It’s my mission to educate and demonstrate to an audience that if you can accept the science and history of your mental illness, you can begin to accept yourself.
My name is Rachel Ganz, I’m from Toronto, I’m a playwright, author of essays and articles and a copywriter for my family’s game studio and I’m currently writing a memoir called Where the Panic Goes. The book uses neuroscience to map my grandparent’s Holocaust survival trauma to my bipolar disorder.
The book centers around my five major mental health episodes from 2006-2016, each of which I tried to recover by isolating, seeking a stubborn independent state of decency, hiding my anxiety that another episode was on its way. Real stability didn’t began for me until 2016 when my two older brothers drove five hours from Toronto just to knock on my door and make sure I was alive. That’s when I realized, recovery isn’t about independence. Recovery is about connectivity.
But this isn’t just about personal suffering. This is a book about the scientific implications of survival.
Braided across my own story, are stories of trauma and survival from my family’s history, whether it’s 1942 and my great-grandmother is digging a hole under a neighbour’s cellar so that we can hide from the Nazis or whether it’s 2000 and I’m hiding in my room, watching my mother pace the driveway in the middle of the night during one of her worst psychotic episodes. Those stories inform my story and, pegged into that braid, are little chapters that illuminate the mechanisms in our nervous system that handle the type of stress we stand to inherit from our ancestors if it is prolonged or intense enough.
I’m not a scientist but I studied physical anthropology at the University of Toronto and since then it’s been about a decade of my absolute love for molecules, for our molecules: DNA. At the time, I wanted to proceed into studying neuroscience but I was going through my first manic episode and so instead I had to focus on recovery. But, my education gave me a great sense of independence from illness, reading and researching DNA helped me move onto the shame of my illness. But it didn’t end there,.
My memoir is not just a book about intergenerational trauma. Plenty memoirs about intergenerational trauma came out in 2022. Stephanie Foo came out with What My Bones Know, a detailed memoir about family abuse and her resulting complex PTSD. David A. Robertson’s Black Water is incredible. But, those books don’t include the science of stress and trauma. By including chapters that clearly explain the science of memory, stress and trauma, I hope that my memoir is not just a story about me, but a story about anyone with the DNA that makes us human.
I know this book is important because I’ve been writing about mental illness for seven years. I’ve written plays, I’ve spoken on panels, I’ve been blogging and posting on Instagram, and people always say to me, “Yes, I can try to meditate or workout every day or drink more water but how do I live with myself.” And the bigger question they have is, “how do I live with myself when I feel so alone.”
I knew that I had to create a bigger project that would demonstrate, with more than just actionable lists or notes at the end of a blog post, how to accept yourself and move on from feeling ashamed. If we can defeat shame, we can accept the task of living. And, there are over 500,000 people living with depression just in New York City. Imagine if they were all gone tomorrow?
It’s no secret that our existential suffering grew in 2020 and I couldn’t stop thinking about the masses of people who were losing the will to live. I was living in my Bubie’s house at the time. She died just before the pandemic. And, when I moved into her home, I began looking around at her things. It turns out, she had been hoarding home goods for decades. Imagine, a pile of scales from the fifties. My grandfather had an entire cupboard of golf bags! Cards, matchboxes, linens, nothing was ever thrown out. I never liked my Bubie. But, in that moment, I fell in love with her. And I felt so stupid. She survived Auschwitz and, in all my obsession with my own mental health, I never stopped to think about her mental health. And so, I started writing this book.
Where the Panic Goes guarantees readers insight into the science of their stress, panic and trauma. If I can educate readers on the molecular inevitability of their moods, I can convince them to live with themselves.