What's in a Book
Mental Health Awareness Month takes place across Canada in May every year. During this month, Canadians can learn about mental illnesses and how they affect people’s lives in different ways. Talking about mental health and the struggles that colour people’s lives has only recently become a conversation people are having. The stigma of mental health struggles and mental illness still reigns in society and many still suffer in silence, putting a smile on their face in public that masks the pain that lives behind closed doors. Mental health impairments fall into the category of an ‘invisible disability’ as it is defined as a physical, mental, or neurological condition that is not visible from the outside yet can still limit and/or challenge a person’s movements, senses, and/or activity. (https://www.understood.org/en/articles/understanding-invisible-disabilities-in-the-workplace) Unfortunately, because the symptoms and the manifestation of the disabling condition aren’t visible to others, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and false judgments can and do occur.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 3rd, Laura Lawrence held a book launch in Cudworth to celebrate the release of her new book, “Behind Closed Doors”. Laura grew up in Cudworth and was excited to come back to Cudworth to share the launch with her family and friends. “It was very important to me that I did my first book launch event where it all started, where I grew up and where my roots are, and where my family is,” she shared with those in attendance. The book shares the stories of Laura’s own healing journey and those of other women who first shared their stories with her.
Lawrence now calls Meskanaw, SK home. There with her husband and their four children, she is finding her way back to herself as she has had to learn to balance “motherhood through a divorce, a major career change, depression, anxiety, a second marriage, the loss of loved ones”. She is an author, educator, and public speaker. As the founder and CEO of Youth Matter Canada, a non-profit organization that supports mental health initiatives and programs for youth, Laura has worked extensively to create impactful programs, events, and initiatives to help support youth of all ages. (Behind Closed Doors: Memoirs of Motherhood, Marriage, and Mental Health, p.177)
Lawrence is also the author of three children’s books and all three deal with mental health and helping kids go through the ups and downs of their emotions and learning how to breathe through those emotions. Children are not immune to stressful situations and hard times, and unfortunately, too often the very real pain and distress little people feel gets brushed aside and dismissed with the excuse that ‘they are too young to understand anyhow’. Lawrence’s books give parents and children the means to talk about those very real issues kids have. The three books, she said, took about two years from start to finish, the usual time frame for an 800-word manuscript for a children’s book to be completed is one year.
The first book “Lily’s Loud Mouth”, she wrote during the pandemic, start to finish, in roughly twenty minutes one night when she couldn’t sleep. Lily is outspoken and always using her mouth and this gets her into trouble. The characters in the book are a reflection of the author and her family from whom she draws her inspiration. While both girls and boys will enjoy the book, is more geared towards the empowerment of girls and of them claiming their voice. Her second children’s book, “Elliott’s Rainbow Rollercoaster”, was actually written first, but due to issues with illustrators during the pandemic, it didn’t end up being finished until after “Lily’s Loud Mouth”, and while the character Lily is a hybrid of Laura herself and her daughter, Elliott is a compilation of all three of her sons. A fourth book, “Be Brave Little Bucky” a story of an anxious little beaver is still in the works, and she hopes it will be ready in time for Christmas 2023.
Through her work as a Body Talk Practitioner, she has worked with many types of grief, and she came to realize that there were very few resources to help children deal with death and grief. The third book deals with that topic and is called “Lily’s Heavy Heart”. Lily is faced with the death of her beloved pet and must come to terms with the very heavy emotions this entails.
Laura always knew that she wanted to write an adult book, but the topic of the book evaded her until she came upon the idea to relate some of the stories of the women who had talked with her in her Strong as a Mother coffee and conversation events. In Strong as a Mother, she would have a panel of two or three or four women join her at the front while others sat as an audience of sorts and the panel would talk. She would ask them questions about different aspects of their lives and over time the discussions became deeper and delved into intimate topics that women rarely discuss because we are all expected or believe we are expected to have it all together and know all the answers. The truth is however, that we have all gone through the highs and the lows of what it is to be a woman, to be a mother, and to go through the hills and the valleys of life.
Women all around us no matter what their age is, or what life stage they are in, have a story. And we never really know the depths of that story. Laura writes, “Over the years I’ve acquired many new tools (and people) to add to my mental health maintenance plan that help me process the little and big traumas that led me where I am today. …There were times when I felt like I had completely lost my way and lost who I was. I’m still not sure I know who I really am. What I know to be true is that not all storms come into our lives to disrupt them, some come with a purpose to clear a fresh path and lead us into growth and discovery of new paths we did not know were awaiting us.”
Prime Minister Trudeau said in his address on May 1st that this year’s theme for Mental Health Week was “My Story” which emphasizes the importance of sharing stories and experiences with each other, and by doing that we can all make a difference and make sure no one has to fight their battle alone. What better way to ensure that stories are shared and that women do not need to feel alone than through a book such as Laura’s where the women you meet were brave enough to step out from behind closed doors to show you that you are not alone in the pain you carry and the battles you fight.
“The matriarchs of our community, they heal, they uphold, they carry all the burdens of the planet.” ~Laura Lawrence
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder