Today Jasmine Denton, Indie YA author of From The Damage series, joins us with a powerful, honest post about her past, including self-harm. Thank you for sharing this, Jasmine!
Rising From The Damage
“You have to be like the phoenix,” my mother said to me once. I was seventeen years old and going through a hellish year. Some nasty rumors and hardships at school had pushed me to tears yet again, and I’d been crying in my room for what felt like hours. “You know what the phoenix does, don’t you?”
I just kind of shrugged, stuffed my hands in the pocket of my hoodie and avoided her gaze. Back then, I never looked anybody in the eye. I was too afraid they would see my pain, the suffering I tried so hard to hide.
But my mom was stubborn and determined to get through to me. She wrapped her arm around my shoulder and squeezed tight. “The phoenix rises from the ashes,” she whispered. “That’s what you have to do, Jazzi. You have to rise from your own ashes and fly.”
At the time, it seemed impossible to do. I was surrounded by so many ashes. It seemed like from the time I became a teenager, my life was a giant wildfire. The flames had consumed everything. I’d been raised by lesbians in the bible belt, which meant a life of secrecy, ridicule and even a little shame. Though not a lot of people knew about my home life, I lived in fear of what would happen if people found out. I would listen to what people said about ‘gays’ and feel outraged, but could do or say nothing about it. All I’d ever wanted was to feel normal, be normal. But going to a church finally led my parents split up. They felt their relationship wasn’t ‘right’. At just 14, this was hard to hear and even harder to watch. It would be years before I realized this was, for all intents and purposes, a divorce. And like most divorces, it completely rocked my world. That ‘normal life’ I’d always wanted was now mine, but it’d come with a terrible cost.
Before I could fully recover from this loss, I lost my grandfather, the only father I’d really ever had, to cancer just short of my sixteenth birthday. We moved in to take care of him, and I was holding his hand when he died. Watching the light go out in his eyes, feeling the way his hand went limp in mine, would haunt me for a very long time. What was even harder was seeing the way my grandmother coped with the loss by immediately trying to replace him with other men. It filled me with anger and resentment toward a woman I’d always gotten along with before. Now, I hated her, despised her and felt like she’d betrayed us. Happy sweet sixteen.
For years, I’d relied on my twin sister’s light and love to get me through, but ever since a school field trip she’d been acting different. Her light shone a little dimmer, and Genna, always the extrovert was now secretive and shy, and anxiety led her to eventually quit school altogether. Back then, I was too caught up in my own drama and pain to realize there was something seriously wrong, and I’m ashamed to say I let her suffer alone.
I would wander the hallways, hiding behind my dark eye makeup and my hoodies, pretending I didn’t give a damn about what was going on around me when the truth was all I wanted to do was belong. When someone finally had the nerve to push past the barriers I’d put up all around me, I was so grateful for the attention that I never wanted to let him go, even though he ended up being dark, sometimes scary and very bad for me. This relationship lasted well through high school and into my early twenties.
Throughout those years of pain, I had only one outlet. Self-injury. It may not have made sense to others, but it made sense to me. I couldn’t trust anyone enough to let them see how much I was hurting, and sometime I hurt so much I thought I was going to explode. Cutting helped me release the tension, not only by the pain of the cut, but by the blood that followed. Once I saw that blood, it was like I could finally breathe again and that weight on my heart became just a little lighter. But with this temporary relief—which I used only as an emergency release, when I just couldn’t take it anymore—I got more than I bargained for. I needed to see that blood more and more often, and soon that wasn’t good enough. I took matches to school for quick relief, and when things became too tough to face, I’d lock myself in the bathroom and burn myself. I didn’t realize I would be leaving scars that would last so long, or that the road would turn so dark. Even today, you can still see a few of those burns on my arm. Though most of those scars have faded to where you can barely see them, I still bear one painfully obvious cut. It was so deep that I needed stitches, but I refused to go to the doctor. I was too ashamed.
It took years of hard work, and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t making any progress, but eventually I overcame this difficult period of my life. I held on to my mom’s advice and tried to be like the phoenix. I even got a tattoo of a phoenix as a constant reminder to always hope for something better, and then create that something better. I switched the cutting habit out for a writing one, and with my stories I created teenagers who were just like me. Suffering, but finding light at the end of the tunnel.
When people ask me why I choose to write for teens, this time of my life always comes to mind. For what was supposed to be the best years of my life, I think I got pretty jipped, and I know others have too. I guess the concept is simple really. You could stand right behind somebody in the lunch line, or sit next to them in class, or like my sister and me, share the same bedroom and not have a clue about the struggles they face. As a teenager, you live in this little bubble filled with things that are important to you, that affect you and seeing things from someone else’s point of view just isn’t a priority. Eventually, life pops your bubble and tough lessons allow you to see the bigger picture.
One of my biggest goals in life is to help the teenagers who were like me and could barely get out of bed, let alone face their day. This is the reason my sister and I created our book series, From the Damage.
In From the Damage, several teens are brought together in a support group. Nobody really wants to be there and they have a difficult time opening up around each other. So their counselor pairs them up with a ‘sponsor’. She puts the cheerleader with the high school dropout, the jock with the school outcast, a girl with a perfect family is paired with an orphan, etc. Her experiment works; bonds and unlikely alliances form. By catching glimpses of the pain and suffering of their partners, the characters realize that everybody hurts, even if it doesn’t seem like it.
I never try to directly send messages through my work, and instead try to portray the lives of my characters in hopes it will strike a chord with somebody and help them, even just a little.
The series has grown so much more than I ever thought it would. The stories have evolved and continue to evolve, as each member in the group struggles on the path toward healing, as writing them continues to heal me.
In the latest release, Collateral Damage, a new girl comes onto the scene. Kendall is the wild child who refuses to be tamed, but underneath her dark exterior is a very wounded spirit. Collateral Damage is available for purchase here. I’ve also posted an excerpt on my blog.
If you’d like to learn more about From the Damage, you can visit the series website. Be sure to look for the About the Characters section for an in-depth look at the characters.
I hope you will check the books out and spread the word about them to support this message of healing. And always remember to be like the phoenix. Rise from your ashes and fly. 🙂
About the Author:
Jasmine Denton is the author of several YA books, both paranormal and contemporary. She believes that books have the power to change the world and is trying to do that, one story at a time. You can find Jasmine on the web at these locations: