Fighting my way through fiction.
I’ve debated on writing a blog about my personal battles. I don’t want this post to come off as a “whoa is me” post. I really want to shed some light on the obstacles that I face as a writer, and a human, in the hopes of helping others to overcome their own obstacles.
Writing has been good to me. Mentally more so than anything. It’s proven to be a middle finger to all the doctors who diagnosed me.
Let me explain…
In elementary school it was apparent that I wasn’t like the other kids. I lacked the carefree attitude most children possessed at my age. I was fearful of being left at school. I hated being in a large group setting with kids I didn’t know. Sixth grade, at the tender age of eleven, was the year that I realized I was always going to have to fight harder for what I wanted than most people. Mentally, I recognized something was off.
It wasn’t until middle school that I was diagnosed with multiple panic and anxiety disorders; social, seasonal, phobias, etc. With these diagnosis also came learning disabilities, as the doctors would call them. ADD, ADHD, ABCDEFG.
This information was hard for me to swallow at my young age. I didn’t want to be THAT kid. The one who was constantly struggling to stay afloat. The one who had to read the same sentences one hundred times over just to comprehend the meaning, and even then my brain would morph it into something else. I was THAT kid. The one with a disability that no one took seriously, because it wasn’t physical. I struggled. A LOT. But I knew it was up to me to fight for my place in this world. My mother, teachers, and doctors couldn’t make me the smart kid. It was up to me. Despite the embarrassment, fear, and constant self-doubt, I fought. I fought to be smart. I had to force myself to focus, to read, to comprehend things that I couldn’t comprehend. I won the battle over my mind when I made honor roll every single quarter of my two years in middle school. Compared to high school, middle school would prove to be easy.
My anxiety got worse once high school started. A change of scenery, new faces, different teachers, all contributed to the severity of my symptoms. I hated the first few months of high school. I was shy and withdrawn. Two of my closest friends moved away before ninth grade started. I was alone, and had to start the acceptance cycle over again. That’s a symptom my doctors didn’t warn me about. The need to be loved and accepted by your peers, and if you’re not, you feel like your life is over. Literally. I would do ANYTHING to make a friend. Lie to make myself look cool. Smoke a cigarette in the parking lot after school to fit in. Kiss a boy in a barn to look experienced. In reality, I was just a fifteen year old girl battling against a mind that I was born with, one that I had no control over. By tenth grade I was homeschooled, and eventually graduated from homeschool.
Fast forward to my early twenties, after a few failed attempts at college, a divorce, and the loss of a group of people I loved dearly, I was close to rock bottom. My panic attacks were a daily occurrence. I stopped driving, quit my job, developed phobias that included emetophobia and agoraphobia. If you’re not familiar with these phobias, agoraphobia is the fear of leaving your home, or a place you’ve deemed “safe” in your mind. Emetophobia is an irrational fear of vomiting. I didn’t leave my home for close to three months. When I did try, my body would go into shock. I would dry heave, walk in circles, cry, then eventually fall asleep. This was me at lower than rock bottom. The only thing I could look forward to at this time was lying down at night and writing out my thoughts, prayers, and fears. Sometimes it was just the words “I can’t do this anymore” written over and over until I fell asleep. That journal is full of the most honest words I’ll likely ever write. I refused to open that journal for close to six years. It was too difficult to face that desperation again.
I don’t know at what point things changed. One day it was easy to walk out the front door. It got easier to get in my car. Eventually life felt easy again.
After making it past this period in my life, I re-married, and had a kid, which was very difficult. I think I had an anxiety attack every day during my pregnancy. My son was born healthy and happy. Two days after we got home from the hospital I had a mental breakdown. The first severe one in six years.
I wanted to be happy and in love with my child but my mind would only focus on the negatives. I hated that I wasn’t experiencing overwhelming joy, which pushed me into a very deep depression.
I sought out a mental health professional to help me overcome these feelings. I left with a bottle of Prozac and the feeling of failure because I had to resort to medication.
I was on meds for about three months but decided I didn’t want to live the life of a zombie. I weaned myself off, determined to get my head straight on my own. I needed something to occupy my thoughts, so I enrolled in culinary school, which was a dream of mine since I was a kid. I was rejected three times before getting accepted. Once I was accepted the panic attacks started again. My brain hated change.
I didn’t think I would make it to the first day of culinary school. I have a habit of talking myself out of something, build up a fear, then quit before I start.
This was a huge turning point in my life. I told myself a week before school started, you can either live the rest of your life fearing the what ifs, or you can get your shit together, be scared, but be scared while doing something.
I graduated culinary school a year later. I still had a passion for food and the culinary arts but my heart wasn’t in the professional kitchen. My heart was sitting between the pages of a brown journal I had written in seven years prior when I felt like my life would never amount to anything but fear, anxiety, stupidity, and failure.
I was terrified to write an actual book and put it out into the world. For someone with a wonky brain like mine, being a writer is probably the worst profession to choose. Acceptance rates are low. Stress is high. Brain function is key. I had everything working against me from the start. I didn’t think I would succeed.
Eleven months after graduating culinary school, I published my first novel. Ten months after that, I published my second novel.
I wasn’t supposed to be the kid who grew up to be a writer. You had to be smart to do that. I wasn’t supposed to be the kid who could make a sentence legible to other people. I wasn’t supposed to live a life without various medications to keep my brain working properly. BUT I am that kid, with all the mental issues. With all the signs in front of her saying turn around. You can’t do this. You’re not smart enough. You’re not good enough. You need meds to function normally. But, I’m also the kid who refused to let a label or a diagnosis define what I wanted out of life. I want soooo much from this life. It may take me a lot longer to get there than most people. I may need meds down the road. I may have to fight off depression every time I get an awful review. I may not make sense on the way, but I’m going.
These labels will always walk closely behind me, but damn it, I can run. If I have to run until the day I die, I will. Boundaries are only as far and wide as you let them be. Jump. Kick. Scream. Take your doubts, labels, and insecurities by the throat. Choke those bitches until you’re the last man standing. In the end, it’s up to you to make the most of the brain you were born with. I’m doing everything I can to make the most of mine.