When Your Book Makes a Difference

I did a book signing recently at the coffee shop down the road from my house. I can’t call it a roaring success from a sales point of view – only three people came – but it was nonetheless an interesting and rewarding experience.

The first person to show up was a generally avid reader and saw the signing on Facebook. We talked for quite some time about reading and writing, books in general, and of course 22 Scars. It turns out her sister is a voice-over artist and records audiobooks, so I’m very excited to see about the possibilities of turning 22 Scars into something that people can not only read, but listen to as well.

The second person to appear was actually a reporter for the local newspaper. I think he might have just been popping in for a coffee anyway, but he ended up interviewing me for an article soon to be published in the New Jersey Hills Observer Tribune! I’ve no idea what he’s going to say about me, but it was fun to be interviewed at all, and of course makes one feel terribly important.

But the third person to arrive was the one that left a lasting impression on me. She was the mother of a twenty-something woman who suffers from deep depression, and self-harms. When she saw the posting on Facebook, she said she knew she had to come. She’s been struggling for a long time to understand why her daughter indulges in these self-destructive behaviors, and was hoping to gain some insight into what it’s like for someone who self-harms.

We spent quite some time talking about depression, both in regards to her own daughter and myself, and I took some time to explain why I used to cut, and what it took to stop (meeting my wife). She wanted to know if 22 Scars would either a) help her understand her daughter, or b) help her daughter stop hurting herself.

I have to admit that I found myself in an uncertain position; I’d never come face-to-face with someone who seemed to truly need a book like 22 Scars—who needed help understanding depression. I was worried; what if her daughter read the book and thought I was glamorizing or condoning self-harm and suicide (I most definitely am not)? What if her daughter took inspiration from the book not to seek help, but to do further harm?

It’s a difficult position to be in; I spent all this time focusing on telling a story that I truly believed needed to be told, but what are the consequences for those who read it? Is it okay to depict self-harm and suicide explicitly in the context of someone suffering from extreme depression? The commentary I hope people will glean from it is that, above all, seek help: reach out to your loved ones.

I find myself now thinking a lot about this woman and her daughter, and what will become of them. I hope she finds understanding—whether through 22 Scars or some other source. I hope her daughter can come to terms with her depression and find a way to break the addictive cycle of self-harm. I hope that 22 Scars can make a difference to their lives in a positive way.

Writing is my art, and I have to remain true to it, regardless of the outcome. I hope beyond hope that no one suffers more for reading my book, but at the end of the day, I have to understand that I’m not in control of other people. I can’t make someone hurt themselves, and nor can I save them.

Nonetheless, it’s always hopeful to think that I might have made some small difference.

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