I’m sorry I haven’t responded to the thoughtful and insightful comments on my last post. I want to. I keep looking at them and thinking I have the appropriate way to respond, but I don’t. Because here’s a thing: writing about R U OK? Day wiped me out for 10 days. Even though almost all of the feedback on my piece was positive, and many could relate. Talking about it in such an intense and emotive way really took it out of me. I cried for pretty much all of Thursday (thankfully?, no one asked me if I was okay) and that continued through Friday, the weekend and all of last week. I became a salty waterfall of madness.
The hopelessness overwhelmed me. I can kind of deal with being hopeless myself, but the sadness of so many other people–and the knowledge that I can do sweet fuck all to fix it–really got to me. All those people with their hearts in their throats or their spirit in their shoes just trudging through their life tar, waiting for a good day. I broke apart.
There is a fine line (for me) between raising awareness of mental illness, and becoming mental illness. Being open about mine has lifted a lot of the tension from my chest, the shame that comes with explaining why I can’t (or won’t) do something, and the sense that no one could possibly understand. But writing about it to such a depth and with such frequency has made me hyper-aware of it. In the past six months I have gone from being “Anna, who also has a mental illness” to being “Mental Illness Anna”. When I wake up in the mornings, I think, “I wonder how my mental illness will manifest today.” When I go to bed at night, I think, “I got through that day as well as can be expected, considering my mental illness.” It has become a much bigger part of my personality than I am okay with it being. My particular mental illness is always present, but in writing and talking about it I have given it oxygen, I have fed it and grown it and encouraged it to take new forms. I’ve made it feel more important than it is. Mental health awareness is important, but my mental illness is not, and I don’t want it to think that it is.
What I want is to be able to demonstrate that despite having a mental illness, I am functional, not aggressive, not insane and occasionally even happy. I don’t want my mental illness to precede me, or to excuse me. I don’t want to go around knowing that enough people know that I am an anxious person that I’m not required to at least try to be stronger than my illness. I don’t want to know that I don’t even have to say it; I can just disappear and no one will ask the question.
When I look in the mirror, an anxious person looks back at me. Not me, the anxious person, but a physical manifestation of anxiety. A personification of anxiety. I have told myself (and others) about the ways I feel my anxiety and depression so often that I have talked myself into it. I am facetless. I am anxiety, and not in the sexy Ben Mendelsohn way.
So I won’t be writing about it for a spell, while I reassociate myself with some of the other things I am: a writer, a singer, a cat person, a keen cook, a scarf wearer, a beach-goer, a breakfaster, a hugger, a reader, a Judge Judy watcher, a ponderer, a shade-of-tree sitter, a web developer, a chocolate eater, a book shopper, a fresh air breather, a friend, a partner and a mother.
That’s why I haven’t responded to your comments, even though I appreciated all of them.
Here’s a thing I did today instead: