'Without Merit' by Colleen Hoover — a must-read for anyone affected by mental illness

"We're all a degree of f**ked up."

No truer words have been said. Maybe I should get them tattooed on me (just kidding, Mom).

This quote is from the book "Without Merit" by Colleen Hoover — a book which I finished yesterday while home sick from work, wrapped in my purple bathrobe, lying on my purple couch (fitting since purple is the main character's favorite color).

I'm pretty sure I had the flu. My skin was clammy and I was freezing. Nothing could warm me up. But as I read this book — the first I've read by Hoover but definitely not the last —  it warmed my heart and touched my soul. And, when it ended, I was sad that it was over. It's been a long time since I've felt so connected to a story — where, while reading, I forgot the characters were fictional and, instead, thought of them as friends.

As someone who has suffered from depression, I have never before read a book that sums up so accurately what it feels like.

"I used to feel like I was on top of the world. Then, one day, I noticed that it felt like I was no longer on top of the world. I was just floating around inside of it. And then eventually, it felt like the world was on top of me." 

The main character, Merit, says she wants to be normal. She doesn't want to have a "broken brain." Another character, Luck (I love the characters' names in this book!), starts listing off the things wrong with the other characters. Lactose intolerant. Sensitive skin. Bad vision. Athlete's foot.

"They aren't normal. ... Having depression is no more out of your control," he says. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. But it's not something you can control on your own. And it doesn't make you abnormal. It makes you just as normal as these idiots."

I wish this book would have been around when I was a teenager and I, like the main character, suffered from depression and didn't know it. All I knew was that I wanted to die but I didn't want to tell anyone about it because I thought it made me weak. I thought it made me not "normal."

I think that's why suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers — they don't want to talk about mental illness. They think it means there's something wrong with them.

While working as a reporter for The Oakland Press, I met several parents of teenagers who lost their lives to suicide. And most of the parents couldn't understand why their child did it. "There were no signs. He seemed happy," they would say.

The book "Without Merit" explains what's going on in the head of someone who contemplates or attempts suicide...and how, sometimes, it's just a split decision.

Hoover writes, "I don't want to die. I grip myself even tighter. I don't know what happens next. What if it's worse than this? My fearful cry turns into a sob. I clamp my hand over my mouth. 'No, no, no, no, no.'"

According to The New England Journal of Medicine, one-third to four-fifths of all suicide attempts are impulsive. The report states, "Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24 percent took less than five minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70 percent took less than one hour."

When someone contemplates or completes suicides, chances are, they didn't want to die. Chances are they didn't even think about it. They weren't in their right mind, and they wrongly thought that no one would miss them. I know because I've been there.

This book will now be within arm's reach of my bed so, whenever I'm not in my right mind, if I have a panic attack or come home after a rough day, I can pick it up and be reminded that, no matter how bleak life may seem, it will get better.

"We're all a degree of f**cked up."

I don't know about you but I don't want to be normal. There are so many people in the world with different perspectives and different issues. It's what makes this life so amazing. It's what makes it worth living. This book is a reminder of that. It's a reminder that, if you were gone, so many people would miss you. And maybe there's even someone out there, someone who loves and adores you and you don't even know it. Someone whose life has been changed by your existence and whose life would never be the same without you.

If ever you've contemplated suicide, I would strongly encourage you picking up "Without Merit" by Colleen Hoover. For more information, visit www.withoutmeritbook.com or www.colleenhoover.com.

But, first things first. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifelife at 1-800-273-8255.

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