In March of 2021, I entered a severe episode of depression. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder nearly 3 years ago. I always knew that depression was a potential, especially considering that it was in my history. Never did I imagine that it would be something that would nearly take my life in 2021.
But this post isn’t about my story of loss, that will come at another time, this blog is about how I survived it, thanks to the help of an amazing character, Alexia Harmon. She is the main heroin in my novel, The Defender. She came at my time of greatest need.
At the time, I was reading a series by Peirce Brown, called the Red Rising series. It was a wonderful read. It was thought-provoking, aspirational, and had amazing character development. It featured a male lead that was faced with the challenges of a dominant race of humans and he had to rise out of his submissive place in life and join the enemy as one of them. He lived amongst the wolves for years, all the while plotting their downfall. I won’t spoil the series for you, but I will highly recommend it.
The only downside for me was that I really needed someone to relate to, and while the main character certainly had to overcome some difficulties (that’s a bit of an understatement), he was always strong. I needed a character that was weak. I needed a character that spoke to me from a spot of desperation and mental incapacity. That’s where Alexia came in.
Her name came first, derived from the Greek Alexein (to defend, to help). She was to be my defender, she was to help me overcome my own weakness.
Woah, lets back up a second, depression is not a weakness, not in any way shape or form. Surviving depression takes a huge amount of strength and bravery. When you are depressed, it’s not as easy as getting up and working through all the things on your checklist, like someone without depression may do. A productive day when you are depressed might be as simple as having a shower. Being depressed is awful, but it can turn into some beautiful things, like a character that is relatable and realistic.
Alexia came to me when I googled, defender. I wanted someone who had a strong name with a bit of meaning, but that was it. I didn’t want her to come across as overly confident, a natural-born leader, or even a woman who had her life together. She needed to be a hot mess, like me!
When Alexia first enters the reader’s mind, she is introduced as a woman who has a seemingly perfect life, but she is crippled by anxiety and depression. Queue the relatability factor. There are things about her that are straight out of my book, so to speak. She runs to battle depression, she has a beautiful family which only makes her feel even guiltier about being depressed, she has a boring office job that offers little in the way of satisfaction. She was me.
Now I couldn’t realistically base her character entirely off of myself, I just wasn’t willing to dig that deep into my own character flaws quite yet. So, one thing you’ll notice about her is that she rolls with the punches quite well, especially when she is pulled to a foreign planet. I’m pretty sure this would freak me out, but not her. She just rolls with it, but where she gets real again is in her method of coping with the thoughts. Her mind twists everything she does and says into something nasty, making her believe things that aren’t real. That is me, to a tee.
Let’s not forget about her unwavering love for her family. Being pulled away from Earth is no easy thing, but leaving all of your friends and family behind is another. Can you imagine being suddenly ripped away from everything you know and love? Talk about trauma. That’s how it was for Alexia to, even after she learns her family is stuck in a (itsy bitsy spoiler) giant time freeze she still yearned for them. That is the mother in her, the nurturing part of her existence.
But just like any good character, she grows and learns. She is given new tools and coping mechanisms (thank you therapy for that now overly used phrase in my life) to deal with the wide variety of challenges that are thrown her way.
She was me. She was the character I needed at the time, and she grew into the character that I wanted to be. I wanted to be strong like her, I wanted to be resilient in the face of change. Writing her forced me to grow with her, I had to ask, “how would I handle this scenario?” And then when that answer was usually ‘lie down and cry’ I had to ask again, “How should I handle this scenario?” This forced me to grow into who I wanted to be, instead of being stuck in who I was. Again, not that there was anything wrong with who I was at the time, but I wanted to be more.
In summary, Alexia Harmon is more than just a character in a book, she was a life saver for me.
Good luck to all you amazing writers! May you continue to write epic stories that make your soul happy!
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