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Teresa Purkis: Mental Health Musings 2024

A stalwart of the Sapphic Fiction community, you may know Terry Purkis (she/her) through her Coming Home series, and her books that revolve around The Perfect Blend coffee shop. If you know her well – or if you’ve even had the briefest interaction with her – you’ll know that she is also a lovely human being. In the first of a week-long series, in which I share interviews every day of Mental Health Week with authors (mostly of Sapphic fiction) who’ve written about mental health, I knew I had to interview Terry. Never Again and Worth Waiting For both contain raw, honest coverage of depression and mental ill health. I asked Terry why, and here were her answers…

Firstly, what does mental health mean to you?

To me mental health is the way we think, feel, and act throughout our lives. When the state of our mental health is balanced, our whole being feels good. But when the balance shifts then strange things happen. I found out in later life that stress was the major factor that turned my world on a kilter, and aspects of my life, which I used to breeze through, became problems.

Why did you choose to write about mental health in your books?

My books usually contains some sort of angst. I wrote characters having problems with depression because I could relate to what they might feel in certain situations. I could delve into the deep recesses of my mind and bring forth my emotions that still hovered in the background. Occasionally surfacing out of the blue. Writing these characters was sort of cathartic after I retired from teaching.

In Never Again the teacher was accused of inappropriate behaviour, the stress and following depression caused her to stutter. This character was an amalgamation of two teacher friends and myself, and the devastation unfounded accusations caused both to them and their families. I won’t tell what bits were me. Lol.

In Worth Waiting For most people have gone through a break-up that has felt devastating. I took it further and showed how depression manifests itself, and can effect peoples life decisions.

Is there anyone, or any book, that inspired you to write about mental health?

Not really. Although I have read many books by lots of different authors that have dealt with this subject. I think stories come from within. They have to be authentic to yourself, otherwise it can feel wrong to the reader.

Tell me about your research process. What did you do to make sure your mental health representations were accurate?

As an older individual I have my own wealth of life experiences and plenty of friends with different ones. A lot of the situations I have written have my own truth within them. My stories might take the characters further than reality, but the basis is there. My reactions are there. (Or the reactions of my close friends.) I try to check that certain situations are accurate by getting my professional friends to read and suggest any changes they deem fit. That are true reflection of what would happen where the books are set.

Do you have any more intentions to write about mental health in the future?

Who knows? My characters have a way about them. They decide what is going to happen and I have to go with it. Pesky blighters.

Lastly, why did you pick those specific conditions to represent in your books? 

Personal experience. Because I was shaken to my bones when depression hit me and the reason why I retired early from the profession I loved. I went from this confident individual who loved teaching, to this blubbering wreck. And to be told after I retired that my wife felt like she had been walking on eggshells around me for a year frightened the life out of me.

Thank you for allowing me to interview you about this very personal topic, Terry.

If you are worried about your mental health, or that of someone around you, here are some helplines you may find useful.

If you’d like to read more books about mental health, I have a list of Sapphic-themed books with mental health rep, which you can find here. Please also check out my books, The Summer We’ve Had and Love You However, both of which have strong mental health themes, discussing Dissociative Identity Disorder and gender-dysphoria-fuelled self-harm, respectively.


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