In my coming-of-age novel Taking Root, the protagonist, Delaney, has endured panic attacks for as long as she can remember. Alienated from her mother, and trying to carve out a life for herself, she suffers in silence and has managed to cope with these episodes, most of the time, in a unique way.
The number of adolescents and teens suffering from depression and anxiety disorders in the U.S. is on the upswing. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, statistics from 2015 show approximately eight percent of children and teenagers experience the negative impact of an anxiety disorder at school and at home. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that these disorders are noted more frequently in females than males. Panic disorder is one of several types of anxiety disorders. Panic attacks may occur unexpectedly or, as in Delaney’s case, they can be triggered. Symptoms may include having a feeling of intense fear or impending doom, rapid heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Delaney has always accepted her condition as the hand that was dealt to her. She never asked for help and no one ever took her to a medical professional for a diagnosis. In fact, only one in five teens with an anxiety disorder receives therapy or treatment.
Try to imagine, for a moment, what it must feel like to be in a public place when you are suddenly gripped by the throes of a panic attack. People around you may notice a change in your behavior. What would you do?
Understandably, episodes like this made it difficult for Delaney to form friendships and trusting relationships. Through a series of circumstances, Delaney crosses paths with Luella, a kind, retired social worker with a compassionate heart.
One reader recently commented “the characters are real, fallible humans making their way in a sometimes difficult life and finding value in making friends and learning to trust.”