Victoria Arlen is ready to tell her real and raw story for the first time.
The ESPN personality, 23, has been telling her story for years now, ever since she emerged from a vegetative state caused by two rare diseases that left her completely paralyzed but aware, trapped within her body from age 11 to 15.
Once dismissed as a "lost cause," Arlen has gone on to win a gold medal in the Paralympics, regaining her ability to walk in 2016 and even making it to the semi-finals of Dancing With the Stars Season 25. She's inspired people all over the world with her can-do attitude and motivational speeches.
But in writing her autobiography, Locked In, to be released August 28, she is telling a side of her story she's never told before — even to herself, she admitted in an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com.
"Writing it, it was incredible," Arlen said. "I never really cried or talked about what happened to me in-depth, and going into this book process, I had a lot of conversations with my family. They're like, 'Look, if you’re going to do this, you’ve got to go all in.'"
With the mentoring of televangelist and author Joel Osteen and The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, Arlen decided she was up for the deep dive into her own past, really confronting for the first time how she survived through years of pain and strife. It's not a story many know.
“I tend to sugarcoat my story quite a bit, for my own kind of survival mechanism, but there was no sugarcoating this book, that’s for sure," she said, adding, "I went in with a blaze of glory, like 'OK, we're going to do this,' and then I was like, 'Oh my God, this is so sad.' I completely just lost it and really started talking about it and being emotional about it."
She continued, "It meant actually, really understanding what happened to me and processing it. I was so little, I mean from 11 to 15, my world was just in survival mode."
Putting her story to paper, when less than a decade ago she couldn't hold her head up or even grip a pencil, is "surreal," Arlen said.
"I still don't really understand how I am where I am to this day," Arlen admitted. "I think I was really stubborn to prove a lot of people wrong, but also when you watch from the sidelines for four years the world go on without you, it creates this will to go out and survive and thrive."
Getting this "raw" with people is definitely nerve wracking, Arlen said, admitting that sleeping has been a little tough coming up on the release date.
“There have been so many people who have shared my story or talked about my story and there have been inaccuracies, there's been different interpretations," she said. "So for this, it’s 'This is me. This is what I've been through.' And hopefully, if it can make an impact, make a difference in someone else’s life, whether for themselves to keep fighting or to keep fighting for a loved one ... I hope this book shows that really nothing is impossible."
Look for Locked In everywhere you buy books on August 28, 2018.
Photo credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images