When most authors finish a book, they are eager and able to share their work first and foremost with their family and friends.
But what happens when the book is painful, raw and must be hidden from loved ones?
Social media blasts, email crusades and other forms of self-promotion are impossible when the content of a book amounts to "coming out" with difficult personal information. Stuff that nobody knows about and would probably rather not know.
I knew from the beginning I would face this. And yes, I write under a pen name. I knew my desired base of readers would be strangers, not friends and family. And still I felt compelled to complete the project because I believe it has value to people like me. People who grew up oblivious to the lifelong consequences of childhood abuse. Why lifelong? Because thought-patterns developed early in life were deeply embedded and actuated a long-term cycle of low self-esteem, fear and isolation. Also, a rejection of intimacy because it is far too dangerous.
I grew up with parents that — not atypically — believed problems had to be faced alone, stoically. Seeing a psychotherapist or asking for help implied weakness. But pain festers and manifests itself in unexpected ways. In my case, into a mother who never sought the help she deserved in the wake of her father's suicide. She suffered along with her mother and brothers and they carried their pain silently. Abuse broke out, and then passed down to a new generation.
I didn't seek help or go to a psychotherapist until late in life. I didn't think I needed to. I thought self-doubt, depression and keeping myself hidden were typical states of being. They were normal for me, for as long as I could remember. I also didn't think my childhood mattered.
When I finally plunged in, psychotherapy transformed my life. I learned to recognize and change thought-patterns from long ago. And a new-found self-awareness continues to improve all aspects of my life.
I want to share my story with others who may be stoically suffering alone, and may not even be aware — as I wasn't — that wounds from the past do have lasting ramifications. But the trauma can be understood, put into a present-day context, and defanged.
While hiding from my friends and family, I'm looking for the eyes of strangers. Perhaps they can also find a way forward.