In “One Thousand and One Nights,” a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales commonly known as “Arabian Nights,” the character of Scheherazade is famous for her storytelling abilities, a talent that ultimately saves her life. While absorbing those tales, Hopkinton resident Nanette A. Kenrick thought to herself, “If only I could be like Scheherazade and tell stories about people who were overcoming obstacles and who were able to recover from different experiences.” In the fall of 2021, Kenrick realized her dream by publishing an autobiographical book entitled “Secret Letters to My Psychiatrist.”
As the title suggests, the book includes stories Kenrick initially shared with her psychiatrist during therapy sessions. “I was so garbled in the way I told it and was so emotional that I wanted to write it down in a concrete way,” Kenrick shares, “so that anyone can understand what I was talking about.” The book covers topics like career challenges, the loss of family members, unemployment, community connections and mental health.
Kenrick, an alumna of Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough and Worcester State University, now is an active resident of Hopkinton, where she is involved with the Historical Society, Hopkinton Public Library, Senior Center and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
Much of Kenrick’s book focuses on job transitions, a topic that has been widely discussed during the upheavals of the pandemic. She has been laid off a number of times and hasn’t been able to solidify a career as a librarian, a vocation she studied at the University of Denver. “But I was happy to get the jobs I got,” she reflects, “and I discovered new things about my talents and abilities.”
“Failure and success are temporary,” Kenrick writes in the book. Over the course of her life she had earned various titles and promotions, “but it didn’t stop people from laying me off,” she explains. Kenrick thought she was going to be a “failure” because she didn’t have a “big, successful title,” but she came to realize a title “really wasn’t important. It was achieving and being able to recover,” she says.
One of the reasons Kenrick wrote “Secret Letters to My Psychiatrist” was because of the prejudice she experienced when others found out she was seeing a psychiatrist, especially in the 1970s and ’80s. During the pandemic, Kenrick says she has observed a cultural shift when it comes to encouraging people to seek help for mental health concerns. She hopes that this book will be an alternative to media depictions that show people with mental health issues as being frightening or violent.
Because of this stigma, Kenrick originally planned to publish the book using a pseudonym, but she thought about the people in her church and decided she wanted them to know her stories. “I was brave,” she says of the decision.
By being open, Kenrick hopes that readers will see that therapy is “a good thing … like medicine [or] seeing a doctor. It’s a regular part of life.” If you know of someone who is receiving mental health services, “treat them with love,” she encourages.
“Secret Letters to My Psychiatrist” is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble for $12.95.