So, what do we do? That’s the big question, I guess. How do we overcome things like Traumatic Brain Injury, remembering that you used to be able to do things easier, and better, but now…you just can’t? That’s different than depression. Do we just learn to deal with what we have, kind of settle for what we got? I don’t think there is any single answer to either of those questions.
Of course, we have to deal with what we got. To do otherwise is just ignoring the issue. But dealing with what we got doesn’t mean we are settling. Suffering from a mental illness is a fact of reality. Dealing with it simply means we understand that and learn to make it better. We all tackle the obstacles of life differently, and we are prone to tackle them with our passions. Those things we truly love to do. People who love horses ride horses, philosophers argue, painters paint, writers write.
What’s it like to write with mental illness? It’s a maelstrom of emotions. I love it, it’s cathartic, it challenges and strengthens my mind, is hard, it’s painful, it’s everything. I can feel my brain, struggling to recall simple words and phrases that should be so readily available. Depression can barrage my mind with all manner of thoughts, which can make it difficult to write. But, over the years I’ve learned how to deal with those moments. Maybe I take a break from writing and focus on other aspects of my life, like finishing the book I’ve been reading, work on neverending household chores, hop in the truck and go exploring never before seen parts of my state, grill.
I only recently ignited my confidence to put thought to page. I had lived with an unattended passion for most of my life. That part of my heart was fragile, and I was afraid of exposing it to the cruelties of life. I’d already experienced that in the 10th grade after I’d poured my passion into an essay about my favorite food, garnished with a sprinkle of creative license. I had thought it was a masterfully written piece on the wonders of coming home to a lobster dinner, oozing with yummy garlic butter. Apparently, the story had taken on a completely different meaning to the rest of the class. My honest, sincere, and creatively written story had caused the class to erupt with laughter. I laughed along at first. That empty, soulless laugh people do when they’re actually really hurt inside. How was I supposed to be a writer if I was too afraid to expose my writing?
It wasn’t until I left the military and started to rediscover who I was that I gained my confidence to write. Really, it was more of a, “I don’t really care what people think” that lead to an understanding about critique. I wanted to realize my dream, to become a published author. I also knew to do that, I had to learn/hone the skill. Critiquing helps that happen. From an RPG perspective, critiquing is an experience-gaining encounter. And if someone gives you a nasty critique, extend to them your favorite colorful expression and bid them a good day!
Writing helped me to rediscover who I was after a long period of jumbled up confusion and chaos. A lot of people expressed that I wasn’t the same person they’d watched grow. I knew I had changed, I’d lived through two years of front-line combat, how could that not change me? But I didn’t feel any different. So, what do you do when everyone tells you that you’re different? I took a deep hard look at myself. The honest type. The type you can only do in a mirror, looking into your own eyes. I had to do a lot of accepting and eating more than a few large portions of humble pie.
My use of writing isn’t novel. I think most writers, no matter their level find it to be their passion or at least one of their bigger passions. That’s why we’re writers!
Mental illness has only recently come out from under the umbrella of ‘weakness’. As society scrambles to learn how to approach this ‘new’ problem, those of us with mental illness must relearn how to live.