Sometimes, I Still Want to Scream

Self-portrait, by Sean Speliades
Self-portrait, by Sean Speliades

I still remember the day Sean died in almost pristine clarity. It’s funny how that works. I can’t remember what I read in my macroeconomics textbook last night, but I can remember every agonizing second of waiting for Mike to call me back. When we got off the phone, I slipped into the passenger side of my car and I screamed.

Lately I just miss him.

Maybe I’ve finally stepped into the acceptance stage.

It’s been four years, but every time it snows I still think of the night of his wake. How that room was the very last place I wanted to be, but the only place I could be. How we slipped and slid our way from the funeral home, cars packed with friends who would’ve otherwise walked in the storm. How, in the morning, the roads were barely clear but we had a funeral to get through. How Sean wasn’t buried ’til the spring, and we had to do it all over again.

Only that time, we stood outside and I cried my contacts out.

I still can’t look at pictures of him. There’s a brief flash of delighted recognition, then a hard pinch and I have to look away. Because this person who was so vibrant and colored so many other people’s lives is just… gone.

Maybe I haven’t accepted anything.

A Look Back, and a Plan for Moving Forward

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I can hardly believe that 2015 is almost over—yet I’m also relieved.

This year went by fast. In a way, I guess it was kind of like ripping off a Band Aid. I’ve now been writing full-time for a full year. It wasn’t what I’d planned; it just kind of happened. And although I’ve yet to make a full-time income, I’ve learned a lot about the business and myself. I wrote several novels and released a couple, too. I spent a lot of time evaluating my plan and changing things up. Literally nothing went the way I thought it would. Not that that’s a bad thing. Halfway through the year, I got picked up by a publisher.

Aside from writing, I spent much of this year battling depression. I’m actually kind of ashamed to talk about this. Turns out, it was a combination of trauma and poorly handled meds. I’ve most likely been struggling with PTSD all these years, which explains why antidepressants only make me feel worse. There’s nothing chemical about my depression, but as a result of multiple traumas, I’ve been trapped in certain behaviors and coping methods. (For example, I beat up on myself and withdraw.) Even worse, I’ve dealt with a lot of so-called professionals over the years who only made things worse for me.

Someday I want to share my story. I don’t really want to be anyone’s poster girl, but I long to be understood.

In a lot of ways, 2015 was about getting hopelessly lost and then finding my way back to myself.

Some good things happened this year, too. I finally got a diagnosis: enthesitis-related arthritis, probably reactive arthritis. (My rheumatologist thinks the medication I’m on will get rid of it completely. I’m not getting my hopes up, but my fingers are crossed.) Mike and I moved out of my parents’ and into our first apartment in a cute little town.

Already, 2016 is shaping up to be my year.

My Goals for 2016

I still want to be a full-time novelist. I’ve been writing professionally for four years now. My best production year was 2014; I slowed down a lot last year. In 2016, I’m aiming to release something new every 2-3 months. In February, my publisher Booktrope will be re-releasing The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. Then, sometime during the spring, my team and I will be publishing the first two books in the South of Forever series. Diving Into Him will be getting a facelift and Savannah’s Song will be released for the very first time. I know a lot of you have been waiting for this, and I’m super excited to finally give it to you! The rest of the South of Forever series will be released as 2016 progresses.

In the meantime, I’d like to write six new novels. Currently I’m doing pre-production for a standalone romance that I plan to start writing in January. Ideally, I’d like to arrange my schedule so that I’m writing a complete novel in roughly four weeks, taking a week to refill the well, using another week to edit a previously completed first draft, then spend another week or two on pre-production for the next novel. Now that I have a publisher and creative team behind me, I’m confident that I can pull this off. It’s basically what I was doing when I was self-publishing, only a little faster.

I don’t want to write my year away, though.

I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the little town we moved to. Though I’m an introvert, I’d really like to get more involved. I’ve kind of been toying with the idea of joining a social club.

I’d also like to read a lot more books. I spent a lot of 2015 doing and though I read quite a bit—I even re-read several older books—I’ve been making an effort to read even more. I enjoy a little bit of everything, so let me know if you have any recommendations! I’m especially looking to read more NA. (Some that I really enjoyed: Scorched by Jennifer ArmentroutCam Girl by Leah Raeder, and As You Breathe Again by Molli Moran—my super awesome critique partner.)

I’m also working on practicing acceptance. When it comes to trauma, I’m really good at placing it in a box. But denying it only brings more heartache. Accepting trauma, to me, means just acknowledging those feelings. There are a lot of nights where I lay awake, in this sort of frozen mode where the fear starts to take over. Sometimes I’m really angry. And a million other feelings. I’ve been working on being more kind to myself and telling myself it’s okay to feel however I feel.

My work is cut out for me in 2016.

It’s going to be my year.

What are your goals for 2016? Leave a comment and let me know!

Hello From the Other Side

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

It’s been a little over two weeks since I got out of the hospital. In those two weeks, I froze. I didn’t want to accept what had happened; I wanted to go back in time, smooth the ugly bump that blemished my sense of security and what I thought I knew about the world. I still do. If there was such a thing as a time machine, I would go back in a heartbeat. I would change it all.

But that’s the tricky thing about life. You can’t change the past. I’m learning that only by accepting it will you be set free—and that by accepting it, you are not condoning what happened. You are healing.

I’m working on that whole acceptance thing. As my girl Faith says, “Deal with it and move on.”

Turns out, there are a lot of things I need to confront. I’ve recently learned that my depression is probably not a chemical imbalance but a result of trauma—and avoidance. The more I learn about trauma, the more honest with myself I am, and the more I think about it, the more it all makes sense. My depression started when I was twelve, right after a major trauma. In the years that followed, I’ve been repeatedly misdiagnosed and, as a result, improperly treated.

But now, for the first time in fifteen years, I’m on the right path. It’s not an easy one. I’m learning to see myself as a victim of multiple traumas; I’m learning to stop blaming myself and practice radical acceptance. After spending the last fifteen years running from pain, it’s immensely difficult to face it head on. The last thing I want to do is think about any of these things. I actually physically feel sick.

Facing my demons and accepting the things that happened, though, happens to be the key to my recovery.

The other night, I dreamed that the zombie apocalypse unleashed itself and I was a bad-ass zombie slayer. In real life, if I saw a zombie, I would purposely give it a very wide berth. In my dream, though, I walked right up to those motherfuckers and annihilated them with a pair of kitchen scissors. Initially, I thought the dream was an anxiety dream. It scared me.

But in the hours after, I began to realize that this dream was actually me telling myself that I’m strong enough to face my real life demons head on. And, just like the everyday kitchen scissors that I used, the tools that I need are so common, they are actually already in my grasp.