Real Talk: I’m living with mental illness.

By that I don’t mean I have a bunch of adorable quirks that are misunderstood by society, or that I’ve been diagnosed with nonexistent problems by the shadowy agents of “Big Pharma,” or that sometimes I feel down but a quick jaunt in the woods cheers me right up. (Seriously, the next person who tells me “the best antidepressant” is nature or kittens or friendship or whatever is gonna get punched square in the mouth.) I mean that my brain flat-out doesn’t function properly without some kind of treatment – in my case, weekly therapy and a few daily medications.

I keep telling myself that there’s no shame in this, that some people’s brains work fine right out of the box and mine doesn’t and that my worth as a human being isn’t lessened because of that. But it’s easy for me to say there’s no shame when I’m lucky enough to have the means and support system to help me manage my illnesses; a lot of people don’t.

But even then, I’m still afraid of talking about it openly, or at least as openly as I do about other parts of my identity. And for me, it is a part of my identity. The whole way I view the world has been colored by my experience with mental illness – the difficulty focusing, the suicidal depression, the hallucinations and delusions – and all the ways it’s impacted my life. But strangely, I didn’t realize how big a part of me this is until quite recently, when I was thinking about whether or not my writing has lived up to my blog’s tagline.

A statement of purpose

Back when I was really concerned about establishing my name and “author brand,” I read some advice that said I should pick a tagline to represent me, my brand, my writing, and so on. After a lot of careful thought I came up with: “Nothing makes sense and it’s going to be okay.”

I picked this tagline for a fairly simple reason: it’s the message I want my writing to convey. This doesn’t mean I want every story to be meaningless randomness with a happy ending. It means that life can be strange and incomprehensible, that sometimes ridiculous or horrible things happen to us and we never find out why, but it’s still possible to survive it all and just go on living. Maybe that sounds simple to a lot of people, but as someone who spent most of their life either suicidal or having inescapable hallucinations, it means a lot to me. Simply surviving the bewildering weirdness of life isn’t always easy.

Because for me the weirdness was there all the time, whether I acknowledged it or not. It couldn’t be ignored, it couldn’t be reasoned away, and it didn’t magically disappear just because I wanted it to. For most of my life, it was my reality. But I survived and found a way to live with it. If my readers take only one thing away from my fiction, I hope it’s this: if I can live through and with my weirdness, and if my characters can do the same, maybe my readers can too.

A statement of fact

Even with treatment, I’m still living with mental illness. It’s still a part of my life; maybe it always will be. But you know what? That’s okay. It’s going to be okay. I really do believe that, and I’ll try to express it in my writing as much as I possibly can.

And as long as this is a part of who I am, I might as well be honest about it. Nothing’s going to get better unless more people are open about this kind of thing.

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