Owning my crazy: a #HoldOnToTheLight post
I had to take a half a Xanax to write this post.
I’d gone out to breakfast with my housemate, co-conspirator, best friend, for the first time in months (and as I write this, I triple-check my reverse alphabetization of appellations and fuss over whether reversing it is ‘wrong’). We finally had enough extra money to do something that we both enjoy and find a necessary part of our creative processes. After we ordered, I opened with, “So I have to write a blog post for this thing…”, realized I hadn’t talked to her about #HoldOnToTheLight, and then did a piss-poor job of explaining, out of my increasing uncertainty that I had a good grasp on the cause or any business contributing to this event.
Some people call that impostor syndrome. I call it, “Today, tomorrow, yesterday.”
We agreed, as I said, “it’s not really impostor syndrome,” that whatever it was, it was definitely crazy. I use crazy by preference and advisedly (carefully, and with qualifications, so I don’t hurt anyone else’s feelings or trigger them, because that, too, is part of it). When I say “my crazy,” I acknowledge that this is part of me, and that other people have some of their own, and I appeal to the original definition of the word, which the internet tells me comes from the Germanic crasen, craisen “to shatter, crush, break to pieces,”(http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=craze) which might have been Scandinavian before that, and “is preserved … in reference to cracking in pottery glazing (1815).” I like that, because it reminds me of Kintsugi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT55_u8URU0), a Japanese technique that repairs broken pottery with a lacquer dusted in precious metal. That video refers to it as the “art of embracing damage,” so, yeah, I really like “crazy.”
Once I’d agreed that it was definitely crazy, I didn’t know what to write about. The entire situation had my heart racing and the adrenaline creep-crawling beneath my skin and making that uncomfortable itchy-tickly-stressed feeling in what might be called the brachial plexus (I’m not sure, even though I looked it up, and that’s kind of crazy-making too). I couldn’t talk about it anymore until I took a half a Xanax. The BFF said, with her fingers typing on the table, that’s how the post should start: “I had to take a half a Xanax to write this post.”
So, this is how it starts.
The six and one-quarter lines I skipped represent the 25 hours in which, in spite of knowing how the post started and that I did have something to say, I didn’t write it. Instead, once the initial anxiety abated and breakfast had been consumed (Arizona Turkey with eggs instead of turkey, no mayo, on wheat instead of sourdough from the Egg & I, fruit, coffee, and Orchard Roots juice, if you’re curious about what crazy-me eats), I was so zonked from adrenaline-drain that I needed a nap. In fact, I needed a nap so badly that I had to postpone my visit with my CASA kidlet (Court Appointed Special Advocate; crazy-me does volunteer community service, in case you thought “crazy” meant antisocial, self-obsessed, self-pitying or anything like that — it’s a thing you hear) for an hour and a half. And, of course (though maybe it’s not as “of course” for you as it is for me), I felt guilty about that, even though the kidlet’s foster mom had no problems with moving the time, and the kidlet was psyched because we had Burger King instead of ice cream.
When I got home, I felt so tired from being extraverted (I’m a closet introvert; you can’t really tell I’m an introvert, unless you see me collapse in a weepy pile of skin, fat, and bones, after I spend too much time with other people), I “couldn’t” possibly begin peeling back my emotional barriers enough to write about my mental health. Instead, I talked to a friend on Slack, did a little collaborative storytelling (text-based roleplay for our D&D characters–a hurt-comfort scenario, because sometimes RP is self-soothing behavior), and by 10:30 pm when I finally felt recovered enough to write, well, I “couldn’t” possibly write because in the interim, I’d accepted an editing assignment due at 12:21 (yes, precisely) today, because making money always comes before self-expression.
So those blank lines, they’re not writer’s block. They’re a representation of the not-so-white noise of anxiety cycling, like the drone of the wood-chipper, saw, or leaf-blower (reversed again, for consistency, because my brain insists on it) that makes me so tense that I have to take another half a Xanax and start the spiral over. Or the perseveration of words or phrases that I think of and then can’t stop repeating in my head until I say them out loud to another being (fortunately, the dog seems to count these days).
The blank space isn’t not knowing how to write or what to write or thinking I have no business writing. It isn’t lack of discipline or laziness–thanks, all those people who say “just do it,” because you know it really isn’t that simple; trust me, I’ve tried. Blank space is what happens when I try to Nike it. Sometimes I gaslight myself into believing it’s laziness or lack of discipline and I manage to finish something in a huge push of effort that’s, frankly, a lot more like straining to shit than it is writing. So, that blank space up there, it represents the long process of gearing myself up, getting over the anxiety, lacquering the cracks or letting the light in, enough to write.
The blank space is how it continues.
Sometimes “crazy” doesn’t have a scary-sounding diagnosis. Sometimes it’s called “general anxiety disorder” or “chronic depression.” Sometimes it’s called “today, tomorrow, yesterday,” “crazy,” or “just how I am.”
Some of my writing friends and colleagues understand what makes them “how they are,” and they have coping strategies to help them get on with what they want to do. The coping strategies probably don’t always work, but for their sakes, I really hope they do. Because the cracks, the Xanax, the blank space…even when, as now, it finally gives way to the feeling of having something to say and a point-of-view to speak from? They’re not working.
This post, #HoldOnToTheLight, therapy, Sertraline, Xanax, self-soothing? They’re not how mental illness ends. They’re how it continues.
There is no end.
That’s why I needed to struggle through the cycle to write this. Because I needed to admit that, “Hey, I’m here, and I’m feeling a little crazy. How about you?”
About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK),SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight