Survivor Stories

As the regular reader might know, I love to research.  I have been doing so since childhood, when I would spend hours amongst the stacks at my local library trying to figure out the mysteries of the universe.  Now, as a writer, one of my favorite parts of the process is the research part.  You get to find all these little puzzle pieces, and then you put it all together.  I like finding the pieces, it’s kind of like hunting for clues!

A common joke amongst writers is the Google search history.  We like to tell each other what crazy things we have recently researched that would make an FBI agent raise an eyebrow.  With my current WIP, I have Googled such things as “Bahamian police uniforms,” “the weight of a 9mm. gun,” and “what kills you faster, the belladonna leaves, or berries?”

Now, Google is a great place for information on places, items, time periods, and even plot points, but it has nothing when it comes to characters, in my opinion. For instance, my current WIP has to do with a cult, and those who have escaped it.  I can read every article and book, but that doesn’t show me the people themselves, and their emotions and thoughts in regards to the situation.  I would consume documentaries to find what I was looking for, but there are only about a dozen or so about cults.  Yes, I’ve seen everyone I can get my hands on, most recently a bit about the Turpin family, which wasn’t a cult but was absolutely crazy (do not click this link if you’re squeamish.) Then, one day, on a whim, I found TikTok.

I don’t follow many people on there, but there are two folks I have found that have inspired my writing.  One, Jilly, I found first.  She didn’t have a cult background, but she did have abuse in her past, specifically of the narcissistic variety.  As my antagonist is somewhat narcissistic, and most definitely abusive, my interest was piqued by her account.  I wanted to see how a survivor of such abuses could speak out and fight back, and I have been watching Jilly for weeks now, doing just that.  I was inspired by her bravery, and I poured a little of her courage into one of my MCs (main characters.)

Then I found Candid.  I don’t know if that’s her real name, but it’s what it says on her page, so it’s what we shall call her.  Candid grew up in a homeschool cult.  It wasn’t “organized” in the way the cult in my WIP is, but again, I’m not here for plot; I’m here for personality.  Her youth was somewhat similar to my characters, so seeing the way she has grown and changed since leaving home has inspired me to work harder on my two MCs development as they escape and discover the outside world.  I am also taking note of her trauma reaction posts, as it pretty much goes without saying that anyone who came out of a cult probably has complex PTSD (another thing I’ve been researching…that hasn’t been as fun, because it makes me confront my own traumas, and that’s just…well, it’s just for a different blog post, is all.)

Anyway, I am watching these two women who are survivors in the way my MCs are, and I am inspired by their journeys.  I think I learned more about the human condition in relation to my WIP since joining TikTok than anything else…except that Ludacris audio.  That’s in my head all damn day.  (If you’re on TikTok, you know what I’m talking about.  Luda…BACK AGAIN!)

I have included a graphic here with the national suicide hotline number.  I looked around for like a crisis service number or something, but those are only local.  If you need help, reach out!  Use this number, go Google your local CS, or call 911 if you are in a really bad spot.  Someone will help you; someone wants to help you.

In the meantime, I hope we all stay strong, together.  Everyone is a survivor of something.  Wear that like a badge of honor.

The Trauma Letters

While I am always willing to discuss my mental health, simply because I hate the stigma surrounding it, I do not discuss my trauma.  Most people who have suffered such do not like to talk about it as it can be triggering for their PTSD, because all trauma leaves its mark.  It’s a scar that you have to live with. 

Here is the long list of people I discuss my trauma with: my therapist.

So, on Wednesday, we’re talking, and she tells me that I should write some letters.  As a writer, I am intrigued.  As a human, I think this is a little cliché.  Still, I listen to her suggestions.  She says that it can be soothing to get all the feelings out.  Then you can either send the letter or destroy it.  Apparently burning things is cathartic, too.

I went home and I realized I’ve done this before.  I pulled up the letters I have written, and I read them.  I realized that they are flawed, because they lack what she tells me is my hidden problem: rage.  I am angry, outrageously so, and I have never had an opportunity to express that anger.  I feel scammed out of an emotion.

When I was younger, I encountered a situation in which I was told my feelings were not valid.  I was told to shut that shit down ASAP, and it left a terrible emotional scar, making me feel like all my emotions were unacceptable.  I still feel the effects of that today, as I peck out this angry little letter and think to myself “but I’m being so mean…”  But maybe mean is necessary sometimes. 

The letters I wrote were all explanatory, and expressed both difficult emotions and those I feel comfortable with, but there was no anger, and there was no pain, and I can’t ignore those things.  So right now, I am trying to write my anger away, and I don’t know where that will lead.

Will I send my letters?  I don’t know.  I want to, really, but I probably won’t.  I will likely leave them to rot on my computer until I am dead, because confrontation isn’t my thing.  Do I wish I could send them?  Of course.  But I am ruled by fear and anxiety, as I always have been.  Maybe someday those forces will become less intrusive in my life, but that day is not today.  Today I will write my letter, and I am sure I will have some residual feelings throughout the afternoon, but I will tuck it away with the others because I still have trouble embracing my anger.  Eventually I will learn to fix it and start to heal, because that’s what therapy is for, right?