Saturday, July 23, 2016

No, Donald. The World Already Has Too Many Walls

The thing I always hated about antidepressants was also the thing that allowed me to function as a normal human being while taking them: there was this wall, a figurative thing I guess, but I could feel it there the whole time. A wall between what I felt on the inside and what I could express on the outside. This was great when on the inside I was a caterwauling mess of self-destructive rage and woe. Instead of taking that to work with me, to the grocery store with me, to gatherings with friends and family, I could just shove it down and in and that wall, that barrier, would keep it in where no one would ever have to know.

But this proved problematic when it came to my art.

When you build a large portion of your life around the fact that you like to create stories, that you enjoy the craft of writing and want to bring a lot of it into the world, it becomes a HUGE issue when you can no longer take what's inside you and express it in external form. The same thing that kept me from dissolving into tears over the book cart at work also kept me from writing sonnets, or blog posts, or short stories. The build-up to writing was always the same - the spark of an idea, a glorious phrase, a lingering question, a vivid image or fragment of dialogue. They'd crowd inside my brain the way they always used to, but with one very noticeable difference. In the past I'd scribble them down on a page, or clickety-clack the words out into some computer document. I'd hum ideas as song lyrics into the poor quality video recorder on my phone. But when I started taking those antidepressants in the summer of 2014, suddenly all those bits and pieces had nowhere to go. They were no match for the wall that had been erected somewhere there between my heart and my brain. It was too high and too wide, and entirely without doorways. I was trapped in the prison of my own self.

So in February 2015 I stopped taking them. Without consulting a doctor (I know, bad Grace!) and without any particular impetus. I was traveling at the time, so it was harder to keep track of my regular routines, and I missed one day, then the next, and before I knew it I'd gone a full week without them and I felt WONDERFUL. Mainly because I could feel things again, just in general.

But over this past year and a half it's still been a struggle. It's like the wall was torn down, but not completely. I still trip and stumble over the remnants on a regular basis every time I try to take these thoughts and feelings and pin them to the page. And sometimes I don't even try. I mean, there have been so many things going on. I moved out of my apartment. I applied to go to school in freaking CANADA. My parents sold our house of the last 26 years. In 37 days I'll be boarding a plane to leave the country for the next two years. After I finish this Master's Degree program, I have 0% knowledge of what I intend to do with my life. I know it probably wouldn't involve retail or libraries if I had my way, but who could say for sure...? And through all of this, I've felt things, I've had words roiling around inside me that I've just allowed to settle there. I haven't once tried to climb over those jagged ruins of the Wall That Was to get my feelings out there in some form. I've just accepted the fact that they aren't important.

And fiction? Man, when it comes to fiction I haven't written anything I've been truly proud of in the last year and a half at least. (More like two.) I don't know what's going on there. I mean, I can blame it all I want on this "wall" inside my head, but the truth is that wall is made of fear. Every brick of it, and the mortar that binds them all together: fear, fear, fear. Fear that I'm worthless. Fear that nothing means anything. Fear that anything I express would just be empty noise, signifying nothing. A useless shout into the void.

Yeah, existential crisis. Light, happy summer fare. Sorry.

Basically, I'm writing this (1) because I can (for some reason these words have squeaked their way through the barrier, (2) because it feels good to explain (I'd hate for people to see the person I've been in the last couple of years and think that was somehow the best version of me... try, more like the worst.), and (3) because I want to try to demolish the rest of that wall for good. Maybe part of that will come in taking this bold step to a new position on the globe, a new city, a new school, an entirely fresh experience. And maybe part of it will just come down to good old-fashioned elbow grease, stubbornness, and determination.

The point is, it's time to stop living life as if I'm stuck inside my own skull.  Time to start living with purpose, and without fear. The freedom of a world (and a mind) without walls.