Write What You Know

Yesterday, I got the dreaded, “Hey, where are you?” call from work.

I had somehow slept through all six of my alarms, and was about an hour late. Though I am much more punctual than I’ve been in the past, things like this still happen from time to time. I felt very embarrassed rushing into the store without a shower, makeup, or even brushing my teeth.

I am not sure how long I’ve been feeling this discombobulated. I was given my Abilify injection yesterday, and I don’t think it’s helping as quickly or as much as it used to. The combination of needing the injection and the global pandemic that’s going on hasn’t done much in the way of improving my mental health. In fact, I’m sure that people all over the globe are struggling as we readjust to the new normal, even people who have never had to think much about their mental health before.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve sat down to write something, be it an email or a journal entry or something else, and started with the phrase, “I feel like I’m losing my mind,” I could retire comfortably right now. And it really does feel like that quite a lot. I know that facts are not feelings and that feelings pass, but it can be hard to remember that sometimes.

When depression takes hold of me, I have a hard time doing things that could help pull me out of the pit. I don’t have the energy to cook myself a nice meal or take a walk. I try very hard to force myself to get out of bed, shower, put on clean clothes, etc. every day because I know it’ll only be that much harder to do things like that if I stop. Taking care of myself is difficult when I feel that I don’t deserve to be taken care of. Then, things pile up around the house (dirty dishes, laundry, etc.) and I don’t know where to begin to put things back in order. On top of that, I feel the need to beat myself up over letting the house get messy because I “should” be able to keep up with things better than I actually do.

Sometimes, I can catch myself starting to slip into old habits. Wearing dirty clothes and not showering before work are two warning signs. I actually feel worse when I do things like this, which is something else I beat myself up for. “You knew you had to work today, so why didn’t you wash your uniform last night? Are you really that lazy? Do you really care that little?” goes my interior monologue. Thoughts like these just keep coming and coming until I know my mind is looking for any little thing to tear me down. Finally, we arrive at the pinnacle of self-doubt and self-destruction, “You’re not even a good writer.”

Let me just say: if anyone asks me what I like to do or what I’m good at, the answer is writing. I have been clinging to the written word as the drowning cling to a life preserver. Writing is, indeed, my literal life preserver. Whether it’s my journals, poetry, a creative fiction piece, or even this blog, writing sustains me as nothing else can. Even if I am never published in another magazine again, if my novel never sees a bookstore shelf, if I were to delete this blog tomorrow, I would still write.

So when my own hellbrain starts telling me I’m a bad writer, I know it’s time to do something to shut her up. I can pet Archie (the world’s best cat), talk to Chance or my mom. In fact, I saw my mom this morning. During our conversation, I was holding back tears, complaining that I don’t have any friends and that I didn’t realize how much of my life is spent trying to fill the void.

What I mean by “fill the void” is that I spend a lot of time shopping in stores for things I don’t need. Now that I cannot spend a day out and about, I have a lot more free time on my hands, and I’m realizing that all I’ve been doing by shopping is putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound and distracting myself. In order to stop the bleeding, I must first identify the source of the injury.

I think, more than anything, I want to feel as though my life has meaning. Whether that means a different job, another stab at college, or even dedicating more time to my creative pursuits, whatever I’m doing now isn’t working and it’s not enough. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and I feel like my twenties are slipping through my fingers. How much of my current, stagnant state is really due to mental illness, and how much of it is merely me standing in my own way?

It’s hard for me to keep track of how long I’ve felt a certain way. Has the irritating, melodramatic idea of suicide been in my head for two days or two months? I have no idea. What I do know is that every time I’ve decided to kill myself, I haven’t attempted. I end up in the psych hospital, sometimes get my meds adjusted, eat a lot of butterscotch pudding (that’s all they have for snacks in the nurses’ station. Don’t ask me why), come home with a new souvenir pair of hospital socks, and then decide life isn’t so bad. I don’t want to go to the hospital right now (or ever again), and I have better things to do than listen to the aggravating voice in my head telling me I’d be better off dead. The frustrating part is just waiting for it to pass, but the comforting part is that it always does pass.

When I was talking to my mom this morning, I mentioned that my friend Anna had posted something really cool on their art Instagram. Anna and I have collaborated on art projects before, and they just speak my language when it comes to our creative endeavors. I recently sent them a poem I’d written and got the response, “I’ve never read anything like that before.” And that is why I’m sticking around–to continue telling my story.

One thought on “Write What You Know

  1. So much of what you wrote in this post hit me hard. I, too, feel my twenties passing by, not sure if my lack of movement is due to mental illness or some amount of self-sabotage/fear. I also struggle with suicidal thoughts and a sense of emptiness where my life’s meaning should be. The pandemic complicates mental illness in ways I don’t think anyone was ready for. I certainly feel it sapping my mental energy and making things worse. So, all that’s to say, thanks for putting your excellent writing skills to use– you’ve made me feel understood.


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