A farewell to Angst, a love note and a statement. Angst stands on its own and it will remain as it is…flaws, imperfections and all…
As I said, here I stand, naked
Warm hand to bare chest
Honest as a heartbeat
When I wrote Angst, I was honest, brutally so about how it feels to struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, including many things that were true to my life at that time, the swearing, the partying, the talk between girlfriends, the sex, the drugs. I wanted to be as honest as possible about MY story (albeit fictionalized in many ways as well) and about what led me down a road toward suicidal thoughts. I was writing it for me and that meant that it had to represent the atmosphere of my suffering, the stage if you will of my eventual downfall. And more than anything I wanted to accurately represent that, because anything else would feel like a falsification.
But I never truly thought to be where I am today as a self-published author with strangers reading my novel and telling me that they think I’m brave for sharing my story through fiction (or with those who find my story unrealistic). In some ways sharing that story was easy, I’ve lived it, I know each and every nuance, every dirt path, every highway, all the gritty hard dirty details. In other ways, deciding to share this story with the world has ripped me apart, exposing who I am and how I feel.
I’ve always been the girl who wears makeup, the girl who dresses to impress, vain and yet insecure. Hiding who I am inside, hiding the fact that I very often felt afraid. I covered up the real me with sarcasm, drinking, partying and laughter. No one knew the way my mind worked or the daily torture I felt when trying to do normal activities. No one knew how my heart throbbed or my hands shook or how my thoughts raced and my stomach clenched up in fear.
I was the book with the pretty cover hiding the damage inside. I was the book who was judged by the face I showed the world. I was crafted, created, designed to sell an image of a normal girl without problems. My problems, my anxieties, fears, depression and ultimately poor self-worth were buried, deep down under my exterior.
“The vision I see in the mirror is me, who I am supposedly, but that vision does not express the way my mind works or the way I feel inside.”
Just as books are judged by their covers, so too are we judged by our exterior. My exterior is one I’ve always used as a shelter in which to hide, to cover up the fact that I believed I was crazy. But when I decided to publish Angst, I made a choice. I accepted that we only live once and I didn’t want to look back and have regrets that I didn’t do what I could to share my story and help others. I had always told myself when I felt at my worst, if only I can somehow help one person feel less alone or help someone understand what it’s like to live this way, I’ve succeeded, I’ve made this suffering more than just some senseless pain. I decided I wanted to rip away my façade, my book cover and expose what’s in my pages. I was tired of hiding. I wanted honesty, I craved a way to tell you how I really feel.
When it came time to create a cover design for Angst, I had a few ideas in mind to show off plot points in the book, a party girl, keg cup, sexy clothes. And I wanted to be my own model even though I’m older now than my 18 year old protagonist.
I had a photoshoot with a friend and a lot of photos were taken. Some that represented the party feel of the book and others that had a more personal feel. The photo that I ended up using is my face, straight on, open, honest as a heartbeat, yet vague too. Can you see the suffering there? Would you judge this girl by her “cover” and if so, what do you see?
Just as it’s hard to distill a 300+ page novel into one image that represents all the plot points inside, so too is it hard to look in the mirror and try to fathom you, as the image you see before you. Are you that image? Are you the makeup you wear? Are you the girl who never has a hair out of place, are you putting on a show to fool the world into thinking you are something you’re not? Do you plaster on a smile or force a laugh when you’re crying inside? Are you hiding your pain? Do you feel guilty, ashamed, afraid, alone?
I was that girl…and now I’ve stripped it all away and it feels really positive once I get past the negativity. I am my cover, but I am so much more than that too. Just like a good book, the proof is in the pages, locked away in words upon words and even what is in between those words, the things that are not spoken, at least not overtly. There is a depth there that cannot be fully understood or appreciated without diving inside and living there.
Next time you think you know someone, try to read in between the lines, try to see past their “book cover” and when you do, you’ll truly learn about your fellow human beings and I think you’ll learn that we’re more the same than different. And secondly realize, it’s okay to be YOU. We only live once and hiding the pain every day isn’t worth it. Be you, be honest, be truthful, reach out toward hope, don’t suffer alone. We are each human, each with struggles, each with one life to live.
And do the same with book covers…who knows what depth of pain or humanity might be hiding behind that cover? You might be surprised at what you find behind those honest eyes.
P.S. I wrote this for my book blog tour and thought it was a strong piece and I wanted to share it here too. It’s a reiteration of course of things I’ve posted before, but with a different twist. I also wanted to add this: I just finished reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It’s a story about a family and more importantly about a person learning of and finally coming to terms with being a hermaphrodite. It was…an honest read, a touching read and it made me feel what it must feel like to not understand what’s going on with your body, with your sexuality, with just struggling to grow up. I think there should be more books like this, ones that rip away our preconceived notions about how someone different than us feels, allowing us to empathize, to have our heart break for their struggle but at the same time realize, this is a person, just like me. It reveals that our differences: race, sexual orientation, body differences or mental health issues are inconsequential. Underneath it all, we’re human and I think if you really try to, you can understand the struggles that others go through by getting into their pages. I challenge you…learn about someone different than you, open your heart.
P.P.S (Is this a letter?) Two things, I’m not going to talk much about Angst anymore. I’ll probably post something about “letting go” of Angst, although I am very much living something similar to Angst right now while dealing with my ever increasing anxiety (the meds aren’t really working fully yet). But I feel it’s necessary to take a step back and learn to accept the decisions I made to tell that story. It is what it is and I am moving on! (But not pulling it or changing it) I also may be taking a brief hiatus from blogging while I deal with my surgery and the aftermath. I’ll miss you…but hopefully I’ll come back with lots to say. Needless to say the last few days have been stressful but by this time next week I hope to be in recovery. Much love all!!!