In the months following her harrowing death, Laura Palmer had hoped that her work would help people in the UK and elsewhere see her for the person she was: a deeply human, intelligent and vulnerable woman who’d struggled with her own mental illness and was still fighting for her life.
But after she died, the book became a source of constant reminder of the lengths she’d gone to in order to get there, how much she’d suffered in the process, and how much of her life was lost.
“I’m really grateful that the book got published, but it’s also really sad that it didn’t,” she told me.
“I think there’s so much that’s lost in the writing that I’ve done.”
The book is the result of a collaboration between Palmer and artist Nicki Blakely, who had been exploring the experiences of mental health sufferers.
Blakely had previously published a memoir of Palmer’s experiences with mental illness, and the pair were able to combine the two into a book about the sufferers in their lives.
The book’s title is a play on the phrase “it’s not a mirror, it’s a mirror on the wall” which was popularised by the song The Mirror Is the Wall by The Rolling Stones.
It describes the experience of being able to see one’s reflection in a mirror without having to actually see the person in front of you.
It was a very difficult time for Palmer, as she was trying to come to terms with the fact that her mother had died in the late 1990s, and that she was struggling with her mental illness at the time.
Blakeley said she’d always wanted to write a book that would help the public understand mental illness.
“It was always about people’s lives, so the idea of helping someone else’s life, especially a person who’s had so much trauma and so much pain, and you know, trying to make sense of it, I wanted to do something that was sort of personal and honest,” she said.
“That’s really what it is about, isn’t it?”
“I think it was the first time in my life that I had an honest conversation with someone who wasn’t a doctor, or someone who didn’t have to be a psychiatrist or psychologist, and so that’s the kind of thing that really appealed to me.”
It also allowed Blakely to work with a person she had known for a long time, who was not her mother.
“She was very close to me and I was very good friends with her, and she was really open about the things that she had been through and I really wanted to get to know her, so I was really able to go and meet her for a bit and talk to her about the experiences that she’d had,” she continued.
“It was great to sit down with her and have a really honest conversation, and talk about what I was going through.”
That was really what motivated me.
I think I’d have felt more comfortable if I’d gone and met someone who’d been through something similar, and not just me.
“But that was just a completely false assumption.””
In the months leading up to this book being published, I was kind of worried because I was hoping that the public wouldn’t read it and wouldn’t really understand,” she recalled.
“But that was just a completely false assumption.”
The final chapters of the book were written in August this year, and they were published on Thursday, December 14.
They’re the first of a series of eight books that Palmer has published over the past decade, with the aim of making people aware of the struggles mental health patients face.
Palmer said she hoped the books would help “people realise that they’re not alone, they’re loved, they can fight their own battles”.
She’s still not sure if the public will be able to read the books, or if they’ll be released to the public at all, but she believes that’s not likely to happen.
“People who are reading the books might find that it’s not as hard to understand them as they might have thought, and I think that’s really good,” she added.
“If it does get published, and people can really relate to the characters in it, it will probably help to inspire people to think about how they can actually do something about it.”
The story of Laura Palmer was first published in March, but has been translated into more than 40 languages and now sits at number six on the New York Times bestseller list.
You can read more about Laura Palmer’s work and her experiences here