I Was That Girl… Spirit Talker & Me

Today I was writing press releases, one sheets, media info, and news briefs… Sounds completely boring and it’s definitely not one of my favourite things about being an indie author, but it was interesting to have to think about why I wrote Spirit Talker from that third stage perspective. You see, Spirit Talker is the book I wish I’d had at that age. It’s the book the teenage me needed. Because I was that girl.

I have Bipolar. Specifically, Bipolar Type II Rapid Cycling. And although I was diagnosed in my twenties, it first manifested when I was fourteen. I went through high school dealing with the depression and mania but I didn’t know that’s what I was experiencing. I just assumed I was broken. Abnormal. Wrong.

In fact, even the psychologists and doctors I was taken to back then kind of reinforced that feeling. They wanted to delve into my broken life and my maladjustments. They wanted to figure out how to get me back on the straight and narrow. They picked at my behaviours and dug at my emotions but they didn’t really ask me what I was experiencing. And I don’t know if it would have helped if they had because I didn’t know. I didn’t know why I couldn’t sit still in a classroom. Why I needed to blow off school to ride a train or sneak a movie. I don’t know why I felt fearless about drinking, or smoking, or speeding, or stealing. I was unbreakable one minute, and shattered the next. I had no clue. And nor did they.

When I reflect on that it’s really heartbreaking. Looking back, I can still feel every agony I experienced as a teenager. I sink right back into that girl I was. I can feel the darkest depths to my core and remember that pain. And I wrote it, in Spirit Talker.

But I wrote the joy too.

I wrote about friends. The girl who bubbled with smiles and created the link between disparate people who would never be friends otherwise. About the cold girl who looks at you as if you’re a bit of dirt on her shoe and makes snide comments but withstands your presence because of that other friend. About the quiet one that’s got her own scars but doesn’t show them, who is warm and real and kind. Because those were my friends… And I wrote about the breakdown and betrayal of friendship because that was mine too…

I wrote about rollerskating, because I did that. Those figure skating lessons, I was there. Five stars. Doing spins in the centre of the rink while the general session lapped around me and the music played. Tapping criss-crosses from one length of the rink to the other. Feeling the wind during the speed skates, fortunately pre having to deal with hallucinations.

And yes, the hallucinations, or were they.

I’ve “seen things” my whole life so I guess in that sense I was lucky. I knew, even as a teen, that I wasn’t hallucinating. Sara doesn’t have that. Her connection to spirit is new and the timing sucks. But when I wrote about seeing a boy in the backyard, drowning in a swimming pool, seventeenth century poets, burned flesh, crazy old ladies, broken babies, I’ve seen all that too. That was me. The girl who freaked out her friends (actually they were my cousins) at a slumber party by talking about the dead person in the tent…

For years, I’d tried to write the story of the girl who saw ghosts. In fact, the image on the cover is one I was given permission to use back in 2013. And I’d been working on the story even before that. But it was never right. Because I was trying to write someone else’s story and I needed to write mine.

Sara isn’t really me. There’s also a great deal in Spirit Talker that is nothing like my life. Bipolar is nothing like Schizophrenia. There was no Will. My mother is very much alive and very much loved. But I’ve truly loved telling this story because I was able to put so much “real” into it. So much truth. And through this beautiful, touching story I’m truly proud of being able to reach the girl I was and say, “You know, you’re going to be okay.”

And I hope the teenagers (and adults) that read it going forward, find in Spirit Talker, a book that helps them feel like they aren’t broken. A book that helps them feel seen and see others. A book that helps them feel like they’re going to be okay too.

By Rebecca Laffar-Smith

Y.A. Science Fiction and Fantasy Author - Escape Reality; Experience Possibility!

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