ONEIDA – Abigail Lee has been writing stories since grade one, but it wasn’t until she was 14 that she began producing poetry to help her deal with her mental health issues.
Now, a year after hitting “rock bottom,” she has released a book of poetry that the ROWVA high school senior says has helped change her life.
“I remember how I was in a dark place. I would be really mad at myself because I don’t even know. I think it was just stuff with the pandemic and everything. I just wasn’t happy with myself and I felt rude and I felt disgusting,” Lee said. “But now it’s like I’m so excited for the future and everything that’s going to happen over the next year.”
The collection, “Embers of Anxiety,” is available now on BookBaby and features Lee’s personal experience with anxiety, depressive episodes, and self-harm, as well as the “triumphs that come with a journey to find well-being.” mental being” and the “joy of finding ourselves.”
Lee said she was encouraged to write poetry by her therapist. At first, she thought the exercise wasn’t helpful, but realized how much she loved poetry after she shifted her school Genius Hour project to focus on writing.
Lee recalls the exact date, March 26, 2021, when she decided to collect her poems into a book.
“We were on lockdown due to COVID, we had a ton of that last year. I remember I was on Google Meet with my English teacher, Ms. (Traci) Johnson, and I was like, ‘Look, I think I want to write a book,’” Lee said. “She was fully supportive and throughout the past year she helped me edit, she helped me put things in order and really encouraged the whole process.”
Lee described her writing process as spontaneous and said she did not stick to a theme when writing. The poems she chose to feature in “Embers of Anxiety” were ones she simply wanted people to read and know. Some date back to February 2021 and others were added in the final weeks before the book was published.
Lee said creating the book made him see how his mental health, as well as his writing, had improved.
The book features self-harm, where Lee said she was a year ago and “didn’t know how long I would last.”
But Lee said putting words on the page in front of her helped improve her ability to communicate her feelings and that publishing the book provided an opportunity to share her experience with others.
“Mental health is super important,” Lee said. “That’s why I wrote this book, that’s why I wanted to publish it, because I just wanted to share what I’ve been through. Because a lot of people don’t know what I went through, because it’s not something we talk about a lot and I think it’s something we should talk about more.
Lee said her teacher, Ms Johnson, was the main reason the book was possible, along with former ROWVA board member Rob Kalb, as the two adults paid for the cost of publishing the book. Lee said she didn’t think she had ever seemed happier the day she received the first shipment of books.
“Embers of Anxiety” is also available for pre-order on Amazon or Booktopia.
Now, Lee plans to attend Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to pursue a career in teaching English. She intends to continue writing and feels this book is just the beginning.
“I’m super proud of myself and I don’t think, right now right now, I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a good place,” Lee said. “Between the release of the book and all the amazing things going on in my life right now, like I couldn’t be in a better place. It’s surreal and it feels so good.