My fans ask it with a squint in their eye. They ask it with a hint of a smile–because they love Bailey–and a hint of concern–they know Bailey’s life in an abusive foster home is a wreck.
I’ve never seen the point in evading the question. In fact, I’m surprised more people don’t ask.
“Yes,” I tell them. “I’m Bailey.”
To clarify, I was never in foster care. I was never physically abused. I was never sexually abused. But I was mentally and emotionally abused for the first twenty-six years of my life. So while our exact circumstances were different, the ways in which it affected us are the same.
My fans absorb what I say. They nod quietly. Their eyes are full of sympathy. They ask no further questions. It would be impolite. It’s not their place to pry.
And until recently, I was okay with that. My abuser suffered brain damage and is incapable of comprehending the harm she does. I feel no need to blame or harass her for things that aren’t even entirely her fault.
Nor do I feel the need to kick the bee’s nest. As often happens with mental illness, my abuser vehemently denies her illness and takes strong offense to anyone who suggests there may be something “wrong” with her.
But the longer I write, and the larger my platform grows, the more I ask myself what my role is in this world. Do I have a passion? A charity? A cause? I have your ear. (Thank you for that, by the way.) What do I want to speak into it? If I could choose some good to try to do in this world, what would it be?
The words that come back are these:
Take care of your heart. Take care of your spirit and your soul. Take care of your emotions. Take care of your mind.
In short, take care of this thing we call your mental health. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t.
I write about broken people. Bailey believes she’s worthless, invisible, and unlovable. Tommy struggles to talk about matters of the heart and believes he’s too much of a failure to help Bailey. Ryan believes the narrative that he’s shifty, immature, and unreliable–and he doesn’t believe he could break that mold. Monica tries to bury her pain under a fierce exterior and flawless performance.
Yes, it’s a suspense series. But ultimately, it’s not a story about stopping the bad guy and saving the world. It’s the story of how broken people fought bravely to not be broken anymore.
That’s what I write about in my novels. And increasingly, it’s what I want to write and speak about more openly, with the veneer of fiction removed. The stories I tell are real stories. Mine, yours, a lot of people’s. There’s power there. The kind that can save lives and change the world we live in.
Going forward, you might see me writing more about what happened to me and how it led to the stories I write. As I do, I hope to normalize conversations about our mental health. About our hearts and what’s going on inside them.
We’re all broken, somehow or another. That’s just life. With my words, I want to inspire people and help them to be a little less broken.
There’s a comments section down below. How about dropping a note of encouragement, a prayer, or a positive intention–for you, for me, for anyone you know, for the other fans, or the world at large. Let’s spread some joy.