I'll be clear here and say that there are some ways I'm not certain this will be of interest to the casual reader, but I think it will be of interest to those interested in exploring the writing process and the psyche in relation to creative expression, they genuinely go hand in hand as creative expression is effectively the subconscious becoming conscious in order to be known. If this is not your thing, fret not, there will still be more of the more relaxed posts as well, dear reader.
I'll also note here that there are ways in which I discuss some of this process in a post on my psychologically centered self- exploration blog Scorpion's Labyrinth: A Blog About Being Present for anyone curious about these realizations ( I'll also crosspost this there for any readers there who might not know that this blog and it are written by the same person and find it interesting). You can find that post, A Terrible Beauty: The Dissociative Dance of the Healing Creator's Psyche, which is about the connection between dissociation and expression here :
If you like that post there are several others there as well, please feel free to follow me at both blogs. In many ways I think its long overdue that I make it clear these blogs are from the same individual and should be interpreted to be as intersected in their understanding as my own interest in, and connection with, both creative expression and the mind via psychology and sociology. I've kept them separate as a way to allow myself space to explore these differing worlds, but I should long ago have understood that for me these things are as intermingled as the whorls of my own mind. With that I want to be clear there may be far more blended posts like these here as I decompress and own who I am as opposed to dividing myself for polite consumption as I've done in the past.
There are a lot of ways in which I knew and had often discussed the fact that I was working through fears and others elements of the psyche with my writing in the past, but I don't think I truly understood it with any real depth until I finally had that little turn of the key when I was listening to my partner talk about some interesting insights the podcast The Wizard and the Bruiser had in relation to the comic book character Wolverine.
Let me give you a little context for this. Wolverine is a pretty widely known antihero of the superhero group The X-Men, a broken and mysterious man, he represents quite a lot of things for people, many of them based in an understanding of manhood that is contested between being potentially toxic masculinity and protective and directed aggressive behaviour justified by what is seen as a man standing for what is right. He has a healing factor that allows him to quickly recover from any damage to his body, he's even come back from total destruction of his brain, and also has an indestructible adamantium skeleton complete with retractable claws, all of it wielded by a man with an intense personality known for his ferocious anger and willingness to do a great deal of damage to others. As a result Wolverine is an important figure for those who grew up reading comics, particularly men who grew up or were teens in the 90s, for whom he was a major formative figure in their perception of self and what it is to fight for what you believe is right. In fact, I think for some women of the same generation he was likely a formative figure representing what they might encounter in a protective masculine partner regardless of how healthy or unhealthy that is.
The Wizard and the Bruiser is a pop culture podcast that deals with major themes of what they term "nerd culture" , so they'll pick a theme and then discuss their takes on why it's important. If you want to check them out, go here:
On this particular episode a discussion point was brought up to the effect that Wolverine is actually something of a vampire, a being trapped in a cycle of rebirth that leaves them an outsider that is regenerated by a seemingly supernatural power but remains dependent on the rest of humanity to feel whole. Wolverine's vampirism is unique in that it makes him a living embodiment of the fact that those who experience trauma face a complex process by which the mind may not record a memory as it is intended to do and instead stores away a broken memory and/or an incomplete sense memory which dictates the way a person behaves in relation to a similar experience because the typical cognitive function has been rewritten to work from a trauma conscious directive tied into fight, flight, and freezing as a first response to preserve stability at all costs- even the loss of relationships and potential harm to the self. This is deeply discussed by the very insightful and well researched Bessel van der Kolk MD in his book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the phenomena or who experienced trauma themselves.
Keep in mind I had heard all of this secondhand rather than listening in myself ( I struggle with listening to podcasts because there is no body language to follow as a grounding element of what's going on. It's one of my things, so Todd will often talk me through interesting episodes. ) so some of this discussion is also affected by Todd's own personal insight on their discussion and my own understanding of trauma and trauma psychology which has also informed how he speaks with me about related topics. All of that being said, here is the point of bringing up Wolverine: All of these elements intrigued me enough to think it would certainly make for an interesting take on vampires and other monsters in horror fiction, a way in which psychology could be introduced into the narrative in a very subconscious and nuanced way to make the premise its own animal- except it dawned on me that this is what I had been doing with my own fiction since I had begun to write!
Not only was this the case, I had been doing this so naturally that I didn't even get it until I began to consider these ideas in relation to the character Mateo from my vampire series Broken Shades, on whose personal narrative I had been blocked for years. I had begun to consider how I could write something based on the premise when I realized that Mateo was and had always been my Wolverine, a broken and damaged soul so entangled in his trauma that he can't differentiate it from who he is and so cannot define himself as a complete person either as a separate entity or as a conscious identity. Fundamentally broken, the victim of several incidents of mental, physical, emotional, even what one could consider soul violence, his memories- in effect his mind- and his body exist as nearly separate states, each new recovered form he has over the course of his life more and more detached from the one before, so much so that he has been a new and severed person at each point in his life- a terrible butterfly of pain processed through metamorphosis into a darker and darker version of himself. As we know him in Cool Green Waters he has become a monster who destroys in a physiological response to the nightmarish things he has lived through, a victimizer to Aremia, the vampire whose story begins in the same book, with whom he is locked in a devilish dance that plays on her own trauma- a living embodiment of codependency between an avoidant and anxious attachment pair in relationship.
Soon my mind slipped from Mateo to the villain of Eyes Like Blue Fire and Water Like Crimson Sorrow, Marie Gaston, who abused him in one of those periods and was herself the living embodiment of a narcissist both in her nature and the gifts she wielded like weapons, both to be a monster within and hold dominion over others via her ability to make zombie minions. From there I also thought of Anton, Trudeau, Delamorte, Raven, and Katja who is the central protagonist of the series and herself a figure through which I had always been seeking myself. All of them have certain gifts and self identifying elements that embody some form of mental illness- and then I got it. I hadn't only been talking about my fear and exploring little elements of struggle between people, I had been talking about so much more- my trauma, mental illness, and the cost of all of it had been written down in the shifting forms of my vampires.
Todd and I discussed it briefly as I worked through the process of understanding came out in the fits and starts of discussion I tend to have at such times and I sat with it a bit longer afterward. Between our two perspectives I soon realized I had cleared some blocks in relation to my writing, my connection to psychology, and the trauma I had personally experienced in the past. As the subject came to mind over the course of the last few days I soon began to see that this narrative was not only present in Broken Shades but also many of my other short stories such as Wendy Won't Go and All That Remains which have their own dialogues about trauma, loss, and the destructive nature of relationships which have been marred by trauma.
I had been having a subconscious dialogue with myself and my readers about what it was to be affected by trauma and mental illness. I was unknowingly having a narrative of how it all defined and informed everything we did in a way I did not consciously understand on virtually any level before I finally understood that I suffered from Complex PTSD back in the spring of 2016 and began a solo exploration through healing myself as a result in the ensuing years and months since.
I'm not sure I'm conveying the sheer enormity of that here quite as clearly as I felt it when it finally became that defined in my mind. Allow me to be clear, I knew I was in pain and that it limited me, I knew that well enough that I had been an occasional student of psychology and sociology via books from the likes of Mary Pipher MD and Brenda Rabkin among others. I was informed enough to understand that I likely had anxiety and been through post partum depression after the birth of my son and the loss of our first daughter, but I had not been aware I was talking myself through my trauma on this level all along- even as a teenager when the first two books were originally written and psychology was a vague thing I had only just begun to be aware of at all.
The resulting understanding has allowed me to realize quite a lot about what it is that I have been working to do with my writing and the path I intend to take over the course of the rest of my life on multiple levels. Having a clear understanding that I am not only working to tell a story - essentially my own and that of others- I am working to heal myself and others through written works that seek to seed a depth of understanding that allows healing to occur also allows me to see why it is that I also seek to be engaged with this same process through becoming a trauma counselor. Two potential careers that I struggled for a long while to choose between have become quite clearly the same path all along, allowing me to in effect become whole in my purpose.