This book is dedicated to the freaks and misfits, the broken and the scarred,
the ones who live in hiding and the ones who live out loud,
those who are frightened and those who are brave.
Love yourself. Grow freely.
You are beautiful and you are not alone.
Pain. Most of us go through great lengths to avoid it, numb it, or bury it. While writing The Sick Series, I spent hours researching one of the most gruesome and disturbing compulsions known to humankind – to mutilate oneself.
Some people cut themselves to drown out their emotional pain with physical pain. It’s also a way to be in control of their pain. Others hurt themselves out of self-disgust and loathing. They are angry at their bodies. Pain creates a powerful chemical soup in the brain, and masochists enjoy this rush and the subsequent relief when the pain is ceased.
My character John Branch hurts himself for all these reasons. He is drowning out the pain caused by the rejection of his mother, and at the same time, he thrives off the attention he gets from being sick. He also hates himself for ever having wanted love from his estranged family, and this shame of being so vulnerable has corroded him into a monster. Inwardly, he despises himself because he can’t stop his behavior even though he knows he is destroying his wife. He also gets high off the pain. He basks in it and laps it up like a thirsty dog.
Working in the addiction recovery field as a digital marketer for the past several years has given me a lot of insight on compulsions, self-hatred, dysfunctional relationships, and codependency. This knowledge has led to revelations in my own life – patterns I never noticed before in my family, as well as everyone I know, manifestations of our inner children trying to get attention, affection, acceptance, and love.
I’ve also been made fully aware of the stigma surrounding those who are mentally ill or in the throes of addiction. I’m not excluded in this bad habit. I catch myself making flash judgments about people who appear emotionally or mentally weak, but now I know it’s only because I have the same insecurities about myself.
There is so much pain in our lives. Most of this pain we cause ourselves when we try to appear as something we’re not. We often use the pain we feel to punish others. It’s only fair that somebody take some of the hit for us, right?
The collateral damage are our family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. They might be people of another race, people of another religion, people we deem beneath us, and those at the top we resent just as fervently.
Why are we so hard on ourselves and each other? Closed-minded or open-minded, spiritual or godless – I don’t know anyone on this earth who is perfectly well-adjusted, balanced, and free from immature ploys and undesirable behaviors. Our egos work behind the scenes, crying for acknowledgement, grasping for love, and greedy for adoration. We do stupid things. We hurt people.
The pain will never stop, and we should not want it to. The pain is our teacher.
Physical pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong so you can avoid injury. Imagine if you couldn’t feel a blade slicing through your fingertip as you prepared your dinner salad? What would prevent you from bleeding all over your arugula before serving your spouse your own finger?
In the same way, emotional pain is a sign that something is wrong. We must not ignore it. We can’t let it incubate and mutate. We must unearth it, listen to it, and discover what we need to change.
It may be a belief we have about ourselves that is destroying us. It may be a perception we have about the world. We must accept it, embrace it, and experience it fully so that we can transform. Then we can use it to become more compassionate to others.
Imagine being in so much pain that you would take a hammer to your bones. Imagine feeling so lonely that you’re willing to drink Drano just to get some kind attention. Imagine feeling so bad about yourself that you would want to mutilate part of your body. This is the pain I’m talking about.
I went into the forums and read the words of the people who had done this to themselves. They think they’re freaks, they think they are hideous, they think the world will never love them. They don’t know that they are beautiful. We all are, no matter how messy it gets.
Forget what society considers “normal” or “acceptable” or “desirable.” These are subjective and change throughout time. Not long ago, it was normal to burn “witches” alive. It was acceptable to own slaves. Humans are crazy, and I’m sure you’ve noticed in the media lately that the situation is not improving.
Don’t buy into the latest idea of who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to feel. Where ever you are in your life, turn inward, follow your pounding heart, listen to your own reason and fall madly in love with yourself … especially with the pain.
Sick is dedicated to you.