I did a Q&A at my book release on June 22. Here are the questions and answers, including some additional ones that I didn’t get a chance to answer.
What drove and motivated you to write a book about so many personal things?
When I was struggling, hearing other people’s stories about their mental health gave me hope. Especially Demi Lovato’s, since I’m a fan. Her story helped me realize how much words can help other people. Since then, I’ve always been open and honest about my story, and putting everything a book is just another way to get it out there.
What is your hope for this book?
My hope for this book is that people not only read it, but that they also keep picking it up to use as a guide. There are some helpful tools in there that can be used again and again, if needed.
What is the best advice you have ever given to anyone?
Read my book!
If you suspect that someone has anxiety/depression, are there specific signs that you can look for? What is the best way to help them?
I wrote a list of symptoms for both in Appendix A and Appendix B in the book so definitely check that out.
I believe the best way to help them is to ask them how, because everyone is different. Some things might help someone, but not someone else. If they don’t let you know – because not everyone will – you can simply just be there for them, either to listen to them or spend time with them. It doesn’t mean that you have to give them advice, though. They normally just want someone to listen.
Because I know that this question is coming from a parent, encourage your kids to talk to you about their struggles. If they want to, that’s awesome. If they don’t, don’t try and force them to. Don’t be overbearing. Trust me. We hate it.
Given the complexity of your journey so far, what is the status of your mental health and your general outlook on life?
At this point, my mental health issues are pretty manageable. I’m at a really good place in my life.
What do you do to stay mentally healthy and in a general positive state?
I practise self-care and put my energy into my passions, like writing, advocacy and helping friends.
How do you pull yourself out of bad days?
Honestly, I let myself have a bad day or two. I let myself rest. But, I make sure to pick myself back up afterward. And, of course, Carly helps with that.
What is the biggest daily struggle for you?
I would say my anxiety. It’s not bad every day, but it’s almost always there, whether it’s mild or severe.
What was the most difficult thing in your life you had to deal with?
Well, I had cancer when I was two. I bet that was hard.
But the most difficult thing I remember experiencing was the first time I went to the hospital for suicidal ideation. I was 20 years old, I had a few drinks that night at a party, I went to Carly’s house after. She had to call 911 because I was suicidal.
However, the hospital did basically nothing. I was let go not even 24 hours later. And I felt even worse after. Nobody knew I had gone, besides Carly and my aunt. So the next day, I had to go back to school, had to pretend I was ok. I often went to the mall after school because I didn’t want my mom to see me like that because I didn’t want her to know. I isolated myself from everyone but Carly, I hid my face in her arms every chance I got, everything triggered me. I also thought “if the hospital won’t keep me safe, who will?”. It’s also just a pretty awful thing to be scared of yourself.
Do you get bullied? If so, how do you handle this?
I’m not sure if you would consider this bullying, but people are occasionally rude to me. Honestly? I’m at the age and point in my life where I don’t give a shit. I just don’t let it bother me for longer than it has to. If someone has a problem with me, it’s their problem. I have people who love me and that’s all that matters.
What struggles, if any, do you encounter with dating?
I encounter 3 specific struggles with dating.
One is the assumptions people make about me because of my disability: I don’t date, I’m not a potential partner, I’m too dependent, I’m childlike, I can’t have sex, I can go on and on.
Two is the fact that it’s more riskier for me to meet up with someone because I’m more vulnerable for abuse. So I hardly ever do. And if I do, I’m really safe about it.
Lastly, I have crippling dating anxiety. It’s a real thing. I recently met up with a guy after a week or two of chatting and skyping. And I had very real anxiety. I did not want to go. I would’ve preferred to stay under the covers in bed. I cried a few times and had a couple anxiety attacks the week leading up to it. There was a few times where my stomach felt sick. Ask Carly the number I times I texted her freaking out. And I was just meeting the guy! It wasn’t even a date. I wasn’t having sex! But I did end up meeting him because I really wanted to get past the anxiety.
He ended up ghosting me and never talked to me again. But I’m proud that I did it. I just know that the anxiety is something I have to work on.
If you didn’t become a writer, what would you have liked to do as a profession?
I’m not sure if this is cheating, because I already do it as a hobby, but I would’ve liked to be a YouTuber. It looks like a fun way to make money and meet new people. However, it’s so hard to get to the point of monetization and I just don’t have time for that because of writing.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I don’t really have an answer, because I take things one day at a time, one project at a time.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Writing a book is a pretty big deal.
What is your best life memory so far?
Meeting Demi Lovato, giving her a hug, and thanking her for what does for me and everyone else struggling with mental health issues. Three times. All three times were really special. But, the first time I met her, I made a pinky promise to her that I would stay strong.
Who has had the biggest impact on your life?
Carly because one, I might not be alive if it wasn’t for her. She has literally saved my life more than once. Two, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be here in this room. She has definitely taught me a lot. She has encouraged me. She’s always honest. She’s always doing what she can to support me, especially with the book and the launch, we both need a break after this. She’s been there for me through the good and the bad. I could go on and on. But yeah, she has made the biggest impact on my life.
If you could give us one message, what would it be?
If anyone listening today does struggle with mental illness, I just want to tell you it can get better. If you try hard enough, figure out the right combination of things that help you, find your passion, find the right people, it can get better. I’m living proof of that.
From Why to Fly is a personal account and resource on navigating the waters of mental health, disability, conflict, LGTBQ+ issues, and the struggles faced by those who are coming to terms with all of these situations. This book is a first-person account from 25-year-old author Jessica Victoria, as she bravely shares stories from her life and her journey of discovery toward the woman that she is evolving into today. This book answers all the questions she had growing up. Through her experiences and overcoming dark times, she articulates the strategies she found that helped get her to the place she is today.
You can order the book here.