Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Brittany Wilcox: How Fan Fiction Became My Tool for Healing

Editor's Note: Brittany Wilcox is a dear friend of mine. We've been band-mates and co-songwriters, and poetry buddies for quite a few years now. She shared her story recently, and I felt it was so important that I asked if she'd mind if I shared it here with you. Thankfully, she agreed. Y'all need to know this awesome person. Trust me. 

by Brittany Wilcox

Trigger warning for mental health stuff, almost dying, and toxic relationship talk. 

I started writing fan fiction only five years ago. I was trapped in an abusive relationship and desperately needed a writing outlet. Poetry wasn't cutting it anymore 😅. Writing had always been so cathartic to me, and it was like I had this itch that needed to be scratched. When I first started, I wasn't a stellar storyteller. Learning how and when to "show, not tell" was a steep learning curve for me, who is inherently lazy and only wants to write the juicy parts of the story.

Anyway, My ex found my first AO3 account and deleted it while I was hospitalized fighting for my life against a septic brain infection. He alienated me from the friends I had made online. I rebuilt it in secret after I got out of the hospital. He forced me to abandon my second account. At this point, I had met who is now my girlfriend who I live with. At the time, we were just friends. He made me tell her we couldn't be friends anymore and forced me to read her reply to him out loud. I sobbed uncontrollably as I did.

Jokes on him now because we live together now and I've never been happier. So, fuck you, ex.

Anyway, the whole brain infection conundrum made me realize I have a covert mental illness. It didn't make itself known to me until I almost died and *had* to become aware of it in order to survive.

You'll know it as DID (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder for the Boomers 😉). I went into trauma therapy after leaving my ex and was formerly diagnosed during this time. (Anyone who has questions about this, I'm willing to answer. What is widely known about this mental illness to the public is very, very wrong).

Once I started to heal, the compulsion I felt to write these stories (it was all for one particular fandom, by the way. I only wrote for a single fandom 99 percent of the time) lessened, and I realized that I was writing these stories to try and communicate with myself. I was trying to tell myself about my other parts that were separated from me. It became a tool of healing and expression of the abuse I had suffered throughout my life via the use of metaphors and storytelling. It gave me enough emotional and psychological distance from what happened to get it out without spiraling into the throws of a CPTSD episode.

Of course, it couldn't prevent every spiral, and due to both the physical trauma of the infection and the rampant abuse I had suffered at the hands of many for my entire life, I succumbed to the spiral two more times and had to be hospitalized. (I didn't try to unalive myself. My nervous system would just get so out of whack that I would be convinced I was dying and stay awake for days on end until I was in full-blown psychosis. 0/4 stars do not recommend).

Each time I recovered in part because of my escape into fanfiction.

When my service dog passed away from cancer almost two years ago now, I was able to put that grief into one of the most beautiful pieces I've ever written, instead of spiraling. For me, it's been a hell of a tool of self-discovery and healing. No, I don't share it openly with people I know personally. I am afraid of judgment for some of my darkest themes. It's anonymous for a reason (though if someone wants to read it I'll give them a link. I'm not shy. I'm just not out promoting it).

I'm in a healthier place now and have started trying my hand at happier, fluffier fics just for the challenge. Sure, it's made me a better writer, but that's absolutely the least of it.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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