Brady draws on her own experiences as a New York City psychotherapist in her first novel, The Blind (Park Row, Sept.).

When the effects of the 2008 financial collapse trickled into the mental health world, mental health services lost funding all around New York City. People seeking counseling and assistance were often turned away due to overcrowding, shuffled around from one agency to another, or fell out of treatment altogether. The mental health agency I was working at in Brooklyn was suddenly flooded with new clients, and it became an exceptionally chaotic environment.

My friend asked me how I was dealing with the chaos going on at work, and I told him, “You have to be crazy to work here.” From that statement alone, a story line developed in my head, and The Blind was born.

The characters, locations, and relationships I wrote about in the book are informed by my years of working in various mental health facilities around New York City—I started at a private hospital’s psychiatric ward, and worked my way around publicly funded inpatient programs, private practices, research facilities, and day treatment programs. Typhlos, the hospital in the book, is a combination of a few of them, with a dash of creative license.

Sam, the narrator in The Blind, is not based on me nor any of my coworkers, but the feeling she has of losing herself and her stability is very much based on the experience I had when things started to get extremely messy at work. At the time, I felt I was tied up in bureaucratic red tape and was trying to find a way to do more than one therapist could possibly do. So many people needed services, time, and help. I was stretched to my breaking point. I would come home from work crying, completely depleted, wishing I could’ve been a superhero.

Sam’s descent into disarray and the chaotic environment at Typhlos are reflections of how each part of the mental health machine affects the other parts. As therapists, our unresolved issues and behaviors affect our clients, just as their issues affect us. Sam is struggling to be superhuman, suppressing her own problems so she can use her energy to help her patients. That feeling was pervasive among professionals during the fallout of the recession, myself included.

While writing the novel, I was careful to authentically represent the state of mental health treatment in our country. While there are so many talented and caring professionals out there, facilities are woefully underfunded, and stigmas prevail in the common consciousness. The story in The Blind echoes my real-life experience of realizing that we are all human beings and, like Sam, none of us have it all together. The line that divides the mentally well and mentally ill can be paper thin.