That little girl is me. I am sure you’ve figured that out. Yesterday was kind of a rough day for me, a lot of those dark voices some of us fight came to haunt me. They sort of unpacked for the day. Sat with me on the couch and just kept talking. Have you ever experienced that? I have fought the inner turmoil all my life, in preteen years it was bad, and then later in my twenties. When they say you must fight every day and to take it 24 hours at a time, they are so right. All we have is the present and making it through the next few minutes. So, what are my dark voices and why did they come play, you ask. Like so many of us, I have voices of inadequacy, self-judgment, ridicule. Things that stem all the way back to my childhood.

I come from a family of 5. Both of my parents had divorced before finding each other and marrying. Our family is made up of my oldest brother, who happens to be a half-brother, although we were never raised thinking like that, he was my big brother, period. Then came my next older brother and finally me. When my middle brother entered second grade and me kindergarten my parents decided to embark on this journey called home-schooling. Although it is rather common now, in the early 90’s we were sort of a freak show. In all honesty, I loved it. Looking back, I wonder what choices I would have made that could have dramatically changed my life had we gone through traditional school. But I don’t feel that is any different from anyone else. We all have circumstances and choices that we make and if we would have done it different our lives could be vastly different. My poor mom though. My middle brother was one of those kids that things just came naturally to him, he just ticked through school like no big deal. Me though… school was hard. It took my parents years to figure out I had this fun thing called dyslexia. I can distinctly remember the first time I read a book independently, I was nine. I loved writing and hated it all at the same time. The process of thinking up a story, the ideas, the sentences, I loved that. After writing and trying to read what I wrote or worse, letting someone else read it, was horrifying. I couldn’t spell. Grammar literally never made sense to me. Every paper I wrote came back marked in more red than words I had written. I convinced myself I was stupid. The biggest problem for me though was the fact that the stories would not stop coming. The voices, the characters, the places, they were an endless stream in my mind. I had to let them out. I would write, and write, and write, and only let a handful of people read them. Usually, they would come back with criticism on spelling and grammar. I gave up. I gave up letting anyone read what I wrote and eventually I gave up on the writing.

A few years ago, I came out of a dark depression. I went to counseling, I talked with friends, I got into a community, and eventually, my mind got to a healthy place again. I started reading again and then those voices started again, the ones from the stories that never wanted to go away. I decided to give writing a try again. I have not been able to stop since. A few weeks ago, I was reminding myself of my dyslexia, something I don’t think about as often now. I realized my greatest weakness had turned into a strength and a way of sabotaging me now. My mind overcame dyslexia by not seeing the jumbled letters, by learning to read through them, I can read backwards and upside down because my mind worked so hard to overcome it. Now it sabotages my own writing by not seeing the errors. My mind has turned off the jumbled letters and misplaced words. Thus, the return of the dark voices telling me how worthless I am. There is nothing more frustrating than thinking you have produced a perfect work, only to realize later it is riddled with mistakes. It hurts your ego and brings back all those feelings of insecurity. Those ugly blobs unpacked yesterday, sat on the couch with me, and reminded me over and over of all the reason I could never do this, this writing thing. I should pack it up now and forget it. I had always been the stupidest of the kids and why did I think I could overcome that? Give it up. Just give it up. Disappear.

I really thought about it. I really did. Then I remembered that little girl who wanted to write stories more than anything else. She had a lot of good stories in her. Stories she never wrote because she didn’t know how, she didn’t have the tools, the skill. Well, she grew up, she found some tools, she found some people to help, and she grew in skill. Is she perfect? Far from it. Will I ever produce a perfect work? Nope. Can I continue to grow and learn? I sure as hell hope so. It would be nice to say that little girl never dreamed her older self would write novels. But nothing could be further from the truth. That was the only dream she ever had. I can’t give up on her now. And if you have those voices, the dark ones, the ones that never truly leave, don’t give in. Keep fighting. Keep pushing back. Whatever your gift is, perfect or imperfect, I am confident the world needs it. Keep fighting for it.