Creating and putting out into the world any kind of meaningful material is more difficult now than it ever was at age 20.
See, back then, I was awash in angst and I could take on any challenge given the single, powerful notion of youthful invincibility (thanks, mania) and an adequate supply of coffee. Most of the things I accomplished at that age, I only pursued because I saw someone else doing it and figured I could do whatever it was being done just as well, if not better. That’s why I started writing poetry as a teen, and ultimately why I started making video blogs (oh, vlogging) on YouTube as a young adult.
During the spring of 2006, my parents joined the world of high-speed internet (goodbye, AOL) and as a result, a whole new world opened up before my eyes. There were so many things to watch, digest, masturbate to, and illegally download. A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of talking in front of a camera for five to ten minutes. At first, I was unimpressed by the whole process and felt it to be too self-centered; a circle-jerk of lonely fuckers with nothing better to do. I will be the first to admit that I was a pretty harsh and judgmental asshole, okay?
After watching more videos, however, I realized that people from all over the world were sharing their own personal stories and connecting in ways that I couldn’t imagine before. See, I didn’t have a particular talent to share with the masses. I was 20, stressed out, in college, and poorly managing an invisible illness. But I could talk. I could talk at length about the crap in my head, about feeling bad and how I dealt with it.
Long story short, I started making videos because I was a mess, and other folks responded well to my mess. Life felt less lonely because, as crazy as I was, there were people out there picking up what I was putting out. I would get messages from people all over the country who could relate, even if just for a moment. I was professionally manic and depressed and the more I spoke about it, the more dialogue I engaged in with people who just “got it.”
I rode that wave for as long as I could, and in that time, I met a lot of amazing (and not-so-amazing) people, most of whom I’m still friends with to this day.
When I started working in mental health, however, I became aware of what impact my videos could have if found by my patients. My videos had the potential to undo any professional advice I could give to anyone I was working with. Despite aiming to relate to others with my unabashed honesty, I would inevitably invalidate myself by being the “do as I say, not as I do” counselor. I stopped making videos, I stopped publishing my writings, and I became an internet recluse.
When I started writing again, breaking an over five year long case of writer’s block, I tried my hardest to express some kind of positive outlook gained in my absence from the internet. Essays were cutesy and anecdotal and I was able to write them without much thought, which at the time was necessary just to jump start the writing process.
“All you need to do is take your medicine, see your therapist, abstain from fun, color in some ‘adult’ coloring books and you, too, can be a hollow shell of a person like me!”
But that’s not me.
At 31, I’m still the same angsty girl, just with a little more polish and a better sense of what not to do. See, I’m crude, my moods swing rapidly, I have shitty coping skills, I fuck a lot of people because my desires can at times be uncontrollable, I don’t settle down, and I can be an unsympathetic asshole. But I’m also one of the sweetest and most caring people you’ll ever meet, I’ll give you the shirt off of my back, and I won’t ever ask for the same in return. I’ve got my demons, but I’ve got my good traits, too.
In trying to portray myself as someone who has essentially learned from the err of my ways, how to navigate the ins and outs of having a mental illness and maintaining a balanced life, I put undue pressure on myself and slowly imploded. That unrealistic structure collapsed in on itself long ago and left this stunning mess of a young adult in its wake.
One of the biggest and most effective ways I’ve learned to deal with my demons is to shed light on them. Sure, I’ve been afraid to do so, and I’ve forced myself to tread lightly around certain subjects, but it serves no purpose anymore. If anything, it’s only furthered this cycle of repression and implosion. At this stage, the only way I can set myself free artistically and creatively is to remove the filters and the fears.
So, fuck fear.
Here we go.