By Kate Eldean
“Gracie Brave” was birthed on an Amtrak train headed from San Diego to Santa Barbara. My Mom and I were taking a few day retreat together and began to pen the children’s book as the train headed north. We knew it was time to share her with the world! “Gracie Brave” has been a dream in the making for many years based on my personal experience living life with clinical depression. I also have 18 years of experience as a counselor in the mental health field, which has taught me numerous things about the struggles of mental illness; however, nothing could teach me more than my own daily battle with the darkness.
Depression in children is often more difficult to detect. It shows up more frequently in physiological and behavioral symptoms. In my case, I would tell my Mom things like, “I have a tummy ache,” “my head hurts” and “I don’t want to play with friends or go to school.” I began to withdraw around the age of 5, and my Mom wondered where her bubbly, energetic and smiling child went. It was a scary and challenging time. The first step was going to our pediatrician to rule out anything physical. Fortunately, we found a competent child psychologist who helped guide us.
Throughout both my childhood and adult life I have always had an affinity towards the voiceless, the marginalized, the left out and the one without a friend. This has led me to having a passion for philanthropic work stateside and missionary work in East Africa. Race, color, socioeconomic or ethnic barriers don’t limit Gracie Brave. We know how isolating it can be living with a disorder such as depression or otherwise no matter who you are or where you live.
In the story, Gracie travels by way of her red balloon and her vivid imagination to destinations near and far to bring hope, healing, generosity and a strong message that you are not alone. We desire to link arms with children and adults who struggle with depression and other diagnoses as well as to affirm their value, worth and empower them to have their voice. We believe everyone has a Brave story to share! What is your Brave story?
This collaboration as a mother-daughter team has been significant for so many reasons. We have a special camaraderie. We are a team and can be an example to other mothers who are dealing with the challenges their child is facing. Another benefit has been that writing and creating together has brought us closer. We have spent countless amounts of time remembering all of the obstacles that have been overcome navigating depression together. There is a gift in stopping to remember where we have come from. We truly are overcomers who are strong and capable of meeting the challenge at hand. We have learned so much about risk-taking and cultivating courage through my battle with clinical depression. There is an unbreakable and steady bond that exists when a mother sticks with her child as mine has with me over the years. Whether in a time of heartache or hope, she has always been 100 percent supportive and by my side. Writing can be a lonely endeavor and it is such a blessing to be able to help one another when we get stuck or need some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing. Perseverance has been the key ingredient in the process of dreaming up, writing and polishing “Gracie Brave,” which was published in Dec. 2017. Our mother-daughter relationship has had seasons of deep emotion, unspeakable joy, discovery and always a deep companionship in every season.
The obstacles and challenges we have faced have given us a different perspective on life and that definitely shines through in “Gracie Brave.” We desire children and adults to be well and to appreciate and savor life regardless of the battle you face. We can rise above our circumstances and ease the pain with love and encouragement. There is hope and there is healing!
Gracie Brave is available at Wonder Works stores, Indigo Books and online at graciebrave.org, Amazon and bn.com.
Kate Eldean has been a licensed Marriage & Family therapist for more than 16 years. She specializes in individual, couples, group and family therapy, and maintains a private practice in Charleston. She enjoys painting, writing and designing empowering workshops for women and children to help them to find their voice through expressive arts and mixed-media. For more information about Kate visit kateeldean.com.