Several years ago, after a family tragedy raised a mountain of unresolved personal issues, I succumbed to a virus – no, not that one! – I couldn’t shake off. My GP recommended a couple of weeks’ sick leave, which stretched to six. When I need a sick note, we quibbled over the diagnosis: he proposed anxiety, I thought depression. I can’t recall who won.
It didn’t matter. Taking myself out for walks between bouts of crying, I didn’t have to drag along an unattractive tag, such as“the depressive” or “the anxiety state”. Not so the people I worked with, whose more serious diagnoses smothered their other identities. Schoolteacher, skater, Scorpio stripped away once they qualified as “schizophrenic”.
This would be less controversial if the mental patient identity defined them only within services. Diagnosis is a ticket to treatment and care. But it extends far wider. Witness the media response when someone with a severe mental illness is involved in violent crime.
The perpetrator is “a schizophrenic”. As if the label explains the assault. The victim is “a thirty-seven-year-old landscape gardener and mother of two” or somesuch. Unless the person with a psychiatric diagnosis is the victim – actually more common – when the case won’t even be reported.
Prejudice stems from fear of the unpredictable and unknown. (Although I’d argue it’s more scary when a “normal” person attacks.) Distressing for those assigned the diagnosis, spooked both by others’ potential reactions and their own terror of morphing into Mr Hyde.
Matty, the protagonist of my latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is “a schizophrenic”. In creating her character, I challenged myself to make her both sympathetic and extremely disturbed. I find her heroic in how she’s adapted to adversity. Fortunately, readers agree. Quirky, charming and humorous, Matty is becoming a wonderful ambassador for mental health.
Here are just a few examples how she’s won the hearts of book bloggers:
“Matilda Windsor is Coming Home is heartbreaking, funny and surprising all rolled into one good cup of tea … Overall, an easy read with a good storyline. Terribly heartbreaking to think about the years lost” The Book Review Crew
“As a mental health professional, this novel brought goosebumps to my skin and a lot of memories. As a reader, it gave me pause and made me care for a group of characters whom I share little with (other than my professional experience). As a human being, I can only hope no girls find themselves in the position of Matilda ever again, and also that, as a society, we always remember that there is no health without mental health.” Author Translator Olga Núñez Miret
“There is so much sadness between the pages and yet hope shines through. The writer’s empathy is obvious and there is a thread of lightness and humour throughout. Matilda is a wonderful character, expertly crafted, and a delight to read about … Anne Goodwin has demonstrated a real understanding of social history, the human psyche and the indomitable spirit in this tender and warm-hearted read.” Grace J Reviewer Lady
“Trauma does strange things to a person, and Matty retreats into a delusional world. Matty spends fifty years in the asylum. Her story chilled me to the bone.” Colleen’s Book Reviews
About the Author:
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.
For more about Anne Goodwin’s identities, check out her introductory post in the Story Reading Ape’s Hall of Fame: Myers Briggs, Jane Eyre and orange peel.
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’sburden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.