Fox Chapel author’s debut novel tells story of resiliency, self-acceptance

Fox Chapel resident Carolyn Skowron spins a tale of triumph and chips away at the stigma of mental health in her debut novel, “Unbreakable.”

A story of acceptance, self-discovery and the value of being “perfectly imperfect,” the book follows Skowron’s struggle with mental health issues and her path to self-improvement.

“The hardest thing is to open yourself up to becoming vulnerable,” the 24-year-old said. “But when that happens, you can unlock so many things. It’s painful to write about past traumas; it’s a heavy topic. But it is healing.”

“Unbreakable” was published through New Degree Press and is available at Amazon, Kobo and other outlets.

A 2020 graduate of Chatham University, Skowron cites a devastating hit-and-run car accident in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood that served as a turning point for her. The car crash sent five people to the hospital but helped Skowron muster the strength to change her life, she said.

She spun the tale in hopes of shedding a light on the commonality of mental health issues, Skowron said.

“The book comes as the nation reels from the covid-19 epidemic, which has tested the mental health of young adults,” she said.

Anxiety, depression and isolation rates all climbed during year-long shutdowns, said Skowron, who works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

“I have dealt with it for many years so I want to use my voice and tell people about how I’ve overcome it,” she said.

“Everyone is dealing with something. People who you might not think have issues probably do.”

Writing the book was a year-long, emotional journey. It is meant to lend help to people struggling silently, Skowron said.

“I used it to say what works for me and how I eventually bought into getting help and now I’m so much happier,” she said. “I’m not a professional by any means but I tell my story in hopes that others will be more open about theirs.”

A key message throughout the book is that happiness comes from within. It’s about owning who you are and accepting that it’s OK to be different, Skowron said.

“We all have our own struggles,” she said.

“Our stories are worth sharing. It’s time society is more open to people coming from different pasts and having different experiences.”

A marketing major, Skowron said she is still figuring out her next career steps. She might pursue mental health advocacy or nonprofit work. Using her voice will be part of any future plans.

She intends to host a speaking engagement this fall at Cooper-Siegel Community Library in Fox Chapel.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of “Unbreakable” will be donated to NAMI and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“It’s healing to know I have something out there that can be a tool for anyone who needs a push to realize they are worth it,” Skowron said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 724-226-7726, [email protected] or via Twitter .