We all wear masks, whether to seem more corporate in the workplace by covering up tribal tattoos or simply to fit in with friends by pretending to like EDM music that you actually hate. We bend — sometimes even contort — to go with the flow; it's part of being human. In my case, my fitting in has always been more about the concept of not revealing things. Not sharing my truth never stifled me because I was always writing about it. The thing I never did, however, was share that writing. And the truth I never revealed, until recently, relates to my mental health.
Eight years ago, I started writing a memoir. It was a coming-of-age story about living with a panic disorder and experiencing codependency with a parent. I've always known that my life's purpose was to finish this book. Not for hope that the cover would receive a fancy gold book club sticker validating its worth, but because I just never felt that anxiety and panic were accurately represented outside of film. I knew that was something I had to do and that I had to write it in my own way.
The writing part was easy. The editing part was dreadful. But once those eight years were up and I decided that I'd done my very best, next came the scariest component: deciding what to do with my manuscript. That is when the fear really came.
I couldn't get an agent.
Two of those eight years were spent in query writing classes and proposal editing classes, pitching editors, blindly emailing agents, and banging my head against a desk. Any desk. I desperately wanted an agent, a professional who would look at my work and say, "Yes, this is good. This is worth space on a shelf somewhere." I heard back from many agents — some were even excited about my manuscript — but no one wanted to take a chance on me. Memoirs as a genre are hard to sell without a platform. Being good is not a platform. Being really, really good is not a platform. Ten thousand or more Instagram followers is a platform.
Self-publishing felt like a huge failure.
People encouraged me to self-publish for years, but it sounded unappealing, like I was someone who didn't try hard or that I wasn't good enough. But after two years of fully committing myself to finding an agent and not finding one, I decided I had to self-publish. And not with a vanity publisher (sometimes you can basically pay a publisher to get it done, but there's a lot negativity surrounding this avenue), but with CreateSpace, Amazon's on-demand publisher. My end goal was to share my work with the world — or some minuscule fraction of the world — and while Simon & Schuster would have been an incredible resource to help usher the project through, I didn't have to have them. If my goal was really just to publish a book, I had the resources to do it.
Once you publish, there's no turning back.
My book came out on July 12, 2016. That was the scariest day of all the scary days. Getting that email from the self-publisher that said, "Well, you've done it now" was the real deal. There was no turning back.
I was most worried about facing colleagues.
I knew going into the project that I didn't care if friends and family viewed me differently. I was terrified for colleagues to get to know the real me. I've always worked really hard to appear calm and level-headed on the outside. I've seen weird things happen as a result of someone oversharing personal information in the workplace, so I've always kept my personal life private. My choice to write about my mental health was, like, the biggest "no-no" I could have ever done. It was the pinnacle of things I deem inappropriate to share at work. But I was committing to publishing my book, so I told myself that it would be OK.
And it has been. It was the best decision I made. It feels fantastic to have released my book into the world, and while I don't openly discuss my book with co-workers, I know they support my work, and that gives me tons of confidence.
More From The CW's No Tomorrow
Life's too short to play it safe. Don't miss the series premiere of No Tomorrow tonight, Oct. 4, at 9/8c p.m. on The CW.