From The Darkness

 

Three years ago I signed a contract with a new publisher for my second book, Desert Jewel, and what would become The Jewel Chronicles series. Rebel Jewel was just released yesterday marking my eleventh publication in four years. So why am I bringing this up now?

That year I was in a bad place. I had suffered from bouts of mild depression throughout my life but nothing prepared me for what that year would bring down on me. It wasn’t one isolated thing and it didn’t have anything to do with a death in the family or an illness. It was just a combination of many things throughout the space of a few years all rolled into what turned out to be the perfect storm that almost took me under.

I won’t go into details about everything that went wrong in my life during those years but they were both family and work related. By then I had been navigating many downs in my personal and professional life, but what happened that year was the proverbial drop that overflowed my very full cup.

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Going to work that year was unbearable. I felt smaller than a bug in an extremely toxic environment. The one thing that anchored me to sanity was my writing. I had been offered a contract for my first book and that small triumph made my life bearable and gave me hope that something better lay ahead. Then I received a rejection letter from my publisher for Desert Jewel, a story I had put all of myself into, one I wanted to share with the world because it spoke of my beliefs, it spoke of the strength that lies inside me, it spoke of many things I normally couldn’t voice. I was crushed. Suddenly my only tether to hope had been severed and I was left adrift.

All the hurts, all the doubts, all the fingers pointed at me in the past came crashing down and before I could do anything about it, I was drowning in darkness. I withdrew from all my friends, all activities, barely talked and was always on the verge of tears. I was never suicidal, but I did think about death a lot. I’d be driving home from work and a thought would pop into my head, “What if a car ran the red light, crashed into mine and killed me?” In my depressive state I thought that it would be a blessing, not only for me but my loved ones. My husband would finally be able to move back to his hometown and marry a wife who made him happier, my sons would not have my pervasive enabling to deal with and could finally be independent and happy, my coworkers would be able to work with someone more efficient than me, and I would have some peace at last. Years of listening to people telling me these things had finally convinced me they were right. I was useless and brought nothing to the world. Even the one thing I thought I was good at, my writing, was now a broken dream.

The scariest part was that no one noticed or realized how depressed I was, even though I barely talked, barely left the house, stopped meeting with friends. Instead, those close to me thought I was just being difficult, that because I was unhappy at work, I was mad at the world and just lashing out. They would often get mad at me, tell me to snap out of it which in turn made me even more depressed. I felt guilty for being such a party pooper, for feeling the way I felt and helpless against it.

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Amid all the murkiness of depression I sent a submission to a new publisher one of my pub sisters had recommended. I was not holding my breath. After all, if my own publisher didn’t want my book why would others?

My husband and I went on a mini-vacation to the mountains that spring and I was miserable. This early riser couldn’t get herself out of bed in the morning and woke up already crying. That morning I dragged myself out of bed and went to hide in the big bathroom, pretending I was getting dressed. I sat on the edge of the hot tub scrolling through my messages and saw an email from the publisher I had sent my manuscript to. I must have sat there for ten minutes before daring to open it. I was sure it was a rejection but as long as I didn’t actually read the words there was always a thread of hope. And I needed hope desperately.

Eventually I did click on it and read the message. I will never forget what I felt reading the words of the woman who is now my publisher. It was not a rejection, far from it. Not only was she offering me a contract, but her words filled me with a joy I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was not just a “yes, we want your book” letter, it was a “loved your manuscript, it’d be an honor to publish it”.

She doesn’t know this—no one does—but that message brought me from the edge of that terrible place I was in. That day I got dressed, I went out, I laughed and talked to my husband. I also decided to get a therapist and go back to yoga. Shortly after that, I got an interview and was able to move to a different school where people treat me with respect to this day.

I was not “cured”. More recently I saw the darkness rising again but I was ready this time. I called my doctor and asked for help before it got too far. Writing is still saving me one day at a time. It’s where I go when I need a break from reality, where I go when I need to control life the way I can’t do in the real world. It’s where I go to rest.

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I was lucky to have someone say just the right thing at the right time to give me enough hope that I could find my way to the surface, but what if that hadn’t happened? Where would I be?

Be aware of your loved ones’ behavior at all times. Don’t assume they are just being difficult and if you notice a difference, talk to them without judgement, without finger-pointing and listen, listen to them. You may be the one thing that keeps them afloat.

**This article offers several depression hotlines that you can use at any time. Don’t wait, talk to someone today.**

 

Into a New Year

New Year letter

You have no idea how many times I have started this blog only to discard it all. Writing an end-of-the-year reflection is not easy, it turns out. A lot has happened this year. It was not the best year of my life, but there were some pearls hidden in the muck of 2015.

I will start with the bad because I want to finish this piece with something positive. I’ve always prided myself of being an optimist, the kind of person who always looks for the silver lining and hangs on to it for dear life. It’s the only way I know of surviving some of the curve balls life throws at you. The year that is now ending has really tested me and I admit that there has been too many times lately when I have trouble finding that little gold nugget and hanging on to it.

As I get older I realize that with every passing year both my family and my husband’s will lose more and more loved ones. It’s the natural circle of life, but knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. This year my husband lost his two parents within the space of six months and I lost two wonderful in-laws. Hard to believe they won’t be here anymore. On my side of the family, I lost one of my aunts. She was always a constant presence in my life growing up.  She is sorely missed. I also lost my sweet dachshund, Shorty. He was so much more than a dog. He was family and my best friend, the one who was always there for me, no questions asked. I miss him every day.

The world itself seems to have lost its way with all the senseless acts of violence here and abroad. Sometimes it looks like we have regressed a few hundred years instead of advancing into the future. How do you wrap your head around what happened in Paris? Or San Bernadino? Or Turkey? How do you reconcile the images of Syrian refugees risking their lives to desperately flee the daily horrors of their own regime? Every morning, when I tune in to my favorite classical music radio station the first thing out of the news reporter’s mouth always starts with “this many people were killed today in an attack somewhere in the world.” Bad news have overwhelmed most of us this year and dragged our spirits down.

On a more personal note, and after twelve years of relative bliss, my work environment turned toxic this year. In a matter of a few weeks I went from waking up in the morning excited to face another day at work to having to (sometimes literally) drag myself out of bed to face another day in emotional hell. For a very calm person who always kept her cool under pressure, 2015 turned out to be the year I started having anxiety attacks at the mere mention of work. Opening a work email became the equivalent of opening Pandora’s box and my general health went down the toilet with it. I have spent more time at the doctor’s office this year than ever. There is a silver lining in this one though (even though it is not any consolation); in this hellish process, which started around Spring break and has not stopped yet, I know now who my real friends are and that it is time for me to move on with my life.

Amongst all the bad things there were some hidden gems (like the ones I just listed above). This was the year I managed to finally go visit my mom and sister. It had been three years since I had seen them. With the ever-rising prices of airplane tickets it is not easy living an ocean apart from your family. Seeing them, my nephews, my native country was bliss. While my husband basked in the sun at the beach every morning I was more than happy to just visit and catch up over a cup of espresso and a pastry.

There were some people, besides my family, who were there for me more times than I care to admit. They may not even have realized how much they were giving me by just smiling or being who they are. Thank you Kathie and Darlene, my wonderful Sippy Cup writer friends, my amazing yoga teacher Aliya, Denise, Susan, Sylvia, Doris, and Pam (your smiles, kind words, and jokes have made my life just a little brighter) and the extraordinary ladies of my Meetup group. You guys are AWESOME!

Last, but not least, this was the year I signed a publishing contract. I won’t dwell on it because I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about it by now 🙂   But needless to say I’m on cloud nine. What better way to start a new year than seeing your work come into fruition? The best thing about this though is that I am finally able to pay tribute to my father and the faith he had in me by writing under our family name, Reis.

It’s time now for you to tell me how your year went. Comment away please and have yourself an amazing new year.

Raise your glasses to 2016.

May it be the year the world finds peace and you find true happiness.

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