Camilla Gibb exemplified bravery, strength and acceptance as she exposed her vulnerability sharing the story of her family, her own mental health struggles and the way she cobbled together a loving “family” of support for her newborn daughter. She was frankly honest and open, laying out her clean and dirty laundry for readers to discover. She provides inspiration and hope for others that are experiencing challenges with their own or other’s mental health concerns. Gibb wrote about situations in a way that helps readers to see that others may share similar challenges despite the silence and stigma that still exists.
this is happy is Gibb’s fourth book and is a frank memoir. Gibb spoke to thinking that your life is going a certain way and then the next day an event happens completely change it like when her spouse left her pregnant and alone. She shared that this trauma caused her words to leave her. She could not stand TV or radio and “language felt hollow.” At a time that should be filled with happiness, she felt that “life was grey.”
Gibb received some advice from a friend how told her to “just write” and to “write in a way that is reflective of the moment.” This was worthy advice from a friend who understood the challenge of lack of sleep as he and his wife cared for a disabled son.
As Gibb’s spouse left, other support arrived. He brother, who had been estranged for 14 years, turned up. He “turned up when I needed him most” and helped renovate a basement and build a deck. She was able to hire a nanny from the Philippines who was part of the team required to care for a newborn and became family. Her mother and step-father were involved as well as friends. Suddenly, a team was in place supporting Gibb and “revolving around the egg” which is how she affectionately referred to her daughter.
Her own family had experienced challenges with her father’s undiagnosed mental health issues. Growing up, Gibb did not realize anything was out of the ordinary noting “I didn’t realize my family was odd, I thought we were English” which received chuckles from the full audience. She described her mother as the “keeper of secrets.” As difficult as her early life had been she acknowledged that “I don’t think we become ourselves in isolation. We become ourselves in the context of relationships, in the context of community”.
She spoke of the power of stories and the importance of encouraging others to share their stories to help children to navigate through the world. She grew up missing her family stories but learned much from reading books including reading all the John Irving books at an early age. Like Ricci and many of the other authors that have spoken, she shares a love of reading.
I had the chance to sit down with Gibb during a break and asked about her calling her daughter “the egg” in the book. She did this for two reasons, to keep her daughter’s confidentiality and to enable her daughter to have her own story. Gibb commented on her vulnerability but I think her resilience, braveness and strength was evident in both her writing and her speaking.
I am very pleased to have autographed copies of Sweetness in the Belly, The Beauty of the Humanity Movement and this is happy. Gibb is an author that I will continue to enjoy. She shared that while she is very busy teaching, she is thinking about her next book. I am very much looking forward to this as he is very inspiring and would be an author that I would love to have lunch with!!
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