Chasing Redemption: On Novels and Writing as Therapy

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A while ago, Beth Stone from A Star Filled Sea (who now prefers to be known as Liz) started talking and I started listening because she was channelling a part of me that I really didn’t want to acknowledge. She was the unintentional minor antagonist in the book and, boy, was she regretting the last few years of her life. Now she’s seeking amends on a massive scale and she’s still talking. The first scenes I started writing were interspersing therapy sessions in the aftermath of Charter Day, Liz sitting and talking, sometimes literally reliving events through the rather unconventional abilities of her therapist.

She lost her mother to cancer and went off the rails which would normally be a completely understandable response. Except Liz is also the daughter of the Terran Ambassador (and now Earth’s representative on the Union council) so her indiscretions became very public. She’s embarrassed by her former misdeeds and the people she’s hurt and the damage she’s done, including to her father’s personal and professional reputation.

Chasing Redemption is the first novel I’ve started working on which really feels cathartic. I’ve written a short story which was done specifically to help me deal with past events, to exorcise demons, but this novel, it’s all about trying to heal. I’m simply expanding things, going from short to longer forms of prose. I’ve not done anything bad, I’m not a horrible person (nor is Liz), but I’ve lived through things which have scarred me and writing has always been the thing which kept me sane. Her road to healing is, also, going to be my own.

I’ve been in therapy for a year. Originally it was to deal with my toxic relationship with food. A friend once said I reminded her of one of those old people who lived through the war and now hoards food in case food ever becomes short again. I will fixate on food, little things like making sure there’s always milk in the house or a spare tub of butter and bread that’s in date. I obsess over best before dates … you get the idea. I spent my childhood/early adult life being denied everything and, as a result, there’s so much food I can’t eat because it’s simply too rich (full fat milk and cream are the biggest example; I can’t stomach either). It’s only in the last decade or so I’ve started eating Asian foods or putting chili in things, for example.

Of course the therapy was about one thing but it was intimately connected to my abysmal childhood. I want to be a functional adult and I’ve noticed, in the years since my retirement, that my anxiety has increased simply because I didn’t have the ‘normal’ working life which kept me too occupied to have time to worry or offered me a mask I could wear to pretend to be sort of functioning. My autistic traits got worse as a result and I’ve become tied into the enforced structures which are a hallmark of ASD.

Oh and I have PTSD, which really doesn’t help, especially when I’m around triggering things or people. I have my own methods to deal with much of it, hence my walking around Norwich with earbuds and very loud music. I have Uni, who has become my unofficial emotional support hound, having learned there are times when I need her (and my friend’s dog Bramble) for support. Bramble hugs are the best but even Uni ones are, currently, helping more than they did. I have found, however, that love helps.

My niece’s, though, they’re the best.

I have found, however, that love helps. I met up with Beloved Niece and my SiL a few weeks ago (anything family related is high on the ‘oh gods, where’s my valium?’ level) but Beloved Niece, she loves me unconditionally. She hugs me and the world is perfect; I’m her only aunt and while I’m not the best role model, I’m all she’s got. I love her and she loves me. No ifs, no buts. She could tell me anything, be anyone, and I would still love her. Plus she allows me to be maternal without needing to give birth (and I hate children almost exclusively; she’s the exception. Her brother is growing on me but seeing how good she is with him, it just makes me so proud, so pleased).

Plus I get to sneak her whatever change is in my pocket and she is so good with Uni it’s staggering.

The animals are similarly being a lot more affectionate. D is constantly headbutting me and even Ceri is coming to talk to me and lick my hand. Both of them have been, oddly, waiting for Uni and me to come home (which is something D never used to do). It initially worried me but now it’s just a thing, a chance for him to get some extra fuss and pretend to be a mighty feline.

And my friend’s have also been awesome. I took Mhairi for lunch with a family member and not only did she come, she made the experience bearable and stuck up for me in a situation which would otherwise be unbearable. I’ve got people who love me who aren’t blood relations, people who understand I’m broken but love me anyway. People I’ve met through circumstance or guide dogs, people who get that I have my quirks but all I want to do is be useful, to help others because it’s how I make connections.

I just want to be loved but then doesn’t everyone? Especially if you’ve never had that and I, sadly, haven’t.

So, yeah, writing this book, it’s my real attempt to put myself back together. Going through therapy has made me understand more about myself, my emotions and the norms of the real world. I’ve spent my life thinking things should be a certain way but, it seems, that actually my entire world view has been shaped by false premises. Now I can actually see, through adult eyes and the reassurance of people I trust, I’m attempting to strike out as Asha. Indeed, as I was explaining to a much-loved friend who I’d not spoken to in far, far too long, the entire name change was to help myself heal. Indeed, in Chasing Redemption, Liz changes her name for much of the same reason (her given name is Elizabeth and she decides to stop being Beth and start being Liz to make a break with her previous self whilst still acknowledging who she actually is).

Me? I don’t want to do that, hence my complete change of name. I made a break that is much more permanent.

The first draft, well, it’s terrible. I’m still trying to orientate myself. But, for the first time, I realise that’s okay. First drafts aren’t the published book, there’s a long way to go yet and that’s perfectly okay. Hell, it’s required. I don’t have much yet, maybe 23k in scenes, chapters and rough outlines but it’s a start. Oh and I’m getting a cover done as a way to force me to finish it. I know I will and this will just tip the scale in my favour. I’m quietly touting it as an unofficial sequel to Star but it’s a different genre (coming of age sci fi) and more a character exploration piece.

Do stick with me, this is going to be a slow burning project but I’ll share the cover and a synopsis as soon as I’ve worked them out.

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