Wide Open is a memoir that tackles one woman’s journey through sexual assault and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Local author and Pioneer reporter D.M. Ditson shared a little about her journey, her book, and what she hopes to achieve through the telling of her story. Wide Open is a raw and emotional account of how she became vulnerable to assault, the depths to which she fell, and of her excruciating recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder.
During her darkest days, Ms. Ditson searched for stories of people who had gone through something similar and made it out the other side. She found memoirs of survivors who wrote about what happened, but not how they found normalcy and healing in their life again.
“I wanted to see somebody else’s map of how they got better so I could know that I could get better too. And that’s what I ended up writing,” she says.
The story chronicles her journey to recovery. Once Ms. Ditson started to work on getting better, she felt she had no choice but to push through.
“I was in dreadful, dreadful shape,” she recalls. When she began to focus on healing her mental state, her body reacted in strange and disruptive ways, such as uncontrollable shaking legs every single day for more than three years.
“There were some nights where it lasted forever, where I don’t even know if I even slept at all,” she recalls.
Ms. Ditson ended up quitting her job and spent 14 months doing nothing but focusing on her recovery.
“I remember going to my therapist and asking, ‘why aren’t I better yet? Why is this taking so long? Why is all this weird stuff happening to me’?,” Ms. Ditson recounts. “She told me there’s no timeline on how long it takes. It just takes as long as it takes.”
She found meditation helpful, as well as writing. She wrote the book while she was in the process of healing. Earlier on, before Ms. Ditson worked out her recovery, she would write about the assaults, then destroy the pages. One time, she tried flushing her diary entries into the toilet. Another time, she burned and buried them in the backyard.
“It was all these secrets I was trying to keep even from myself. And the more I kept them from myself, the more it made me unwell,” she explains.
Part of her healing process was taking these secrets and letting them out. She shared with a few people and found in their response a compassion and empathy she had not expected. That was a pivotal moment for Ms. Ditson as she worked to heal.
“I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to sit down and I’m going to write more of this. I’m going to let more of my secrets out, because apparently they’re not so dark that they’re going to make everyone hate me’.”
Ms. Ditson wrote the book to document her own recovery, and to hopefully help others. She wants survivors, loved ones of survivors, and anyone struggling with mental health to read it and see there is hope.
“It’s so difficult to get better. I just wanted to show that ‘yes, you can’,” she explains. “I hope it helps people see each other with more empathy.”
After the sexual assaults, trauma, and lengthy recovery process, Ms. Ditson has come out the other side. She feels whole, healed, and happy now, adding it is important that people know that full recovery is possible.
“People who haven’t gone through this kind of upheaval don’t necessarily live their life specifically by design. And in having exploded my previous life, I got to choose exactly what I wanted in my new one,” she says.
Ms. Ditson shares a story of the moment she realized she was healed, when this chapter of her life could close. It was a year and a half ago. She was staying in Fernie and desperately wanted to climb a mountain. The first time she tried, she was turned back by a park ranger who said the trail was decommissioned. She tried again, this time urged to turn back by another person who said the trail ahead was too hard. Finally on the third attempt, she got three quarters of the way up before encountering a young man coming down the mountain. He told her it was so treacherous, he turned back just shy of the summit.
But she kept climbing. She had to reach the peak of the mountain this time.
“It was steep, and super hard. By the end I started rock climbing,” she says. But, she finally reached the top.
“It felt then like I was on the other side (of my recovery),” she said. She surveyed the view: stretched out before her was a picture of spring – everything was new and fresh, a totally separate season than the summery mountain behind her. And she knew then. She was healed.
It has been five years since Ms. Ditson started writing her memoir, which will be available at Mountain Hub May 1st. Wide Open is available for pre-sale now: visit www.dmditson.ca.