Why I stopped writing

Photo: Li Hui ( www.huiuh.com )

Photo: Li Hui (www.huiuh.com)

It's been awhile.

I've started at least ten different conversations in the past few weeks with that phrase and I think it's finally starting to lose its novelty so let's just get right into it. This is going to be very different from what I usually write and probably a lot darker than what I've ever shared.

A few weeks ago, I spent the better part of an evening walking up and down a bridge that connects the rest of my city to downtown. I passed dozens of people looking over the water and the sun was setting in the horizon. The colours in the sky were mixing together in this kind of watercolored dream and the wind would kind of just glaze over your skin like a warm whisper. It was beautiful. July 13th was the day I decided that I was going to end my life, one of only three times that I truly believed that I needed to die.

I talk about my depression a lot. I think the general consensus from people who know me is that I'm almost too comfortable opening up  about it. And I don't necessarily disagree with that. I tend to share very personal experiences that a lot of people find unnerving or difficult to understand and it hinders the growth of a lot of my relationships. A criticism that I always get is that I go too deep -- too fast, and honestly, it's absolutely true. 

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I've been using writing as a platform to make sense of my own mental illness ever since I could remember. My earliest memory of being completely transparent with my own mental illness started in my senior year of high school. I was only 17 but I remember being so, so scared of the future that I had started shutting people out and I think I spent a record eight weeks out of class before finally realizing that I might have had a problem. I didn't know what was happening to me at the time. I didn't even know what depression was. I thought my own lack of self-worth had come from all the little imperfections that I had fixated on and I perpetuated my own vicious cycle of self-hate and self-harm. I didn't have any idea where to put all these painful little thoughts so I started hiding little pieces of them as pockets of self-deprecating humour into essays I was writing for class. And I was good at it. For the first time, I could share how I felt and I thought that maybe I was going through all this pain for a reason, even if it was to just so I could have easy writing material. 

In the years since, I've used depression in my writing as if all my pain was being carried with the words and I think that's exactly what gave it so much power. I could mask my experiences with thoughtful phrasing and carefully beautiful prose. The words I chose were deliberate, precise, and powerful -- managing my chaotic thoughts with the rules of language. The problem was, those words, my words, were never meant to stay mine. 

When a person lives inside of a story, the pains of their world disappear. And for a long time, I wanted to believe that. I plucked out bits and pieces of my life and only really shared what needed to be shared in relevance to individual facets of my life. I felt like I was losing my identity, I felt like I was losing my mind. I couldn't trade qualities and virtues between the different versions of myself and instead of packing them up together to make myself whole, I let my story fall apart. 

The things I shared, the story I so carefully chose to tell, just didn't matter. The words I used as a vessel for my pain took to harbour in the darkest points of purpose. I was manipulated and taken advantage of by past ideas of my own lack of self-love. I was told to and when and how to kill myself because of my openness with my depression. I was told that I deserved the physical and emotional abuse I'd received because of my character. Those words I let into the world were being sent back twisted, torn apart, and defeated. And on that beautiful day on the bridge, I had accepted it must have had to be my own fault. It took hours worth of pacing before I realized I needed help and it is still taking weeks worth of living for me to recover from July 13th. 

It has taken a lot out of me to write this little and it has taken me weeks to have the courage to write again. When I think about these words moving through time and space, I worry. I worry that my voice isn't strong enough or that it will be too loud. I worry what will happen to me if I give away too much of myself or if I don't quite give away enough. Every day, I have to come to terms with the fact that I deserve forgiveness from myself. 

For all my scars and for all those still yet to come. 

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“The story is not in the words; it's in the struggle.” 

Paul Auster