Safe Spaces Within The Margins
By Eden Boudreau
*Content Warning: brief mention of sexual assault, addiction and self harm*
Nearly six months after I became the victim of a violent sexual assault in September 2017, I sat on the back porch of our rental house just outside Toronto, Ontario and stared up through the trees to the night sky. Even with the lazy light of the bare bulb above the sliding glass door, the blanket of darkness, freckled with stars stretched out clear and endless.
My now ex-husband and three sons were fast asleep inside. It was one of the few moments in the day when my mind would quiet enough to allow me to pull apart the cluster of emotions and pick which ones I wanted to deal with that day. On that particular evening, it was resentment.
It was not a foreign feeling. Having grown up in a chaotic home, feeling invisible more often than not, I had wrestled with my fair share of animosity along with much of the same guilt, fear and shame that had bloomed like a poisonous mushroom cloud after my assault.
The difference was in my early years, I had an escape.
Whether it was reading for hours under the blossoming crab apple tree in our front yard in Nova Scotia where I was raised, or roaming through the towering columns of books at the Halifax Public Library or even in the pages of my own stories I cobbled together with my adolescent imagination – writing and words were always a safe space.
But somewhere along the way, as I got older, became a mother, got married and started working just to get from pay cheque to pay cheque, I lost that.
Maybe it just wasn’t a priority, like giving my sons the childhood I never had was. Or maybe I simply forgot to stay in touch with my own needs. Either way, the ever-crashing tidal wave of recovery wouldn’t allow me to ignore the emotions coiled up inside me any longer. Each day became an intentional mission to figure out what I needed to get to the next. For a while it was handfuls of sleeping pills, then it was bottomless bottles of whiskey, even a period of deliberate self-harm but eventually it came back to writing.
It had been at the encouragement of my therapist, who was far too wise for her young age in my opinion, that I started journaling. Unfolding the thoughts, I had pushed down deep inside my belly and laying them out on the page.
“No one ever has to read them,” she would tell me. “They are just for you. This is just for you.”
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Journaling gradually became blog posts - anonymous of course - and after a whirlwind writer’s retreat, late nights fuelled by white wine and good conversation, I dipped my toe into narrative non-fiction writing with personal essays. And that is when I discovered that my safe space, between the lines and in the margins of my stories, had become the same sort of asylums for others as well.
But it was that night, months after the assault and only a few weeks after publishing my first essay about it, that I came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to move on to the next chapter of my life, I needed to let my story go. I had nurtured and clung to it for so very long, like a tattered baby’s blanket, and now it was time to send it out into the world. Because I knew that it could do more than just save me, it might just save someone else.
And in my opinion, that is the power in what we do, as writers.
Whether it be fiction that transports us to other worlds, or memoir that gives us the space to really feel what we’ve been trying to ignore, or even poetry that makes us believe in love again, writing heals the invisible wounds of the human existence. And we as its curators have the great honour, and responsibility, of bringing that kind of magic into the world.
As your March 2023 Writer in Residence, I hope to bring that same kind of whimsy to the page here and really delve deep into writing the ugly truth, navigating the emotional labour of creating and so much more.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Eden Boudreau, (she/her) a lifelong maritimer, relocated from Halifax, NS to southern Ontario in 2016 with her family. It was at this time when she decided to finally pursue her dream of becoming a published author.
Using her own life experiences as a bisexual, polyamorous woman who has survived her fair share of adversity as inspiration, Eden’s essays have been published in major publications such as Flare, Today’s Parent, and Runner’s World Magazine.
As someone who has openly battled mental health issues, Eden was inspired during the isolation of the pandemic to launch her own podcast, Dear Lonely Writer. A show that interviews best selling authors from around the world and discusses the emotional labour that often comes with the writing process – before, during, and even after the book deal.
Her debut memoir, CRYING WOLF from Book*Hug Press arrives on shelves March 22 2023, which follows her difficult road to recovery after a violent sexual assault, with disbelievers at every turn due in part to her non-traditional lifestyle.
In her (minimal) free time, Eden spends it with her three sons, menageries of pets – including a duck named Dave – at their home in Georgina, ON.