, at the too young age of 25. Her mother died of a drug overdose in 2000.

This news in no way affects my life, even in the slightest. Except for what I am voluntarily immersing myself in on a daily basis. That is, novel number three. Without giving too much away, the storyline involves the aftermath on a family, particularly the main character, when her twin sister succumbs to her mental illness and addictions and commits suicide.

The idea for the story was largely inspired by an acquaintance of mine who disappeared last February. Her body was found several months later. While I did not know Anna well, people that I care about loved her dearly, and have felt tremendous loss.

One day, while discussing my new main character, I drove by a bus stop and saw a girl that reminded me of Anna, and the story idea was born. This is the novel that I have been hard at work on since November.

Mental illness and drug abuse are issues that hit very close to home for me. They have shaped a very large part of the periphery of my life, which, in turns, affects my world. I also understand the stigma attached to both. The care system for those with mental illness is woefully, pitifully terrible in this country. In many instances, people with mental illness turn to drugs as a form of self-medicating, as there is very poor recognition and treatment of the disease process, particularly in the early stages. Often, people with mental illness are forced to wait months for appointments unless they are a danger to themselves or others. The drug use and abuse compounds and exacerbates the mental illness, which then can cause the individual to seek out more and more drugs. It is a vicious, terrible cycle that often does not end well. To really understand what is going on with mental health care in this country, read the novel Crazy by Pete Earley.

Earlier today, I was made aware that my 29 year-old cousin has been missing since October. She was last seen getting into a car outside her drug treatment facility. Her father is devastated and only wants answers about how his daughter could disappear off the face of the earth without a trace. Most people wonder what would drive a beautiful young girl to this. Sometimes the answers are clear. Sometimes they are due to an internal struggle that is not blatantly obvious. Some people would look at the flyer and only see that she was in treatment for drugs. They would only see the mug shot that is on the flier. I look, and I see the beautiful blue eyes of the toddler I used to know.

I am devastated for my cousin that he has not seen his daughter in months. To me, this limbo is the worst. Not knowing if she is alive. Not knowing what happened to her. It breaks my heart for him and for her sister.

I cannot believe that I have spent months working on a story that is playing out within my own family. I can't believe that I know two people in less than a year with a similar tale. I can't believe how common this truly is.

So, please, take a moment to go to the Facebook link. Amanda King is not just another name, another face, another lost cause. She is a daughter and a sister and a niece and a friend. She has been missing for six months. Please help bring her home.

Because, this is how she will always look to me...

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