Her Story: Ladies In Literature With Rebecca Barrow

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as thirty-three authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Rebecca Barrow

Rebecca Barrow writes stories about girls and all the wonders they can be. A lipstick obsessive with the ability to quote the entirety of Mean Girls, she lives in England, where it rains a considerable amount more than in the fictional worlds of her characters. She collects tattoos, cats, and more books than she could ever possibly read.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrGoodreads

I’m a quiet person.

That’s not a bad thing — the world is made of all kinds of different people, after all, and we quiet ones are needed. But I’m quiet in all different ways: in a shy way, and an anxious way, and a private way, and then in a this is too much to say way. That is the hardest way: the way that makes me keep things locked inside, hidden in some deep dark space inside me.

Callie and I have that in common.

In Cut, Callie (just Callie, or sometimes ST, as in Silent Treatment, the nickname given to her by the closest thing she has to a friend) is in a treatment centre for girls with various issues. Eating issues, drug issues, mental health issues. She, like the title suggests, self-harms.

When I was fifteen, I went through my first big depressive episode. I think my depression really first emerged when I was thirteen, little waves of sadness on the shore of my mind, and then came this crashing wild storm a couple of years later. (I can only tell you that from the place I’m in now, the place where I understand my wonky brain a little bit more and am not afraid of the word depression.)

Callie is around fifteen, too, and alone. Okay, she’s not alone, but she feels it; her little brother has severe asthma, and her mom spends all her time making sure he doesn’t get sick, cleaning and washing and keeping things quiet. And her dad is conspicuously absent for much of the story — he has to work a lot, or so Callie says. So Callie makes herself small — she watches TV on mute, and keeps out of the way, and takes over so her mom can rest when the cleaning and washing and worrying has worn her out. She pays attention to everyone around her. But while everyone worries and cleans and rests, they don’t see her. They didn’t see her as she gradually lost colour, presence, faded piece by piece into her quiet.

In that first depressive episode of mine, I couldn’t get out of bed in the mornings, and I couldn’t wait to get back into it at night. I didn’t wear any make up (and if you’ve ever seen my face, you know I wear make up) because I would cry it all off in a split second. I stopped talking so much, about anything that mattered, and wondered if I could somehow just be silent forever.

And at the same time, my mother — she had her own issues. So I kind of slipped by, like Callie; faded.

I didn’t know that what I was dealing with was depression until I was nineteen or twenty. I started taking antidepressants when I was twenty-one, after working up both the courage and the energy to make the doctor’s appointment, and then actually go there, and then actually say the words.

I want to say here that the hardest part of getting better is deciding to do it. I want to say that, but it would be a lie. It’s all hard — getting better, getting worse, recognizing you’ve slipped down again, making the effort to change. It’s all scary and draining and exhausting. But it can be exhilarating, too. That moment you finally allow yourself to think I want to be different. I want to feel different.

Cut is not a fast-paced, plot-filled story. I’ve seen people say that nothing really happens in this book, but I can only think — oh, so much happens. Callie learns to speak again. To open her mouth and actually say the things that she’s been afraid of for so long. Does she magically recover and carry on her life with a new, happy-go-lucky vibe? No. But I’m glad she doesn’t, because to me, that’s not real. You don’t one day turn your back on your depression or anxiety or eating disorder and wave goodbye, setting off into the sunset with your newfound healthy life. You kind of…make a friend of it. An irritating, painful friend, one that you know is going to be with you forever and sometimes be quiet for long periods of time and sometimes scream you awake at two a.m.

So no, Callie doesn’t get that. But what she does get is, to me, so much better and more true. What she does is say it out loud: “I want to get better.”

I go to therapy now, once a week, for the past three years. Sometimes I stare into this one corner of the room, where there’s a lamp that casts a shadow shaped sort of like a heart. I’ll look there when there’s something I don’t want to say, when I’m trying to persuade words to slip off my tongue.

Maybe this is a trick I picked up from Callie. Cut sometimes slips into second person, Callie directing her thoughts at a you we know to be her therapist. When she’s in the room with her therapist, she counts the stripes in the wallpaper, watches a fly, looks at her therapist’s shoes. It takes her a long time to speak. And the therapist says, at one point, that not talking must be tiring, that it must take a lot of energy.

It is, and it does. Does it let you focus so much on that that you don’t have to think about the other things? Sometimes, yes. But like Callie, I have learned (am still learning) that not talking doesn’t mean those things go away. They just fester and grow, even buried in the darkness.

Which is not good. But the very fact that something can still grow in the dark — it applies to good things, too. Sometimes you’ll look and a hopeful flower has taken root, pushed its way out of the soil of misery, and is calling to you, needs you to help it bloom and exist and survive.

The end of Cut is just the beginning for Callie. I like to imagine her now, a woman in her thirties, who was brave enough to ask for help when she was young and now lives and breathes and survives. Who says everything she needs to, out loud.

And I like to think maybe I can be that person, too.

Title You Don’t Know Me But I Know You
Author Rebecca Barrow
Pages 336 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre & Keywords Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
To Be Published August 29th, 2017 by HarperTeen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

There’s a box in the back of Audrey’s closet that she rarely thinks about.

Inside is a letter, seventeen years old, from a mother she’s never met, handed to her by the woman she’s called Mom her whole life. Being adopted, though, is just one piece in the puzzle of Audrey’s life—the picture painstakingly put together by Audrey herself, full of all the people and pursuits that make her who she is.

But when Audrey realizes that she’s pregnant, she feels something — a tightly sealed box in the closet corners of her heart — crack open, spilling her dormant fears and unanswered questions all over the life she loves.

Almost two decades ago, a girl in Audrey’s situation made a choice, one that started Audrey’s entire story. Now Audrey is paralyzed by her own what-ifs and terrified by the distance she feels growing between her and her best friend Rose. Down every possible path is a different unfamiliar version of her life, and as she weighs the options in her mind, she starts to wonder — What does it even mean to be Audrey Spencer?

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