News Article Details

Teen Publishes Novel About Experience With Mental Illness

Hartford Courant - 11/13/2018

Nov. 13--West Hartford

resident Julia Tannenbaum's novel about a teenager with mental illness is drawn from her own experience with an eating disorder.

"A lot of me is reflected in the main character," said Tannenbaum, an 18-year-old senior at Hall High School, about her book, titled Changing Ways.

Tannenbaum's struggle with mental illness began in middle school.

"Seventh grade was when I started struggling," Tannenbaum said. "I was very insecure. I found that the only way I was able to cope with it was through self-dieting."

Things became worse in eighth grade, she said. She was admitted to an intensive outpatient program for eight weeks and couldn't remain in school.

"My eating disorder went out of control," Tannenbaum said. "When I was discharged, physically I was in a better place. But mentally, my mind was still a mess. I wasn't in school anymore because I wasn't safe. I self-harmed in school. It was really overwhelming."

Writing soon became therapy for Tannenbaum.

"I sat down on my computer and started typing," she said. "It was such an amazing release. I had a hard time articulating my thoughts and feelings. Writing became my voice at that point."

It took a long time for Tannenbaum to share what she was writing with other people.

"At the beginning I was like, 'Nobody can read my work,'" she said. "It was messy. It was sloppy. It was really dark. It was all these thoughts I was putting on the paper."

In her book, 16-year-old Grace Edwards is struggling with the same issues of dieting and self-harming.

"It's the same story," she said. "All of these things build up. All of these insecurities and self-doubt. They manifest into mental illness."

Tannenbaum is in recovery now. And she's in a better place, she said, as three years ago publishing a book and going to college weren't things she thought she could do.

"Going to college is realistic and even a year ago, that wouldn't be the case," Tannenbaum said. "I didn't even see a future for myself. There are still issues I face every day. I still have anxiety. I still struggle. But it's a tremendous improvement."

Tannenbaum hopes her open way of talking about her own mental illness can help others, too. She wanted to write a book that doesn't glamorize or stigmatize mental illness and she thinks she has done that.

"For a while, it was my identity," she said. "I'm not ashamed. I felt like the book was very timely. It's a topic a lot of young adults can relate to and learn from, because it's prevalent in society."

Changing Ways can be purchased on Amazon.

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