Writing My Book Saved My Life

Over a year and a half ago, I self-published Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately. It would go on to become a bestseller, be nominated in the Goodreads Choice awards in 2016, and be republished traditionally by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2017. Blows my mind when I think back to what inspired me to compile my thoughts in the first place.

<em>The original sketch of what would come to be the cover of</em> Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately<em>. Drawn by Cook on Chris
The original sketch of what would come to be the cover of Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately. Drawn by Cook on Christmas Eve 2015.

A year and a half ago, I was in a much different head-space. I was sad, definitely depressed. Those closest to me and I experienced a trauma that had me convinced someone else I love dearly was going to die. She didn’t. She’s still here. But back then, it was a certainty that I was going to lose her, like I’ve lost too many people.

It affected my job. It affected my relationship. It affected my health – physical and mental. I started to deteriorate. I started experiencing panic attacks and started battling insomnia. I felt like I was going to vomit every time the phone rang. I developed a stress related allergy. On nights I could sleep, I would wake up soaked in sweat, my heart beating against my chest. I broke out in hives, due directly to my ever-growing anxiety.

The middle I keep private. But the good news is, slowly, as the people around me began to heal, so did I. A big part of my own recovery and healing from this traumatic event that lasted from summer 2015 until summer 2016, was that I wrote about it. Not just the dark moments I was experiencing, but I made a concerted effort to document the happy moments that were still, somehow, occurring between the sadness. Life is funny. I would spend some nights crying, sick to my stomach, in a zombie-like state, but then spend the next mornings playing hide and seek with my nephew and having dance parties. I would sleep for an hour, and then get up and work an 8-hour workday. (PS. Routine has the power to save your life too. My mother wants me to write about that, and one day, I will.)

When going through something terrible, what so many lose sight of is good things are still happening. Not just only around them, but to them. It’s not surprising. We are in survival mode. We are just so focused on saving what is being destroyed to notice anything else. To save my own sanity, I learned to open my mind up to the blessings that still existed in my life. It took effort.

Listen, I am a self aware person. I knew I was in a dark place. I knew I couldn’t stay there. I knew that would be my demise if I did. So, during that terrible year, I never once lost sight of any of the lighter moments happening to me and around me. For one, I left the job I hated and started a job I enjoy. I moved into my first home. I celebrated my birthday and the birthdays of those I love. I traveled a lot, which was a nice escape. And I wrote it all down.

Cook with her book at Barnes & Noble, 5th Ave, New York City
Cook with her book at Barnes & Noble, 5th Ave, New York City

I am a big believer in the healing power of the Arts. If I didn’t create or write, I don’t know how I would have made it out of that time of my life. Thank God for art.

I also knew how important it was to stay physically healthy. Mind health and physical health go hand-in-hand. I felt my body breaking down. I began running and I made sure I drank enough water and I took my vitamins. I tried to eat meals, even if I didn't have an appetite. I tried to sleep, though that was the hardest to do, and still is some nights.

I also didn’t repress anything. I let the “bad” happen head on. I never turned away from it. I never hid from it. I let myself feel it. I knew if I refused to feel it right then and there, it would creep up on me one day. I accepted that even if today was a bad day, it didn’t mean tomorrow had to be as bad. I saw a therapist.

The writing from that roller coaster year became Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately. There was no hope around me many of those days. It was dismal even four months into the release of the book. Hope and light were scarce. Therefore, I created my own. I created my own hope. I created my own light. I had to believe it could get better in order to function.

Over the last year, things have gotten much better, and not one moment of it has been taken for granted. I still actively work on bettering myself and protecting my physical and mental health.

I know it’s funny to say, but my own book saved my life. Moreover, I am so honored and humbled and just so grateful that it has resonated with so many of you, as well.

Thank you.

Alicia 

Book store in Kentucky
Book store in Kentucky
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