In the third grade, I had my first stint with mental illness. My only real friend had just moved away, and no one wanted to play with me at recess. I was depressed, big time, and I was also working through grief at the loss of my friend. The stages were evident (retrospectively) in the narratives that went through my head as I tried to sleep. Some nights I would cry. Some nights I would invent stories in which who had abandoned me continued to wrong me; some nights I would scream my anger at her. At eight years old, I would spend some nights thinking seriously about death. But it wasn’t until the next school year that I started to understand that these thoughts were anything out of the ordinary. In the fourth grade, after she saw me hitting myself repeatedly during tests, my teacher sent me to weekly group sessions with the school counselor.
It’s gotten worse since then, but it’s also gotten better since then. My depression comes in waves. The stresses of elementary school, junior high, and high school all took their toll on me. So, too, has the unforgiving coldness of winter, as well as the unrelenting loneliness of summer. Depression is not a constant companion, but it is a consistent companion.
My anxiety, on the other hand, does not come in waves. They aren’t as bad as they could be, and I’m always learning to ways to negotiate with them, but they never leave. Ever. In fact, I’m not totally sure where my anxiety stops and my nervous personality begins. Fretting is ingrained into my very aspect.
I was born an anxious person. I was also born a sad person. That’s sort of my point, my raison d’être: to be anxious and sad. It makes me see things that other people ignore, and it allows me to be introspective. In that, mental illness is what makes me a writer. I’m only an artist because I was wired incorrectly at the factory.
Maybe I should be grateful. Continue reading “Awake”