'Bravery pills' and mental health: Memoir deals with sexual assault, anxiety and healing power of dogs

Regina-born journalist Raquel Fletcher's new book The Year I Turned 25: A Memoir About Sex, Anxiety and a Dog Named She-Devil details her experiences of being a young professional dealing with sexism in the workplace and sexual assault.

Regina-born journalist Raquel Fletcher tells her own story in new memoir The Year I Turned 25

'Bravery Pills' was the title Raquel Fletcher used for a picture she posted online to let people know about her treatment for anxiety. The response to the post helped encourage her to write her new memoir. (Raquel Fletcher/The Year of the Selfie)

When she felt alone and unable to speak with her friends and family about her anxiety, Raquel Fletcher let a picture do the talking. And that picture helped lead to a new memoir from the Regina-born journalist.

In 2014, Fletcher posted a picture to her blog, The Year of the Selfie, which she titled "Bravery Pills," along with a passage from French author Marie Cardinal that ends with the statement, "My short-comings were in some way virtues." 

The pills in question were Ativan, a medication used to treat anxiety for which Fletcher received a prescription after a visit to the doctor.

"It was really jarring for me," Fletcher said. 

She says she took the picture as a way to deal with the prospect of taking medication for a mental health issue.

"I really felt alone and it was too hard to talk with my friends and family about it, that I wanted comfort but I couldn't get that from the people that I was close to," she said.

There was immediate apprehension when she hit publish, but the response from the public was positive, she said.

That response motivated her to write her new book The Year I Turned 25: A Memoir About Sex, Anxiety and a Dog Named She-Devil, which details her experiences of being a young professional dealing with sexism in the workplace and sexual assault.

Fletcher said as she was writing the book, Jian Ghomeshi was in the news for multiple allegations of sexual abuse from women he had professional and personal relationships with.

Fletcher browsed Twitter, seeing people doubt the accusations against Ghomeshi and wondered if anyone would believe her story.

She said she felt shame when she recalled the experience, asking herself why she hadn't fought back.

"I felt like I let it happen to me," she said, adding she has now moved past that feeling and is in a healthy relationship.

Fletcher describes her dog Flayla as 'a holy terror,' but also the love of her life. (@FlaylaFlay/Twitter)

Fletcher then took in Flayla, a dog which was abused and came to be known as a "she-devil."

"I had never had a dog before," Fletcher said. "Even though she is a holy terror to this day, when you cuddle a puppy like that, you realize why you're on this earth."

Fletcher is now working as journalist in Quebec, and says there's a balance between revealing her own personal stories and her work.

"[The book] was a way to be able to reconcile those two parts of me," she said, realizing she needs to be impartial for her job.

"But at the same time, I'm also a human and I need to allow myself to have human emotions and particularly when I'm the victim of a crime, I need to be able to deal with that crime that was committed against me."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend