Author Kristine Scarrow on mental illness and relationships

Author Kristine Scarrow on mental illness and relationships

Posted on March 8 by Kristine Scarrow
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My third young adult novel, The 11th Hour, is a snapshot of the dating relationship between the two main characters, Annika and Dylan. They decide to run away together to start a new life at Dylan’s family cabin. Dylan’s ability to cope in a healthy way is compromised by a series of challenges the couple experiences throughout the day.

The story is first told in one-hour increments, in alternating points of view from both Dylan and Annika. This allows the reader to get a sense of how each of them reacts and responds to the same events. We’re able to see how each of them copes, and what their thought processes are throughout the story. Does Annika see warning signs early in their relationship? Or is she blinded by love? Is hindsight 20/20? Does Dylan’s past play a part in the pain he feels now? How differently do the two of them experience the same events?

In relationships, we often think that we can “fix” someone we care about, that somehow if we love them enough, we can be the answer to their problems. The truth is, I’ve been in Annika’s situation of being in a relationship with someone who needed help that I couldn’t give. This person suffered from a personality disorder and didn’t want to accept that he needed help to be able to get his life back on track. In the end, without help, the price of staying in the relationship became too high. It was a heart-wrenching situation. I, too, hoped that my love would solve everything. What I learned is that sometimes you might have to love someone from afar, but it doesn’t mean you love them any less.

Through Annika and Dylan’s story I want to convey to readers that some problems are just too big to deal with on our own.

I didn’t name the mental illness Dylan might be suffering from, and this was intentional. The label of what it was didn’t seem as important as recognizing that an illness existed. Many mental illnesses can be dual diagnoses, with several of the same symptoms prominent in multiple illnesses.

Navigating mental illness isn’t easy, but it is fixable. It is estimated that one in five Canadians will experience mental illness, which means that all of us will probably be affected in one way or another, perhaps through personal experience or by knowing someone who lives with mental illness.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. I am grateful for the support I receive from my friends and family, as well as my doctor. Through programs and medications, I am able to live my best life. It’s important to remember that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s treatable, and it’s more common than you think. It’s important to get help, though, and to recognize when someone else might need it.

Kristine Scarrow

Posted by KathrynB on December 6, 2014
Kristine Scarrow photo

Kristine Scarrow

Kristine Scarrow is the author of If This Is Home and Throwaway Girl. She is currently the writer-in-residence at Saskatoon's St. Paul’s Hospital as part of the Healing Arts Program. Kristine lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.