Our journey continues with Part 4 of Under the Covers with Desiree-Anne Martin.
In this final part of our 4-part series, Desiree-Anne shares with us the first and last sentences of her book, how her writing affected her life at the time of writing and how the process of writing ‘righted’ her life. As with the previous parts of the series, I found myself deeply moved by the way Desiree allowed the writing and her life to inform and transform one another. This gives me the heart to continue on my own journey – one which at this stage seems never ending. I am reminded that writing, as life, is a continuous process of openings and closures and that I can rest in trusting that both are a necessary part of the birthing of my own story.
"Isn't it about allowing closure completely and in going deeply, finding there is no such thing as closure? But an unformed, unknown level of knowing to be revealed." B. Prior 2019.
Q:Tell me a bit more about the first and last sentences of the book - when did it become clear what they would be and how did you recognize them as complete?
I didn't know I was going to write a prologue until I was halfway through the writing of the book. I wanted to contextualise the journey through my multitude of addictions as well as set the tone for the book. The opening sentence is, "Words are my drug of choice." and it was actually a micro poem I had created on my blog a few months before. As soon as I wrote that line, everything else in the prologue just flowed. In addition, I wanted to start with an unwavering truth about myself, that I am helplessly addicted to words, language, communication and self-expression through words. It felt strong and true. I knew intuitively that it was a good place to start.
I end the book with these two lines: "I had found my voice and the elusive love that for which I had been so desperately searching for my whole life. And it had been there the entire time, in the crowded basement of my own heart." It became clear that I wanted to end on a note of hope. I wanted a happy ending without it being a cliché, cheesy ending and those two lines sum up the conclusion of my journey from self-destruction to self-acceptance. I knew it was the perfect place and way to end this part of my story.
Q:How did the writing of the book influence what was unfolding in your life at the time?
I believe it influenced both my own experience of myself as well as how I was relating to others and the world around me. It is difficult to delve into the darkest depths of a dysfunctional relationship on paper without it influencing the actual relationship in real-time. And because it is memoir, I was writing about a lot of people that were still in my life. On a personal level, I became obsessed with the completion of the book and dedicated so much time to it that I probably wasn't a very present parent, wife or friend. Having to go to those dark places impacted my mental health considerably. I realised how much I hadn't processed properly or digested about my life. I would take entire chapters to my therapist and say, "We're going here today." and process those traumatic or disturbing parts of my life and made them more palatable. I became depressed at times and elated at others and anxious in between, as is the nature of my mental health disorders. It was cathartic, it was painful, it was a journey that I do not regret embarking upon.
Q:Lastly, how did engaging with the process help ‘right’ your life. What was transformed in and around you as a result of the process?
I spoke my truth. I became insanely vulnerable and put my truth out into the world, fearing retribution and rejection. Instead, what I received was the most remarkable feedback from people telling my how my story, my truth, resonated with them and gave them the courage to find their voice and speak their truth. It connected me with people that I otherwise would never have had the privilege of knowing. It was deeply profound. The process changed me irrevocably and "righted" my life in the sense that I didn't have to continue the legacy of secret-keeping, shame and dysfunction. It helped me to be a brave warrior woman and face my own demons and become okay with that shadow side that had kept me silent for so long. It made it okay for me to be authentic, for me to just be me. And that is good enough.
So ends our 4-part interview series with Desiree-Anne Martin. Our thanks and gratitude to Desiree and Helena Wagener for taking the time to both ask and answer important and intimate questions about the glorious, devilish, maddening and ultimately gratifying process of writing memoir.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.
Read Part 3 here.