This memoir is an exploration of self-injury and eating disorders through one woman's non-fiction account of her lifelong battle with "cutting" and anorexia.
The author, Vanessa Vega, began self-harming as a small child. Comes the Darkness, Comes the Light is a raw, graphic, and sometimes chilling exploration of Vega's struggles. More importantly, the book is a story of hope for others who grapple with the same disorders. In it, Vega shares several of her intense therapy sessions, both group and individual, that finally initiated her recovery process after a 30-year battle.
Resources and Information on Eating Disorders:
Resources for Self Injury:
What made you decide to write this book after so many years of struggling with self-harm?
I have searched, in vain, for many years, for a book that would in some way reassure me that I wasn't alone. I have never met another self-injurer and hoped to find something that would help me to understand why I am the way I am. I never thought I would ever write about my greatest secret, but as I concluded my therapy process, I realized that the knowledge I had gained was so important, that it might help other people if I were courageous enough to share it. In the beginning, there wasn't a book. There was a series of writings that I had done for myself and my therapist only. As the writingsincreased, this idea of writing a book to help others slowly took shape. I am finally at a place emotionally where I am no longer ashamed of the journey I've taken towards healing. This book is a testament to this fact.
What do you hope this book will accomplish? Do you have any goals set out for it?
This book was released internationally. As a result, I have heard from people worldwide who have said that elements of my story reflect part of their own. This is incredibly humbling, as I always believed that I was the only one in the world who would ever do some of the things that I have. As the book continues to circulate, I hope it succeeds in tearing away the veil of shame that exists for this disorder. I hope that the millions of people who still struggle with self-injury will realize that they are not alone and there is help available for them. It sounds trite, but it is true. If I help one person to overcome their urges and get the help they need, then sharing my story will have been worth it.
Coming out with this book was definitely a huge and courageous move for you. Do you feel that it's served as some sort of self-therapy for you?
For the first time ever, so many of the thoughts and feelings I have carried within me, are now out in a tangible form. As a result, much of their power is taken away. In writing this book, I was forced to re-visit some very painful events of my past. Re-living them as an adult has allowed me to work through many of the emotions those events represented. To expunge those things from my spirit has been very theraputic for me emotionally.
After reading some book reviews and biographies, it appears as though you had quite a demanding childhood (i.e. dealing with pressures from your parents and younger siblings, living through your parents' divorce and mother's ill-health, etc). What do you think triggered you to self-harm?
I discovered self-injury by accident. As early as 4 years old, I would pick mosquito bites until they bled, chew my nails off into the quick, pull my hair out, etc. as a way to deal with mounting frustration and anger. I was not allowed to express those feelings verbally, and so I did other things to take my mind off of the feelings. I learned very quickly that if my mind was focused on physical pain, then it was no longer focused on the emotional pain, and over time, those feelings would fade away.
Who or what had the biggest impact on your life? What made you want to turn your life around and get better?
Second only to my parents, my teachers had the greatest impact on my life. School was my one "safe" place. There, I felt a level of accomplishment and acceptance that I rarely felt at home. There was never a time when I wanted to "turn my life around and get better". Instead, I bottomed out. This was such a scary experience for me, that I realized if I didn't get help and start to change my behavior, I could very well kill myself accidentally, and that was never my intention. This reality was the one thing that prompted me to get serious about my recovery.
What did you do to get better (i.e. therapy, medication, etc.) and who was there to support you?
I was involved in a very intensive personal and small group therapy program. As part of my treatment, I was asked to take anti-depressants so that I might have some additional tools with which I could work through some issues that without them I had not been able to touch. Unfortunately, through this process, I was still very much ashamed of my situation and so other than my immediate family members and friends, no one knew about my attempts at recovery. Yet even though they knew about my "therapy", they did not really understand why I was going or what I was working on. Even then my self-injury was still very much hidden, even from them.
Do you still feel you have moments of weakness when dealing with hardships today? What do you do to distract yourself and move away from those thoughts?
I think about self-injury every day. There are days when I am so overwhelmed that I have to force myself to call a friend just to talk or to come over for a little while until the urge to hurt myself goes away. I have found that writing is a great way for me to work through some of the feelings I cannot articulate.
Knowing that self-harm is on the rise, is there a message you would like to share with society? Is there anything you would want to put out there that would increase the awareness/understanding of this "increasingly popular" harmful method of coping or possibly decrease the negative stigma surrounding mental health in general?
Self-injury is not a suicide attempt. This behavior is not something you can pinpoint to one group of people; it affects men and women of all education, social and economic backgrounds. Self-injury is very serious and needs immediate attention. However, as long as the people who need the help are fearful of the reactions of others, few will actively seek it. Education and understanding of self-injury behaviors and their root causes is critical to bringing this disorder out of the shadows.
What's the biggest piece of advice you've ever received?
I need to be constantly reminded that I have value...that no matter what I've done in the past, I am still a good person with much to offer the world. I have a strong faith, and cling to the belief that everything happens for a reason.
What advice would you give to today's youth battling with self-harm?
I want them to realize that they are not alone. There are literally millions of people around the world that are in the same situation they are and feeling equally afraid that someone will find out their secret. I would encourage them to find someone they trust that they can talk to. They need to love themselves enough to risk seeking out the help they need so that they can move forward and live an injury free life. I want to reassure them that it is never too late to make different choices and choose new, more constructive means of emotional expression.