Lately I've been talking a lot about depression, because it's been something that I'm extra aware of recently. It's all over my newsfeeds on social media, partly because awareness is beginning to grow more quickly, partly because stigma is declining after such a very long time of this being a taboo topic. And partly because I am frequent sufferer. Depression bleeds through the fabric of my life like an ink stain -- it marks my relationships with the people who love me, it sometimes separates me from the people I love. It leaves me often feeling isolated and tender, overly sensitive and overly emotional. It makes me angry, makes people angry with me. Obviously it makes me sad.
It makes me think the unthinkable, just like Cass did in Fat Chance. It makes me isolate, like Cameron in Prescription For Love, who had her trusted network and was afraid to let anyone else in. It makes me anxious, like Harmony in Wrestling Harmony - although she was closer to an anxiety disorder than actual depression.
Harmony walked through her young life with an uncomfortably full awareness of the terrible thing that happened to her big sister, Cameron, and it made her afraid to open herself up. Afraid to trust, afraid to love - and afraid to try again when she realized that the course her life had been set on was no longer working. She had a big dream, a huge goal, and she had dedicated most of her young life to chasing that goal - only to pass the threshold where that goal became impossible.
You see, young Harmony Kingsley was going to be an Olympic star, a gymnast. She trained hard, she competed often, and she was well on her way - for a while. But then she left her teen years behind and as she moved into her 20's, she began to see hints from the gymnastics community that her time was up. She began to receive invites from the coaching community, gentle nudges away from competition, and she saw her dreams slipping away.
You can relate, right? Because that's hard on anyone; we all remember the big dreams of our childhoods, the dreams of becoming a famous singer, an astronaut, a dancer, an actor. But when you're a young woman just beginning to learn the ways of the world, not yet finished with the angst of young adulthood, this is particularly hard.
Enter the boy (because I am a romance writer, after all - there must be a boy). Harmony meets a young man by accident, right in the midst of all of this change, and ultimately, it's her meeting with him that changes the course of her life. Through the experiences he brings her way, Harmony learns to begin again, to walk away from the past, to cut the loss of her dream ... and to begin to dream again.
Harmony's "official" diagnosis is PTSD-by-proxy, a disorder characterized by emotional closeness to an authentic sufferer of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This category includes (for example) untouched children who were witnesses but not direct victims of situations like sexual abuse and/or domestic violence, etc. PTSD-by-proxy can leave sufferers with various symptoms similar to several disorders, including anxiety attacks and bouts of depression.
This is why we read books, isn't it? To understand the obscure, to practice compassion and empathy, to feel something we haven't felt before. We read fantasies so that we can experience the unknown, we read thrillers so that we can partake in unimaginable adventure, we read mysteries so that we can exercise our inner sleuth. But romance? We read romance to feel. We want to feel the elated high of new love, the full body shivers of eroticism, the crushing depth of heartbreak, the emptiness of loss.
We love the love in it, sure, and we tell our friends about our favorite sweet books, the ones that make us laugh and swoon and fall in love. But we tell our friends, too, about the books that break our hearts, the ones that make us cry, the ones that leave something in our souls that wasn't there before.
Depression is a demon for me, a darkness that I can't escape from no matter how many candles I light. It's a stench that poisons my life, no matter how much perfume I spray. It's a curse that no magic can unravel.
But books ... books help me walk away for a while, they help me leave the darkness behind, help me shut the door on the demon. But they help me embrace it too - because in sharing my books with you, in sharing my stories and the characters that are so very real to me ... I find solace.
My characters are often troubled by some circumstance they haven't yet been able to let go of, and in the course of each of their stories, they find a loving companion willing to meet them right where they are and walk them into the light of hope. My characters are often bogged down by traumas from their pasts, and as they learn to forgive, to trust, to believe, I hope they endeavor to bring you into the light of hope, as well.
But until then,