I realized I’m writing a novel about healing from trauma.
The basic premise of the story is that Tabitha, my main character, blames herself for her best friend’s untimely death. The plot follows Tabitha through college where she self-destructs to try to cope with her grief and ultimately heals and releases her guilt.
Like many writers, I notice that there are parallels between the themes in my writing and the things I’m dealing with in life. It’s not like I set out to resolve my own issues through writing. Usually it’s subconscious and I realize the similarities as I go.
My anxiety has been high lately. I was given my Abilify injection a few days ago, and it seems to have done the opposite of what it’s supposed to. Before the injection, I felt fine. Not especially depressed and not psychotic at all. But in the days after the shot, I felt reality getting a little bit fuzzy.
This is pretty much how my brain feels in the beginnings of paranoia. I’ll notice something mundane that I normally wouldn’t care about, and my mind tries to find evidence or meaning in it. I know I’m going out on a limb and that these things (license plates, songs on the radio, animals, etc.) are not necessarily connected, but there’s always that nagging thought, “But what if…?”
Recently, I’ve been set off by men with long hair. Tim, the man who had a big part in my undoing, had long, wild, blond locks, which were noticeable from a mile away. Whenever I see someone who looks even remotely like him, I panic. I try to tell myself, “It’s just some dude,” and sometimes that helps.
I spent a good bit of my therapy session yesterday talking about my anxieties regarding starting college again. After having two very scary incidents with men I met at two different colleges, I have some reservations about going back to school. What it boiled down to was this: I have a tendency to pick ill-intentioned people to be my friends, I am attracted to dangerous situations, and I don’t always know what’s good for me. I do not trust myself. I would like to think I have the power to make better decisions this time around. I probably do, and when I get there, I’ll be able to prove that to myself.
In the meantime, I am trying not to worry too much. (Easier said than done!) I was trying to explain this disjointed thought process to my mom last night. She was trying to pinpoint what caused this outburst of anxiety, and I had no answer. Maybe I had been cooped up in the house for too long. I was certainly sleep-deprived, which never helps anything. And I’d come to a tough intersection in revising the novel, writing a lot of dialogue that didn’t flow well. Sometimes the ol’ hellbrain just decides that it’s panic time for no reason. “But why are you coming back to Tim?” my mom asked me. “What made you think of him all of a sudden?”
I didn’t know how to answer this, and the conversation was frustrating for both of us. What I realized since then was that the thought of Tim never left. I don’t talk about him much, I deleted the photo of him off of my phone, but I can’t just delete him from my mind. When paranoia creeps in, magnifying anxiety, I begin to wonder if he is some kind of superhuman mastermind, carefully orchestrating my demise. I toy with the ideas of microscopic trackers, cameras, and recording devices in my house or implanted in my body. And it makes me feel like I am, for lack of better words, going crazy.
Similarly, in my novel Tabitha deals with the unexpected and unfair death of her best friend, Jessica. As Tabitha grieves, she finds a way to blame herself for Jessica’s death. (I won’t give any more detail than that. You’ll have to read the book to find out why!) Tabitha seeks out evidence that she is a bad person and that the universe is punishing her by killing her friend.
What Tabitha cannot see is that sometimes, horrible things happen for no discernable reason. At the beginning of the novel, Tabitha is a twelve-year-old girl. She has a rocky relationship with an emotionally unavailable mother, she’s a little bit shy, and she would do anything for her best friend, Jessica. Tabitha wants things to happen for a reason, she wants to be rewarded for being a good daughter and friend, she wants things to stay the same forever (because nobody likes change!) Tabitha is somewhat immature, she’s a little behind her peers when it comes to things like makeup, the desire to grow up, and interpersonal relationships. But she has a big heart, and sometimes her feelings overwhelm her.
Plot is not my strong suit. The last fiction piece I actually finished took place entirely in a supermarket. The one before that took place inside a car with a single passenger. I am not interested in fighting dragons, saving kingdoms, or the monomyth. I am fascinated with what makes people tick, the experience of growing up, being designated as “different,” girlhood, childhood, transitions, and healing.
I put a big piece of myself in Tabitha’s character. Although our traumas are vastly different, they affect us both the same way. It’s sort of like the classic therapist line, “What would you say to a friend in your situation?” If I can guide Tabitha through the muck, all the way to absolving herself of the burden of Jessica’s death, maybe by the time I get there, I can forgive myself too.