A lot of readers have come up to me since the book went live. It's a surreal experience but definitely not an unwelcome one. There are the ones who tell me "how shocking, how terrible, I didn't know." I reassure them that it's okay, shit happened and it sucked but this is now, not then, and in the now, I'm happy. There are the folks who want to know why I'm happy now, why I would ever be happy, given such a past. Their looks are semi-hostile, as if they can find out where I'm lying, where the chink in the armor is, and peer into that black misery that used to be all of me. It's still there. It always will be and yes, it's because of wounded memories. But it's dormant. I do my self love exercises every day, I recognize the fact that I have a basketcase of emotional wreckage inside of me, and I'm okay with it. I don't rage at it anymore, or scream for it to disappear. It's a part of me, and I don't heap any more bruises on top of it than I can help. I'm done with self hatred. It still lurks, looking for an opening, and sometimes it gets me. But I don't welcome it anymore. I don't think I deserve being cruel to Beck anymore. That's a big difference.
And then there are my brothers and sisters of circumstance. They've begun to speak up as well. People I know and strangers I've never met have done me the honor of sharing their stories. Sometimes it's little tidbits and sometimes it's verbal marathons of horror. I welcome it all. I want to help. That's the whole purpose of Freak: to help the broken and miserable. I want to show how beautiful life can be, even to class act fuckups like us. So many mistakes, so many stupid decisions, so many ridiculous and embarrassing and humiliating life choices. A long pattern of self abuse as we stay in terrible relationships, stick it out, brag about our false loyalty to monsters who abuse us, then wonder why we can't look ourselves in the mirror. I did all of that. I got past all of that. I'm still getting past it and I always will. It will always chase me. And you know what? Fuck it. Let it. I'm quicker than I was.
Secrets kill. Daytop, my son's rehab, taught me that. Secrets kill. We keep our mouths shut about our awful little secrets, hiding our dirty little past behind humor or aloofness, but then it festers and emotional gangrene sets in. That shit's no different than the flesh-eating kind. They both have teeth and they both consume us. I've met women who were raped from diaper age, men who had the same, girls who had plunger handles shoved up them. I've met twenty-year-old girls who've had multiple abortions because their father got them pregnant. I've listened to raging adolescent boys who want nothing more than to kill something. Anything. Anyone. Consumed human beings who think there's nothing left but to be digested in a gastric hell. I know. I was one of them. I get it.
But as bad as things are, and they often are very, very bad, that doesn't have to be the future. Self love won't happen overnight; at least it didn't with me. I spent six months telling myself I loved me with a sneer. I found the idea repugnant, ridiculous, ineffective and nauseating. The self-hatred was so overwhelming, I didn't even believe in what I was trying to do. But at the end of that first six months, I was brushing my teeth in the mirror, lips pulled back and foaming at the mouth, when I froze, wide-eyed, at a stunning realization. I was looking at myself in the mirror. I wasn't avoiding one half of my face, as I'd done for years. I'd been unable to look at the whole countenance because of disgust and humiliation over all I'd done to myself. All my failures, all my weaknesses. But I was looking at my whole face without a thought, mechanically. I hadn't dreaded the idea of my reflection or planned how to avoid it. I had just been scrubbing my groddy garlic bread teeth. That's all. A nothing. A monumental nothing. It was the first time in years I'd looked at Rebecca O'Donnell's entire face and not started crying at the horror of it. I hadn't even noticed. I'd simply gone to brush my teeth.
That was the beginning. That tiny thing, that silly foam-drippy grin that spread across my face; even the self-depreciating sarcasm I flailed myself with couldn't stop me from realizing how important this really was. I. Looked. At. Myself. The world had changed. So, my beloved friends and fellow fuckups, don't ever despair. Keep going, keep telling yourself that you love your body, your mind, your spirit, and one day, far in the future, you'll grin like a foaming rabid dog too. A silly, giddy miracle. Take care, be diligent in the search for yourselves, and never stop believing. Happiness is there. You can find it. I believe in you. Make sure to believe in you too.