I suffer from Anxiety Disorder. Many people in my life would tell me that there’s no need to let everyone know that. There seems to be a certain stigma attached–like it’s something to be ashamed of. Yes, I know it’s a mental illness. I also know that I’m not alone. In fact, there are probably millions of people in the world who suffer from this particular disorder and have no idea. Many of the symptoms resemble those of simple stress, and others seem like general insomnia.
This is why I wrote Side Effects. I freely admit that I first wrote a fanfiction with the same theme a few years ago, but I had the desire to really explore the illness. Armed with the knowledge I gleaned through my own suffering and months of research, I started back at the beginning and set out to create new characters–namely Isaac, a teen boy who battles the disorder while trying to survive high school. I wanted people to know they’re not alone.
I’ve been told that this is a “niche” novel–that there aren’t enough people interested in this type of book to stock it on shelves. I don’t think this is true. While Anxiety Disorder may be the focus of the book, the overall message is one of hope and triumph. We see how true friendship can help the healing process. Most of all, readers can bask in the memory of their first love. These themes are appealing to a wide variety of people, to be sure. However, returning to the Anxiety Disorder argument, I think it’s safe to say there are plenty of teens and young adults experiencing the things Isaac faces in the book.
My ultimate goal when I wrote Side Effects was not to attempt success with a short story that had found a moderate readership online. I want people to know that this disorder is not something to be ashamed of. We should be able to tell people openly and honestly that we have Anxiety Disorder so that others might understand what we face on a daily basis. It is my fondest hope that those who have been too scared to seek help will find some courage in the pages and talk to someone about their panic attacks, nightmares, aches and pains, withdrawal from society, and crippling shyness. Without the freedom to speak about it, there is no way to find relief.
I do still experience anxiety attacks, though not as regularly as I once did. I’m now able to power through them without the aid of medication and live a very healthy life. I want this for everyone, and I hope that reading this book could be the first step toward finding the courage to talk to someone.