Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac officially releases tomorrow, September 12. Due to the terrible and life-altering hurricanes, however (and please know my thoughts and best wishes are with everyone who has been harmed, terrified, or traumatized by the tremendous events), my publisher decided to release some of the trade/paper copies a bit early! To order them through Barnes & Noble or Amazon, please go here (for Barnes & Noble) or here (for Amazon). ALL digital formats – Kindle, Nook, Google Play, Kobo, and iBooks – are still available and will be released to your devices directly on the 12th!
I have been transformed by writing this memoir.
That seems like a silly thing to say, but really, it’s the truth. And as an amnesiac, the truth matters a great deal to me. I won’t lie to you; I’ve had enough deception in my life. Telling a story about amnesia, mental health struggles, abuse, rape, kidnapping, and other atrocities has been both draining and redeeming. If only one person reads this memoir and says, “Yes, I understand, I have been there, too, and I feel as though this has helped me,” then I will be even more transformed.
The process of marketing this book hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t always been fun, or inexpensive, or joyful. But would I do it again? Of course. I’d do it in a heartbeat. And I wouldn’t do it because I’d be discussing my life, but because there would be the potential to help someone discover their own story. Let’s be honest: right now, I’m not a big-name. I’m not a star. I’m still branding myself. And that’s fine. If those bigger things don’t happen, I will go on just as happily as I do now.
But if Shattered helps to change one life? Then I’ll feel like a success.
A lot of people who either 1)know me, 2)have pieced together a lot of what happened to me, or 3)had advanced looks at the memoir have asked me about image. What did I look like as a young child, contemplating suicide? What did I look like the day after a rape? What did I look like after chemo? And while, at first, I hesitated to share myself, I think openness is a decent policy. Who I am – even if I don’t remember that girl at all – is the summation of my experiences. And my face shows everything. So in these photos I’m going to share, I’ll add a bit of detail relating to the year and what had happened. Then, while reading, it may help put things into context. I know some people are fond of visuals. However, I don’t include pictures of people who could, you know, sue me. So most of these are going to seem vain because they include only me. But in the interest of protecting others, identities are remaining private (for now).
Here I was. This is my transformation:
I was 2 or so in this picture, living with my mom and Grandmama, away from a very unkind birth father. I look like every unknowing 2-year-old, except for one thing: I had a secret. A big one.
6 years old. Smirking was my go-to expression, especially when it came to showing off (pre-opera days, anyhow). Something quite – terrifying was happening in my life. But the show must go on, even when you’re 6.
8 years old. I’d chopped off my hair in an act of defiance and loved that little boy on the right (my baby brother) more than anyone I’d ever known. But we had college baseball players staying in our house. And somewhere along the line, I’d learned that the more I made myself – available – the more men would like me. Sad lesson to learn by 8.
My beloved grandfather, Doo-Da. He was my protector. When I felt as though, at the age of 10, the world was out to hurt me, he made sure it didn’t happen. He was one of the best people I ever had the pleasure to know – even though amnesia has erased him from my mind.
Skipping forward to the age of 17. Do I look sick, drugged, or – shattered? I was. This was taken the day after my rapist came into my home to “apologize” to me. It didn’t go well. I left a week or so later for college.
18. If you’ve never been a drug addict or an alcoholic (and I hope you haven’t), or if you haven’t dealt with anorexia, I should explain something. I was 98 pounds in this picture – but wearing 4 layers of clothing so that I looked “healthy.” The look on my face, however, betrays everything. I was cold, stoned, and utterly miserable. And where was I? With family on Christmas.
A happier time – May 2007, when I was 25. Despite my past, I finally earned that college degree – with excellent grades, good recommendations, and plans to go to graduate school for writing at Johns Hopkins University. Toby was there with me – he has always stayed by my side, never wavering with his support. How lucky am I?
A year later, at the Maryland Wine Festival. I was 26 and had been diagnosed with a damning disorder. I was told I’d never work again. What did I do? You guessed it. Alcohol is fun here and there, but not when you rely on it. And remember that mysterious Starlight Boy who has popped up throughout some of my fragmented posts? He’s here. He’s not in the picture, but he was with me. I just didn’t know, at the time, what was about to happen. I was only sitting on a blanket of stars. I had yet to be immersed in them.
November 2009, only a month after turning 28. This was me about 2-3 weeks post-chemo. I’m still alive (obviously), though I spent most of 2009-2015 undergoing treatment for something.
Yes, the rumors are true: I did model once. This was in the spring of 2010 (the hair is obviously a wig), and the sticker on this guitar case is the most accurate statement of my existence that I have ever seen.
And now it’s November 2010 – post-amnesia. I couldn’t remember my name. I woke up on the side of the road, or in the woods, or would go digging for an object I’d misplaced when, in fact, I’d never lost it. I was sick. I was starving. And I was dying.
Amnesia and identity loss can make you do odd things – such as dress in Victorian-era clothing from the children’s section at Target when you’re 29 and attending a Super Bowl party. I didn’t know better. I didn’t know much at all.
And yet, a few months later (still at the age of 29) – after help, therapy, trauma units, and time to reconnect with Toby – I was at a healthy weight, didn’t wander off as much, and had just learned the greatest news of all: I was pregnant.
30 years old, holding the love of my life. He wasn’t even 2 months old yet, but I adored him with every inch of my soul. 5 1/2 years later, and that hasn’t changed.
And finally, now. Me. 35. Not healthy, but still here. Still fighting. Still surviving. And I promise that the things that happened to me? They are things I can talk about. I’m not better because of them, but I am empowered because of them. I may not be smiling, but I’m content. And with the exception of my graduation and holding my son in my arms? This is the only picture in which I am MYSELF. In the other photos? I, as myself, do not exist. I wasn’t there. And it wasn’t just because I don’t remember when the photos were taken….
If that last line is confusing, it’s an intentional confusion.
Pick up Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac to find out why.
Blessings to all of you for many bright days ahead,