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BRAIN XP: Living with Mental Illness, A Young Teenager’s Perspective

By Christine Marie Frey

Indie Reader Discovery Award

In BRAIN XP: Living with Mental Illness, A Young Teenager’s Perspective, teen-turned-author Christine Marie Frey explains her journey with mental illness. Written when she was only sixteen, Frey describes the troubles she endured from a young age.

As Frey explains, her early life was unremarkable. She was a model student who enjoyed attending school and playing sports. As she passed through elementary school, however, she began to experience frequent and severe anxiety. Frey describes the “mask” she wore to help her endure both social and academic situations. While she entered counseling to help her handle her anxiety, her illness soon became greater than she could control. Frey describes the feelings of fear, uncertainty, and distress that affected her daily life. As her symptoms worsened, Frey was faced with the frightening reality of early onset psychosis. She began seeing demonic faces and hearing voices; at times, she felt convinced that those around her were really demons sent to torment her. Frey’s story allows readers to understand the distorted reality that those living with mental illness must confront.

While BRAIN XP is the frightening account of her struggle with mental illness, Frey makes clear that there are many positive elements to her story. She describes the coping mechanisms that she uses to survive periods of anxiety and depression. In particular, she recounts the joy she has found in creating music. Each chapter is accompanied by the lyrics to a song that Frey wrote to describe an aspect of her journey. Furthermore, Frey coined the term “Brain Expanded” (or Brain XP) to convey the idea that those with mental illness are not crazy—they are unique. She has created a community of Brain XP members who share their stories, support one another, and celebrate the uniqueness of their brains.

The end of BRAIN XP features a chapter written by Frey’s mother, friend, and grandparents, all of which provide other perspectives on the impact of mental illness on an adolescent and those who love her. Finally, a list of online resources is included at the end of BRAIN XP; the list includes nearly two dozen websites for a teen seeking help, advice, or even just support with mental health issues. With BRAIN XP, Frey helps remove the stigma from mental illness. Thanks to her thoughtful, insightful and empathetic tale, the reader is able to grasp the frightening reality those with mental challenges must endure.

A valuable resource for those with mental illness (or those who wish to understand life with one), BRAIN XP: Living with Mental Illness, A Young Teenager’s Perspective, offers guidance, compassion, and education.

~Jennifer Noll for IndieReader