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  • Writer's pictureKacen Callender

Stars in Your Eyes: Romance & CPTSD

My first adult romance novel, Stars in Your Eyes, is out today—and pub day has me reflecting on my own personal healing journey just a little more than usual this morning.

I'd always felt that something was "wrong"—the panic attacks I would have before speaking engagements, my general confusion around the concept of feeling emotions as sensations in the body, the lifelong depression I'd struggled with, and, of course, the disconnect and isolation from other people. I'd grown up in a society that taught me I wasn't complete until I'd found "my other half", that I would only have true happiness once I'd found my soulmate, and it simply wasn't happening.

I'd gone to talk therapy on and off for the majority of my life, but nothing ever helped. I'd never gotten the point of talking about traumas I've survived, repeating what had happened over and over again, hoping that I would walk out of my appointment miraculously changed. The last therapist I tried in 2019 was my last-ditch attempt; and when that didn't work, I decided to give up on ever figuring out how to "fix" myself. I felt trapped in my own body, by my own thoughts and depression and anxiety.

And then? TikTok. Oh, glorious, TikTok. Slowly, outside of the endless stream of cute puppy videos, I was introduced to an algorithm on emotional healing, and eventually resources provided by trauma-informed therapists. I'd never heard of somatic therapies, EMDR, or brainspotting, but I was intrigued. I started EMDR and, within a couple of months, was diagnosed with CPTSD. A year and a half later, I've healed with body-based therapies more than I have in 10+ years of talk therapy. I was able to find a way for my body to physically process the traumas I'd survived as a child.

I'd started writing Stars in Your Eyes without yet knowing what CPTSD was; when I was diagnosed, I went through the manuscript and edited in that Logan had been diagnosed with CPTSD, too. The story was based in my own experiences, and was an answer to my realization that many romance novels (even ones I adore) don't often have characters like me or Logan, people who have struggled to feel safe in their bodies and with others; people who struggle to connect, and have been told that we aren't complete until we fall in love and are loved in return. I wanted to share the authentic experience of a survivor in a romance book to validate that childhood trauma survivors are worthy of love, in a story that frames us as complete without a partner.

Something funny happens every time I write and publish a book: the story itself somehow predicts parts of my real life. The biggest example I like to use is that the main character from Felix Ever After finds a stray cat and keeps her as a pet; after that book was published, I found and adopted my own cat, too. (Their descriptions even match!) For Stars in Your Eyes, without giving too much away, Logan finally finds relief and is able to begin his healing; I like to think that, without yet realizing it, I'd predicted my own healing, too.

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