In the first blog post I wrote five years ago, Cheers to New Beginnings, I celebrated the step I took to build my author website. At the time, I didn’t have a publishing contract, but I was excited about taking a leap and claiming a space for me as a writer. I talked about how I had to overcome doubt and fear in order to create something meaningful to me.
So, there’s no other place than here that I’m excited to share a huge milestone: I’ve sold over 10,000 copies of my two novels (Blaming the Wind and Everything She Lost). I’m not a math person, and I honestly never had a sales goal I wanted to reach. But, I did have a goal in mind when I wrote my novels. And I decided it was time to overcome my doubt and fear and talk about that goal and the journey of writing my books.
After freelance writing for a few years, I took my first creative writing class at a local Adult Ed program in January 2010. At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom of 4 kids (ages 7, 5, 3, and 1). I was so excited to have a few hours in the evening with other adults devoted to learning the the craft of fiction writing.
It was a tough time in my young family’s life. My grandfather and father-in-law had both passed away the previous month. The financial, physical, and emotional toll of having four kids in Silicon Valley was weighing very heavy on my husband and I. After reaching a breaking point, we separated.
What followed was bad. Without realizing what was happening, my mental health deteriorated rapidly. The best way I can describe it is I became the equivalent of Thanos in the Avengers movies – a monster. I did and said things completely out of character that caused a lot of hurt, confusion, and chaos. When family intervened a few weeks later, I was hospitalized against my will for a week.
When I left the hospital, the world I had known no longer existed. I lost custody of my kids and could not go home. My best friends would not speak to me, and I wasn’t speaking to most of my family. Without money or support, I ended up crashing at a cheap motel, trying to figure out my next move. After a few weeks, a good friend who heard about my predicament let me stay with her for a couple of months. Then I moved in with my dad and his significant other.
With the reality of everything that had happened hitting home, I sunk into the deepest, darkest realm of rock bottom. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how my life had collapsed. I’d never in my life imagined I would have a breakdown, and it was impossible to understand how it had resulted in the loss of everything I loved. Going from spending every second with my kids to only seeing them a few hours a week hurt in a way I can’t describe. And the friends I thought would have my back through thick and thin wouldn’t return my calls.
I saw a lot of doctors that said different, scary things: PTSD, major depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. All I heard was a death sentence. I figured I’d spend the rest of my life going in and out of hospitals, penniless, and unable to take care of myself or my kids.
I wish I could say I was like Job in the Old Testament, who’d lost his health, family, and livelihood as a test of his faith and proved his dedication to God. But, I didn’t. I completely lost my faith. I couldn’t fathom that the God I’d believed in could let my life crumble so quickly and unexpectedly. The only thing that made sense to me was that God didn’t exist.
With no home, no kids, no husband, no job, no money, I had absolutely no hope. I spiraled into a depression that completely consumed me. I thought suicide was the only answer. I could not fathom that life could ever get better. But my family and closest friends wouldn’t give up on me, and they wouldn’t let me give up on myself.
At the time, I was hypersensitive to other people’s suffering. Stories I used to easily tune out like a person having family members killed, or being kidnapped and held captive, or losing everything in a natural disaster, now held a special place in my heart. I could deeply empathize with others going through hard times. And hearing how other people lived through something awful helped me think somehow, someway I could survive what I was going through, also.
After everything that had happened in the weeks leading up to my hospitalization, I honestly doubted my husband would ever speak to me again. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t imagine my life without him and raising our kids together. Then, out of the blue, something miraculous happened. My husband contacted me. He’d heard I was doing everything in my power to follow doctors’ advice and become healthy again, and he wanted to support me.
I won’t bore you with the details, but miracle by miracle, God stitched my life back together. I was able to regain my health, reconcile with my husband, move back home with my children, get a job (which I still hold), and eventually finish writing my novels.
I remember growing up and seeing framed pictures of the poem “Footprints in the Sand.”
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
When I look back, I realize it was God who carried me through the fire. Never once did He leave me or forsake me. I will eternally be grateful and in awe of how God restored my health, restored my marriage, and restored my family.
So, to conclude and return to the original point of this post, I had a goal when I wrote my novels. I wanted to tell stories of everyday people facing serious problems and overcoming them. I wanted to write about mental health issues in a raw and real way that dispels stereotypes and lets people know that a diagnosis is not the end. But most importantly, I wanted to give people hope in the possibility of new beginnings. It’s been nine years since my breakdown, and everyday I’m thankful that I’m still here. I hope by sharing my story, anyone doubting if they can come through the other end of whatever struggle they’re facing knows they can too.
10,000 copies sold, and I’m just getting started.