Memoirist Melissa Febos On Secrets, Addiction And Truth

Apr 22, 2017

From the time she was a little girl, Melissa Febos recognized that keeping secrets about her own life gave her a certain power over the people around her. When she was very young the secrets were simple things: she’d take objects from her house, bury them in the yard and then hide the very elaborate maps she drew pinpointing the locations of her treasure.

Later, her secrets grew darker: none of her family or friends knew that even as she was making straight A’s as a college student in New York City that she was a heroin addict, or that for three years during that same time period, she was working as a professional dominatrix in a midtown Manhattan dungeon.

We know all this about Melissa because seven years ago she wrote a book called “Whip Smart,” describing her hidden life. That might seem like a strange undertaking for someone who had cherished secrecy and who had lived through experiences others might judge harshly. But Melissa realized that writing about her life candidly was crucial to coming to terms with who she really is.

You’d think that having revealed her addiction and her work as a dominatrix, Melissa would have already spilled her darkest secrets. But it turns out she had even more troubling issues that she knew would be even harder to confront openly: her piercing need to be loved, to have her life affirmed by another human being. And that’s the subject of her new book “Abandon Me: Memoirs.” 

Here's Melissa's TEDx Talk "Telling Your Secrets Can Set You Free"