Monday, December 23, 2013

I’m a Real Girl (And it sometimes hurts)

This blog is going to be different than any I’ve done in the past. First of all, I feel I need to explain something to my readers, but mostly it’s a journey of self-discovery. If you’ve been following my work, you already know that my latest book has had a couple of delays. I’m about to lay my soul bare for you and tell you why, something I’ve never done because I was taught not to show emotional weakness to outsiders and that’s a very, very hard habit to break.

I went into a depression. There, I said it – Well, I typed it, but that’s the same thing when you’re a writer. This is something other family and friends have gone through and I would just think to myself, “Well, snap out of it. Take control of the situation and fix what you don’t like. Stop wallowing.” I told myself this very same thing, over and over with little result. It has taken me a year to get through it and out the other side. What caused it, you might ask? Well, I originally felt it was a very stupid reason and I shouldn’t be having an emotional meltdown, including bouts of crying and not being able to work, over something so inane. But, like it or not, I was grieving. Hard.

The shocker for me was that this started not over a person but a place. I was grieving over a house. Sounds silly, right? Exactly what I told myself. “Snap out of it. Sheesh, it’s just a house. Holy crap, why are you so emotional over a damn building?” As I tried to ignore these feelings and go on with life as usual, the nightmares started up again. Nightmares that I thought years-ago therapy had taken care of, but the situation dredged up all kinds of childhood traumas I had tried very hard to push aside. I had acknowledged them in therapy. I acknowledged them, the nightmares went away and all’s right in my world. There, I was done. Right? Not exactly.

Last year we sold our Phoenix home, the one we built from the ground up, the one we left our family and friends in California for, where I designed the swimming pool, the one that backed to an expansive desert and mountain scenery, complete with hiking trails that refreshed my spirit each day I walked them in solitude. My desert “dream” home. That was gone. All of it. I missed the beach and California lifestyle, as did hubby, so we moved back home to Los Angeles, something we’d been planning since before the real estate fiasco and the burst housing bubble. The move home got to me much more than I ever anticipated.

I tried to keep up my façade of rolling with the punches, of being just fine with everything. To outsiders, anyway. I knew that whatever bad stuff we were going through would end and we’d come out better for it and in a better place, but getting there was tougher than I expected. Much tougher this time. The crying spells got worse and again I berated myself because I was crying over stuff. Silly stuff that I agreed to sell in order to get back to the beach, which cleanses my soul even more than the desert.

But try telling that to a grieving brain and heart when your “dream” home now belongs to another family and you’re in the middle of a noise nightmare which dredges up more pain than you ever expected. And we would just sell this one and buy another one, so what’s the big deal? This emotional loss represented itself worse than my occasional Meniere’s Disease attacks. Worse even than my past grief over lost family members. Surprised right? I know I was downright flabbergasted. It’s – just – a – house. My husband, ever the supporting spouse, told me that if I needed to talk to someone, we would set it up and he would be there for me, no matter what. Maybe, but I wanted to try and deal with it myself. I promised him that if I started having dangerous feelings, we would make that appointment. I could do this. It’s just a damn house.

But it really was more than that, as I’m sure you’ve already suspected. It was loss. After several years of losing people who meant something to me and trying my best to be the stoic one, keeping my emotions as private as I possibly could, even hiding them from myself most of the time, the grief exploded. And it was messy. I would have good days here and there, but the bad ones outnumbered the good for the first time in my life. For the first time in my life, I was dealing with depression. Me? Depression? No way! Yep. Not the occasional down in the dumps day or a blues week. This was month after month of ups and downs, like a hormonal Nightmare on Elm Street.

My work suffered terribly for the first time in my life and I didn’t want to admit it. I just kept writing, though most of it was unusable in the book. As my deadline loomed and I could no longer hide it, I finally notified my publishing house to let them know the true problem, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. Until writing this. My publisher didn’t drop me, as I had feared, and we decided to delay the book release. And then again when the next deadline loomed and I was still in what I call the Well of Lost Souls, we delayed it again. My readers had no idea what was really going on. I didn’t tell anyone, outside my husband, how I felt. Then a family friend made a comment to my husband that made me take a very uncomfortable look at myself.

“I stopped reading her Facebook posts because they’re so negative all the time.”

What? Me, negative? No way in hell. If I feel negative, I don’t put that on my social pages. Sure, I complained about noise. Don’t I have a right to complain about bad neighbors? Traffic? Ill-mannered people? Anger and denial – The first stages of, well, pretty much everything when it has to do with me not living up to my own standards. Perfection is an impossible image to keep up and a tough childhood habit to break. I’m a trained actress. I know how to play a part and play it well, convince even myself that I’m really that person for the duration of the production. Do this in life and you get smacked upside the head as you’re taking your bow.

This is exactly what happened. Realization hit me like a cartoon anvil, square in the head. Oh, hell, I’m a real girl. Damnit! I’m a real girl. There I said it. I have real problems and real emotions and I went through a dark period. The losses I had endured over the years and tried to explain away as just “circle of life” stuff, so I could get on with my life and pretend they didn’t affect me that much, had caught up with me. That house was just that last straw on the camel’s back. The sanctuary, the place I went to forget about life’s traumas, the place I had created as a sanctuary from the world, and sometimes my own troubles and emotions, was gone. And I broke. I bled out emotionally. I needed to acknowledge that so I could sew up the gashing wound and let it mend. It took me over a year to get to this point but I made it through.

I will have scars, like any human, but these wounds are now healing. This is still very strange for me to write. I usually put all my emotional stuff in my books and let characters deal with it, probably one of the reasons I avoid writing non-fiction. Sure, I still get sad now and then when I think of my other home but I’m not breaking down. I’m not emotionally crippled – I now really understand that terminology. I’m back to work, writing my latest novel and enjoying it again. I can look at photos of my former life and not weep and weep like an abandoned baby missing its mother. I apologize to my readers for not finishing my latest book on time, but I’m not going to apologize for my feelings and what they did to me. Not this time. I’m imperfect and I’m letting the world see that. I won’t be ashamed of it anymore.

One thing you’ll learn about me, if you don’t already know it, is that I finish what I start and I do what I say I’m going to do. So, while this latest detour was a painful and eye-opening one, and it may not be my last because I plan to live long enough to complain about aching bones and failing eyesight, I found the main road and am flying down that highway of life again.

My latest book won’t be available until 2014 but now you know the truth behind the delays. I’m human. I’m flawed. I have negative emotions. I went into a depression. Wow, kind of hurts to type that but there it is. I’m a real girl.


Amber Polo said...

Thanks. Being brave is hard.

Dana's Blah Blah Blog said...

Yes it is, Amber. Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a fabulous holiday! I know I will now that I'm back to being me again. =)

suleewu said...

A real girl, and a NEW girl. You are courageous! Courage and fortitude gets you through the bad times.

Rejoice! You have freed yourself.

Love, Susan

Jenn said...

Dana, I just want to say how very brave you are for allowing us to read what is such a personal journey. I, myself, had a severely traumatic and extremely stressful time in my life in 2011 (and have PTSD from) and can truly say that although I do not understand your personal struggle; I do know what struggle is like. If there's anything, ever, I can do to help; I'm here for you. Sometimes even the strong need someone to lean on. Much love. Jenn

The Normal and the Paranormal said...

First of all, it wasn't "just" a house. You've done paranormal investigation and know that homes soak up the atmosphere that was built into them. You built your dream house and imbibed it with love, caring, joy, happiness, good friends ... it wasn't just a house.

Secondly, even though you'd lived in California before, it was picking up and moving and disrupting your entire life, whether you do it because you want to or because you have to, it is a huge upheaval in your life.

I know all this because I went through it, too. We moved from Minnesota to Illinois, something I thought would be the best move in our lives. I left behind a townhouse I loved, family, friends, you name it. I felt disconnected and lost. I never realized how much of my job was wrapped up in being me until it wasn't there anymore. Anyway, just wanted to sympathize with your ordeal and let you know that many, MANY people go through it.

You are one brave and amazing woman, Dana, and coming out from what you've gone through ultimately makes you a stronger person with much more insight into your life and the life of others who may be going through the same things.

My hubby "came out" and admitted his depression a few years ago. It surprised him how many people understood and had similar stories. We all go through our own stories of depression, but understand it in others when we see it.

Ultimately, if you don't have things that affect you so emotionally, you're right, you're not "real." And when we realize we are, it hits us SO hard.

Be kind to yourself as you find your feet again. Your fans and friends will hang in with you and you'll be surprised how many understand.

Love your writing but I also care about YOU. I'm hoping someday we can meet. But your real fans and friends will hang with you through thick and thin! Hang in there and kudos for being so brave as to write this.

Love ya, girl!

Dana's Blah Blah Blog said...

Thank you, Susan. I do feel free. Happy New Year!

Dana's Blah Blah Blog said...

Thank you for your kind words, Jenn. I hope you're doing much better. Happy New Year!

Dana's Blah Blah Blog said...

Thank you so much, The Normal and the Paranormal. Yes, I hope we get to meet one day, maybe on a ghost hunt. :) Happy New Year!

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