Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Finding Love in Unimaginable Places

Today I'm participating in a group blogging event. WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about finding love in unimaginable places. Why this topic? We're celebrating the release of Michael French's twenty-fourth novel. Once Upon a Lie (Terra Nova Books) is an exploration of the secrets families keep, and the ways those secrets can tear a family apart, Visit The Muffin to read what Michael has to say on finding love in unexpected places and view the list of all my fellow blogging buddies.

As a bonus, I will pick one commenter from this thread to be entered into a group drawing for the chance to win your own copy of Once Upon a Lie

Twelve-year-old Jaleel Robeson is on the run after the police in his tiny Texas town try to frame him for the death of his father. A world away, Alexandra “Alex” Baten is growing up amid all the material comforts a wealthy Los Angeles lawyer can provide. One day, a simple cup of lemonade unites their lives, leading to a maze of adultery and murder that shatters Alex’s youthful innocence and Jaleel’s struggle to reshape his life.

While the forces of the law try to unravel the mysterious death―or at least find a scapegoat―the two youths see the trajectories of their lives entwine, unravel, and come together again. Justice, Alex learns, can be a strange and nebulous thing, easily enmeshed in webs of loyalty and betrayal. Justice, Jaleel finds, can be a powerful―but dangerous―rock on which to build a life of honor and courage. As their stories play out over the years in cities far apart, best-selling author Michael French fills the world of Alex and Jaleel with a cast of vivid characters both supporting and threatening their efforts to build a life that “works” amid the expectancies of others and their own conflicting drives.

My Story: 

At the end of my sophomore year of college, I found myself in a place I truly never thought I would be. I was fighting for my life, but the war was internal. I had decided I was tired of living, tired of fighting, tired of trying to figure out who my friends really were, tired of working 35+ hours a week and taking a full course load, and tired of worrying about how I was going to pay off the credit card debt I had racked up. I was 19 years old, but the heavy blanket of sadness had followed me around for a long time, as my parents packed up and changed homes and the towns we lived in often multiple times a year. I had no sense of what a home really was.

I tried to talk to people about how I was feeling before it all snowballed. I really did. Maybe I chose to talk to the wrong people—because mostly what I got was blank stares and comments like “Seriously? What is wrong with you?” Or, “This is too heavy. I can’t handle this right now.” (This was from a guy I was involved in a romantic relationship with). I stopped eating. I slept way too much. I skipped classes, I floated through my job as a restaurant server like a ghost. I started turning in my reporting assignments for my campus newspaper half finished. I was embarrassed, because I had always been a studious and responsible writer.

One night, I finally collapsed under the weight of it all and through my tears, asked my roommate to drive me to the local mental health hospital. My first night there was terrifying. I was put in a locked ward in a bed that was situated in the middle of the room covered only by a very thin blanket. There was no door, and I could hear screams coming from down the hall. I was afraid to close my eyes. I started therapy sessions and medication the next day, and was eventually moved to a room that I shared with a woman who had OCD. She was very motherly and warm to me. My parents came to bring me clothes, but they didn't know what to say to me. They promised though, that they would help me get better any way they could.

I learned something very quickly during my time there. I discovered there were people who were MUCH worse off than me. There were people who were horribly addicted to drugs and alcohol, whose spouses beat them to a pulp, whose parents sexually abused them. There were people who were so catatonic and over-medicated that they couldn’t be with their families. I felt weak. I felt like I should have been able to handle my problems a little better. But I also felt a weight lifted off me by having other people to talk to who understood my sadness, and counselors who lifted my spirits and gently coaxed me to eat. In a moment of clarity, I found love in the unimaginable setting of a mental health hospital. I found love again for myself, for what my mind and body were capable of, and what I still had left to accomplish. I wanted to go back to college, reclaim what friendships I still had, and work through my problems, no matter how difficult they were. And you know what? It wasn’t easy, and I did have to return to the hospital briefly once more under stress during my senior year of college, but I graduated. Today I am the proud mother of two, I’ve been married for 15 years, and I help pay the bills (and have won a few awards) with my writing. I’ve often wanted to write about my experience, but have been afraid to because of what people might say about me. I would be lying if I said I still didn’t worry about that. But now I think that if I could learn to love myself in such a dark and desperate place, nothing is impossible.

About the Author:
A graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and of Northwestern University with a master’s in journalism, Michael French is the author of twenty-four books: adult and young adult fiction, art criticism, biographies, adaptations, and gender studies. A native of Los Angeles, he also is a successful businessman, an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, a world traveler to developing countries, an activist, and, with his wife, Patricia, a philanthropist raising money for programs aiding teachers in Santa Fe, N.M., public schools, which are some of the most challenged in the country.







Purchase a copy of the book here.

I'd love to hear about your own stories of finding love where you least expected it. Share in the comments below!


Sheila Good said...

Your story moved me. It happens more often than we think and I fear many more people will suffer in the future. I'm thrilled that you found what you needed. You were in the right place at the right time. Thank you for sharing this message of love. I'm sure someone will read this when they need it the most.
@sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

Sheila Good said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Angela said...

Wow! What a powerful and brave story, Renee. As you may know, I've had a lifelong battle with depression; but what you probably didn't know was I was almost committed to the mental hospital after taking too many pills--twenty years ago. After getting my stomach pumped in the hospital, they were going to commit me but my boyfriend, who I had just started dating at the time, promised the doctor that he'd look after me and make sure I didn't do anything stupid. He is my hubby now, and we've been together ever since. :) Don't discount your situation--there will always be someone worse off. It's important that you took that step and learned to love yourself again. Thanks for sharing!

Beverley Baird said...

Very powerful story Renee. If we don't love ourselves, the world is a harsh place. We need to offer support for those suffering with mental health issues. At sometime, I am sure we have all had some issues.

Lyn Jensen said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story of how you found the strength to love yourself.

Renee Roberson said...

Thanks, everyone! It was a very difficult time in my life and it still rears its ugly head every now and then, but I know I have much more to live for now. I appreciate all the support and thoughtful comments.

Linda Peters said...

Wow! Powerful story. It takes a lot of courage to share the things we thought we had to hide. Well done.

Michael R. French said...

Renee, brave and moving story. It starts with shining a light on your weaknesses, acknowledging your limitations, and not being ashamed to share them with others, especially your parents. So many people run from themselves...maybe that's why they crave hearing about honesty from others.