Living with anxiety is no easy task. First, you have to actually live with anxiety. Then you have to try and help everyone in your life understand what that means.
Maeve is a teenage girl living with anxiety. The one person who understands her, and can help her fight through the panic is her mother. Which is the good news. The bad news is that her mom is going to Haiti for six months. Meaning Maeve has to go live with her dad.
I’ve lived with chronic anxiety for most of my life. Some days it’s manageable. It’s controllable. It’s easy to forget how crippling it can be. Other days it’s not. My entire body can feel jittery and wired, a feeling of panic hovering just on the edges for no reason. I can feel the crushing weight of this panic. So, I was more than a little timid about reading a book where the main character has an anxiety disorder.
People commonly attribute anxiety to simply worrying. “We all have our worries. There is no corner on the market.”
There is no corner on the market for stress. Or worry. But anyone who has stared at a dark ceiling, exhausted from worry but nowhere near sleep understands that there is a difference. The thing with anxiety, at least for me, is that often I can feel that crushing weight of panic for no discernible reason. Not because I’m worried about any one particular thing. Or have any one particular stress. Sometimes I am filled with the tingly numbness of panic and I don’t know why.
This is the world Maeve lives in. One potential ‘what if’ can spiral out of control and cause her to panic. It’s debilitating. It wreaks havoc on her family, her relationships and on her sense of self.
I really liked how Mac captured how exhausting it is to live with an anxiety disorder of this magnitude. My anxiety is not as severe as Maeve’s, yet I completely understood how she felt.
From the moment Maeve steps on the bus headed to Vancouver, she can’t get those worries out of her head. Facts are constantly running through her head, an endless ticker of morbid statistics. She can’t stop. Even though she survives the bus trip, her father being an hour late without answering any calls or texts sets an ominous tone for a her visit.
Her father is a recovering alcoholic (50-90% of recovering addicts relapse). Her step-mother is pregnant and planning for another home birth (a plethora of dangers there). Her younger twin brothers offer her a surprising safe haven by “being little and loud and bursting with bright, shiny goodness,” Owen is a worrier like her and Corbin is fearless. But they both offer her love and understanding and distraction.
With her mother not as available as she promised and her dad acting weird, there is plenty for Maeve to worry about it.
Anxiety is not always an easy thing for outside people to understand. It is an invisible enemy. How do you explain to someone that everything really will be okay? Because, the thing is, we don’t know that. We can’t know that.
Fear is a good thing. It is the reason we survive, the reason we evolved. Fear keeps us safe. But our brains also have a switch. A way to control the fear and keep it from controlling us. If our ancestors were controlled by their fear, we would never have left the cave. We never would have discovered anything that propelled us into the future.
When that switch is defective, or missing entirely, it’s hard to comprehend.
“But I see the fear, and then I go through the fear, and then I get to the other side of fear. I go through it.”
That’s how most people deal with fear. Like Salix, the girl Maeve is drawn to. She doesn’t let her fears control her. She looks it in the face and goes through it. You would think that someone like that might struggle with dealing with Maeve. Surprisingly she is the one who seems to see her the clearest. She sees how Maeve struggles, and instead of making her be someone she isn’t, she asks her for small steps. I honestly thought that was beautiful.
In the end, even though nothing goes right, and Maeve has to face and deal with more than she ever thought possible, she also discovers that life happens. She takes small steps and in those small steps, she finds that there is a strength in progress. Even if is something small. And sometimes those small things, prepare you for something bigger.
For someone who deals with anxiety, who struggles with it, this ending was perfect. “Everything changed, and everything stayed the same.” Because that’s exactly how life works. Everything does change. Even if we don’t want it to. Even if we fight for things to stay safe, and the same. But, everything also stays the same.
I don’t imagine that Maeve woke up the day after the book ended cured. Or relieved of her worries and anxiety. But, I do believe that some days became easier than others. That some things became easier than others.
This book is funny and has heart. It is warm and heartfelt. If you struggle with anxiety, or even know someone who does, I think that this book gives an insight of what it can be like. Maybe it doesn’t fit everyone’s experience, but I felt it was relatable and realistic.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.