I am pleased to say that my book is taking shape again. The truth is, I always knew that the process might be challenging, particularly for the first book. I knew that I would make mistakes and I was really afraid of what I didn’t know. But I gathered my courage and I took the plunge.
I wrote the book when I was in the midst of burnout. I am now on the other side, mostly recovered and things look different from here. From the feedback of friends and my editor, the background chapters were not good. I could not remove them because they were the story of how I became burnt out. It’s not good news and it’s not pleasant reading. But I had to explain how I got there. However, I didn’t want my reader to give up on me and miss out on the seven principles of self-preservation that come later in the book.
It took me many months to realise it but I needed to rewrite the opening chapters with a bit of perspective and distance. When I originally wrote them, I felt angry and confused about getting sick. I was still grappling with the fact that I have a lifelong health condition that will forever need to be managed. Now, I’ve made peace with it, and I’ve reached a stage of acceptance. I am now grateful for everything and everyone who contributed to me burning out, because it created such a positive shift. My life is better, my career is in my hands, and I have everything I need.
The opening chapters now feel like an explanation of how I got there. They don’t feel like I’m defending myself or wallowing in misery anymore. I did, however, include more stories from my childhood that explain more in depth how I felt so alone and unsupported in life. The stories involve both my parents now, instead of just my father. That brought about another problem however, that my mother would be hurt by it.
Of course, there is nothing that is untrue in the stories. Anne Lamott, the novelist, said this about writing our stories: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
I have lost a great deal through my illness. I have ended the relationship with my father because it was truly harmful to my health. I don’t regret that in any way and in fact, I think it was one of the major steps towards recovery for me. With so much lost, I didn’t want to lose my mother too. So I was in turmoil last week about what to do. I took my lunchtime medication before my afternoon nap and woke up with my throat burning. It seems that the medication got stuck and burnt my throat. I see a direct correlation between having my throat injured and swallowing my truth.
So I called my mother and I told her that there are some childhood stories in my book that will be difficult for her to read. I told her that I am not trying to hurt, her and I do not act out of spite or revenge. I need to tell my full story of my life so that my readers can understand how it transpired that I collapsed so fully. And if I had not collapsed, I would still be there. So the outcome is good, but she will not enjoy reading about how she disappointed me as a mother. And it will be stressful for her when other people read about it.
My mother was, and still is upset by it. I do wish I could do something to change that but I cannot. I need to tell my full story and it is a story about me and my struggle. Warning her was far better than her discovering it by reading the book herself, or hearing about it from someone else. I spoke my truth and it took great courage. Both in the book, and to my mother. It had to be done and I’m glad I did it.
I’m hoping that our relationship will survive. People make mistakes in life, especially when they are desperate. I have certainly made many mistakes as a parent. When I do, I ask my children for forgiveness. I have forgiven my mother, mostly for my benefit.
My book is at a higher stage of quality now and I’m pleased about that. There will still be a number of iterations for editing but it’s in a better condition now than when I started. I want to release something that is high quality, preferably with no flaws or mistakes. I want to be proud of what I’ve written and I do feel safe in the hands of an outstanding editor. I step forward into my new career with courage and honesty.Follow me: