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Yesterday I finished read Heather Demetrios’s Something Real, a real gem of a book. Despite my cousin and me making jokes about me going on The Bachelor to find myself a husband (and shock our extended family), reality TV probably would not find its way into my life whether the camera followed me or I followed the show. However, I could relate to Chloe’s angst over coming to grips with a childhood that caused her angst and anxiety beyond her control.

As a reality star since birthday, Chloe/Bonnie Baker grew up in the public’s eye on Baker’s Dozen with her parents and twelve siblings. The show ended up getting cancelled in her early teen years after her parents got divorced and Bonnie, who later changes her name to Chloe to get distance from her trademarked self, overdoses on medication. She started public school with her brother as a senior, when she chose to start fresh with her identity. However, her mother decided to restart the show in an effort to financially provide for Chloe and her twelve other siblings.

Again, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to have cameras watching my every move, broadcasting not only my positive moments but all my mistakes. I also couldn’t imagine having that many siblings around, though the thought terrified me. Yet I could relate to a constant angst in my own childhood, the feeling that my parents couldn’t see the pain caused by choices not my own even if made with the best intentions. My parents divorced as well, and by the time I reached Chloe’s age I had experienced that more than once. I also experienced (and still do) anxiety and depression. Those and some of my other health issues heightened some disconnect since they did not always make themselves evident. Unfortunately that disengagement only increased the severity of the problem. Chloe repeatedly expressed her concerns before she made the drastic decision to raid the medicine cabinet. When the show restarted, she again repeatedly voiced her concern, especially as her panic attacks returned. Ultimately, she sought legal counsel to separate herself from a main root of her anxiety.

That break in root was tough. Again, I could relate. She didn’t want to hurt her family, and I never wanted to break mine. As deep as family was, the root of pain went just as far. I admired her bravery and strength to make that cut. The book showed how the pain lingered and how she still wanted her family’s support and connection. They didn’t attend her high school graduation, and that stung Chloe. Yet she knew she had to move forward away from the cameras and therefore the Baker’s Dozen.

This story provided an authentic look into anxiety and other issues related to dysfunctional families. I appreciated how it showed the depth of the roots and how events or specific issues can ripple into other areas of life. It reminded me how important it was to invest in healthy relationships, like the close sibling bond Chloe has with her brother Benny and her group of friends, and in the counsel of experts like Chloe’s counselor and lawyer.