Six months after Rachel was born, Hurricane Katrina landed on Mississippi. Even though we were over 150 miles inland, the storm was strong enough to be a Category 1 hurricane when it hit us. We were without power for a week, and the children were off school for what seemed like a long time. I was afraid—of the storm itself, then of the upheavals we went through as a society—people exchanging gunfire over gasoline and ice. I stuffed down the anxiety and fear for several weeks until I had a dentist’s appointment.
When they put me under nitrous oxide to relax me for the procedure, I felt the walls I had built against the sadness and anxiety start to come down. I lay in the dentist’s chair and thought, “I am not going to have a nervous breakdown in the doctor’s office. I’m not going to break down.”
I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Where was God in my life now? Why was I going through such a trial of my faith? What had I done wrong this time to be suffering so much in my mind? Those were the questions I asked myself. I started counseling again within a week for what I thought was post-partum depression made worse by the events surrounding the hurricane. I was wrong.
After the big breakdown nine months after Katrina, I realized that I couldn’t continue to work—I wanted so much to do so but just could not take the stress of daily deadlines any longer. I let all of it go—the food column, the business news, the gardening and religion stories, everything. I had one final assignment I wanted to complete—I had contracted for it before the breakdown and resolved it was my last job. I wrote 15 profiles of all the community colleges in Mississippi for a college prep publication and earned close to $2,000 that month. I resolved to continue writing on my fiction project I had conceived after the hurricane—it felt like a natural move to go to a new field of endeavor in writing since I couldn’t do deadline work any longer.
The problem was that it had been 15 years since I had written fiction, and I just wasn’t very good at it. I kept sending things off to be published and kept getting rejection after rejection. I started questioning myself again. Why was I failing at this writing? What was I doing wrong? Why had God given me these stories to write if they weren’t going to be published?