WOONSOCKET – Aisha Felix has struggled with mental health her whole life.
Born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Woonsocket resident said she spent years battling depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder severe enough to lead to hospital visits and suicide attempts. Her struggles followed her from her home on St. Thomas to a new start in upstate New York and finally in Rhode Island.
In recent years, however, she’s learned a new way to cope with her challenges. During her last hospital visit in 2017, she said, a fellow patient handed her a self-help book that inspired her to write her own story. After years of journaling, she decided it was time to share the story of her life.
“I didn’t know if this was going to be an autobiography, a memoir, I just started writing,” she said.
The result was “My Crazy Life,” a memoir published by Pawtucket-based Stillwater River Publications in July. Felix said she hopes her story reaches others battling mental health diagnoses who might find solace in her words.
“Writing saved my life. I was in a very bad place. I’d been seeing therapists, I’ve been taking seven pills for anxiety and depression and mood disorder. It hasn’t been helping, so I tried to help myself. And this is what my book is about,” she said.
Her story begins on the island of Dominica, where her grandmother and aunt raised her. Felix said she had a strict upbringing in a culture very different from the one in Rhode Island. After high school, she returned to St. Thomas to live with her father, but a fight with her stepmother sent her packing for Delaware Valley Job Corps, a government job-training program based in upstate New York.
Dropped into an unfamiliar world, Felix said she struggled to adapt to her new home. In 2002, at the age of 20, she reconnected with her mother’s side of the family and came to live with them in Rhode Island. Since then, she’s spent much of her career working as a CNA for the Woonsocket Health and Rehabilitation Centre, taking a recent leave of absence for health reasons.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, she wrote one chapter of her book every day to stave off the isolation of the pandemic measures. This winter, she said, she’s hoping to write a sequel to help her cope with the seasonal worsening of her depression.
“I just know I have to keep writing,” she said.
For those that struggle with similar mental health issues, Felix said she urges others to consider telling their stories.
“Everyone has a crazy life. Everyone has a story. I just wanted to tell mine hoping it can help someone,” she said.
“My Crazy Life” is available on Amazon.