I've been through the pub date cycle before. For a day--sometimes two--you've got your publicist's undivided attention, you check your Amazon rating a dozen or so times throughout the day, and you pray to the patron saint of the Today Show (Saint Meredith or Matt) to make you famous for a week.
You crash from the high 72 hours later, at which time and you resume your normal, boring, "I am a loser" life.
But this time, as I approach the pub date of "Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes"... it's different.
Because "Beyond Blue" is one of those ME books. A MEmoir-self-help hybrid, to be exact. It has enough personal facts between the covers to qualify as an "enough about me, what do you think about me?" book, and, therefore, to make me quite nervous about the feedback. I can't use the same excuses that I have in the past, when I have compiled collections of other people's essays on motherhood, marriage, and faith: "It's too bad, people just don't like being married today." Or "Apparently the title, 'The Imperfect Mom,' doesn't make a good Mother's Day gift." Or "You're right. That piece sucked. I should have edited it more."
On pub date this time, I feel like I'm climbing out the pool from my skinny dip only to find my clothes and towel missing. So off I run in the nude for the showers.
I'm bracing myself for two kinds of responses: "You're brave." And "You're stupid."
They're both right. It's not easy to write your life story, or, in my case, one's psychiatric history and shrink charts. Future applications for federal positions will undoubtedly be denied, and should I ever become a widow in my lifetime, one Google search will scare the hell out of any suitor.
"I just don't understand why you would want the world to know so much about you," my mom said to me a few days ago. She had just finished the book. That was one intense conversation with lots of awkward pauses sprinkled throughout.
"I want more than anything to help people, Mom," I explained. "Because if I am able to help someone, that gives meaning to my pain. And if there is no meaning to a person's suffering, then there is no point of living."
"But did you have to go into such detail?"
"Yes," I said.
"Because the good stuff is in the details. That's where the pockets of hope are. If I just stuck to abstract talk, rattling off theories and philosophies, I would have ended up with another one of those boring, psycho-babble books... a list of 10 things I need to do to be just like the arrogant, annoying author. I wanted this book to be real. I wanted it to come from my heart."
I expect a lot of that, as I toss my psych chart into public. Mental illness is not a warm and fuzzy subject, especially for people like me who have lost a loved one to suicide. But to stay silent is to go back to being afraid of writing my own words... to collecting other people's words, so that I wouldn't have to face rejection.
In the end, my mom did say she was proud of me. But even if she hadn't, I go into this pub date knowing that my intention is pure, that I'm not merely interested in telling an entertaining tale to win friends and popularity. No. I have a deeper mission, of trying to turn suffering into gold, and pain into hope. And, if I'm lucky, my book life will have longer than 72 hours.
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