My father and my friends helped me cobble together this narrative through paperwork and memories, and it was a very therapeutic and painful exercise for all of us. I deeply appreciate each person’s willingness to return to such a stressful time in our lives. The last three years have been blurry, and writing this piece felt like a constructive and appropriate way to actualize them, especially since the only real record I have of that confused time is my writing. None of it speaks to the emotional and cerebral cloudiness I experienced at the time, and I’m glad for that. It’s comforting to believe I was faking focus in at least one area of my life.
I never thought I’d talk about myself in the same breath as David Foster Wallace and Sylvia Plath, and I’m still embarrassed to have the nerve, but it’s true that a large number of my favorite authors have had electroconvulsive therapy after years of difficulties with their mental health. Their challenges include depression, psychotic disorders, and self-harm. Obsession with detail, too, and I’m far from the first one to believe that perfectionism is a symptom of being a writer, or maybe writing is a symptom of being a perfectionist.
I think fellow creators would agree that this sensitivity is both a blessing and a curse. I suspect that most of them would refuse to part with this attention to detail and ability to be moved, if given the opportunity. It’s part pride and part prerequisite, maybe. I love that about writing, even when it makes me feel vulnerable or interrupted.
After writing “Face, Velvet, Church, Daisy, Red,” I don’t think any creative nonfiction is “safe.” I have only written one other piece that falls in this genre, and even though it was an innocuous two-thousand words about my high school marching band, it made me feel terribly overexposed. Writing, for me, is partly about escapism, and creative nonfiction is its antithesis in several ways that involve a revisitation, stylization, or “dressing up and down” of reality. People who admit to factual honesty when they create open themselves up to a type of defenselessness that I find very courageous. I thank every writer who is willing to do this. The world is better for your candor.
MARILYN HOPE is a queer writer and visual artist who studied English literature at the University of Denver, where she was a recipient of the Academy of American Poets Prize. Her watercolor and oil portraits were featured in Chapiteux’s 2016 Winter Solstice Art Showcase. In 2019, she received first place in the CRAFT Short Fiction Prize, and has recently completed a speculative fiction manuscript. She has work forthcoming in Mud Season Review.