More About Me:The Whole-Ass Truth
I’m one of those people who thinks that revising & editing are fun. Writers are craftspeople; we tailor and augment our words to suit certain audiences and specific purposes. Revising quite literally means re-seeing your words. You can put them down, close the laptop or journal, and leave them alone for any amount of time. It’s like parenting your past self, except it’s actually an act of love and responsibility to lock the door and leave.
Since I thought my About Me was literal perfection when I first wrote it, I locked the door and walked away for seven days. A lot of ice cream was consumed. At least four naps were napped.
When I re-opened the door to re-see my work, I saw it with well-rested eyes that could discern a half-truth from the whole-ass-Truth. I saw that those seven days had something to show me; in this case, it was a journal. I hadn’t opened it since I began using a Sketch pad because it offered much more real estate for the tangents that broke out in the margins during my journaling. I forgot about it until I walked into my office this morning and there it was--teetering off the edge of the desk because I had moved it aside to spread out my Sketch pad.
I forgot to remember that journal and keep it (and my heart) at the center of my writing.
Looking back gives us perspective, which helps us see a whole story as we’ve come to know it (beginning, middle, end).
Sometimes we don’t know that we’re still in the middle.
I offer the idea that I am always in the middle.
I am always becoming.
Here is the rest of the story:
I’ve always known that I was meant to be a writer, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve always practiced my craft. During my transition to a new job as a full-time English professor three years ago--Yesssss insurance--I overextended myself; I signed up for every committee and volunteered for every extra additional responsibility. I wanted to be immersed in this new environment and learn by serving, but the schedule I made for myself and allowed to persist wasn’t sustainable.
Part of the reason I overextended myself was to avoid addressing the mounting tensions in my home. My husband and I were throwing ourselves into our individual work in part to avoid facing ourselves, one another, and the shifts occurring in our marriage. We were hustling. I had outsourced my happiness, personal fulfillment, and self-worth to my job and my students. I only felt joy and fulfillment when they were performing well and when my supervisors were pleased with me. I never dared ask myself if I was happy with me. I never dared write down my feelings because I knew that once I saw them in black squiggles on a stark white background, I would be responsible for them, and myself.
Three months into my Fancy New Job, I experienced the most severe episode of Depression I had ever encountered.
I became a shadow of myself.
I cried constantly when I wasn’t yelling into the silence of my empty house.
I isolated myself from friends and family.
I stopped eating.
I stopped sleeping.
I tried to starve the hurt into nothingness.
It almost killed me.
Early one morning while I was busy not sleeping, I started a Google deep dive that would land me in the arms of Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave, Inc. As a mental health nonprofit, they do the important work of extending resources to people like me; one of those resources is This Is My Brave: The Show, where storytellers share their experiences with mental illness. I hadn’t written anything for myself in over a year, but I had the eyes and hands of a writer with the mind and heart of a woman with Depression. It felt like a chance to come back to myself.
I scheduled an audition.
I didn’t go.
Sometimes that’s how Depression works. I can plan, but I can’t guarantee. I break promises, especially the ones I make to myself.
Even though I didn’t go, I started writing a stream-of-consciousness journal that turned into a series of personal essays. Sometimes Depression works that way, too. I kept writing because seeing the truth that had been floating in my mind and heart was like redemption. It was freedom in a dancing cursor.
I kept writing for myself, then branched out a little in Instagram captions, then in Facebook posts. I started to show up for myself publicly so that if I ever became Depressed again, someone would notice and come looking.
I wanted that someone to be me.
A full year later, I took one of those early essays and turned it into the story I would read in front of an audience at the This Is My Brave: Washington D.C. Show. Four of my students drove two full hours to see my performance (more on that later in the blog!). Serving myself--seeing myself--helped me see my students. It helped me start becoming who I have been all along.
Writing saved me and brought me back to myself during a long, beautiful, terrifying year. I always knew I was a writer, but the thing about knowing what you’re meant to do is that you have to put that thing into practice. You have to do it. Denying it is denying a piece of who you are, and denying yourself the most incredible joy you’ve ever created your damn self FOR your damn self.