Saturday, March 16, 2024

Q&A with Julie Chavez


Photo by Racelle Campanelli



Julie Chavez is the author of the new memoir Everyone But Myself. She is an elementary school librarian, and she lives in Northern California.


Q: What inspired you to write Everyone But Myself?


A: I wrote this memoir because I believed that my story could be of service to others, and that perhaps it could help them understand themselves or a loved one a bit better.


Seasons of anxiety and depression are incredibly isolating, and my hope was that this book could be a friend to its readers by helping them feel less alone. Putting words to our internal experiences can be good medicine.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: This book’s title was elusive for a long time! In the end, we went back to my original elevator pitch: This memoir is the story of my way through a season of severe anxiety and depression after I spent too long caring for everyone but myself. I am so grateful we found our way.


The title is about the consequences of putting your needs last—though sometimes necessary, it’s not a sustainable way to live. It’s a reminder to me that my own name has a place on the list of people I love and care for.


Q: The writer Keely Flynn said of the book, “Chavez’s book gently—and sometimes not-so gently—suggests that finding the words to ask for mental health help isn’t the hardest part, that it’s actually acknowledging the roadblocks we’ve been taught to just push through.” What do you think of that description?

A: I love this description, because caring for our mental health is a layered exercise.


I was in crisis in the spring of 2018, and I had to access help to ease the acute, debilitating anxiety I experienced (for me, this came in the form of medication and therapy).


But we build our lives—and sometimes slide into our crises—through small habits. If one of my regular habits is to push through and fail to address what’s not working for me in my life, then I’ll forever be coming up against the same problems, finding myself depleted and desperate.


We have to admit we need help with our mental health, but we also have to look at the internalized messages that do us a disservice. Our culture doesn’t provide a lot of support in learning how to look for balance, and we tend to deprioritize our own emotional nourishment.


Q: What impact did it have on you to write this memoir, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: Writing this memoir was a gift. It represents the redemption of a terrible time, and to be able to write about those sad days is evidence of how far I’ve come.


To have it published was a dream realized—I’m a lifelong reader, a book-lover, a haunter of bookstores. To see Everyone But Myself on the shelves has been surreal and beautiful.


Gregory Maguire once told me in an interview that we read not only to find comfort in the moment, but to store up comfort for the difficult times that will inevitably arrive in the future. It’s my great hope that this book can be a comfort to its readers in whatever place they find themselves.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a novel, and I’m having a great time making up stories. It’s a completely new exercise, but I’m loving being back to writing. I’m very hopeful that the word salad currently on my laptop can one day become a second book.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Not that I can think of, which means that a month from now, I’ll wake up at 2am thinking of 16 things I should’ve written here. Sigh.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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