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Abandoned, Abused, But Far From Defeated: How Writing Saved My Life

One Author's Incredible Journey.

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Abandoned, Abused, But Far From Defeated: How Writing Saved My Life

by Paris Hansch

A young woman hurries through the streets, looking over her shoulder every so often.  Her heart pounds in her chest, unsure of whether to be terrified or heartbroken.

In her arms, she holds her newborn baby girl.

“You can’t keep her.”

“She’s a waste of rice.”

“Get rid of it, or don’t bother coming home.”

The young woman clutches her daughter tighter in her arms as she stands on a bridge, barely holding back her tears.  She would cherish these last few moments forever.

Placing her baby girl in an empty cardboard box, she slips away to the sidelines.

Watching.

Waiting.

Hoping.

If anyone saw her, she would be arrested.  Her family couldn’t afford the heavy fine.  But she couldn’t leave until she knew her daughter would be safe.

People walked on by.  They saw, but at the same time, they didn’t.  She couldn’t blame them.

 

 

These were the ghost girls. The ones with no future.  If you acknowledged them, their misfortune would become yours.

It would have been easier to toss her off the bridge or smother her with a pillow, just like the fate of so many others.  Her baby was merely one of thousands left on the streets.

The young woman lingered in the shadows for what seemed like an eternity.

What if no one picks her up? What if she freezes to death? What if she’s already dead?

Hundreds of people passed without a second glance.

Until… her daughter cried.

Another young woman stopped.  And finally, she lifted the baby from the box and walked away.

Her mother would never see her again, but at least she knew her daughter had a chance.

The baby girl was taken to a makeshift orphanage tacked onto the back of a nursing home.  Like all the other orphaned girls, they were stashed in cardboard boxes in a dark storage room amongst the dusty pots and pans.

There wasn’t enough food, so they were fed the cloudy water remaining after washing rice.  There weren’t enough nurses either, so each girl had to learn how to hold their bottle.  If they lost it, there wouldn’t be anyone coming to pick it up for them.

The room was silent.  They had learned it was a waste of energy to cry.

She stayed there for six months.

One day, a man petitioned the government and was allowed to set up one of the first overseas adoption agencies.

That baby girl was number 76 to be adopted overseas to America, and soon after, she and her new parents moved to Australia, where she grew up.

 

 

That baby girl was me, Paris.

I was abandoned in a box on the side of a bridge in China during the One Child Policy.  The orphanage gave us names which is why my full name includes ‘Xiaojin’ — I’m told it means little bright spark.

And that was the beginning of my story.

I was one of those solitary ‘head in the clouds’ kids.  Always dreaming of fantastical worlds, always off somewhere in my mind having an adventure.

I was ‘that kid’ who sat on a bench and read books alone at lunchtime.  The one that everyone knew the name of, but not in a good way.

I used my imagination and my stories as a means of escape.

As I grew up, I believed it was my mission to become a marine biologist and help keep our environment safe and protected.  So I single-mindedly pursued that goal from kindergarten to university.

Soon, like many other people, I realized that I was studying something I’d lost my passion for, but I was too stubborn to throw all that hard work away.

Then I met him.

Like most relationships, the beginning was an adventure.  Just after a low point in my life I was desperate for companionship.  It was exciting, and I got caught up in the moment.

We did have genuinely good times, but that was what made it so hard to notice when it started to slide into something very, very wrong.

I slowly became more and more entangled in his web until I didn’t know what was right or wrong anymore.

Every argument was flipped back on me, my words were never valid.  I was ‘too sensitive’,  ‘overreacting’, ‘defective’.

It was always, “It’s okay pet, I know all this is because you’re just stressed about university, you have no friends and you’re eating too much.”

He forced me to do things I didn’t want to do.  Once he could get away with the little things, they just kept escalating.

I spent all my energy trying to appease him so I didn’t have to face ‘the consequences’ because it would ‘get worse if I didn’t’.  It especially applied to sex, which was a requirement I couldn’t refuse.

There was one incident in particular that I blocked out for a long time, but I still remember him grinning the next morning saying, “Of course you couldn’t do anything, I was pinning you down and choking you.”

 

 

I ended up fighting for my basic human rights.

The right to be respected.  To own my own body.  To express my opinion.

I couldn’t eat what I wanted.  I couldn’t wear what I wanted.  Even the privacy to go to the bathroom was stolen from me.

He isolated me from my friends and family, making it seem like he was the only one I could trust.  He slowly took away my freedom, even monitoring my phone.

I remember being in tears and begging him to leave me alone so many times, but he would always turn it around and convince me it wasn’t what I wanted.

I knew something was wrong but I thought it was me.  I thought I was going insane.  It was like I was drowning in a thick fog, with no way forward and no way back.

I was trapped.

So I grasped onto the only opportunity I could think of.

I ran away to pursue a degree I no longer wanted.

Still in denial that I’d wasted my whole life chasing something that wasn’t going to make me happy, I moved away to do my Masters in Marine Biology.

But I didn’t understand what I had just run from.  Although the physical distance helped, he dug his claws in harder and the psychological and emotional manipulation only got worse.

As I descended even deeper into despair, I shut myself off from everyone.  I didn’t talk or leave my room unless I absolutely had to.

I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was developing some kind of personality disorder.

Then one day I found myself talking to someone… and he made me laugh.

 

 

And I realized that I hadn’t really laughed in over two years.

When he tried his same old tactics again, I knew I had finally had enough.  I finally had the strength to cut contact.

I’d never felt such relief in all my life.

He was gone.

But it wasn’t truly over.  I didn’t realize the impact it had had on me.

I honestly thought it had just been a bad relationship and now there was just something mentally wrong with me.

I wandered around like an empty shell, completely devoid of all feelings.

Study, sleep, eat.  Avoid all human contact.

I would lay awake at night thinking about ways to kill myself.

I tried getting help, but they thought I was overreacting too.  There was nothing wrong on the outside.

They couldn’t see how I was already dead.

It got to the point where one night I was lying on the floor unable to move.  I had a good life, good opportunities and I was squandering them all.

But I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing.  I had no purpose, no reason.  I was worthless.

I felt nothing, yet at the same time I was in agony.  There was simply no point in living.

It was then and there that I made a decision.

 

 

Either lay down and die, or get up and live.

My birth mother was one of the bravest people I’ve never met.

I can only imagine the immense pressure she was under, the guilt, the sadness.  To go against your family, society and the law.

To be under so much stress in order to have a boy to carry on the family name, only to end up with a useless girl.

The strength it would have taken to go against them all, to get up after giving birth and protect her child.

It would have been easier to let the midwife take me away and dispose of me, as has been, and still is the fate of many baby girls.

And not only her, but the woman who went against the social taboos and saved me that day.

They both fought to give me a chance.  Now it was time to fight for myself.

It was time to be brave like my mother.

I got up.

I dusted myself off.

I said to myself — Paris, now that you’ve decided to live, go back and find whatever it is that makes you happy.  Don’t waste time on anything that doesn’t.

Was there ever really a time I was happy?  Where I hadn’t been empty?  Where I hadn’t just been following the path that was expected of me, that I had expected of myself?

I couldn’t remember.

The advice I came across said to go back to the things you loved as a child, when there was no pressure, no responsibilities, where you had the freedom to just do what you loved

I returned to my fantastical worlds, the stories I had lived in for so long.

 

 

And I began to write.

I won’t lie, it was a grueling process (as anyone who has written a book would know).  I was also still completing my degree at the time.

But for the first time, I had a real goal.  Something to fight for and look forward to.  Something I’d wanted to do for a very long time.

And in the end, through blood, sweat and tears I held my first draft of The Dragon Princess in my hand.

For the first time I was proud of myself, it was something that I had actually achieved, something I accomplished.

And I knew this is what I wanted to do with my life, no matter how silly.

At the time I was still locked into the idea that writing wasn’t a viable career, and I was throwing away something sensible like science for something ridiculous like being an author.

But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I spent the next year clawing my way back, preparing for my journey.

I buckled down and researched, read and wrote.

One of the first resources I came across was Nick Stephenson’s Your First 10k Readers.  I learned what it meant to be an authorpreneur and I’ve been a fan ever since.

I learned that it’s not a silly dream, but a measurable goal.

That you CAN make a living as a writer.

It was also during this time that I came to the realization of what I had just been through.  I couldn’t believe I had been taken in by someone like that.

I slowly worked my way through everything that had happened — sorted through the lies, the manipulation, what was mine and what was his.  I tried to get justice, but that’s an awful story for another day.

I eventually forgave myself.  I realized my life had value, it always had.

It would be the easy way out to stew in the hatred, to drown in the guilt, to wallow in regret.

But what the experience did give me was a purpose.  A mission.

It allowed me to take everything and move forward to help others.

 

 

Let me ask you a question.  Don’t you hate it when characters in stories are unrealistic?

You read a book or watch a movie, and you just can’t enjoy it because the characters are too flat, too cookie cutter, or too unbelievable.

These days movies especially focus too much on the cash grab with high speed chases and expensive action scenes, they throw in stock characters that everyone has seen before.

They forget that characters need to be human.

One thing in particular has always stuck out to me, and that’s how women are portrayed in pop culture, particularly fantasy and sci-fi.

I challenge you to name just as many strong female protagonists as you can male protagonists in pop culture.

In comparison, there just aren’t any.

Wonder Woman was released in 2017.  It’s taken that long for the first big female-led superhero movie to come out.  And directed by a woman too.  It shouldn’t be such a big achievement, but that’s where we are at the moment.

I’ve distilled it down to what seems to be the most popular stock character themes…

  • The unexplainably and unrealistically badass, teenage loner, ‘I can only be tamed by a super-alpha male’ woman
  • The buff, ‘I have you by the balls’, masculine woman who is basically a man just labelled as a woman
  • The ‘I’m trying to be a man so people will accept me’ woman

Or the other end of the scale…

  • The classic ‘damsel in distress’ or stay at home woman who only exists as a plot point for a man to rescue
  • The oversexualized, chainmail bikini wearing, ‘I just need to get laid’ woman
  • Or even a genuinely strong woman who is simply overshadowed and never the main character

Like really.  I get wanting pretty armor, who wouldn’t want a bit of flair?  But chainmail bikinis are kind of ridiculous.

Now BEFORE you shout feminist at me, know this.

 

 

Men are great. I love strong male characters just as much as strong female characters.

It’s about bringing women up, not men down.

I love Disney (and I’m one of those people who can sing every song word for word), but what are we really teaching our kids when all our problems are solved with a true love’s kiss?

Even the princes are reduced to having tunnel vision for a woman they’ve only spent a few days with. It’s silly really.

There are of course real people that fit into these categories, but it always feels like they grab these personas and forget to bring out the real depth of character from them.

There’s no reason for them to be that way, it just is because it’s a popular trend.  It’s like people can only swing from one end of the scale to the other.

Of course, if you feel the need to wear a chainmail bikini, I won’t stop you!  All the more power to you.

It’s not only in books and movies, this portrayal and inequality is real life too.

That’s why my author brand is No More Damsels In Distress.

Every day is a battle.

A battle for us to become a world full of peace and equality.  Unfortunately, there are far too many things wrong with the world to fix all at once.

So this is the battle I’ve chosen to fight.

I strive to help portray more real women of all different types of strength.

There aren’t enough female protagonists out there we can show our daughters and say, “be like her.”

There aren’t enough female protagonists out there we can show our sons and say, “that’s the kind of woman you want to find.”

Although my main focus is fantasy right now, no matter what genre I write in, this is my defining theme.

And it’s the movement I push for in life too.

 

 

I want to see a world where people can be exactly who they are, equal and strong in their own right.

A world where we aren’t bound by what others expect us to do.

I want to help other women (and men) become the best they can be, whatever that looks like.

I want to help people be strong and empowered, to chase their dreams and do what makes them happy.

One day I will be able to help other victims of domestic violence and abuse, the many others whose stories are far worse than mine.

One day, I hope to truly see No More Damsels In Distress.

When people hear that I have a Master’s degree yet I’m pursuing a ‘silly’ career, they often scoff.  They don’t understand that it was one of the best decisions of my life.

They don’t see that it’s not the mark of my biggest failure, but of my biggest turning point.

It’s proof that I came out of the battle alive.  Proof that I’m resilient, that I’m a survivor.

Abandoned, abused, but far from defeated.

Without writing, without this purpose — I have no idea where I’d be.  I believe writing is a huge part of where I am today.  And I’ve enjoyed every step of this journey, even when it gets tough.

I don’t have a long list of credentials, awards or achievements to my name.  I don’t have a bestsellers badge, a plethora of published books or a 6-7 figure income to claim.  Not even a single dollar.

I don’t have anything tangible to show you as a ‘look how far she is now’ story.

Yet.

People often see these kind of ‘success stories’ far, far after they’ve succeeded.  And often they’re too far up the mountain to encourage the people who haven’t realized they have it in them to climb that mountain in the first place.

It’s hard to see yourself in someone else’s shoes when they’re so far away.  And sometimes people forget that this journey is LONG.

It’s fitting that as I write this today, it’s the anniversary of the Day I Was Found, right after my 24th birthday — to remember the very first strong woman in my life.

 

 

My journey is only just beginning.

And I want to encourage people, especially those who haven’t started or those who feel that they aren’t good enough to pursue their dreams… that you are.

Whatever obstacles you’ve had in your life, it is possible to overcome them.

Launching my first book, my first series, will mark the first milestone of many.  And I will succeed, I will have that list of achievements to tell you about one day.

Not because of arrogance, but because of sheer tenacity.  For me, it’s succeed or die trying.

I think it’s important to hear about every chapter of the story, not just the happy ending.  And there will be plenty of failures to share, a list I’m certain will be far longer than my successes.

The beginning might be the hardest part, but every failure is a step closer to success.

I’ll fight this battle, for No More Damsels In Distress, until my last breath.

But I can’t do it alone.  I’m just one person.  An ordinary citizen of Earth.  Just one voice shouting amongst billions of others.

And that’s why I want to ask you this.

Help me make the world a better place.

A world where no one is afraid to be themselves or stand up for what they believe in.

A world where we are free to be strong individuals in our own right.

A world we would be proud to leave to our children.

 

 

Will you take up your sword and stand with me?

Will you join me on this journey?

Together, we will be a force to be reckoned with.

Together, we will be unstoppable.

And to the bravest woman I’ve never met… Mom, I’m gonna make you proud.

Author Bio

Paris Hansch (Homo sapiens) is a fantasy fanatic, biologist and avid reader, native to Australia. Common behaviour includes living in her own nerdy world of sword and sorcery, playing D&D and writing kickass women in fiction.

Armed with her motto of, ‘No More Damsels In Distress’, she battles to see a world where everyone can stand as equals, have the freedom to be exactly who they are and portray real female characters we can show our daughters and say, ‘be like her’.

Will you join her on this journey?

https://www.parishansch.com/jointhejourney

From Nick: if any of Paris’ story resonates with you, please pick up a copy of her debut novel – it’s only 99c, but it represents a lifetime of striving towards something amazing.

The Last Stand (Empire of the Dragon Gods: Prequel) is available now. Please support Paris by picking up a copy.

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