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Experiences and Triggers

Triggers are such a strange thing. They exist all around us and so many of us deal with them everyday. I didn’t have a word for them for a long time, not until I was a member of the romance community. I always thought this was a part of grief and everyone dealt with losing your shit over the stupidest thing. 

I am lucky, I don’t deal with many triggers and for the most part, I live most days consuming media and in my space without those types of feelings. I used to have a much harder time with anxiety and the aftermath of my sister’s suicide. For a long time, I couldn’t get on a train without having a panic attack or drive in traffic. It took me years to realize why those things made me feel like I was suffocating. It took me a long time to be in a crowded space and not feel claustrophobic, trapped with an impending doom hanging over my head.

But it has been years since most of those things have touched my life. I worked through them, and I hardly think about them anymore. Life happens and as things get easier it’s convenient to put them in a place where they don’t affect you anymore. I still feel a pang every time I step on a train and I know I always will. It was the place I found out my sister committed suicide but I can ride them and be there without being forced back into that mental space.

I enjoy books that deal with depression, anxiety and even suicide. Those things do not trigger me. I appreciate stories dealing with things I’ve dealt with. I love it when they are well done. Those are good spaces for me. They make me remember sure, but not in a bad way. Not until today.

I listen to audiobooks when I can’t sleep. I have since I was a child. It’s one of the only things that’s really helped with my insomnia. I was listening early this morning, unable to sleep when there was a situation in a book that so closely resembled my own experience I was instantly back there. Back on the train and trapped, unable to get home, unable to get to my family or my sister. I’d never read words that so closely resembled how I felt. Because it was more than being unable to get off the train, I was my sister’s best friend and her rock so often. But that day I was unable to get back to her, stuck in hell and helpless. The complete loss of control in the situation made me bleed for the character. I knew exactly what he was going through.

The book was excellent and they handled the situation with grace, it was beautifully written, no one died, but it fucked me up. I’m writing this hours later and my throat is still tight and my heart hammering. I had my first panic attack on a train surrounded by strangers. I curled in a ball and sobbed while people in suits offered me water and tissues. People were so kind to me that day and I wish there was a way to thank each and every one one of those people who didn’t just watch the kid sobbing in the back of the train.

It took me almost three hours to get to the hospital that evening. Friday night rush hour on a train then traffic from the train station. Half the time spent wondering if I’d ever see my sister alive again. I can’t walk into a hospital without feeling it. It’s been sixteen years and I’m still here. I don’t know if it was the book or a culmination of a couple of bad weeks and this year as a whole but it destroyed me at five in the morning.

This isn’t the author’s fault, this isn’t a trigger warning on a book, this is the human experience and living after someone has died by suicide. This is the aftermath of our mental health crisis and so many people who are killed by this disease every year.

This is a cathartic process for me, sharing these things. I have written plenty of things that will never see the light. I never know when I’m writing if I’ll have the courage to share them, or if they will go to my dying file of unpublished pieces. For so long I kept so many of them buried because depression and suicide weren’t talked about. It still isn’t comfortable. I still feel the harsh judgment we’ve been made to believe will come to admitting such things out loud. This is one of the reasons it was so important to me to write depression and anxiety rep in my books this year. I wanted people like me to have light and love which is why it was even more important to me to write Unwritten. As I mentioned in my author note in that book, I needed light this year. I needed happiness so I wrote it for myself.

If you’re struggling with mental health I want you to know you’re not alone. I love you, and you’re important. There are lots of us suffering, especially this year. You’re not weak because you carry these burdens. 

I should have been on top of the world but I was trapped, suffocated by fame. My life wasn’t my own. I belonged to the fans and the media. Too famous to leave my house without attracting a crowd. Fame and anxiety prevented a connection. I was doomed to stay a virgin forever, or so I thought until I fell for the one person forbidden to me: My director.

Four months of working side by side while trying to keep my hands to myself or one of us would lose our job. The temptation was going to kill me.

Unwritten is a standalone, steamy slow burn, age-gap with low angst, and a dog that’s in charge.

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