For local author Miriam Verheyden, putting herself and her personal experiences into writing for the world to see didn’t always come naturally. Now publishing her third book, Verheyden is sharing her personal journey as a healthcare professional during the pandemic and the 2021 atmospheric river flooding event, alongside her experience with alcohol and mental illness.
Verheyden first moved to Canada when she was 22 years old, after visiting the 100 Mile House area for a break from her usual surroundings. The German-born author had always felt as if she was born in the wrong country, and felt unsatisfied by her University studies back home. Fresh off of a heartbreak, she visited Canada and met Richard, 26 years her senior and a father of four. They fell in love, married, and have lived together in the B.C. Interior since. The story was the inspiration for Verheyden’s first book, Let’s Pretend This is Normal, which was her first foray into sharing her personal experiences publicly.
“I grew up with a family where you didn’t discuss personal things,” Verheyden told the Herald.
“They believed you have your official face that you show to the world, you don’t share anything personal, you don’t cry in public, and you don’t tell them any family business. What that does is make you feel very isolated, and makes you think anything that sort of doesn’t fit what you think should be normal, is something wrong with you.”
In stark contrast to her upbringing, Verheyden is now a huge proponent of sharing her personal experiences with difficult topics such as alcohol use, mental and physical illness, and loss to break the stigma around seeking help. Her newest book, Everything is Broken and Completely Fine, explores these topics from Verheyden’s unique perspective as a healthcare worker during the pandemic, in the context of her overall life experiences.
Verheyden said that the work environment for healthcare workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was “extremely scary and stressful,” with burnout and poor mental health being common symptoms for those working in the field. Working as an x-ray technician at the Nicola Valley Hospital, Verheyden saw and experienced these struggles first hand. Addressing the taboo nature of discussing mental health in a public setting was a main motivator for her writing of the book, along with society’s reinforcement of alcohol as a fix for mental health issues.
“Another big aspect of this is that I talk about alcohol use for people with mental illness,” noted Verheyden, who herself quit drinking in late 2021.
“I used it a lot as a treat, I’m home after a hard day at work, and I deserve it – which is what society tells you. To relax, you have a glass of wine, and it’s usually never just one glass, more like a bottle.”
The Merritt author believes society plays a large role in perpetuating the omnipresent nature of alcohol, and for not adequately warning next generations about the possible dangers that come with the overuse of alcohol. She described her use of alcohol to self-medicate for mental health issues as “pouring gasoline on the fire,” and believes this applies widely to society as a whole.
Since publishing her first book, Verheyden has kept the topic of mental health top of mind while writing. Her second book, Quit the Hustle, talks about society’s obsession with the “hustle,” and the risk of burnout. Verheyden also recently spoke at an x-ray technician’s conference regarding her personal journey with mental health, invited as one of the conference’s keynote speakers.
Everything is Broken and Completely Fine was released on Monday, January 23, and is available at Black’s Pharmacy in downtown Merritt. Verheyden’s books are also available online at www.miriamverheyden.com.