This anthology is more than a collection of excellent stories by excellent authors, it’s also a way to support To Write Love on Her Arms. I’ve talked about them before. They are an organization that helps support people who are dealing with self-harm and suicidal ideations, among other things. This is such a great organization. Even if you only want one or two of the stories in Just Breathe, you should definitely buy it to support TWLOHA.
Before I get further into my review, I want to warn people that the stories in this book all deal with mental illnesses of some shape or form. There are things in these stories which may trigger you. Please be aware of that and read responsibly.
All of the stories are pretty short, so if you only have a moment here or there to read, you should have no problem finding one that will fit. Because they are short, you are going to basically get my reaction to each story. For most of them, if I were to put anything about them in the review, it would totally spoil the story. So, here we go.
Missy Ann-Forbidden Sorrows-Grief
Missy Ann was a new author to me, and I’ll be looking up more of her work. Grief is hard to deal with at the best of times, and is highly individual. In most cases, you and your grief can be acknowledged, but what happens when it can’t be? It’s not anything I’ve ever thought of before, and wow, Missy brought it to life so vividly.
I deal with an anxiety disorder and Anna’s story rang so true for me. It was very much like what can go through my head when I feel out of control. It was a great story. And, it looks like it’s the start of a new series, when Anna gets the rights back to it. I can’t wait to see it.
Michelle Brown-Little Lies-Self-Harm
Michelle is still a pretty new writer, but damn, the girl has some serious chops. Self-harm is a very, very touchy subject and has to be handled just right. If you go too far one way, you end up sensationalizing it, if you go too far the other way, you end up making it not believable. Michelle walked that line perfectly. Not so much that it’s glorified, but just at the point where you can understand why Lindsey does what she does. Self-harm was the very reason that TWLOHA was created, so I felt like this one was so important.
K.S. Marshall-Wreckage-Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder
PMDD is PMS with roid rage. As the hormones in a woman’s body ramp up for ovulation and menstruation, they can have an effect on the woman even at the best of times. But brain and body chemistry being what it is, sometimes the best of times isn’t what happens. K.S. Marshall explored that really, really well. You are inside her heroine’s head as these changes are happening to her and she can’t figure out what’s going on. It’s kind of chilling, but in a good way.
Livia Grant-Purged-Eating Disorder
If you’ve read any of the Black Light books, you’ve probably run across Khloe and Ryder before. It’s no secret in their book that Khloe, a big time movie star, has a history with an eating disorder. What Livia’s story shows so well is that dealing with something like an eating disorder is that it isn’t as easy as one day being cured. There are always going to be things that can trigger you and it’s something you are always going to have to be diligent at fighting, and sometimes that fight is really, really hard.
Yolanda Olson-Sickness in the Sunrise-Erotomania
Erotomania generally happens to women, and it’s when they believe that someone who is of a higher status than they are is in love with them. For example, Yolanda’s story. Yolanda is one of my favorite authors when I want dark, creepy, and chilling, as well as beautiful. Her characters are always so real to me. Just like you can reach out and touch them. That’s no different when it comes to this one. You can feel what’s going on in Dice’s head and why her thoughts make perfect sense.
Natalie Bennett-Ashes to Ashes-Depression
Honestly, I don’t even know what to say with this one. It got deep inside me and moved me. I had to take a break and read something completely different after reading this one. It was so… Yeah.
Dani Rene-Tattered Pieces-Abuse
The one thing we always ask when we talk about people who are in domestic violence situations is why did they stay? Why didn’t they leave the first time, the fifth time, the twentieth time? The thing is, the question isn’t that simple, and the answer is nowhere even near that simple. I could probably write a thousand words on that alone, and it wouldn’t even come near answering anything. And I wouldn’t have gotten it anywhere near as good as what Dani said. I hope that this is the start of a series, because it looks like it could be. I want more of Toni’s story. I’m rooting for her.
Jennifer Bene-Cocoon-Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Jennifer managed to write a story that is very true to her storytelling while still exploring OCD. People who have OCD have rituals that they have to follow or their world ends, and that’s not really an exaggeration. That’s the way it will feel, at the very least. Amy was an interesting character and Colton was tortured in so many ways. Such an excellent story and a viewpoint of OCD that most people won’t ever see.
Fire can be very pretty. But, for most of us, pretty is as far as it gets. For people who are pyromaniacs, it’s like their lifeblood. Ally showed that really well. I’ll never look at wooden matches the same way again. Nor, I think, will I ever look at a bonfire the same way.
Murphy Wallace-Hostile Takeover-Split Personality
Murphy Wallace is another new to me author. And another one I’ll be tracking down more of. This was really intriguing to me. I’m not sure how to describe it or even to talk about how it made me feel. I really enjoyed it though.
Jane Anthony-The Row-Addiction
Addiction is a serious illness. Too many people want to see it as some kind of moral failure or something, but that’s not the way it works. Jane’s Trinity fights with addiction, and when you see her backstory, you see why. I thought that Jane did so well. Trinity and King made me cry.
When I was reading Ashleigh’s story, it was both kind of creepy and engrossing. I mean, yeah. I’m hoping any of her insomniacs stay right away from me, please and thank you.
Skye Callahan-Unbearable-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
When you go through a traumatic incident, there are changes that are made to your brain’s chemistry and your body. Those changes can trigger PTSD. And there’s no way of telling who is going to have it and who isn’t. Two people who went through the exact same event may not both have PTSD, and if they do, they might not be triggered in the same way. Skye handled the subject really well, and explained it in ways that many people don’t necessarily hear.
Toni Lemay-Loops-Mandela Effect
The Mandela Effect is something that was totally new to me. Basically, it has to do with alternate realities and the way that your brain makes memories. That’s probably a way too simplistic description, but it’s what I got from in when I looked it up. If I had more time to research it, I would probably be able to come up with something more, but I tend to fall down the rabbit hole when I start researching things. I will probably be looking into this more when I have a chance because Toni made it sound really interesting, and I want to see how it works.
I want to applaud all these authors for writing about these mental illnesses. I don’t know how many of these talented people deal with the subjects they wrote about, but they handled all of them really well. People who are mentally ill aren’t always handled well in fiction, let alone real life, and the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses makes it hard for those of us who are mentally ill to get the help that they need. We are made to feel bad because our brain don’t work the same way that other people’s brains do, and are shamed because we have to take medication to get through our days. I’m very open about the fact that I’m mentally ill and that I take medication to help me be stable. My thought is that if I’m open about it, maybe that fact can help one person get the help that they need. Also, the more we talk about it, the less the stigma is going to be there.
OK, that’s all I have to say today. You really need to get this.
And because I hate to post anything without a picture, here’s a fogbow.