Today during kickboxing was the first time I had to leave the mat for more than blowing my nose. It was the first Fun Friday of this session and we were running the bags. As I was cruising down my line of bags, throwing my kicks and punches, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe. My throat was closing like a fist, and I knew instantly what was happening.
I was having an emotional melt-down.
I left the mat and went into the bathroom, trying desperately to get control. It was unlike any melt-down I’ve had before. There were no tears, and I can only assume that’s because after sweating profusely for 30 minutes I didn’t have any to give. But the sobs where there, despite my dry eyes. Once I finally gained control, I went back out on the mat and started kicking and punching harder than I had before—because with my pain came anger.
After class, the emotional pain hit me again as I was stretching. I somehow made it until class was completely over and I made it back to the bathroom. I sat on the chair in the shower area thinking, “How can I explain this if anyone asks?” I thought it best to not give anyone that opportunity, so I dried my eyes (because this time a few tears did manage to accumulate) and went back out. I intended to just leave, but we have a small group that stays after class to do additional ab work. I didn’t want my emotional instability to get in my way any longer, so I joined the group on the mat. I made it through the exercises without additional incident, but people knew something wasn’t right with me.
I told the first person who asked that it was hard to explain, and she accepted my response. I was able to say it without incident so it was left on the mat with her kind words making me feel less alone. However as I was walking out the door, trying to get outside quickly because I could feel it coming again, I was stopped. My wonderful friends knew something was wrong and they wanted to help. This time I couldn’t hold it in, and I knew I had to say something. Yet how could I explain? I didn’t really fully understand it myself.
So why the melt-down?
The simplest answer is that I was finally grieving over my fictional character, Angel.
Have you ever had a book pull you in and make you cry? Or a movie? Or even a Hallmark commercial? It’s not uncommon for people to emotionally connect with fictional characters or stories. I know as a reader it’s what I’m looking for. I want to be so immersed in the story that I feel what characters feel.
Well, I didn’t just read Angel’s story—I created her. I gave her the life she had.
When I finished Shattered Angel, I knew that I needed an emotional break. A friend asked me how I felt when it was done and my response was, “Released.” I wasn’t just immersed in Angel’s life—I was living it with her.
I finished the book in February and scheduled it to launch the first week of March. After, I was met with immediate distractions. In February we were hit with a late round of snow days and 2 hour delays. Then Shattered Angel went live, keeping me busy with making sure communications went out on schedule. Then it was Spring Break and my time was consumed with spending time with my daughter. In mid-March, I posted how I was struggling with the upcoming decision about whether or not I should return to work. I thought the stress of that decision alone was what weighed me down, but now I realize that it was so much more than that.
It wasn’t until I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday who has started reading Shattered Angel. She was telling me that while she was captivated by the story, there were times she just had to take a break. She questioned, not for the first time, how I could write it. It was later that day when I realized that I hadn’t really grieved for Angel and her story. Sure I cried when I read back through for the edits (even though I knew what was going happen), but I didn’t allow myself the time to accept and process what that book did to me emotionally.
Until I was mid-way through my kickboxing class this morning.
Suddenly the pain that Angel had to endure was too much for me. I felt like I had been shattered, and I was angry for her. Yes she is fictional, but unfortunately her circumstances are not. Human trafficking is not just some scary concept that exists only in books and movies, or on Law and Order: SVU. It’s real. And there are people suffering every day.
I grieve for those people as much as I grieve for Angel.
I wanted so much to give her a better life. I even stopped writing near the end, telling myself that I was the author and could do anything I wanted. But I couldn’t because that’s not the reality for most of the victims in human trafficking. I had to tell Angel’s story the way it was.
Now I look back at the last few months in a different light. I see now that I haven’t really been engaged with my life. I’ve been spending time with my family, I’ve been going to FXB, I’ve been meeting deadlines—but that’s about it. My heart hasn’t been in most of the things I’ve done. I just did them because I had to. I knew I was in a slump, and I was starting to get frustrated. My husband and I had made a decision about work, so that was no longer hanging over my head. The sun has been shining, and the birds have been chirping—usually these are things that energize me. I didn’t understand what was wrong, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t get back to feeling like me again. I never thought to look to the pain of my fictional character for my answer.
This is new to me. I don’t know how to really process these feelings, but at least now I know that I need to. At least now I know what’s been holding me back and keeping me from living life at a Level 10. I may not yet know how to process these feelings, but I started by listening to my body and letting it do what it needed to do.
I left the mat so I can get back in the game. And I finally felt some of the weight begin to lift.
I hope this doesn’t read as a reason for you to not read Shattered Angel if you had intentions to do so. I encourage you to read it and let Angel touch you the way she touched me. Many of the victims of human trafficking don’t have a voice. It’s my belief that I was given Angel’s story to help people understand the horrors of those affected by abuse and torture. It’s not an easy read. Yet, even with the pain that I feel now after going through Angel’s story with her, I’m grateful I was called to write it.