EDIT 6 JUNE 2011: I just wanted to refresh this to let you all know some exciting news. Not only did this piece take second place in the contest it was written for, it was also recently featured as a DLD by =bowie-loon123. You can read the article here.
More than that though, I just wanted to take a moment to sincerely thank all of you who have shared your stories, your thoughts, your pains, your support with me. I have cried more once during this whole process -- while writing the piece, and again while reading all of your comments. You are all such beautiful people, and though we struggle with our illnesses, we are strong because WE ARE NEVER ALONE. Thank you so much for reminding me of that.
So, I've heard of this concept before -- creating art and literature around the affirmation "I am not my illness" -- and I've long meant to work out a piece around that, but #NeverBeAlone
's contest, which I stumbled on just by chance, finally kicked by butt into gear.
Check the contest out here: #NeverBeAlone's "I Am Not My Illness" Contest
. (It's closing Tuesday, 1 March 2011, so you might not have time to create your own entry, but please do check out the ones submitted!) A few words on the content of this piece, and the type of feedback desired:1)
I feel like I've done a shit job of explaining this all but no matter how I try to talk about it, it sounds stupid and trivial to me. These things don't always translate well into words, I guess. But here goes:
I have clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. The latter two of those three, in particular, form the subject matter of this piece. The first two strophes deal with social anxiety, and the second half deals with the anxiety I long focused around schoolwork and marks, and more broadly, "material success," during high school and university. I am a very high achiever. I graduated first in my high school class, and second in my university class. People assume that I'm smart, talented, ambitious and normal
. What they don't see -- at least if they are not those close to me -- is the unhealthy and anxiety-driven compulsion, the severe insomnia, the self-hatred, the depression behind that.
They also see someone outgoing, cheerful, friendly -- which is what I am usually like. However, when my main anxiety is triggered, I tend to become very socially anxious, particularly in places where I am not familiar with or comfortable around the people. I chose a grocery store because, while I normally LOVE grocery shopping, when my GAD and PD are out of control, they cause me to have panic attacks when I enter grocery stores -- the people, the smells of food (I am always very naseous during my episodes of acute anxiety, sometimes not eating for 3-4 days), the way the ceilings seem to stretch forever.
This is what I mean by "truths that are lies" -- my anxiety makes me hate thing I normally love, makes me believe that I am stupid, worthless, disgusting, and undeserving of life.
This is difficult for me to explain, it really is, and the most concise way I've ever been able to sum it up was in a comment I left on a blog a while back. I'll quote it here: "I've always been a high achiever, overachiever even, and part of that is very dysfunctional, driven by my anxiety and panic disorder. I used to consider anything less than perfect (i.e. A+) to be a failure. I would harm myself, sleeping less than three hours a night and going without food, with the belief that it was the only way I could perform at such a high-level. I used to tell myself that if I ever "failed" at something I would end my life. On top of all that, I would write A calibre papers and vehemently believe that it was of failing quality. I was terrible to myself. After extensive counselling I've learned to be much kinder to myself but I still have an intense fear of failure, and tend to tie my self-worth up with my school performance." But I am getting better. Right now, before continuing my education and pursuing my professional/career aspirations, I am taking 18 months off school to just work, relax, live, and actually get to know myself, you know, for me.
In this way, I am less and less my illness everyday, and slowly but surely, I am healing.
***2) -- I am NOT looking for detailed critique on this piece, at least not yet.
Yes, I know, I know -- this is so wholly unlike me! I usually beg you all to rip my stuff apart.
BUT, this one was VERY difficult for me to write, and it is not at all my best work
. But I couldn't tweak it any further, if only for the sole fact that I'm not ready for that yet, not ready to delve into my own psychology yet. I have not yet entangled myself enough from illness to do that, I suppose. And so it needs to stay just the way it came out for a while. The tweaking will come later, and I'll open it up for critiques then. HOWEVER, feedback is welcome
. What you liked or didn't more generally is totally acceptable, as are broad suggestions for improvement, and I would love to hear similar stories, your thoughts, any thing.
Thank you so much for reading through this. If you read all of the above, you are truly amazing, and appreciate such a kind action so very much.
Be well all,