Content Warning: discussions of PTSD, brief mentions of suicide ideation
When I was first diagnosed with PTSD and started treatment for it last year, I thought
about how grateful I was to have a support system. I envisioned throngs of friends showing up for me the way you would someone mourning a loss: answering the phone when I called, offering to help me with minor tasks, or spending more time with me. As I fought through wave after wave of flashbacks, panic attacks, and bouts of suicide ideation, the one thing I thought I could count on was my support system.
Nothing could describe the absolute devastation I experienced when that support system
crumbled, if I ever had it in the first place. A couple close, multi-year long friendships
evaporated after people ghosted me despite asking for their help. Friend-wise, there were five
people back then I could count on, all of whom weren’t living in the same state as me, and were in different time zones. While I’m grateful for their support, it was entirely virtual, and I found myself alone at my lowest point for weeks to months at a time.
Session after session, I struggled to process their abandonment more than the actual
events that resulted in my PTSD. I remained skeptical (and still am) when my therapist insisted other people have things going on in their own lives, and that their radio silence wasn’t necessarily an indicator of how they felt about me. True, but I was still in crisis mode. In my mind, I was doing everything “right,” doing what all the “Take Care of Your Mental Health” posts on social media said I should do. I hadn’t shut myself off. I reached out to people. I was flexible to others’ schedules, but when I tried to meet people 80% of the way, they wouldn’t even give me 20%. This forced me to rethink what my recovery would look like, and I ended up doing a lot of solo-dates, cuddle sessions with my cats, and self-care—although some days that was difficult, since my chronic fatigue made me nauseous if I tried to get out of bed.
In the midst of my recovery, I began writing my second YA novel, Haunting Melody.
Having been ghosted, I was inspired by the concept of ghosts themselves, and looked towards
childhood favorites such as Danny Phantom, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Ghostbusters in
order to build this new world. The book takes place in a magical, alternative version of Earth,
and centers on a queer ghosthunter named Melody who fails her first hunt, and ends up being attacked by a ghost. Scarred physically and emotionally, she reaches out for help, but her prideful community shuns her, her girlfriend dumps her, and her friends ghost her.
With no choice left, she and her family move to a small island community to catch the
ghosts responsible for the deaths of some teenagers. But her dreams of redemption are crushed when she discovers her parents don’t want her to help them. No worries: Melody will capture those ghosts herself, and will win back the respect of her parents, and rebuild her own self-esteem. She attempts to solve the mystery while mourning the losses of age-old friendships and building new ones—including one with a musically talented, butch ghost named Cyrus who haunts the local theater. As the two work together more, and develop feelings for each other, they soon discover this mystery goes deeper than they thought.
While my first YA book, Monstersona, was edited and revised during my treatment, Haunting Melody centered on a PTSD-diagnosed protagonist from the moment pen was put to paper—err, or when I typed the first sentence into a Word doc. It focuses less on the onset, and more on the recovery, and how to build a new life for yourself when it feels like you’ve lost everything.
My PTSD diagnosis was transformative in a number of ways. I wish I could pat myself
on the back for surviving such a dark period in my life with little-to-no in-person support, but the reality is that the situation put a lot of stress on my health, mentally and physically. PTSD, at its core, is a disability that impacts my life on a day-to-day basis, even when I’m doing things I love or am feeling happy. I’ve learned to accept there are ways in which I’ll likely never recover—that’s okay!—and that the road ahead of me will be bumpy, challenging, and in some ways, unpredictable.
But one thing is for sure: my recovery made me love the people who stuck around that
Chloe Spencer’s Haunting Melody releases in October of 2024. You can check out her website at www.chloespenceronline.com, follow her on Instagram
@heyitschloespencer, and add the book to your Goodreads by clicking here.
Thank you for writing this deep, insightful piece, Chloe.
If you would like to write a guest article for my blog, I am currently open to submissions. Find out more here.