After I finished the first draft of Carry the Ocean, I asked my former therapist, now retired, to read the book and make sure my fictional therapist toed the line. One of the gems Maura gave me for the second draft was the AWARE management strategy, which I in turn gave to Jeremey.
AWARE is an acronym and a summary for what one is meant to do during a panic attack. The general principle is the person experiencing the attack is meant to acknowledge the anxiety but not immerse themselves in it.
- ACCEPT. The feelings are natural, normal. Allow yourself to feel anxious, wave hello if you like. Do not feel frustrated or guilty or angry. Allow them to happen.
- WATCH. Observe your anxious thoughts. Don’t sink into them. Simply watch them.
- ACT. As much as possible, remain in the situation which triggered the anxiety. Don’t flee and merge with the feelings.
- REPEAT. Until the attack subsides, repeat these strategies. Consider viewing them through a third person lens, backing up and observing from afar.
- EXPECT. Don’t anticipate failure. Expect progress.
Maura also reinforced the idea all attempts to manage anxiety are successes. Originally there had been casual language about Jeremey’s goal being to have no attacks. Maura pointed out this was impractical, as Jeremey would always have anxious feelings, sometimes acute ones, but what would change was his ability to manage them. She urged me to celebrate all attempts as successes, to view his struggle more as managing his feelings, not conquering them.
The Roosevelt, Book 1
Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.
“I don’t want to be the moody guy who cries all the time and has panic attacks if the grocery store is loud.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being that guy. There’s nothing wrong with learning to manage yourself so you may react differently to stimuli, to control your environment, but being that man is being yourself. You are the young man your parents are eager to protect, the one Emmet is so fond of. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how difficult it is to impress him.”
I appreciated what he said, but I felt he was deliberately misunderstanding me. “Dr. North, I want to go on dates and go to school and go shopping and…everything. I don’t want to live with my parents. I want to be the same as everyone else who graduates high school. I don’t want to feel this way.”
“You can go on dates and go to school and go shopping, and everything. But you must do it as Jeremey Samson. You can no more erase your anxiety and intense emotional responses than I can become a sixty-year-old professional basketball player. What you can do is learn to manage your emotions. To learn how to tell yourself your feelings are not facts. That they seem real, are real, but that does not make them laws and truths.”
I had felt so hopeful, and now I felt such despair. “So you’re saying I have to be a loser for the rest of my life? The guy everyone laughs at? The guy no one wants to be friends with? The kid his parents wish hadn’t been born?”
“I have said none of those things. What I am saying is you can be yourself. Your best self. And your first step toward it is accepting and loving who you are.”
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Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and teenaged daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.
Carry the Ocean on Heidi’s Website
Carry the Ocean Spotify Playlist
I would like to give a BIG Thank You to Heidi Cullinan and Heidi’s Helpers for letting us take place in her Blog Tour.