This is not an article I wanted to write. This is not the gift I wanted to give the world, and especially not in this way. What I'm about to tell you is real and painful, but before that, I have to say something I hoped I'd never have to: Your trauma is never an excuse and your pain is not special.
That's a hard sentence to hear. It's even harder when you're in a dark place. But it's the truth and I need to tell you a story so you can understand that truth and evolve beyond it.
About ten years ago, I had a psychotic manic episode, followed swiftly by a psychotic depressive episode. Due to a bad drug, early childhood trauma, genetics, lack of support, and so many other things, I lost my mind and was admitted to a psych ward. What I experienced is hard to discuss. So hard, in fact, I had to write books about being insane just to process it so I could discuss it plainly. Which is what I'm doing right now.
If you've never heard voices, hallucinated, or were convinced you were a psychic God, it's hard to conjure the experience. Sure, you could play a psychological horror video game, or watch a TV show, but I guarantee you that most media of this genre isn't accurate. It wasn't written by people like me. It was written by heartless people who think people like me make great fodder for fiction.
Because (nearly) all stories about insanity come from folks who have no business discussing it, you get the bad Netflix version. That means you learn nothing, gain no empathy for people like me, and worst of all? Have no ability to save yourself from what any person can experience.
Anxiety can make you hallucinate. Doing the wrong recreational drug can provoke DID. Stress can make you paranoid. Depression can make you psychotic. Hallucinations aren't rare and trauma can warp your brain to the point where you live inside a delusion.
I know all of this because people like me have lived every mental health hell a person can live. Because of this, I've made it a mission to get people out of dodge. I thought turning my hellish experiences into books would make people stop stepping on landmines I've clearly marked as dangerous.
But experience has taught me something else: The hard truth is all I can say and keep saying. People running head-first into damage will not trust that anyone wants to sweep them away from it. I certainly didn't, which is why I fell so hard. I thought nobody was on my side.
While coworkers told me to get help, they were also treating me poorly. While friends tried their best, they also marked my problems as moral failings. Why would I trust anyone at all? Even though the pattern of support being married to harm was real, it was also what ruined me. It made a fiercely independent storm where I was the only victim.
Full of rage and pain, I blamed everyone but myself. I was a tornado of disassociated drunk damage. Sure, I could've used a huge helping of love and tenderness, but damn bitch. I was a nightmare to be around.
Waking up in someone's bed after being taken advantage of, I hobbled to the Dunkin Donuts and stared at my phone. It was then that I realized: It's me. I'm the problem. I'd texted terrible messages to people while blackout drunk. That was my rock-bottom and as much as I'm ashamed of it, I had to get there. I had to see I was unhealthy, stop making excuses, apologize and start rebuilding my life.
Even with a supportive husband and a safe home, it still took ten years of work to get to decent. Building better habits each day, I still struggle. I fail, falter, try again and slowly? I'm succeeding. I'm finally physically healthy. I finally clean my house. I'm finally undoing the damage I did to myself. This is the hardest work I've ever done. But I'm doing it, which is why I know that it can and must be done.
You must deal with your pain, ask for help, and become someone capable of accepting, receiving and giving love. Please learn from my suffering and avoid my mistakes.
This is the plea of my latest novel INDIGO VOSS but more than that, this is a plea to friends, peers, family, strangers and anyone who was ever hurt bad enough to turn toxic. You are worthy of love, health and redemption, but first you must love yourself enough to own this: Your trauma is never an excuse and your pain is not special.
Now, dust yourself off and take the first step by facing your demons with open eyes. It's incredibly difficult to exorcise trauma, but you're the one who has to take that journey. And if I can do it? I know you can too. Good luck.