Pitch Wars #PimpMyBio: “Coming Out” About My #OwnVoices Book

I’m late to the Pitch Wars #Pimpmybio party, which is odd, because I usually have a bad habit of showing up way too early at most parties.

I just this morning resolved to enter the contest. This will be my third time entering Pitch Wars, and I’ve entered with a different manuscript each time. The first time, I entered the very first novel I’d ever completed, the first in a series of seven YA urban fantasy novels. I’ve since put that series on the back burner; it needs serious editing with my now-more-trained eye before I pitch it again.

The novel I entered last year, The Other Place, is an upper YA/NA contemporary magical realism novel. It’s about a young man with schizophrenia trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. This book was released by Limitless Publishing on 7/5/16.

Yes, I know. I’m a published author, and so I feel a little shy entering Pitch Wars. I know (from experience, unfortunately) that some other contestants are likely giving me the stink-eye, wishing I’d step aside to give the less fortunate a chance. But I don’t have an agent, and really want one; my books are getting great reviews, but I’m a marketing doofus and I think I could get wider exposure if I had an agent on my side, holding my hand and cheering me on.

This competition brings in some of the best aspiring authors in the English-speaking world, and I know I don’t have any more talent or chance of being selected than a lot of the unpublished entrants. The fact I’m published and others aren’t, isn’t a measure purely of talent, but also of hard work and persistence. In fact, no matter how awesome I think my manuscript is, I don’t have a ton of hope it will be chosen. That isn’t the real reason I’m entering this contest. I’m entering because, in past years, I’ve made so many great friends in the Pitch Wars feed, and I’d love to make some more. I’m also entering because I’ve had so much going on in my life lately, both good and bad, so I’ve not been doing much querying. Pitch Wars will make me focus on trying to find this book a home.

The book I’m entering this year is entitled True Story. It’s a diverse YA romance. The main character is a seventeen-year-old Native American foster girl with the unusual name of Mike Charley. She isn’t trans; she was named after her grandfather by her bipolar mother, who thought Mike was his reincarnation.
This is an #ownvoices book. I’m not Native (though I have family in the same tribe Mike’s mother was from), but Mike has bipolar disorder with episodes of psychosis, like her mother did…and like I do.
I’ve been hesitant about pitching True Story as an #ownvoices book, though I know it might make some people more curious about it. I only recently “came out” about my neurodiversity, and it has definitely been a mixed bag. I’m lucky that my diversity isn’t visible; most days, I seem like a perfectly normal, if maybe somewhat eccentric, person, so not a lot of people knew about my neurodiversity. Since I opened up about it, I’ve gotten such a wonderful outpouring of support, but I’ve also suffered a lot of negative and hurtful comments.
Bipolar is a condition that comes with many misconceptions. People either think you’re a howling nutjob, or that you’re being attention-seeking: “I get mood swings, too, and you don’t see me crying about it.” I’m not a howling nutjob on most days, nor am I particularly attention-seeking. These stereotypes are hurtful.
When I wrote True Story, it wasn’t my intention to “educate” the world about bipolar disorder. I was just telling a cool story about a wonderful girl. But now that the book is written and edited, and steaming up the windows in its boisterous urge to get on the road, I really do want to find a wide audience for it, to show one insider’s perspective on living with bipolar.
I also think it’s important to have YA novels with bipolar and otherwise neurodiverse main characters. After my first episode of psychosis when I was 15, I was terrified. I thought my brain would completely desert me; that I might lose control of myself and hurt people. That’s what most people think “psychos” are, after all: homicidal maniacs. Most books reflect these misconceptions, and portray psychotic characters as killers or otherwise evil antagonists. At best, characters with psychosis are often complete wastes of space, objects of nothing more than pity and contempt, and are there only to be somehow “saved” by a neurotypical character.
Because I’d swallowed all those stereotypes, it was decades before I had the courage to admit even to a doctor that I’d suffered psychotic episodes. Instead, I got pretty good at managing them myself. I tried to avoid the situations that might trigger them, and I self-medicated. A lot. When I was in my late teens, I discovered that heroin made my brain chill out, and eased my crushing episodes of (sometimes suicidal) depression. It took me years and a trip to prison to kick that habit, but I eventually found healthier ways to deal with my symptoms.
But those ways don’t always work, especially when you’re like me and don’t even try to control your episodes of mania.
I love being manic. My last manic episode started in the summer of 2013. That’s when I first started writing in earnest: I finished seven novels in a year, and another five in the year after that. However, the episode coincided with a huge shift in my marriage dynamics and caused it even more strain. My husband became very insulting about my inability to “grow up and act right”. His behavior felt very abusive to me, which triggered both my bipolar disorder and my PTSD and made my behavior even more erratic. I ended up having a psychotic break last summer (my first one in more than a decade), and a few close brushes with suicide, before the relationship finally ended for good.
My dream with regard to True Story, and my other books (and other authors’ books) with neurodiverse characters, is that people will read them and be less afraid to talk about their own experiences with neurodiversity. I want people with mental illness to know that they aren’t “less” than neurotypical people; they’re not dangerous or creepy, or in any other way unfit to take their rightful place in society. Then maybe they won’t have to go through some of the stuff I’ve gone through.
So I’m standing up (with somewhat trembly knees) and proudly declaring that True Story is an #ownvoices book. I know my admission that I have a serious mental condition might make some agents leery of working with me, but I console myself that they might not be a good match for my work anyway. When I finally do get an agent, that person will see my value, and will believe in me and my writing. They won’t buy into the negative stereotypes about bipolar disorder or PTSD. They’ll know people like me can be productive, professional, intelligent, and easy to work with.
So, that’s why I’m entering Pitch Wars: because I deserve to; because I believe in my books; and because I believe in myself and others like me.
Thank you for reading this. I’d love to hear your comments and get links to your blogs, as well. Like I said, making new friends is one of my main goals in entering Pitch Wars.
Good luck to everyone!

Signing at Inklings Bookstore on September 10!

I’m happy to announce that I’m going to have a signing at Inklings Bookstore in Yakima, Washington on the afternoon of Saturday, September 10th. I also landed an interview on KIMA TV news. I’ll have more info soon, and hopefully more dates! I hope to see you all there.

*RELEASE BLITZ*: Confessions of a Wedding Planner

★★ PRE-ORDER NOW ★★★
CONFESSIONS OF A WEDDING PLANNER 
by Michelle Jo Quinn
(The Bliss Series Book 1)
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★ SYNOPSIS 

He may be the best man, but he’s the worst man for her…



Wedding planner, Veronica Soto-Stewart believes everyone deserves a fairy tale–even her ex-boyfriend. Unable to refuse his request, and with the help of Bliss Events motley crew, she finds herself creating the most magical event for the perfect couple. 



 But nothing is ever perfect… 



 And not all happy ever afters can be planned…



Levi Laurent can’t believe his luck. Thanks to his best friend’s wedding, he finally has a shot at the woman he’s always wanted–Veronica. From San Francisco to Paris, and back, he pulls out all the stops, so she knows where she really belongs–with him. But Veronica wants nothing to do with the rich, sexy, irresistible playboy. 


 Can Levi convince Veronica that her perfect happily ever after is closer than she ever realized?

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★ PURCHASE 

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★ GIVEAWAY 

a Rafflecopter giveaway



★ MICHELLE JO QUINN 


Michelle ‘s love for writing blossomed when her father gave her a diary. Instead of recounting her daily life, she wrote stories of fictional people. Like most of her characters, she believes in Happily Ever After. Naturally, she finds harmony in writing romance. 

An unabashed, self-proclaimed foodie, Michelle loves to try new food whenever given the chance.  She loves to travel, dislikes the cold weather and would rather buy paperbacks than shoes.  She enjoys watching foreign films and reading a great book that makes her swoon.
Michelle lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two kids and a morkie pup named Scarlett.
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★ Follow Michelle 

What I Want for My Birthday: An End to Needless Killings

Every day there are more people shot needlessly by police. Today, the big ones in the news are Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and tomorrow there will unfortunately will likely be others. This needs to stop, and we need to stop feeling powerless against a system that allows and even supports law enforcement officers in perpetrating these killings. I have friends who are in law enforcement or have loved ones who are. I know not all cops would do something like this, but ALL POLICE NEED TO RECOGNIZE THAT THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM. IT NEEDS TO BE SOLVED. IT CAN BE SOLVED. AND IF IT ISN’T, YOU ARE UNDERMINING YOUR OWN INSTITUTION AND THE RULE OF LAW IN GENERAL. When people start, quite rightly, viewing the police as the perpetrators of violence in their communities, it isn’t going to go well for anyone. The oppressed populations in these communities are trying, almost exclusively, to have their voices heard nonviolently. But at what point does it start feeling like an issue of self-defense?

My birthday is this Sunday. Whether you planned on buying me a present or not, I’d like you to consider making a donation to one of the causes named in this post, or other causes that support the promotion of the welfare of people of color, or neurodiverse people (NAMI, for instance), because those are two populations that suffer Disproportionate violence and persecution at the hands of law enforcement and others.

I am also giving away a full manuscript critique and paperback copy of The Other Place over on the #WordsForChange hashtag on Twitter, in exchange for a donation to one of the causes named in Laura Silverman’s post.

Additionally, I will donate 50% of my net proceeds from the sale of The Other Place for the month of July to one or more causes that promote the welfare of people of color or neurodiverse people. If I can afford more, I’ll give more. So, if you were curious about this book, now would be a good time to buy it; you’ll be getting a great book, and supporting a great cause.

I get July’s royalty statement in October, so which causes I support with the proceeds will probably depend on which seem to need money  most at the time, though you can also make your case to me for which one it should be.

Thank you for reading, and for supporting this cause. Now I’m going to get back to writing, so I’m not incapacitated by panic and anger.

#WordsForChange

For those of you (hopefully everyone) who has heard of the Alton Sterling tragedy, as well as the way-too-many other similar incidents, please go to the #WordsForChange hashtag on Twitter. There are some great giveaways happening over there in exchange for donations to causes to help effect change with regard to police mishandling/lack of training/and outright violence against people in our society who have no voice. HERE IS MORE INFO.

This is a cause I feel deeply about, and it’s one of those things that, every time I hear about something like the Alton Sterling tragedy, it sends me into a spiral of panic and rage. I know that neurodiversity is a lot different than being a person of color, and I’m not trying to co-opt the conversation here, but I’ll just say I’ve had a loved one almost shot by police when unarmed, and the political distinction disappears when it’s someone you care about that is being oppressed and abused and having their life threatened by officers that lack the temperament or training to do their jobs correctly.

I’m giving away a FULL MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUE and a PAPERBACK COPY OF THE OTHER PLACE for a $30 donation to one of the causes listed here. All you have to do is provide proof of the donation and either retweet my tweet on the #WordsForChange hashtag, or comment here if you can’t find it. If I get any entries at all, eek, and if I get more than one, I’ll choose by rafflecopter.  Not only is it a great deal, it’s a great cause.

Owning the Label of “Mentally Ill”

I wanted to talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: how we, and those around us, deal with mental health issues, along with the stigma and complications that label brings. It’s a subject I’ve been exploring in my own life, as well as in my book The Other Place (which has a schizophrenic main character, and came out TODAY!!)

Background on me, for those new to my blog: I’m a neurodiverse person. Every time I go into the psych doc, it seems like they diagnose me with a new letter of the alphabet. Pretty soon they’re going to have to make up new letters, just to diagnose me with them. My main diagnoses are PTSD and Bipolar I (or II, depending on whom you ask, but since I sometimes go totes whackadoodle, I’d probably say I).

It’s only recently I’ve discovered that I don’t have to call myself “mentally ill” (or “nutball” or “whackadoodle”)—I can call myself “neurodiverse”. I think that term fits a lot better, and feels better. Illness is bad, but diversity is something we should be proud of.

The problem is that we as a society don’t typically see neurodiversity in the same light as we see other types of diversity. Neurodiversity is something to be hidden or cured. It’s something to “rise above” and “be successful in spite of” (indeed, some people still see racial, cultural, religious and sexual diversity in the same light, but we should try our hardest to forget those sorts of people, at least for a few blissful moments before Trump opens his mouth again). And sure, there are certain symptoms that go along with being a neurodiverse person that most of us in that category do want some help dealing with or rising above. But, mostly, the impetus should be on society to realize that neurodiverse people aren’t going to change, and shouldn’t have to change.

I’ve spent a lot of my life denying and trying to escape my diagnoses, along with the stigma, danger, and (often) horrible and ineffective treatments that come with them. It’s only recently I’ve realized that there isn’t really something “wrong” with me, and that perhaps it’s society that needs to change in some ways, and not me.

Society has a long way to go with regard to understanding mental illness. Having certain diagnoses on your record can prevent you from getting certain jobs (or any jobs, if you’re open about it like I am online, because employers tend to stalk you before hiring). A record of mental illness can cause you trouble with the law, can affect the quality of your medical treatment even for conditions unrelated to mental health, and a bunch of other things.

Letting myself be diagnosed didn’t really seem worthwhile, because, let’s face it: a lot of treatments for mental health conditions aren’t very effective, and not much progress has been made in making them so in the last few decades. A lot of the treatments don’t make me feel better; sometimes they actually make me feel worse, at least in the short-term, and/or can have long-term negative health effects. It’s always a trade-off, and it sometimes doesn’t seem like a net benefit. So, every time a doctor has tried to slap a label on me, shower me with shitty pills, or put me in therapy, I’ve gone to another doctor or just quit treatment altogether.

I recently had a pretty big breakdown, though, so I’m back in treatment again. I’m struggling to make it work this time, for a couple big reasons. One is that I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can see what effect my mental health was having on my life, and that perhaps I could do better if I took care of myself. Another reason is that I’m ready to accept my diagnoses, and deal with all the fallout that happens from owning the label of “mentally ill”.

What made me ready to own the label was meeting my friend Phoenix, who has schizophrenia. He is hands-down one of the most beautiful, intelligent, and interesting people I’ve ever met. If he can be so incredibly awesome, then I figured maybe I wasn’t so bad, either. Maybe it is society that has the problem, and not us.

I’m also ready to accept the label of “mentally ill” out of a sense of obligation. I can pass for reasonably sane on good days. I can speak fairly coherently about my experiences with psychosis and mental illness in general. But Phoenix, as awesome as he is, doesn’t have much of a voice in society at large. I understand the turn of his mind, but a lot of people just think he’s a ranting lunatic and don’t stick around to find out he’s not. They’re angered or frightened by his behavior. They think he’s on drugs. They abuse, exploit, and ignore him. He’s been beaten into a coma for trying to be friendly (seriously), and has been arrested for standing in his own yard yelling about cow-worshiping vegans (long story). He was almost shot by police during a psychotic break, even though he was unarmed. And he and I have gotten kicked out of so many places just for being unobtrusively weird.

So, I feel the need to speak up and be proud, not just for myself, but for him, and for people like us everywhere.

It’s not easy to be proud a lot of the time, though. Having a mental health diagnosis hits you in two ways: it changes how you look at yourself, and it changes how society sees you. Those two things can also affect each other, so it becomes sort of a feedback loop.

Getting the correct diagnosis can help you to understand yourself better, and why you feel and react in certain ways. That can lift some of your heavy burden of guilt, shame, and self-recrimination, so that you can go about changing or dealing with those behaviors in a more constructive way. Having a diagnosis can also help those close to you recognize your behaviors for what they are, and respond to them in a healthier and more appropriate manner.

However, a diagnosis can also bring a new level of shame, and cause a different kind of inappropriate and unhealthy backlash from society.

People are more open about their mental health problems now than they were in the past, so you can find some very supportive friends if you start talking about your experiences. You also get a lot of pity, though. Pity isn’t what most people are looking for when they talk about their mental problems: they’re looking for understanding, for a way that they can fit into society and be accepted.

Pity, however, is better than the fear, anger, or condescension a lot of people display if you talk about your diagnosis.

Like I said before, I usually pass for reasonably sane. Sometimes, though, I don’t. I don’t usually realize it when it’s happening, but I behave pretty oddly sometimes. I’ve lost friends and loved ones because of it. I’ve been told to “just stop acting that way”, to “get over myself”, and to “grow up.” I’ve been told I’m attention-seeking. I’ve had people say, “Everyone’s crazy, but most of us don’t have to put it on full display.”

Here’s my answer to that: everyone is an ignorant dickhole in some ways, but most of us try not to put it on full display.

Sanity is definitely a spectrum. I have a pretty wide view of sanity, because pretty much everyone has some pretty kooky habits, paranoias, anxieties and beliefs. But I have intimate experience with that ethereal border over which be mental dragons; the line which, once crossed, puts you in the territory of bona-fide insane. I’ve been there, and I’ve witnessed others in that place. It’s not a place most of us choose to go. It can be terrifying, frightening, embarrassing and dangerous, not just because psychotic people are sometimes apt to hurt themselves, but because others tend to misunderstand us, take us for dangerous, and hurt us because of it. I’m lucky I get to spend the majority of my time on the sane side of that line. Others aren’t so lucky.

Most of us probably can agree that the lunatic ranting on the street corner didn’t get that way by poor life choices, right? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see it that way. People really do say things like, “Get a job, you lousy bum!” Seriously. I’ve seen it.

But for people like me, who maybe are a little bit there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I with regard to becoming a ranting hobo on the street corner, but probably won’t go there because we’re more stable and functional, it’s more difficult to sort out what part of our behavior is intentional on some level and can be changed, and what part is just who we are. It’s even difficult for me to sort out, with regard to my own behavior. So when people get frustrated or angry with me for doing certain things, and give me the “straighten up and fly right/get a job you lousy bum”-type lecture, it really hits home.

I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with myself and beating up on myself for being certain ways. I end up walking this tightrope; on one side is things about myself that I can’t change, and just need to learn how to deal with; and on the other side is behavior that I could change, and would be copping out if I blamed it on my mental health issues. Everyone else has their own opinions about which side of that tightrope certain behaviors fall, which makes it even harder to sort out for myself.

And then there’s the added stigma that a lot of people think I’m being attention-seeking or trying to be a “special snowflake” for even talking about these issues publicly. Since I’ve seen even POC and other diverse individuals get that brand of bullshit, though, I try not to let it bug me too much. I’m talking about these issues for the same reasons any diverse person talks about the issues related to their diversity: to understand it myself and to garner more understanding from others, so that someday maybe people like me will have a comfortable place in society where we don’t suffer discrimination, abuse, violence, and misunderstanding.

I hope that by writing these blog posts and books like The Other Place, I make some headway in that regard.

RELEASE DAY FOR THE OTHER PLACE !

Today is release day for my magical realism novel, The Other Place! This is book two in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. It is the story of Justin, a young man with schizophrenia, who is trying to make it as an artist, find love, and find his place in the world. Basically, it’s a sort of coming-of-age story, but with a very unique character and more action than those sorts of books usually have. It’s not a dark book at all; it’s very different from The  Hustle, though you do get to read about the further adventures of Arty and Liria.

The Other Place is based on my own experiences with psychosis, as well as the things I’ve witnessed and experienced while hanging out with my friend Phoenix, who has schizophrenia.

People with psychosis can live beautiful lives, but they deal with a great deal of discrimination, misunderstanding, and outright abuse by police and the general public.

I hope you check it out and enjoy it!

Surviving, and Writing About, Abuse

I wanted to give my thoughts on a subject that’s close to my heart: how people in our society view, and write about, domestic violence and other types of abuse.

I’ve participated in a lot of discussions, both online and in the real world, about what makes people stay in abusive relationships. The answers people often give are along the lines of, “They’re insecure.” Or, “They just don’t know anything different.” And, “They don’t see any way out.”

I have been in abusive relationships, and I’ll tell you what I hear when people give the answers above: “It’s your fault. You stayed with your abusers because you’re defective: weak, ignorant, and stupid.”

I’m not saying there isn’t a grain of truth in the fact that people living in abuse are insecure, sometimes lacking in objectivity with regard to their situation, and that they might have a hard time taking whatever steps they need to in order to leave their home and family. Do you know who else fits that description? Pretty much everyone else on the fucking planet.

Unfortunately, more than a few fiction authors portray abused women (the abused character is usually a woman, though that isn’t always the case in real life) as creatures we should both pity and cheer on as they inevitably overcome all their difficulties and reinvent themselves as strong, confident individuals.

Conversely, some readers of my novel The Hustle have expressed frustration with the main character, Liria, who goes through a string of ill-advised and abusive relationships throughout the course of the story (will she do better in The Other Place? I’m not telling 🙂 ). “I just don’t understand why Liria keeps getting involved with people who treat her so badly,” some people say. “It’s like she doesn’t want a better life.”

That’s another way of saying it’s the abused person’s fault for being abused. And yes, I know it is upon each and every one of us to take control of our lives and try to be the best we can be. However, suffering people’s ignorant judgment doesn’t help us to feel empowered. Nor does pity, because pity doesn’t really equal understanding…though it’s definitely better than sneering judgment.

When I was a teenager, I was in a relationship that was physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive. After that, I was in a couple relationships that maybe weren’t exactly healthy, but were marred to a greater extent by addiction than abuse. Then, I met my current (ish) husband.

My husband is a Ph.D. professor of biophysics; a hard-working, incredibly intelligent guy who comes off in company as perhaps a little odd, but sweet and quiet and nerdy. I, on the other hand, have only an undergraduate degree and a history of incarceration and heroin addiction (that stuff is far in the past, but still). I felt sort of like I’d hit the jackpot when I landed my husband; not just because of his education and the fact he didn’t do needle drugs, but because he was unfailingly kind to me, never so much as looked at another woman, and was always reliable and safe. He had his frustrating weirdnesses, sure, but doesn’t everyone?

About three years ago we moved to California for his job. The dynamic of our relationship shifted, and his frustrating weirdnesses turned against me. I’d quit my job and started (compulsively) writing when we moved—we didn’t need a second income, and we’d discussed my being a stay-at-home mom when he got a tenure track job. But, for reasons I won’t go into again here, my husband ended up not liking this situation. He accused me of lying around all day and writing silly stories. He called me selfish, lazy, and immature. He said I was using him for money, and didn’t have the guts to leave him only because I didn’t want to get a job to support myself and my kid. Pretty mean stuff, right? But think about it: if you were lucky enough to get to stay home and write all day (and, you know, clean the house and cook and garden and all that), you might feel a little guilty about it, right? That’s pretty normal among others I’ve spoken to who are stay-at-home. So, when my husband said that stuff, I didn’t really think it was abuse: I thought he had a point, because he’d hit the bull’s-eye of my guilt.I mean, his words pissed me off and hurt me, sure, but this was a man I loved and had been married to awhile. I respected his feelings and opinions. Plus, he had never been so critical of me before, so I thought he’d get over it. I even tried to get a job to make him happy, because sometimes doing stuff to make your spouse happy is part of marriage. But we’d moved to the worst economy in the known universe so I didn’t get a single call back.

Some friends I cried to about this stuff told me he was being abusive. But I’d suffered real abuse, I thought, and it hadn’t really been the same. Other people thought I was overreacting. After all, my husband was the big fancy doctor with a sweet nature, and I was just some weird, emotional chick with a sordid past who thought she was a writer. This argument hit home with me, as well. All you writers out there probably know what it’s like to feel like a fraud and like you suck, especially when those rejections are rolling in.

Anyway, my husband moved on to saying he had lost all respect for me and was done with me. He told me he wasn’t interested in having sex with me ever again, and told me to get the fuck out of the house on various occasions.

Now, you think, any self-respecting woman would have packed up and got the fuck out of the house for sure at that point. And I actually did, many times. But I would always come back. I loved him, and I was worried about him. His behavior seemed erratic, and I was concerned for his mental health. I told him to go to a psychiatrist, which he did. We also went to marriage counseling. I still had hopes things would get better. And besides, I was a little selfish and immature: I just wanted to stay home and write, and I wouldn’t get to do much of that if I left to be a single mom. Plus, destroying a household and uprooting your kid never seems fun, under any circumstances.

My husband didn’t get better, though. He got worse, and I “dealt” with it by getting smashed-ass drunk several times a week and hanging out with another man. I can forgive myself for this a little bit now, because I was truly miserable and going off the deep end, but at the time I felt horrendously guilty and weak for not being able to change my behavior. I knew I had some mental health issues of my own, as well, and that I wasn’t really taking care of myself, which exacerbated all these problems. So when my husband yelled at me and berated me for all of this stuff too, it again didn’t feel like abuse: it hit home. I felt like it was mostly my fault our relationship had gotten so bad, and that I could fix things by being a better person.

It was true I needed to change in some ways, and I did, eventually: I cut down on drinking, etc. And, eventually, I took my kid and left. I went home to my parents’, where I renovated and built onto a cabin on their property. Now I lie around here all day writing, editing, gardening, playing with my kid, building cabinets and making homemade wine. I don’t know how long this situation will last, but I wanted to still live my life on my own terms for as long as I could. I didn’t want my husband to win, and force me into a miserable life that I don’t want.

Now, a lot of you who are still reading this (if anyone) might say that I stayed in my abusive relationships because I was insecure, because I didn’t know any better (having been in abusive relationships before), and that I didn’t see a way out (at least that allowed me to live the way I want). You’d be right, in a way. But what you might be wrong about is the fact that you would never act that way in my situation. Whenever I hear someone say they’ll never be with anyone who doesn’t treat them like a princess/prince, I usually roll my eyes inwardly. Because there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m just a human being who has made decisions that made sense at the time. I’ve done the best I can do with what I’m given. I don’t always do the right thing, but if you think you always do the right thing there might be something wrong with you.

Anyone who has been lucky enough not to experience abuse is just that: lucky. They weren’t subjected to it at a young and impressionable age, and they didn’t get sucked into it slowly and insidiously like I did later, or any of the other things that can lead people into abusive relationships. Because I didn’t stay with my husband because I’m weak or dumb or ignorant: I stayed with him because I loved him, and I didn’t want to give up our life together: the same reasons people stay in healthier relationships.

What we need to do, both in life and in fiction, is see abused people as human beings—intelligent human beings with rich inner lives, just like anyone else—not as objects of pity and contempt.

Find The Hustle, my book that deals with abuse, here.