Writing the Shame off Me, by Harper Bliss

Hi, peeps —

I’m really pleased that author Harper Bliss (who is also one of the powers behind the throne at LadyLit Publishing) has returned to talk a bit about her latest book and its deeply personal theme. AttheWatersedge_HarperBliss

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.)

HarperBliss_ProfilePic

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.

E-mail: harperbliss AT gmail DOT com
Website: harperbliss.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarperBliss
Twitter: @HarperBliss

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38 thoughts on “Writing the Shame off Me, by Harper Bliss

  1. Thank you for writing this book. I had a sister who went thru this. I am looking forward to reading your book. I would love to win a copy but if I don’t k
    I will buy it.

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  2. Powerful and very courageous blog. Thank you for writing this book as depression is a reality to many families. I’m looking forward to reading At the Water’s Edge.

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  3. You beautiful, beautiful human. Thank you. For every brave person who sheds their shame and becomes part of this growing awareness and conversation about depression. Thank you. And yes, me too.

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  4. So many people need to read this, and your book. The power to express things like this is a real gift that good writers possess, and the courage to use that power is a gift, too.

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  5. I do did know a person with this illness, my Aunt. Years ago they saw no other way out and I wish there was a way to tell them that they are truly missed. My cousins (3)
    also suffered the ultimate sacrifice. I really hope that people get the help they desire.

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  6. I recently lost a friend to suicide. She suffered and battled with depression for many years. I commend Harper for finding a way to write off the shame. And I hope discussions like these will support others in similar quests.

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  7. This sounds a lot like my story, too, Harper. Kudos for dealing with the shame, which can be crippling, and for finding the courage to continue to live. Looking forward to reading it.

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  8. Depression – I know it well – and shame … are they not always holding hands?

    This seems like a time of courage for you, and having taking a tremendous step through a doorway of a deeper and more loving relationship with yourself.

    I am very much looking forward to reading your book.

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  9. I applaud you for your “coming out”, so to speak. Blessings for the hard path you took. Whether I win it or buy it–I want to read this book!

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  10. Amazing and courageous, Harper. I know from my mom, who had severe depression most of her life, that shame is a major component of the isolation inherent in depression. Thanks for sharing with all of us, and in doing so, maybe keep that isolation thing at bay.

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  11. Harper, thank you for your honesty and your bravery. Depression is a subject not talked about enough and the healthiest thing for me is to recognise my own triggers and as far as possible avoid them but not always possible. I have “come out” as often as a depressive as I have about being gay and have usually been surprised at the support and understanding. Though I still can’t make it a habit to go to the gym. May your life move forward in sunshine.

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  12. Harper, thank you for sharing your story of courage. And yes, those well-aimed smiles can hide so much shame associated with depression and other mental illnesses. Bravo for battling back and speaking out! Can’t wait to read the book.

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  13. Thank you for sharing your story, Harper. This was very brave of you to be so open with us all, and I hope it continues to help you heal. I wish you much strength, and also hope your story will touch and inspire others to remove their shame.
    I look forward to reading this story, as I do with all your work.
    Thanks again.

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  14. Thank you for sharing. I’m so excited that our genre is expanding to include so many topics that do affect many of us in different ways.

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  15. Harper, I am so happy you are with us and front an center. I lived in silence with PTSD/ anxiety and depression. Military PTSD. We didn’t talk about it back then, now we no longer suffer in silence. I will never get well but, I will get better. You are so brave to write about a dragon we fight to slay every day. Brava!

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  16. Thank you for your bravery in writing this book.The stigma and misconceptions around suicide or a suicide attempt are very damaging not only for survivors of an attempt but for family members of those who succeed.My mother and her younger sister both took their own lives and it was due to schizophrenia in one case and severe depression in the other. Suicide is not a selfish,uncaring act-it is a desperate attempt to stop the mental anguish that has become unbearable to endure any longer.It is past time for people in general to realize that and to reach out in love and compassion to those who have survived instead of shaming and refusing to talk about the pain that drove them to the edge.We all have traumas in our lives and the only way to deal with it is through it not around it.Being open and allowing what is real to flow brings healing-nothing to be ashamed of…May your open,vulnerable and beautiful heart be released of all shame and celebrate the beauty and hope that it brings to many through this very personal work~ Again,thank you for your bravery ❤

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    1. Thank you very much for this kind, caring, insightful reaction, Kate. I’m very sorry to hear about your mother and your aunt. And, indeed: ‘the only way is through it…’ Love, Harper

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  17. This was such a wonderful story. Reading your post alone made me want to start crying again (just as I got over wanting to cry from actually reading the story). Thank you for sharing your burdens and letting people know they aren’t alone. If there had been more people willing to speak out about, and even write about, these kinds of themes a decade ago, I know things would’ve been different for me. I would’ve known I wasn’t alone and that others were living with the same thing. It takes great courage to pour your soul out like this for others to see and I just have to say you’re more beautiful for it. Whether you want it or not, you’ll be a mentor for many individuals 🙂 Whether it be because they are dealing with depression, coming out to their family, or dealing with backlash when you finally decide to say “to hell with it! I’m going to be me”. My impression, given I’ve never actually met Harper, is that she is a beautiful woman, inside and out.

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  18. Thank you all so much. Since At the Water’s came out I’ve been so overwhelmed with lovely, kind and understanding messages. I’m also very struck by how many people write to me sharing a similar story. Ironically, in a message at the end of the book I write that I don’t want to leave the reader with an empty message like ‘You are not alone’, but it turns out that’s not an ’empty message’ at all. I, for one, feel a lot less alone already. Thank you! Love, Harper

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    1. I’m extremely lucky to be a happy little soul most of the time and for much of my life – I know it and value my good fortune greatly. I was fortunate to volunteer for a 3 year spell with The Samaritans (UK) about 20 years ago and the skills and experiences it gave me have proved invaluable in my healthcare career since – listening, empathy, facilitation and so much more. What was striking in reading both Harper’s posts and At the Water’s Edge was that it added a new dimension to my understanding of mental illness and depression that my previous experiences with Samaritans and the NHS hadn’t given me. I reflected that it was Harper’s personal insight into her underlying condition and journey that was so powerful and valuable. Her description of the migration towards crisis and ultimately to a suicide attempt provided an otherwise inaccessible version of an intensely personal and unique life experience. Something that you could only ever get and understand from deeply personal testimony. So I thank you for your courage in articulating this so profoundly both for me and for the many who suffer with debilitating mental health issues. You clearly have already given solace to many through facing up to your demons. To me you have gifted an insight that I know will fuel a lasting ripple effect both in my personal life and in the care of my patients in the years to come. Thank you most sincerely

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