Hi, peeps —
This was not an easy post for Harper to write, as you will see, but it’s courageous, and ultimately redemptive, because Harper chose some years ago to live, and then to live her truth and share it with us.
Depression touches many people in our lives — it may also touch you. We all manifest it differently, and those of us who deal with it have to do so every day. My hope is that those of you who are also confronted with it are able to find healthy and safe ways to do that, and that you, too, will live and share your truths.
I am honored that Harper chose to share this part of herself here with us, and humbled by her courage.
If you’d like a chance to win a copy of At the Water’s Edge, Harper is giving away one ebook copy. To enter the drawing, leave a comment on this blog. Please put your email address in the comment fill-out form, but not in the comment body itself. We’re trying to save you from interweb spam-bots. We’ll close the drawing at 9 PM EST Tuesday, November 25 (US time).
And now, please welcome Harper Bliss.
Writing the shame off me
By Harper Bliss
The blurb may not mention it in so many words, but one of the themes of my novel At the Water’s Edge is depression. The main character, Ella Goodman, returns home to find some answers, to get reacquainted with her estranged family and, most importantly, to heal. Something I myself happen to know a thing or two about.
The usual clichés apply to the writing of this book. It ‘came to me’ and I ‘had to write it’. Little did I know that the process of doing so would open up a few very deep, fifteen-year-old wounds.
After I finished the first draft, which I wrote in a seven-week haze of tears and unrivalled drive, I asked myself: what now? I didn’t have to ask myself where the story came from; I knew that well enough.
Working on the subsequent drafts was less painful until, about a month before the release date, I asked myself the same question again: what now? What if someone asks me what inspired me to write a book about depression and recovering from a suicide attempt? Will I lie?
Turns out, as the release date neared, I didn’t have to ask myself that question anymore, because the answer was so obvious. In writing this confrontational, painful, difficult book, I wrote a huge chunk of shame off me. Shame I carried with me for fifteen long, deafeningly quiet years.
Fifteen years ago I attempted suicide, and I’m done being ashamed.
I know that I will, most likely, continue to suffer from depression, and that some form of guilt and shame may resurface, but I can no longer deny what I did, and the years I suffered afterwards. I can no longer pretend it never happened. Because it did happen. I took pills and had a family member find me — an act I deemed so inexcusable after the fact, I always believed I would never forgive myself. But I have no choice but to forgive myself, because what I did that day was not the result of cowardice, or selfishness or any other traits often attributed to a person trying to take their own life. It was the result of an illness. An illness that is easy to hide — all it takes is a few well-aimed smiles at the right time — but an illness nonetheless.
Writing this book is my way of saying ‘enough is enough’. Mental illness touches so many lives, yet is hardly ever talked about. Which, in this particular case, is doubly regrettable because there’s so much power in saying something out loud, in naming it — in owning it, if you will. In simply discussing it.
Four years ago I moved to a different continent, built a new life, made friends, of whom zero know about this. It never even crossed my mind to tell them, not for one split second. By no means is this down to anyone else but myself, and the eternal burden of shame that has become such an engrained part of my life. The stigma is there. The taboo still exists. And if we don’t talk about it — about this darkness that can grind down a person so much they’d rather not live anymore — it always will.
So, I’m not hiding anymore. I even changed my profile picture from a very tasty cleavage stock pic to one of, simply, me. Yes, this is me. With all my flaws, and my unbalanced brain chemistry, but I’m also much more than that. I know what I can and can not do. (I can write 300,000 words of lesbian fiction per year. I can not consistently go to the gym three times a week for longer than two weeks in a row.) (I’ve tried many times but the latter is simply impossible.)
My dedication at the beginning of At the Water’s Edge reads: “For everyone who’s been there”. But, I guess, even more so, this is a book for everyone who is still there, and this, sometimes, includes me. Some days, the darkness gets to me, but most days, it doesn’t. Not anymore. I lived, and I no longer wish to hide.
Depression is not a sexy theme, nor is it an easy subject to address, but perhaps, if we all make a small effort, fewer people will want (or need) to hide behind the wall of shame we tend to draw up.
Because of this theme, At the Water’s Edge is definitely not a romantic comedy, but it’s not a huge sob fest either. It’s a romance at heart. The story of two people finding each other in unfavorable circumstances, and how they deal with that. It’s about reconstructing severed family ties and the power of going back to where you came from. Most of all, it’s about healing, redemption, and what it takes to own up to what you’ve done. It’s about forgiveness, hope, and, ultimately, love.
Harper Bliss is the author of the High Rise series, the French Kissing serial and several other lesbian erotica and romance titles. She is the co-founder of Ladylit, an independent press focusing on lesbian fiction. Harper lives in Hong Kong with her wife and, regrettably, zero pets.