People ask me where I get my ideas for novels. Nearly everything in life could be an idea. For instances, that spry, white-haired woman at the grocery store who admitted buying ingredients for a match-making party (for septuagenarians!). The mom who admitted she had her high school pom poms stored in the basement. Reports of heroism and freak incidents during a natural disaster. A man’s deep bass voice. A throwing dart. A church doctrine. Bungee jumping.
The idea for my novel Touchpoint came from an incident with someone I know who battles bipolar and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) every day. Early in her diagnoses her doctors had not yet found a medical cocktail to control her symptoms. And talk therapy had not yet given her the tools that people with her diagnoses need to feel they are in control, and not their diagnoses.
With free-flowing tears she sobbed, “I just want to be normal.” The agony in that moment branded my soul and became the building block for Touchpoint.
Most people want to blend in, not stick out. They want no physical imperfections like a limp, spinal bifida, scars, to be wheelchair bound, psoriasis, you name it. It’s the same with mental illnesses. If you watch the TV show Hoarders you’ve seen how the hoarding OCD tends to isolate sufferers from mainstream society. They can’t fit in, as much as they may want to. Society does not understand their inability to control their thoughts and actions. It’s the same with bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, autism, etc. These people wage a daily unseen war trying to be “normal.” Unlike the person who uses forearm crutches, where we see their struggle and effort to walk, and empathize with them, the person with a mental illness might never receive our empathy. And because we don’t understand why they don’t just “snap out of it,” they may feel they have to hide their disease in shame. Or they don’t interact much with other people because of the way people treat them.
Love, stability, routines, medicine and a healthy environment can give people with mental illness the opportunity to live a full life. Not just to exist, but to excel as congressmen, ambassadors, CEO’s, Oscar-winning actors, even brilliant detectives (i.e. TV’s Monk). At its simplest level, people want to live, love and function daily.
Touchpoint fictionalizes what might happen when one of those points of stability in a person’s life tilts, and his path to win back control and prove that one moment/one aspect doesn’t define him. He just wants “to be normal.”