So, while I am nowhere near to processing the wealth of information and emotional reactions I’ve accumulated on child abuse and cults these past few weeks, let me share a some of what drew me to the project in the first place.
∴ ∴ ∴
Her name is Atyr. She’s a character in my story universe, and back in high school when we first “met”, her hurt and fire resonated deeply. Before long her story became a catharsis, where I hid my own feelings and denied my experience as worthy of notice or comment. Until the triggers made it impossible to even write her story because I’d buried so much…
I didn’t worry at the time. I had a lot of characters and a lot of stories to write after all. And conventional wisdom in the publishing world said I shouldn’t trap myself to a single genre (or worse a single story or character). I knew I needed to “grow” as a writer, and figured I must have grown beyond writing Atyr.
Knowing I wouldn’t have to face the feelings of shame, loss and soul-deep hurt that came when I touched Atyr’s character deeply made me almost sigh with relief. And I quickly looked away to other possibilities.
But Atyr wouldn’t let me go. And my other characters wouldn’t let me let her go either. They kept revealing connections to her, stories, memories, affections and anger, confusion… but I couldn’t connect those pieces without touching my psyche more directly.
So I tried a different tactic. I tried flash fiction pieces, I tried not-quite-personal posts that dealt with an instance of my life, but didn’t deal with me too closely … I wrote poetry, took pictures… escaped into the world of performing the character I’d cast for myself. I wasn’t a girl who’d never grown up, I wasn’t lost in the world scared to look in the mirror or draw attention to myself… not me. I was traveled, experienced, creative, friendly, helpful, out-going… I was h….a…p..P.Y.
Thing is, masks come off, and I was taking mine off with the few people I was comfortable with (my husband, my best friend…) which added stress to those relationships. Stressed, unhappy and… afraid, I was no state to be a fair partner or friend (I still wonder how I deserve such wonderful people in my life, especially for putting up with me for so long).
Things came to a head when I let myself go for a NaNoWriMo. I let myself go, and Atyr took over. I plowed through 60,000 words in two weeks sitting in Panera, gesticulating, writing, spilling out feelings of abandonment, of emotional and physical pain, of confusion with outside expectations, image issues, of tears and blank stares, of self-mutilation… of invisibility and the being object of scorn and disgust. Of never being good enough….
Ever have one of those cries that leaves you feeling so drained you doubt you could shed another tear? A cry so exhausting that you can’t move afterward? Tears that surround you in flood-waters washing away the world beneath your feet?
60,000 words of a character’s story opened a floodgate within myself, and I’m still trying to find some stable, dry land.
It took me almost three years to look back at that notebook, because I put so much of myself in it. Not in words related to my experience…. and sometimes not in Atyr’s as my truth escaped onto the page.
Since opening those pages, I’ve slowly explored the story within. I’ve read stories by others who’ve suffered abuse, emotional and physical, to learn how they face each day after accepting what they’d lived through. I’ve tried to understand how these things can happen in loving families with caring parents or in schools or communities or…
…how we can become the monsters we fear so easily.