My Gutsy Story

Hello friends! As you know, it’s hard to put yourself out there, but I knew that it was important to share my story to help others. Was I gutsy enough? You decide! Please take a moment and put in a vote for me. I truly appreciate all of your love and support.

Voting for the favorite December 2013 “My Gutsy Story” contest takes place today and ends on January 15th at midnight PST. The winner will be announced on January 16th.

http://soniamarsh.com/2013/12/how-writing-saved-my-life-by-felicia-johnson.html#comment-61718

Up Close & Personal Magazine Article – Her: A Novel Inspired By Loss

This is a text version of the magazine article that was printed this month in Up Close & Personal. In the article, I wrote about how my novel was inspired by my dear late friend Holly and my first writing experience.

Please, take a look and let me know what you think! 🙂

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Up Close & Personal Volume 11 Issue 3

Her: A Novel Inspired By Loss
“Tucker is the place my husband, Dee, and I currently call home. We have lived in Tucker for almost six years. We are originally from the Northeast. I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I lived there until I was nine years old, and my family and I moved here to Georgia when I was ten.
When I was six, my second grade teacher, Ms. Medley, gave me my first composition notebook. About a day later, Ms. Medley gave the class our first writing assignment. The only rule of the assignment was to write one paragraph about something that we wanted.
My first writing assignment was titled: I Want A Dog. It is interesting what happens when a person who was born to write actually begins to write. Paragraph one started with how much I would have liked to have a dog (very much), why (because they are are so cute and fluffy), and why I couldn’t have one (our home was too small to keep one). Then, when I finished with the reason as to why I couldn’t have a dog, I began a second paragraph. Paragraph two stated why I should have a dog despite having a small home (I’d take good care of the dog, and let it sleep in my bed). It was only right that the third paragraph listed what kind of dogs I would have, and paragraph four listed different names I would have named my dog. By the time I ran out of pages in my composition notebook, I hadn’t realized that I had written 100 pages. Scared that I’d get in trouble, I showed my mother what I had written.
My mother found it amusing that I had written 100 pages about wanting a dog. Instead of making me do my assignment again, the way it had been assigned, my mother told me to turn it in. Monday morning came, and Ms. Medley collected all of our notebooks, and read a few good paragraphs aloud. I was nervous and afraid of when she’d see my written assignment. When she finally did see what I had written, she held up my notebook to the class and said aloud, ‘Felicia has written a novel! It is called I Want A Dog.’
I was shocked. I didn’t know what a novel was or how to even make one, but I’d somehow done it. After school, Ms. Medley took the time to explain to me what a novel is. She said it is a prose narrative made up of characters, wishes, wants, emotions, feelings, and expressions. She told me that the writers who produce these novels are called authors. Ms. Medley said that if I keep writing, filling up a hundred-plus pages of notebooks, then one day I could be an author. I asked her if I was in trouble for doing the assignment incorrectly. Ms. Medley’s reply was not what I had expected. She said, ‘Felicia, the assignment was completely correctly as long as it was written by you, and you feel that everything you want to express is in the story.’ I told her I felt that everything was there. Then she replied, “Okay. You’re a writer. Keep on writing.”
I will never forget Ms. Medley’s encouraging words because those words moved me to keep writing through my adolescent years. Coping with depression through writing saved my life. Writing helped me not to use depression as an excuse not to accomplish my goals in life.
Growing up was challenging because I had young parents. I am the oldest of my mother’s four children. My mother was fifteen years old when she became pregnant with me. It wasn’t long after that my little brothers, Barry and Anthony, and little sister, Laura, came along. My mother was a single parent for most of my teenage years. I took on a lot of responsibility, and I helped my mother take care of my brothers and sister. Being forced to grow up fast has its consequences. I developed depression in my adolescent years. Like most children with depression, I was put on medication and saw a therapist to help deal with my depression. However, I found that writing was the best therapy.
When I was fifteen years old, I had a best friend named Holly. Holly was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I saw the challenges that she and her family faced while she suffered. My friend lost the battle with depression due to BPD. She committed suicide when she was only fifteen years old. I learned, after Holly’s death, that she’d had Borderline Personality Disorder. I didn’t know what BPD was until I did research on it. It was confusing to me at the time. I began to study mental health, depression, and personality disorders. I wrote journals about my memories of Holly, our friendship, and what it was like growing up. Before I realized it, the journal had turned into a novel of great memories.
Years after Holly’s death, I had an idea to write a story about a girl who suffered from depression and BPD, but then somehow survived all that she had been through. So, I started on a story, with Holly in mind. Although the story is not about Holly, I wanted to write something that I could dedicate to her. I wasn’t sure where I was going with this story, but I started writing as I did with all of the stories I had written. I wrote the first outline of what the story would be about, and the main characters, but I didn’t quite have an ending for the story.
When I wrote the original version of Her, the main character had a different ending than the version that is being published now. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that I feel like Holly would be proud of the ending that you, as the reader, will read today. If Holly had given herself a chance to be a survivor, I think she would say that this new ending is the ending that she could have had.
I wish that Holly had given herself a chance to grow up. She would have seen that the pain she had felt when she was a child, in the hard life that she had lived, would not last forever. Although it was hard for us growing up, there was a chance for us to become healthy, strong, and happy people. I wish that she was here so that I could give her a hug. As I would hug Holly, I’d say, ‘See? We made it. We’re okay. And we are still the ‘bestest’ of friends!’
I dedicate my debut novel, Her, to Holly. Her is not Holly’s story, but she did provide hope and inspiration. I dedicate this story to my dear friend’s memory. Even though the story is not about her, it illustrates the complex illness of Borderline Personality Disorder. Readers – including those suffering from BPD and their friends and family – can glean insight into the mind of a person who has BPD. It is scary and even funny at times. It is a story about strength and survival.
Currently, I am studying Clinical Psychology and the subject of Personality Disorders has always stood out for me in my studies and experiences.
My husband, Dee, is originally from New York. He came here to attend college back in 2006. College is where we met and fell in love. Always the comic relief, he was the guy who made me laugh the most. It is not surprising to me, and our friends who knew us back in college, that he is a stand-up comedian. Dee performs his comedy in around Atlanta, sometimes at the Laughing Skull Lounge.
I can honestly say that my husband taught me how to laugh, love with an open heart, and never give up. Dee encouraged me to continuously pursue my ambition to become a published author. I’m happy to be married to my best friend and number one supporter. He encourages me to write every day.
When I write, I don’t feel alone. It is because writing brings out many relatable emotions and thoughts to share with others. I don’t only write for myself, but I write for others. I enjoy research, solving issues, and helping people, especially through my writing. I try to always write with a purpose. It is as Maya Angelou said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget with you did, but people will not forget how you made them feel.’
I write to make my readers feel.”

An excerpt from the novel Her by Felicia Johnson

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Thank you to everyone who showed their support in helping me reach over 200 likes on Facebook by spreading the word. Next week, I will announce the winner of the free signed copy of Her. Her is set for release on June 4th, but it will go on presale the first week of May. Please be sure to stay connected to reserve your copy on Kindle or Nook.

Please click here to connect on Facebook!

Chapter 1

In order to tell a story there has to be a story to tell.  For Her, well, for me, there is a beginning and an end.  I will start in the middle of Her story where I remember it hurting the most.  I remember anticipating my rest.  It started with not being able to sleep for nights at a time.  This time I wanted to make myself sleep.  I wanted to sleep forever so that I would never have to hurt that much again.

Nick pulled the sheets off of me, and found me hiding.  I was lying still on my back with my wrists turned up.  Blood stained my sheets and ran down my arms and onto the floor.  I could hear soft, mellow cries in the background.

“Is she dead? Oh, God!” His voice faded as I drifted out of consciousness.

There were many pills. There was a lot of blood. There was only one knife.

I could hear him crying for our mother. I could hear them both shouting and screaming. He was screaming my name. I was too exhausted to call out to him and tell him that everything was going to be okay. This pain was going to be over soon. Nick was crying hysterically. He wouldn’t have listened to me.

I felt weak, like I had all of the weight of the whole world on me.  It felt heavy at first.  The paramedic lifted me up and onto the stretcher, and without any support, my head fell back.  I couldn’t move my head.  I started to feel weightless when he laid me down on the stretcher, like I was floating in the air. It was warm and peaceful.

I didn’t hear Nick’s screams or the sirens anymore. I was surrounded by darkness.I knew this was the moment I had been waiting for.  The pain was almost gone. I felt a big relief, took a deep breath, and let out a sigh. If I were left alone for a little longer, I might have completely fallen asleep…

There was pressure on my chest. The pressure was so hard that I could feel my heart moving without my having any control over it. Air was forcibly making its way down my throat and into my lungs. The paramedic was breathing into my mouth.

I blacked out.

I came back.

I blacked out again and was back in the dark.

The warmth filled me again. I felt still. Everything was quiet, and I could finally sleep.  My mind felt like it was finally safe to let go   Soon I would not have to think about it anymore.  I could have only dreamed of such a peaceful rest.  A sleep of nothing. I felt one step closer to eternal peace.

Then a bright light shattered my moment of peace. I awakened with my eyes opened wide.All I saw was white.

There was a hard blow to my chest. Once again, I felt everything. I heard the cries,the screaming, and the sound of sirens.

Shapes and shadows started to form against the white backdrop, and that was when I saw a man hovering over me, sweating, panting, and pressing on my chest.

I felt myself drift off again.

The paramedic stopped pressing on my chest, and began to punch me.

My eyes opened again.  I saw Nicholas, who was staring at me through wide eyes. Shocked eyes.  Eyes that were probably damaged forever because of me.

When I saw his face, my heart sank.  I could not move my mouth.  I could not move my arms to reach out to him.  I could not do anything but lose consciousness again.  I had lost a lot of blood. However, that was to be expected from what I had done.

It was my fault.  Nick didn’t understand that.  Even before all of this – all of the sirens, the chaos, the pills, the blood, the medical staff, and the events that were to come – I knew.  All of those things were useless.  They didn’t really care for me.  They didn’t really care why I’d done it.  They didn’t even know me   If they did know me, they wouldn’t have tried to save me.  They would have understood and they would have let me go. They would have said that I didn’t stand a chance, although they would have been wrong.  I did stand a chance   It was just up to me to take that chance to save myself.  I didn’t feel that I needed the chance.  It’s not as if she would have cared, or noticed.  There were things that were more important.

Maybe,I thought, that’s why she didn’t answer the phone…

“Doctor?”  I felt a deep burn in my throat when I tried to speak.

Suddenly all of the chaos was over.  I was wrapped in something white.  A bright light shone into my eyes, blinding me, and the air felt cold to my almost-bare skin.

“Are you talking to me?” a sweet voice asked from overhead.

I tried to nod my head, but I was still too weak. I could barely open my eyes.  The woman with the sweet voice tucked the white object over me.  It was a hospital blanket, thin and white.  I felt so cold.

“You shouldn’t talk,” she told me.  “Try your best to just rest.”

“Please…”

“Shush now.”

She gently placed a warm finger over my lips, and then checked the IVs in my arms,as well as a big, beeping machine with wires connected to different areas of my body.  Seeing all this, I felt scared.  How did those wires get there? I thought to myself.

“Your doctor will see you in the morning dear. Please just try your best to get some rest.  I am going to check your wrists now.  I need you to hold as still as you can.”

Gently,she pulled my arms out from under the thin blankets.  When she looked at my bandages and how they were heavily wrapped, I saw her face go from gentle to just plain sad.  I closed my eyes as she did what she had to do.  When she finished, I heard her whisper to herself, “poor kids these days…”  She must have thought I was asleep because she turned out the light and left me alone.

I couldn’t rest.  I only wanted to rest the way I had rested before the paramedic had punched me.  This wasn’t where I needed to be.  I didn’t need a hospital.  I didn’t need a nurse or any of those sickening IVs and machines.  I tried to lift myself up to see if I could get a look around the room, but my body didn’t work.  Somehow, with a lot of effort, I managed to get my arms to my chest.  I raised my hands and lifted my wrists, which were heavily bandaged.  A little bit of blood had leaked through the bandages.  After a while, my arms grew tired  so I let them fall back down to my chest.  I had survived.  That meant that the consequences were to come in due time.

I didn’t know that it would be the next morning.

I woke up with a bright light shining down on me. Grunting, I pulled that thin, white blanket over my face.

“Rise and shine, Kristen!” an annoying voice demanded.

I slowly pulled the covers down from over my face.  I could barely see.  It seemed so early in the morning.  A figure came to the side of my bed.  I rubbed my eyes and blinked.  He reached his hand out to me.

“I’m Dr. Cuvo.”  He said, smiling.  His smile seemed kind, but it confused me.

I was sick of him already.  I looked down at his hand and realized what he wanted. We shook hands, and Dr. Cuvo continued smiling as he pulled a chair up beside my bed.  I was able to get a better look at him.

He didn’t look like a doctor.  He had on a pair of blue jeans and a dress shirt with a huge coffee stain.  He didn’t have one of those important-looking white coats with a pocket on the left side and a name tag above it. He didn’t even have a stethoscope around his neck. He carried a notebook and a pen, but nothing else. Right away, I knew what kind of doctor he was.

Dr. Cuvo made himself comfortable in the chair beside the bed.  He opened a notebook and began writing in it.  He kept looking over at a chart that was on the edge of my bed, and it looked like he was copying the contents of that chart into his own notebook.  He finally looked up at me, and that same mysterious smile appeared on his face again.

“Kristen,how have you been?”

I wrinkled my forehead in response.

“ I know, I have had better days myself,” he admitted.  He comically gestured to his coffee stain.  “Imagine that,” he chuckled.

I didn’t laugh.

“Don’t worry.  We’ll get to better days though,won’t we?”

“How should I know?” I mumbled under my breath.

He heard me.

“I don’t know,” he responded, looking almost surprised. “I mean, we don’t really know  but we can always try.  Isn’t that right, Kristen?”

He was irritating me.

“Why are you asking me? Aren’t you the doctor? Shouldn’t you know if I’ll be okay?” I asked.

“As far as physically, telling by your chart, I’d say that you’ll be fine.  You’re lucky. But as far as your safety, that’s something I’m concerned about.”

I didn’t respond. The anger and fear that I hadn’t seen coming welled up inside of me. I was awake, and all I wanted to do was sleep. This was too confusing,and too much feeling seemed to be ready to rip its way out of me. I held my breath.

“ I need you to tell me if you feel safe, Kristen,” he demanded. “Do you feel that what got you here in this hospital was the solution to whatever it is you’re going through?”

He didn’t miss a beat.  I knew what we were talking about.  What made me so angry was that he didn’t know me.  He didn’t know a damn thing about why I’d done what I’d done. And I got the vibe that he didn’t want to hear it, either.  He just wanted me to think about it.  He wanted to make me feel stupid for it.  But he wasn’t going to make me feel guilty or stupid, because I knew what I had done. I didn’t feel ashamed. I only felt like a failure.

There was a long silence.  He was waiting for an answer.

“You don’t know me,” I told him with a bit of anger in my voice.

“I never claimed to know you, Kristen,” he sincerely said.

“Then,why are you staring at me?”

“Just because I am looking at you, you think that I think I know you?  In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite.  I am looking at you to observe you, and I am trying to get to know you.” His voice was still so gentle and kind.

I was not backing down.

“I really wish you wouldn’t,” I snapped.

I felt uncomfortable.  I wanted to disappear.  I could not look him in the eyes.

“Well,”he said with a sigh.  “I am your doctor,and I am required to get some kind of information from you, starting right now.I am here to do my job.  I really do want to help you, Kristen, even if I don’t know you.”

“Why?”I tried to fight the tears from coming out of my eyes.

“To try to understand what’s been going on with you to make you want to do something this terrible to yourself.”

He gestured to my heavily bandaged wrists. I hid them under the blanket.

“Stop judging me,” I growled at him.

“Excuse me?” he asked, sounding shocked.

“You’rejudging me.  You said I did this‘terrible thing’.  But you can’t say that what I did was terrible if you don’t even know why I did it.”

“Then why don’t you just go ahead and tell me, Kristen.  Why did you do it?”

“No.  Leave me alone.”  I felt the tears force their way through.

“Kristen.”

I wished I were dead.

“Dr. Cuvo,” I cried.  “I’m just tired.  I just want to sleep.  Please, leave me alone.”

He was leaning on the arm of the chair with his chin in the palm of his hand.  He was staring even deeper at me now.  I felt sick inside.  Then Dr. Cuvo gave up, and sat back in the chair.  He looked at me with eyes that seemed to be full of pity.

“Would you at least like some breakfast right now?” He offered kindly.

I looked at him strangely.  Did he not understand anything I had said?  I shook my head.  Giving up, he stuck his handout for me to shake. This time I did not oblige.  Dr. Cuvo shook it off and assured me that he would be back.  I rolled my eyes and looked away from him.

“You can not like me, Kristen.  You can not talk to me, but there is only one way to get through this. It is not the option that you chose a week ago. In here, that is not an option. I’ll see you later.”  He grabbed his notebook and left me in the room alone.

A week ago?  I had been in the hospital fora week.  All I could remember was the chaos of that night.  There had been a lot of blood.  I remembered everything going black.  And after all of that, I would end up pulling through.  It made me angry to think that all of my effort had gone to waste.  I should have been dead, and not in the hospital   I realized that my family would have to see me there. There would be more problems, and they would be entirely my fault.

I needed to kill that pain.  I needed razors  scissors, a box cutter, or a knife–anything to bring Mr. Sharp back tome.  Nothing was here to bring him back.  I saw the IV in my arm.  The needle was sticking into my veins.  I could see the veins, black and blue.

An overwhelming feeling of anxiety came over me, and I thought back to what Dr. Cuvo had said, that I could not go back to a week ago.  He had said that it was not an option.  I began beating my wrists against the metal bars on the side of the hospital bed.  I kept beating hard so that I could see the blood soak through the bandages.  I banged my wrists so hard that I broke the needle to the IV.

Somewhere in all of this madness, I lost myself. I felt a dark and familiar entity within me  It took over me. I was not inside myself anymore.  I was not cold from the room. I was not in pain. I was not even angry anymore.

The nurses rushed in and grabbed me.  Two of them held me down.  I continued squirming  trying to break free of them. The real doctor with the white coat and name tag came in.  He had a large needle, which he stuck into my neck as the nurse pressed my head down to the bed.  Adrenaline and pressure pumped into my brain   It felt like a heat wave had come over me, and that something was trying to suck me into hell until I felt the world spin out of control.  Then, like at the end of a movie, everything faded to black.

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