Last night I got back to a writing project—okay, a novel—that I was hoping to finish by last December. I’ve never had so much trouble writing a novel before. Usually, I’m quite fast and can crank them out. First drafts, of course… But this particular one has been troubling me. I kept starting and stopping, hating what I wrote, and nothing felt right. I’ve been stuck in the first few chapters for a year.
Eventually, I figured out why and it’s because I was telling the wrong story. The story I was telling was only a small portion of the whole picture. An agent tried to tell me this and I knew she was onto something, but it’s taken until now for me to unfold what the story is. Because it’s my story. It’s still fiction, but I needed to get to a certain place before I understood what my main character was going through. Before I could see her path and understand her arc and where she’ll end up.
Now I know her arc. I know her journey and where she lands.
I’ve come to this conclusion after some recent growth and acceptance.
These past few weeks have been rough. Not just because of the loss of our dog, but also because I’ve been working through the tail end of some trauma dealings.
For years I’ve wanted to reach a place where my trauma wasn’t running the show. It’s hard for people to understand but when you have something like PTSD (or any condition like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, even depression), that condition is often running the show. It’s writer, director, producer, special effects, sound, costuming, and critic. Even with therapy and treatment, mental illness and personality disorders are akin to living with a villain constantly in your head telling you that you’re worthless, that people are out to get you, that you’ll never be able to live the life you want to live because you’re just not good enough.
I haven’t wanted my PTSD to be in charge for a long time now, yet moving past it has involved so much work. It’s meant dropping my pride and allowing others to help me see my areas needing growth. Then it’s meant dealing with what stood in the way of that growth so that I could grow.
It’s not been an easy journey.
While my fictional character will not be me or take my exact path, since she is going through much of what I’ve been through, I needed to come out on the other side before I could do the story justice. Now that I have, I’m not only back to my novel but I’ve got a level of excitement that I haven’t had since I began writing nine years ago.
If this has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no need to give ourselves guilt trips over the things we haven’t accomplished yet. There’s no need for looking back. In fact, I’ve found the best way to deal with my trauma is not by revisiting it when it happened, but by pulling it into my ‘now’ and dealing with it here. This is the same with writing. I’m in the now, and I’m having fun getting back to this novel. I’ve pulled my struggles into the present moment, spun them around in my head until I got the full picture, then set the issues aside as they are no longer issues.
People always told me to write what I know and I couldn’t write this novel because I didn’t know the outcome yet. I didn’t know the possibilities. I didn’t even know that healing and overcoming the PTSD was possible.
But it is.
My journey has been painful but full of reward. With each tough thing I face, I’ve been certain that those around me will leave me. That they’ll finally see I’m too much work and be done.
With each layer of vulnerability, my relationships with those I’m vulnerable with grow stronger. They are more powerful. I hope this is the same for my writing.
These things have been tied for me all along. Many years ago, I’d tried to heal through my writing and all I ended up doing was creating different aspects of my trauma. I’ve written characters that can’t feel emotions, that don’t respond how a normal person should. They’d have triggered responses and lack accountability of others. My characters made excuses and found things to love about abusers. There was always a change of heart on the part of the aggressor too. They always saw the error of their ways and changed.
While that is fine and a lovely fantasy, the reality is that this rarely happens in real life.
I’ve seen people grow and change, but they aren’t the kinds that did the worst abuse. The ones that change are the ones unaware that they’re hurting others because of their own trauma they haven’t addressed. It’s still abuse, but once they become aware, they take action and work to change it.
But this isn’t what my stories have been about. They’ve been about the evilest people turning out to be good. And everyone lives happily ever after.
This is a toxic expectation to have.
What I’ve learned over these last few years of healing is to accept that there is evil in this world and that these horrible things that happened weren’t done out of some twisted sense of love toward me. They were done because the people doing them were evil.
Love may hurt when we feel the pain our loved ones are going through, but that’s consensual. We choose to hurt for those we love when we are empathic. Love shouldn’t be about an expectation to endure pain. That’s not consensual. Love that comes with expectations for people to put up with abusive behavior isn’t love.
I’ve also learned that secrets destroy. They aren’t fun to have or keep. I do keep others’ secrets because it’s not my place to tell them. But my own, no. I don’t want them. They only cause me harm.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to blog them or tell even most people my secrets. But I have told. They are no longer secrets.
It was this telling just days ago that has finally freed me from the cloud raining on me all these years. The cloud has drifted away in the breeze and the sun is shining through, finally warming my skin and giving me a chance to see clearly.
I’ve always known that my writing was a huge part of my therapeutic process. The same goes for my D/s relationship. And my relationships with friends as we learn and grow together. Life used to be about trauma and now it’s about an opportunity to heal and thrive at every turn.
Being present is vital in all of this. Living in the moment changes everything. Finding that quiet place inside myself where I can listen is so important. Then being open. Allowing others in. But only those that have earned that privilege.
I’m full of excitement moving forward. Not just for my writing but for my life in general. I’ve let go of so much negative and embraced the positive. I’ve found joy in being completely vulnerable.
My novel can now incorporate this joy. It can include my vulnerability and embrace the positive while also accepting there is evil in this world too. It gets to include the beauty of life in all its aspects, dark and light. Pain and pleasure. I’m no longer writing to heal but instead, sharing my journey of healing.
This hasn’t been an easy journey. But it has been full of reward and pleasure, two things that continue to increase in intensity and frequency the healthier I’ve become.
Now, I get to move forward with my plans for the future (while also remaining in the present). Plans that have shifted drastically as of recently but the new plans are much better and far more full of joy than the one I’ve left behind. All possibilities are before me, whether that be success at writing, schooling, a career as a therapist and coach, my physical health… Even having deeper and more fulfilling relationships, thriving rather than existing, all is possible for me to succeed at and enjoy.
Writing was my therapy. Then actual therapy along with submission to D. Through these things combined, I’ve reached a place where my PTSD is no longer in charge.
I own my life and my experiences. I own my body. I own my choices.
I’m in charge.