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Writing With Your Fear -- Mental Health Awareness Month

May 10, 2016 08:33 pm

Writing With Your Fear
A Post for Mental Health Awareness Month

            Having anxiety is not easy to talk about, but it’s easier when someone asks you to speak up, and mental health awareness month is meant to encourage people (like myself) to talk about their personal struggles. The first thing to know about me is that I am a horror writer. This might come as no surprise if you know me online, but I promise you, if you ever meet me in person, I might be the least likely person you’d picture writing the scary stuff. I’m an extrovert, I’m lively on panels, I can talk to anyone, I’m enthusiastic, and I love meeting people. Still, it took me a good four years after the attacks started to even go see a counselor about the night terrors, the panic attacks, and the anxiety triggers. You see, I can trace the day my panic attacks started over ten years ago to a night when I fought and screamed and no one came.

I started having panic attacks in the fall of 2005. I was dating a guy; I'd met him the usual way you meet anyone on a college campus. We went on a few dates and then he invited me to a party with his friends off-campus. I thought, “This is really it. He wants to introduce me to all of his friends. He wants me to be his girlfriend.” He picked me up and we drove into miles of North Carolina mountains. We pulled into the driveway and not a single other car was there, which was when my gut told me something was wrong. He told me everyone was inside and led me to the fraternity basement. I am happy to say the eventual outcome was that the university disbanded the fraternity that same year after reports of what happened to girls in their basement.

Thankfully, when I was recovering from what had happened to me, I was in an intro to writing class. I channeled what happened into my writing, resulting in my first ever horror short story, and I felt relief. Still, I was afraid. Writing horror was like confronting some dark beast that no one else could see, that no one else believed was even there. I worried if I wrote horror, it would force me to relive that night. It wasn’t until senior year that I admitted I wanted to write horror. Through encouragement from teachers and friends, I wrote what would become my first novel, Jennifer Strange. Its premise is about a girl who sees ghosts and helplessly brings about her own demise, but I fast learned it was really about me. It became largely about my struggle with anxiety and my feelings of helplessness with what had happened to me. I’ve since gone on to involving anxiety in every young adult book I write, and recently pushed even farther in adult horror, which I was terrified of writing before now.

With each book, I learned about my anxiety and my triggers. I faced the demon in the dark and wrote with my fear, not against it. I found relief as each of my heroes faced their own monsters and conquered them. I eventually understood that’s why I write horror almost exclusively. I don’t write it because I think people will think I’m cool or because I think of myself as particularly edgy. I write horror because I lived it, wrestled it, and still suffer from anxiety every day. Writing is the sword I use to beat the demons back, and I come back feeling the victor with every page that I finish.

written by Cat Scully | | Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr @CatMScully

A big thank you to Cat Scully, a great friend of our own author Kristy Acevedo (Consider, The Holo Series Book 1), for sharing her own battle with anxiety and mental health, and the hope she manages to maintain in the aftermath.

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