I have just come from a talk by the author of the book, ‘We don’t talk about it ever’. Desiree – Anne Martin. I’ve met her several times in writer’s circles but never heard her speak about her story or read her book. While I still hold some of my feelings in tact, having let […]NOT A BOOK REVIEW: we don’t talk about it. ever. — Niki Malherbe
It was three years ago, this month, that I decided to crack open the most vulnerable parts of myself and start this blog. It was three years ago that I decided to share my most sacred truths and “heart scribblings” with the world.
I was brave and courageous and scared shitless. The usual committee meeting in my head tore out their hair and wailed and there was much gnashing of teeth. “Why?”, they screamed in unison. “Why would we let people, friends, strangers, know our innermost secrets? We are secret-keepers. It is our legacy. We will be breaking all the rules!”
Oh, fuck the rules.
I felt determined to end the painful pattern, to break the sickening cycle, for myself and for others who I hoped my words would resonate with and would come to rest on their hearts. Yes, I was ballsy then. I furiously penned short stories and poems, purging the secrets and the damning lies. The blog started something: my own revolution. The one that starts when you simply whisper to yourself, “Yes, I love you.”
The blog formed the essential framework for what would become my book, my published memoir, “We Don’t Talk About It. Ever.” It formed the brave blueprint for a long-held dream that eventually came true a year ago. But it also started a conversation. People responded saying, “I felt that way too!” and there was an insistence that we must start talking about the stigmatised issues such as abuse, trauma, identity, addiction, mental health issues. It had always been my hope that my words touch just one person but they pierced the thinking of so many for which I am eternally grateful. Thank you, everyone who has read the book, who follows my blog. Thank you for holding my words so gently in the palms of your hands.
I have to admit: I’m not feeling particularly brave today. In fact, I’m caught up in one of my unpredictable and overpowering cycles of hopelessness and hurt. I feel hollow and empty and there is no particular reason why. That’s the fun part of having bipolar: you never know when or in what form or why its going to hit you. This feels like being punched in the gut repeatedly by a prize-fighter. But I can’t be quarantined or cosseted away somewhere. I have to do what I have to do even if it feels like I’m dragging my broken bones. I’m even surprised I wrote this. In moments like these, I lose my words entirely.
The reason I’m writing that is because three years ago, I vowed to speak my truth. I pledged to purge the pain and strip myself naked and live my truth. And this is my truth today: everything changes, anything is possible, where there truth there is hope.
And there is always hope. Always.
Believe more deeply; hold your face up to the Light even though, for the moment, you do not see.Bill W. Co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.
by Giles Griffin
Published August 2018 by Jacana/MF Books
Desirée-Anne Martin is a force. For recovery. For self-love. For hope. Witness the last three sentences of her book – in the Acknowledgements: “And to all the hurt little – and grown-up – girls, this story is for you. There is always hope. Always.” But don’t be fooled. This is not a sweetness and light story. Precious few fairies appear in it. In fact you need to hang on tight for a rof-and-ready roller-coaster ride of note. And this, by the by, despite a comfortably middle-class and lacking-for-little background, as the chapter entitled “Don’t swim after eating” implies. That stopped me in my tracks: my own mother used those very same words on many an occasion. But the swimming-pool-in-the-back-garden social veneer, it turns out, is very thin.
Here, as evidence, is the structure – deceptively ordered at first, except for perhaps a hint of trouble in the middle… Part 1. The Rules. Part 2: Breaking the Rules. Part 3: Fuck the Rules. Part 4: The New Rules. Part 5: Bending the Rules. As you can tell, Ms Martin is not one for rules… Nevertheless, each chapter is carefully named and the typefaces used in the book are elegant; but then there’s that dystopic cover… and that less-than-romantic byline: “A girl who searched for love but found destruction instead.” Not exactly Mills & Boon then.
Like I say, few silver linings. And so, along the way, the language pulls no punches; the shattering descent into addiction is graphically described. Immediate, visceral, utterly believable, she paints a dark picture of a deeply unstable, tortured life of multiple addictions. But then, somehow, miraculously, she survives.
You will be relieved to know, there is some – though not much – dark humour as well, as her back cover bio hints: “A recovering addict, she believes caffeine, cigarettes, chocolate and bacon are the four major food groups.”
Hang in there for that humour – it saves this memoir from being unrelentingly brutal and hopeless and allows, finally, as the LRC’s Dawn Garisch describes it, for this lovely summary: “Desiree-Anne Martin has spun the straw of addiction into gold.” Bearing in mind how tight a hold drugs and addiction have on South African lives, we really need these flashes of gold, those “true words that will, somehow, begin to heal that which has been broken.” Between the covers of “We Don’t Talk About It. Ever.” you will find those true words. Go read them.
[Yet another reason to buy this book as a gift for yourself or others this season!]