This is my review (of sorts) of The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn|
I would like to say that I was unable to relate to most of Emilie Autumn's harrowing tale of the time she spent in a mental institution for trying to kill herself and the parallel story that she created about a young girl in the Victorian era who was also sent to a mental institution. I would like to say that I never thought of killing myself. I would like to say that I never attempted to kill myself before. On most days I forget that the event ever happened. I have masterfully convinced myself that every moment of that summer was a dream, and that I am not that girl (and I was never that girl) and that it was just another story in my mind that felt real. Real and painful but in the end, just make believe. Like magic. Like faeries. Just another thing I made up but then began to believe in.
But I cannot make Drew forget about it. I cannot make my parents forget about it. That summer was more real to them then it was to me. I spent it in a drugged sleep. They spent it in a nightmare reality. There are emotions they felt they I have never witnessed. I heard that when I was in the emergency room my father had a crazed temper tantrum in the waiting room. I have never once seen my father lose his temper. I didn't see it then. But Drew was forced to see it.
"Depression is a rather rude houseguest; Depression rarely calls ahead to see if it's a good time, and Depression never arrives alone. It brings it friends: Despair, Self-Injury and Suicide. Depression is the invisible plague."
In the end I was lucky because I was not committed to a mental hospital. I swallowed a jar of Ibuprofen and was sent to a psychiatrist who I was able to convince of my sanity so quickly that after a half hour long session he did not ask to see me again. After a life as a child of divorced parents, a victim of abuse, and a troubled teen (I once wrote a death note to one of my classmates, I got into numerous fist fights in high school, and I have violently kicked in lockers and thrown desks) I have only seen a psychiatrist twice. Does that make me angry? Do I wish I had received more attention? I had severe depression for two years--years where I would sleep for eighteen hours a day and cry at every waking second, and I had no one to talk to. No one wanted to talk to me. No one thought I needed help. They just considered my behavior as a sign of lazy rebelliousness. I was "acting out". In a drunken speech a few months ago, I brought up my suicide attempt to my mother and she began to cry. "You were reaching out to me," she said. But I wasn't. I am not mad that I did not receive more attention because that would mean that I had only ever cut myself or tried to kill myself to GAIN attention. And I did not.
"Nothing in my life has ever made me want to commit suicide more than people's reaction to my trying to commit suicide".
Besides, I was able to cure myself wasn't I? The Cure. That invisible spectrum that haunts the dreams of every poor soul that ever once thought of inflicting damage upon themselves in order to drown the voices in their head--to be normal. Just once. Depression and suicide may sound romantic to a person standing on the outside looking in, and don't try deny it because you know it does, but I would never even wish such an emotion upon my evilest characters.
I cured myself. Or at least, was able to help myself forget, through my writing. I wrote the demons and I told my story and I vomited worlds of darkness and suffering onto paper and onto computer screens. Some of these worlds I shared with others while others I kept locked away.
"I'm not stupid. I know exactly what's going on, and I'm not fighting it. If I have to go through this, I will glean from it any small benefit I can receive. I will not fight this. Bring it on. Bring on the cure. Bring on the fucking happy. I'm committed."
In a way, that is what Emilie did with this book. It is a hard book to read. The fictional parts are dramatized to make them sound more horrific than they historically were and the accounts from Emilie's own experience are even more numbing because you know that they are not make believe. But I can sympathize with her desire to make the parallel, fictional story as bloody as possible--because that is what your mind sees when you are plummeting through despair: just endless grotesque scenes that would shake the heart of any sane person, but for you is as normal as the sun rising. I know that my mind was and is still plagued by the most horrible thoughts. But what is even worse is that I cannot actually see why they are horrifying. I have had people read my stories only for them to freak out. I've had my sister call my father in a horrible panic, I've had my mother cry because of something that I've written down, and I never once thought that what I had written might have been something bad.
Reading The Asylum for Wayward Victorian girls has caused all these old memories and thoughts to surface, and no, that is not exactly a good thing. The first time I was ever able to write about my suicide attempt was two months ago, I think I'm beginning to come to terms with it.
Many people are writing about how hard it was for them to read some of the scenes in the book, and how it made them cry. I read it with a certain amount of morbid fascination and admiration (for Emilie's writing style). I did not cry once. I did not even think of crying. I know that facing the demons is a good, positive thing. And that is what Emilie did. With this book she faced her demons. It may be a hard read for some people who do not like to read about suffering and pain. If you like to keep your library filled with positive, happy literature than do not even attempt to open this book. It does contain within it endless sources of truth--the truth of what it means to love, to hate, to suffer, and to believe in the power of your own creation to lead you out of the darkness. The human mind is an abandoned house that must be filled with your own riches--whether that house be a place of love and warmth, or whether it is an asylum.