Tag Archive: fear


I remember it fondly. It was a beautiful day and the other children were outside at recess (which we call ‘play time’ in Scotland), and I was sitting beside my teacher as we formed each letter on the page, transferring the story in my young mind onto the crisp sheet of paper before us. There were finger spaces between the letters, and I’m sure the letter themselves were untidy, not unexpected since I was perhaps five or six at the time. This was my first story.

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I have no idea what the actual tale was, nor how well it was received, but the memory of the teacher’s patience, and my determination to tell my story have lived with me ever since. And I’m still trying to tell the darn story.

When I moved to the USA, I had a nugget of an idea, and perhaps a dozen chapters of an almost-story I’d started after college. Both were sitting unfinished as I’d lost confidence in the project. Adventures about magic, it seems, aren’t ‘Christian’, so I held onto that as the excuse to no longer continue.

It was at a friend’s Christmas party in Malibu that my new friends found out I was a writer. My wonderful hubs blabbed. They knew I was an actor and had done theater my whole life. They knew my beloved had proposed while I was performing in a show in Balloch, Scotland. They knew I’d moved five thousand miles for love. But they had no idea this half-started book and this knot of an idea still lived inside me, till my darling spouse told them all at the party. And therein started the journey through taking this idea and actually turning it into a novel.

Full disclosure: it’s almost finished. There are only a few chapters to go, and I’m very excited to write it. I’m also terrified and intimidated to write it, but it’s too good not to finish. I owe it to myself to at least get to the end of the last chapter. Not to mention, I owe it to my hubs and the many, many wonderful friends who have cheered me on as I have planned, mapped it, written, re-written, and edited all the chapters so far to within an inch of their lives. I’m so in love with my book that I can’t believe it’s actually mine.

The funny thing is, some of the most wonderful changes have come from taking the things I’ve learned in acting. When we break down a character to understand what they’re feeling, why they’re acting this way, what the relationship is with each of the other characters in the scene…. all those things translate to the written word too. When I was working through the core of the storyline, and pushing my character into and out of different scenarios, I tried to stay anchored to her drive. What was her purpose in this moment. What was she feeling over there. Why is this important to her? All the things we do and decide when we take a script and try to tap into the authentic person we’re wanting to represent.

Sometimes it’s easier to create a character on paper because you are in full control of all the scenarios and emotions that you want to showcase in the moment. Sometimes being a character on stage is easier because you have other cast members pushing the narrative with you. For me, both are similar yet different, and both require a great deal of being able to connect and react to emotional, challenging, or extraordinary situations. And, I can tell you, it’s wonderful.

Across the road, lanterns glowed like blurred suns against the inky blackness, their burnt-orange aura easing a finely drawn path through the narrow, cobbled streets.

The Hideaway, Chapter 1

A dear friend of mine asked to read the chapters I had so far, and the feedback came back that I had “major writing chops” but they didn’t know where the story was going. This wasn’t unexpected since I was writing every chapter on a whim, and trying to work out where it was going as I did. That doesn’t work when you’re trying to engage readers. So the re-write began.

At that time, he suggested I also start posting extracts online, to garner interest as well as accountability for finishing the story. The feedback was wonderful and – with a lot more rewriting – I finally reached the point where the finale was right around the corner.

Then I stopped.

In all honesty, it was a massive panic attack that stopped me from writing it. What if it sucked? What if it was disappointing? What if it was a letdown to all those wonderful friends who had invested all that time and effort into reading it?

And on the flip side: what if it was actually any good?

 

I think the latter was the hardest to grapple with. Having grown up the way I did, I struggled with a fear that all good things are temporary and therefore will disappear. So would I lose my book? Would it be swindled away from me, or somehow accidentally deleted from my computer so that it no longer exists? What if they wanted another story? What if this labor of love is all that I have?

Just so you know, anxiety sucks. It’s the hardest thing to battle because it’s all inside your head and your imagination, writing one “if only” on top of another until you are literally too scared to leave your house in case something tragic happens. It’s easier to stay quiet, resign yourself to living in the smallest space possible, hug your dogs, and will the world to leave you alone. Facing the anxiety is like trying to slay a dragon that refuses to die, while it insults you and and tells you all the things about yourself that you’re trying to forget.

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So this is me standing up to the dragon.

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I have four chapters to go till my book is done. I’m posting the new, fresh, beautifully revised chapters on a site called Patreon that any and every budding creator should check out. People can pay to read your work, and having people actually wanting to pay to read your work is surprisingly humbling and exciting. They give feedback if they want to, or they simply ‘like’ your work. It tells the anxiety dragon to be quiet. It tells you that you’re not half bad. And it persuades you to keep going.

Everybody has a story in them. I  truly believe that.

Now, go write it.

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Live in the lower case

Everyone has something that defines them. Whether it is something heroic, or a challenge they’ve overcome, or a spectacular failure they vow never to repeat, we all have something. It’s the yard stick we measure all else against, but sometimes it’s a pain we fiercely hold onto lest we forget its lessons and find ourself knee deep in the very thing we’ve spent our whole lives running from.

I call mine, My Story.

It was a long time ago now, but My Story begins when I was ten years old. I was sexually abused by someone with authority over me. He raped me once, and I remember staring at the corner of the doorframe as the world crushed against my chest and my legs, while I willed my mind to imagine what it would feel like to be a tiny bug crawling up the doorframe. There was no option to scream or cry for I’d been manipulated into making a deal – one that I carried the weight of for years to come – where I would do whatever was asked of me if it meant my siblings would remain unharmed and oblivious. Despite the breaking of my character, and the theft of my innocence, I learned a long time later that he’d actually kept his word.

My parents suspected. The abuse went on for many months until one day I said that I didn’t want this person’s authority over me any more. They respected my wishes, but they never asked for details and, for years after, I never told them. When I finally broke my silence, at an age where I was old enough not to be removed from my home, things in my life began to fall apart.

There was a lot of guilt and shame when people suddenly learned My Story. There was the close friendship of our families to deal with. There was the deafening silence from those who knew the truth but didn’t want to get involved. Then there was the chipping away at my story and my soul with words like “if that’s what really happened”, or being expected to get over it without structure or support. Amidst it all, it was hard to consider myself a victim of his abuse for I’d helped write the rules: trading me for them. Unprotected and alone, I struggled through My Story now loose inside our community, but with my trauma being a private anguish nobody wanted to help me through.

I look back on My Story, and I’m desperately sad for the child-me that went through all of that with nobody there to defend nor protect them. I’m angry at the family who let the perpetrator do these things, and at those who revealed I wasn’t the only person whose childhood was stolen by this terrible person. I’m angry for the friendship between our families that went on through the years until long after I was married and living in America, in spite of My Story. But mostly I grieve for thinking that God, Himself had left me in the midst of it to fend for myself.

Last week was a powerful one for me. I learned that I don’t have to carry the weight of My Story with me everywhere, all the time, by myself. My beloved church family and I were at our regular bible study, and testimony was being shared of how God had brought different people through the horror of Their Story, and transformed them into people of grace and forgiveness, and hope.

It was hard for me to process though, for hearing other people’s pain from being abused hurts those parts of me that want to take their pain away, but knows it isn’t possible while my own is out of control. The tsunami of guilt and grief overwhelmed me and I had to leave the room lest I unravel completely and let the ugly stain that is My Story wash into the room and ruin everything.

Unbeknown to me, my beautiful church family heard a little of My Story, and were – at that moment – praying for me. I found a peace and a courage growing inside me to be able to walk back into the room and sit among them, puffy eyes and all.

God filled me with such warmth and gentleness that I didn’t feel the pain of My Story weighing me down. I even got to share my gratitude for this beautiful family He has given me, and acknowledge that I’m not alone.

I know it’s going to be a long journey before I can unpack it all and leave My Story at the feet of Jesus. But that’s okay. This week I got to take the straps off my shoulder and see that I’m closer than I think. It’s also dawning on me that I’m not alone at all, but the enemy wants me to think I am. An army of God’s warriors surround me, in flesh and in spirit.

Now here is why I’m sharing this with you. I know what it’s like to allow yourself to be defined by your story. My Story is a part of me but it’s not the whole sum of who I am. It’s a small piece of an intricate puzzle that is me, and it’s not the only – or even the first – thing people see when they look at me. When I smother it into silence, it grows in power until the darkness of My Story is like a deafening roar determined to destroy everything it touches. But here’s the funny thing. My Story is a liar. It’s a little part of me that those who love me can already see, yet they love me anyway. The only one who was truly afraid of My Story was me.

But no more.

When I shared this on Facebook, a friend said to me, “Live in the lower case.” What a great motto to adopt, don’t you think?

My name is Annie Bergin, and I survived rape and sexual abuse. It’s my story (lower case), but it’s only a small part of who I am. I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. And I have an army.

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