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Middle-Grade Books Featuring Protagonists with Mental Health Struggles

Mental health is a difficult topic even for adults, so it can be hard to explain to middle-age kids. However, there are a few middle-grade books that have very relatable protagonists who struggle with mental health:

1.”Better With Butter” by Victoria Piontek
A girl with anxiety disorder finds an unlikely friend—and emotional support animal —in the form of an adorable fainting goat. Twelve-year-old Marvel is afraid of absolutely everything—amusement park rides, food poisoning, earthquakes, and that big island of plastic floating through the ocean. She also obsesses about smaller worries like making friends, getting called on by the teacher, and walking home alone. Her parents and the school therapist call her worries an anxiety disorder, but Marvel calls them armor. If something can happen, it will. She needs to be prepared. But when Marvel stumbles on a group of older kids teasing a baby goat that has mysteriously shown up on the soccer field, she momentarily forgets to be afraid and rescues the frightened animal. Only Butter isn't any old goat. She's a fainting goat. When Butter feels panic, she freezes up and falls over. Marvel knows exactly how Butter feels and precisely what Butter needs—her. Soon, Butter and Marvel are going everywhere together, and Butter thrives under Marvel's support. Butter also helps Marvel. Everything is easier for her with Butter by her side. But just when Marvel starts to imagine a life in which she can manage her anxiety, instead of letting it control her, Butter's owner shows up to claim her. Will Marvel find a way to keep her friend? Or will she revert back to the anxious, lonely person she used to be?

2.”Kissing Doorknobs” by Terry Spencer Hesser
During her preschool years, Tara Sullivan lived in terror that something bad would happen to her mother while they were apart. In grade school, she panicked during the practice fire drills. Then, at the age of 11, it happened. Tara heard the phrase that changed her: “Step on a crack, break your mother's back.” Before Tara knew it, she was counting every crack in the sidewalk. Over time, Tara's "quirks" grew and arranging her meals on plates, nonstop prayer rituals, until she developed a new ritual wherin she kissed her fingers and touched doorknobs....

3. “OCDaniel” by Wesley King
Daniel is the back-up punter for the Erie Hills Elephants. Which really means he’s the water boy. He spends football practice perfectly arranging water cups—and hoping no one notices. Actually, he spends most of his time hoping no one notices his strange habits—he calls them Zaps: avoiding writing the number four, for example, or flipping a light switch on and off dozens of times over. He hopes no one notices that he’s crazy, especially his best friend Max, and Raya, the prettiest girl in school. His life gets weirder when another girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time. She doesn’t just notice him: she seems to peer through him. Then Daniel gets a note: “I need your help,” it says, signed, Fellow Star Child—whatever that means. And suddenly Daniel, a total no one at school, is swept up in a mystery that might change everything for him. With great voice and grand adventure, this book is about feeling different and finding those who understand.

4. “The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl” by Stacey McAnulty
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test—middle school! Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

5. “Counting By 7s” by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life...until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief.

6. “Finding Perfect” by Elly Swartz
To Molly Nathans, perfect is:
• The number four
• The tip of a newly sharpened number two pencil
• A crisp, white pad of paper
• Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines
What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are often broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with table cloths. Molly’s sure her mother would never miss that. Right…? But as time goes on, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

7. “Give And Take” by Elly Swartz
Twelve-year-old Maggie knows her new baby sister who smells like powder isn’t her sister for keeps. Izzie is a foster baby awaiting adoption. So in a day or a week, she’ll go to her forever family and all that sweetness will be gone. Except for those things Maggie’s secretly saving in the cardboard boxes in her closet and under her bed. Baby socks, binkies, and a button from Bud the Bear. Rocks, sticks, and candy wrappers. Maggie holds on tight. To her things. Her pet turtle. Her memories of Nana. And her friends. But when Maggie has to say goodbye to Izzie, and her friend gets bumped from their all-girl trapshooting squad to make room for a boy, Maggie’s hoarding grows far beyond her control and she needs to find the courage to let go.

📚 Happy reading! ❤️‍🩹

#themightyreaders #MentalHealth #Anxiety #GeneralizedAnxietyDisorder #ObsessiveCompulsiveDisorder #HoardingDisorder

Most common user reactions 4 reactions

Housing Struggles

So many of my difficulties with life stem from not having a stable housing situation. I have a mountain of student loan debt, which had made securing a housing loan virtually impossible, and I have moved 10 times in the past 10 years. If I could just have a stable place to live, my life would be so much easier.

I don't have difficulty getting a job. I make decent money, but not great. But I have to live on the Cape to help my mother, and the housing situation here is bonkers. I am on every housing assistance list, but the wait is 5 years. Renting is a nightmare, cost is at a minimum $1500/month, and that is not even for a nice place. And if you do rent, you're simply treading water, unable to save anything.

I'm currently living in my mother's basement, and losing my mind. My mother has hoarding disorder btw, and it's a very unpalatable place to live.

I have a robust support system: counselor, nurse practitioner, social service worker to assist with state assistance programs, life coach, lots of friends and family. I take my meds religiously. I am very healthy and do yoga and other breathing exercises daily. I have hobbies, singing, theater, saxophone, writing etc.

But none of that is the issue. It's the lack of stable housing.

Can anyone else relate?

I guess I just get frustrated because I've learned how to manage my mood disorder fairly well, but my skills can't overcome the challenges that come with having an unstable and uncontrollable living situation.

Thanks for reading. #Housing #sanctuary #Shelter

Most common user reactions 1 reaction 1 comment
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Mentally ill Mom and Me  #Depression #PTSD #MentalHealth

My mom suffers from schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. She is a heavy cigarette smoker and alcoholic. When I was 13 my mom was sent to jail and then a mental institution after a traumatic event. My siblings and I was pretty much separated living with different family members. I received more abuse from family throughout my teenage years. Then got on my own at 18 and got married at 22. My mom was out the mental institute and needed a place to live. She stayed with me during the honeymoon phase of my marriage. I was still a bit resentful and I was a newlywed. In my mind, my start of happily ever after was being interrupted. So, I quickly found my mom her own place. Fast forward to two kids later and at the age of 25. I find that my mental health begin to decline. Living in a small town where I was molested, traumatized, and verbally abused, I felt suicidal. So, I moved to a different state with my kids and my husband. Fast forward to age 31 my mom's mental heath has been neglected due to the the fact that myself and all of my siblings has moved from the hometown to start new lives. (My mom still has her sisters, and cousins and such.) But, with the pandemic and the severity of loneliness at her elder age of 64 we noticed a change in her voice during our regular phone conversations. Three of my siblings traveled to check on my mom to find her living in hoarder like conditions. She had been mixing her alcohol with her meds and her walls were stained from cigarette smoke. My siblings suggested that she be moved into a assisted living. But, I was against the idea and opted that she moves with me. Since her moving in I managed to nurse her back to health getting her meds in order and taking her out to the park. She has been enjoying chatting on the phone and watching movies. But she has not really showed me any type of appreciation. She don't interact with my kids. She do not help out around the house. She don't even try and make her bed or take regular bathes. She even lied to family saying that she don't get to watch what she wants to watch on TV. She admitted to me that she don't like cleaning and would rather be left alone. Now, I am back to where I started when I had her move in with me when I was recently married. It is so unfair that after all the sacrifices I made she is so ungrateful. I give so much love just to receive hatefulness in return. #Schizophrenia #Trauma #Anxiety #HoardingDisorder

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Letting Go. TW: Fire

Back in college I had an apartment, and in March one year I had an apartment fire. The fire totaled the place, and all my stuff causing $57k in damages. The loss of materials affected me greatly. So, since then I have suffered greatly from hoarding. Through weekly sessions through therapy and EMDR, I processed the fire and am slowly going through the mounds of stuff I have collected throughout these years. But still, it’s hard for me to sell items or donate things since I have such a personal history to it. Maybe its because I am an only child and I have more attachment to objects than an average person. Maybe I’m still not over the fire.... #MajorDepressiveDisorder #HoardingDisorder #BorderlinePersonalityDisorder


Is it just me

I was really surprised that Hoarding wasn’t included in the very long list of issues, illnesses, diagnosis, etc. to follow. I had to do a search for it just to find this small group and I know there are more people who fave this issue. Anyone else agree it should be on the main list? Just curious.
#Hoarding #HoardingDisorder #Hoarders


Wow, I’m one of those people!

I woke up to the harsh reality this morning that, I’m one of THOSE people. I am hoarding my way into the back corner of my home and I just don’t know how to stop. I think that, maybe I can keep anymore buying down to very little, but the thought of getting rid of what I already have sends
Me into a complete panic!!! I cannot even organize the things without feeling panic. Where do I start? Where can I get help? I fear what this disorder may do to me and my future!!!!