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Catharsis in putting her story on paper

Elmira woman finds it helpful to chronicle story of abuse and healing in new book, Saving Catherine.

This is the story of Angela Harrison’s life: dealing with mental illness, abuse and uncertainty in her family, and coming to better understand her mother’s struggle throughout the years.

A resident of Elmira, Harrison went through hell and back as a child, and into her early adult years, and just recently, she decided to put her experiences on paper with a self-published book, Saving Catherine.

The book is available on Amazon for Kobo readers and details the tumultuous ride that is her life, starting with the unchecked mental illness, her father’s schizophrenia and its impact on her mother, detailing the difficulties she faced when confronting her sexual abuser from childhood and reading her mother’s journals, gaining a new perspective on the life they both lived, and much, much more.

She says she wanted to write the book to let others understand that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but also to help her move forward in her journey of healing.

“I often find, now, with people that have read the book, they will come to me and they tell me they can’t get there, (to a point of healing). They don’t know how you get through that,” she said, adding that she has had readers and friends call her at all hours, expressing their sympathy and empathy for her past. “I have reached this point in my life where I am okay with my past. It was hard at the time, but you learn how to cope. It is not about sympathy, though. I don’t need sympathy. What I want is to relate with other people who have gone through something similar.”

One of the more touching parts of the e-book is the section which describes Harrison’s experience in court, taking the stand to tell the world what she had gone through at age seven. She told the Observer about the healing effect just telling people about the past abuse had on her life.

“I was 17 and it was totally random. I hadn’t even planned on telling,” she said. “But, up until that point I was stuck. I was stuck in this darkness. I couldn’t get out of it and I didn’t know how. Then one day, I was just done. I thought, ‘just say it and it will be done.’ The biggest impact for me was that there were probably other people being assaulted by the same person and that bothered me. That is a big burden to carry.”

A common theme throughout Saving Catherine is the presence of Harrison’s mother: a woman subject to emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, and a neglectful mother who was going through her own immense struggles. While she was still a teenager, Harrison found her mother’s well-hidden journals, gaining valuable insight to a woman that she had previously misunderstood. Her mother has read the book and reacted with surprise and understanding.

“I read it to her and she as blown away. When you put the story down all in one spot, and this is just some of the story, it reaches the point where you just find that connection,” she said, adding that he mother had no idea Harrison had been reading her journals for all those years. “She loved it. You have to find that connection.”

For readers who take the time  to read through all 17 chapters, Harrison wants to impart a message of hope and healing. She has come to terms with her upbringing and later struggles, and now she wants to same for others.

“I want people to see that it is okay and to understand mental health issues. Not everybody who is dealing with mental health has a mental illness. There is a difference between the two. It is okay to look after yourself. If you need to take a day, just process. Everybody does,” she said, adding that she is more than pleased with the reaction she has received from readers thus far. “Often times, people will come to me with their stories and sometimes they haven’t even told anyone else and I think that is amazing.”

Harrison didn’t set out to write a book or to make money from publishing a book. The process all started when she just started putting her thoughts down on paper.

“The process was cathartic. Once you start pouring all that stuff out, you don’t care about punctuation or anything – that stuff comes after. This book was kind of incredible in that while I was writing, I didn’t think about it and what was coming out,” she said.

The book is available for purchase in a digital copy through Chapters-Indigo the website at www.chapters.ca.

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