A Gratitude Post about Caleb Roehrig

There’s a canvas in my family room that reads “You deserve to be happy,” written out by Caleb Roehrig. I see it every single day, and I remind myself that I do deserve good things in my life.

2018 has been one of the hardest years of my life. While I remain on Lexapro, my medication hasn’t been fully working in quite some time, and I find myself unable to get in to see a doctor for a med change. What this has meant is that my depression levels are significantly higher, and my anxiety levels are consistently higher on a daily basis. Because self-injury was a way that I used to use to cope with these, I’ve had to fight off relapses into self-injury many days this year. While I’ve been very fortunate that my Lexapro still works to keep suicidal thoughts away, I’ve felt like I’ve been enduring life rather than enjoying life this year.

But when I think back to 2018, I will remember this year for a few reasons besides the mental health difficulties. This is the year that I started writing. This is the year that Caleb Roehrig made significantly better.

I first read Caleb Roehrig’s Last Seen Leaving in December 2016, oddly enough, in the days right after I started Lexapro. I was initially sick with side effects, but his book was so good that I wanted to keep reading through waves of nausea and bad headaches.

I later met Caleb in October 2017. While my day-to-day anxiety was still being completely controlled by Lexapro at the time, my anxiety around special events like book signings was extreme. I wanted to meet Caleb, but my anxiety wanted to prevent it. Caleb’s interactions with me on Twitter were the reason why I decided to get the book signing ticket to go. He even offered to send me a signed bookplate if my anxiety proved to be too much to go. (Side note: Kara Thomas actually did this when my anxiety prevented me from going to her book signing, and it was the sweetest thing.)

At the event, Caleb figured out who I was from my Twitter picture, and I somehow even managed to ask a question because if you asked a question, you got an ARC of Caleb’s White Rabbit. In the signing line, Caleb asked me how I was holding up, and he told me as well that he was so glad that I got an ARC.

Fast forward to April 2018. I attended the launch of White Rabbit. Something had happened earlier in April that made me feel like I was a burden to everybody, and I was feeling especially low and especially anxious about this event. However, I was rather excited to see Caleb again which made the event worth it.

But what happened next isn’t all that explainable. Caleb and I started interacting on Twitter a lot. I’ll blame my obsessive thoughts on why I started tweeting him a lot, but to my surprise, Caleb frequently started interacting back.

Over the past seven months, Caleb has “seen” me at my lowest and highest points in my interactions with him, and somehow, he always seems to know what to say. He reached out in June too after there were a high number of high profile deaths by suicide to see how I was doing which was an incredible moment.

For me, having had someone in my life that I was close to call me a burden and tell me that’s why everyone in my life leaves me, even after that person knew about a person in my own life dying by suicide and my involvement in trying to find him after finding the suicide note, I was distrustful of most people by this point.

That made Caleb reaching out even more meaningful because it gave me a direct contrast and reassured me that there are still good people out there and out there in my life.

Caleb has also been a huge champion of me writing. He’s been very encouraging as I drafted my first draft and then revised it. He’s encouraging now as I write a new project (which I should be working on now instead of this post, but oh well).

Caleb didn’t have to do any of this. But he chose to do so, and that’s the primary reason why even though I am rather depressed right now, I keep enduring rather than finally giving into the dark and just staying in bed (or on my couch) all day everyday.

So here’s to some gratitude in 2018.

 

Why Adam Silvera and David Arnold rock

Several weeks ago, I found out that David Arnold was going to be coming to Anderson’s Book Shop, an independent book store in the Chicago suburbs. I freaked out. I had liked Mosquitoland, and all of the advanced reviews of Kids of Appetite (especially those that said one of the main characters was obsessed with The Outsiders which is still my favorite book after nearly 10 years) led me to highly anticipate the new one.

When the book shop officially announced the event, I flipped out because Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not, would be appearing too. I had read his book in May of this year, and it was one of the most refreshing books I had read in a while.

I was highly anticipating the event, but as the event grew closer, my mental health just kept deteriorating. I’ve had an anxiety disorder for years, and I’ve had depression for 7 years. While I have not gotten “all better,” I’ve had seasons where life is very manageable. This past month was not one of those times. My anxiety intensified, leading to multiple panic attacks. The day of the David Arnold/Adam Silvera signing, I became so overwhelmed with everything I had to do, nearly cried in front of people at work, and had a panic attack. I tweet my pain sometimes primarily because it’s easier & safer to say words there than what I used to do to myself (aka cut). I tweeted that day that I had been anticipating the event, but now all I wanted to do was cry in the corner for the rest of the night. David Arnold actually replied so compassionately, and even though I’d been considering staying at home and not going, I said, “NO. I’m going to go.”

I got to the bookstore an hour early, and even though my mind was running all over the place, I finally got my pre-ordered copy of Kids of Appetite, and I started reading to try to calm myself down.

Once the event actually started, I was still having pretty moderate anxiety symptoms, including literally shaking, but as David Arnold and Adam Silvera talked, I started to calm down. They spoke about David’s new book, and they also hosted a debate. They debated the merits of Double Stuf oreos versus Golden Oreos. They debated who the best Harry Potter character was. As it all unfolded, I actually found myself laughing and actually enjoying being present without anxiety overwhelming me.

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After the debates, they decided to have a Q&A time. Normally, during author q&a times, I am completely dumbfounded that these authors are real and cannot think of literally anything at all to say. This time, however, was different. Adam called on me for the first question, and I asked him how he got locked inside of a bathroom that day. What followed was one of the funniest stories ever. The questions continued, and as things were starting to slow down, I actually remembered my other question for David, and this girl–who is normally so anxious that she cannot ask anything at an author event & had had a massive panic attack hours early–got to ask a second question about his music and whether his books shaped his music or if his music shaped his books.

During the signing line, David looked at me, and he asked, “hey, were you the one that tweeted that early?” When I confirmed that I was, he told me he was so glad that I made it out and hoped I took care of myself. When I mentioned that I hadn’t canceled a therapy appointment when I wanted to cancel it, he seemed relieved to hear that.

As he finished signing my book, I moved down to Adam, but Adam had stuffed an entire golden Oreo into his mouth right before that moment, and he couldn’t say anything or do anything because he was trying to finish it as quickly as he could. I literally just stood there laughing.

We got an awesome picture together, and then Adam signed More Happy Than Not  for me with the longest book inscription I have ever seen. Even more impressive was his ability to talk to me and write at the same exact time. He told me that he had loved seeing my enthusiasm for this event. I told him too how basically books and music were the best part of my life which he loved. He asked me if I had read his book yet, and I confirmed I had–and had read just sat there and read the first 50 pages of Kids of Appetite before the event. He asked if I was a fast reader, & I responded by telling him how many books I had read this year (177–now at 180). He responded by saying, “oh so you’re behind,” and I laughed.

Truthfully, how David Arnold and Adam Silvera both responded to me at the event, their interactions with me, their personalities during the q&a and the debate, and their overall social media presence really altered the trajectory of my week. While this week was still absolutely brutal, it was a week where I remembered that people care about me, even people that don’t really know me. For a person with persistent mental health problems, this is something that is so life-sustaining on the days where I’d rather be in bed all day or on the days where I have moments where wish I wasn’t alive.

It’s just so genuinely refreshing to know that the authors of the books I love actually do care about their readers. Considering the types of YA books I read, it makes sense that it would be the case, and I’m glad that so far this fall, I’m finding it to be true.

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Final note: I finished Kids of Appetite last night, and I absolutely adored it. Book review will be coming soon!