Delighted to be on The Mayfly blog tour today. For my stop I am delighted to be able to share with you a guest post from the author. The Mayfly is out now and available to purchase from Amazon.
A mutilated body discovered in the woods. A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .
When lawyer Charlie Priest is attacked in his own home by a man searching for information he claims Priest has, he is drawn into a web of corruption that has its roots in the last desperate days of World War Two.
When his attacker is found murdered the next day, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly – a secret society that people will kill for.
As Priest races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?
Dissociative disorder explained
Dissociative disorders are a series of mental impairments in which the sufferer experiences breakdowns in their perception of reality. For Charlie Priest, the main protagonist of The Mayfly, this manifests itself in bouts of detachment from the real world. At its most extreme, it can include out-of-body experiences and terrifying hallucinations.
The motivation for giving Charlie this condition began with the idea that he ought to have a specific vulnerability: his own personal kryptonite. I have professional experience of mental illness and it just seemed that dissociative disorder (the exact classification which Charlie suffers from will become clear as the series progresses) would allow the character to be highly functional ninety per cent of the time but, when a breakdown occurs, the consequences would be incapacitating.
I have always been sensitive to the fact, however, that this is also a very real condition that, in its most common form – depersonalisation disorder – may affect up to 2% of the population, that is 1.3 million people in the UK. Despite this, it is not widely known about outside of the medical profession.
There are various classifications and a spectrum of seriousness. Some people have had their lives utterly destroyed by this condition, whereas there are also those that are able to mask their symptoms and appear highly functional to the outside world. Priest falls in to this latter category, save for certain moments when he experiences attacks of extreme derealization, in which the real-world dissolves around him and is replaced by an unreal, nightmarish façade.
Everybody experiences a mild form of depersonalisation from time to time; drifting off while staring out of the window, day-dreaming. Moments where, for a short time, our sense of reality is disturbed, usually brought on by trauma, stress or fatigue (or recreational drugs!). The difference is that people who suffer from dissociative disorder experience these sensations on a much larger scale and for longer periods of time leaving them completely devastated – stranded in an arid, emotionless world. In extreme cases, this can even be permanent.
Dissociative disorder sufferers often report the feeling of being detached from their own bodies, like watching themselves in a film, or sitting behind their heads, helpless as their body moves around in front of them. This is undoubtedly a terrifying experience. In other cases, sufferers have described a feeling of detachment that was so extreme that they even questioned whether they had died.
The exact cause of dissociative disorder is unknown but there is strong evidence to indicate that trauma can cause symptoms of derealisation / depersonalisation. This may be brought on by blood flow to the front of the brain (responsible for rationality) reducing while increasing to the back of the brain (responsible for instinct). This is how the body responds to trauma (triggering the so-called fight or flight reaction), but the consequence of turning the back of the brain on and the front off causes the symptoms of dissociative disorder.
Equally, there is evidence of a possible genetic basis for dissociative disorder. Sufferers often have close relatives with the condition, something that is reflected in The Mayfly.
As a former employment and discrimination lawyer, I am very aware that mental illness is still a taboo subject in some quarters, most notably the workplace. We seem to have started to get our heads around physical disabilities; the world has adapted, albeit that progress is variable. But mental illness is far more difficult to tackle because it requires people to adapt on an emotional as well as physical level. Regrettably, there are still too many instances when this remains a bridge too far.
This isn’t a subject that is widely covered, or written about. My hope in introducing a character who suffers from dissociative disorder was to raise some awareness. If you’re interested in reading more, then Stranger to Myself by Jeffrey Abugel is a good place to start.