The anxiety of truth-telling

There is an unwanted guest inside my head. He used to hide in corners, but now he’s become more comfortable, he’s stepped out into the light, made a home for himself in there. One moment I’m seated at my desk, chin propped on one knee, preparing to write. The next, I dare not place my hands on the keyboard lest they begin tapping anxiously, the dark sludge making its way from my thoughts to my fingers, leaving a mess on the screen.

When I try to think of a way to describe depression, the first word that comes to mind is gravity. Gravity becomes stronger; it moves beyond the point of keeping me grounded. Now it’s trying to push me into the ground, a great big hand reaching down from the sky and forcing me down. Suddenly, I am lying down, an unresponsive lump on the bed, a few dribbled sentences sitting before me, waiting in vain to be refurbished.

We’ve all heard the line about people creating art through their pain. We absorb anecdotes about painters, actors, musicians, writers, who take hold of the bad stuff, that murky, tangible, irrepressible mass, and mould it into something astonishing. We make it out to seem as if that bad stuff is worthwhile, almost precious. Why let our hurt sit and age alongside us when instead we can grab hold of it with both hands and transform it into something prettier, packaged and presentable?

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Out of order

This morning, the washing machine overflowed.

Since moving out of campus residence and into a flat with my friend, I’ve encountered most of what I’d heard about from other students. I’ve dealt with raucous neighbours, wobbly internet connection, lousy half-arsed meals, water shortage, and units on the electricity metre fading so fast you’d think we owned a jumping castle. On the bright side, I told myself, we’ve never had a problem with the washing machine.

By the end of this week, our flat was a disaster. My roommate and I had pushed through a pile of deadlines, and our poor living quarters had suffered the consequences of this. When under pressure, we do not clean*. The monsters loved the mess; they gained courage, climbing in through the window, smashing a wine glass, stealing our food and spilling crumbs all over the floor.  Continue reading

Five tracks to take your mind elsewhere

Sometimes we wish our minds would just switch off, which is near impossible. Here are some tracks to allow your mind not to shut down, but to wander.

Ludovico Einaudi – Fly

Einaudi’s minimalist pieces are simple and yet they never cease to instil emotions you might not have known were hiding. The tentative strings play silently as the piano echoes on, a delicate yet purposeful pattern that takes you to other places. It’s difficult to dwell on the mundanities of daily life when your ears are being blessed by Einaudi.

Radiohead – Daydreaming

The name says it all. This song is dreamy and wistful, swirls of sound and texture merging to form something that promises to take each listener on a different path. I’ve attached the music video below, because it’s beautiful, but I’ve found that exploring this song without visuals is something of a surreal experience. Continue reading

An honest update.

Today marks the one-month anniversary of me failing to maintain a blog.

I’ve been beating myself up about this, and I figured an honest update is the only way to about it. I wish I could to attribute my absence to sheer laziness. If that were the case, maybe I’d snap out of it and dish out some decent posts.

I am not okay. In fact, I am very un-okay. That’s the premise of this blog: to discuss experiences with mental illness and show others that these experiences are normal, and shitty, and manageable.

I anticipated this blog to be cathartic, a way of sharing insight with others and in turn, viewing my troubles in a new light and tackling them. But in terms of mental health, 2017 has, as it were, shown me flames. It’s affected my academics, my physical health, and my social life. It has also affected my ability to work consistently on this blog on mental health (let us bask for a moment in the sweet, sweet irony of this).

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Strands of social awkwardness

Social awkwardness is a general experience that many students feel, whether they have actual social anxiety or not. Social awkwardness is prevalent on campus, but there is no one way in which students experience it. This is the first of a series on Anxious in which I will be speaking to students at UCKAR about how they navigate this space with their social awkwardness.

Nikita-lynn Ruiters (2nd-year, English and Psychology)

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This year has been a challenge for Nikita. Her social anxiety has heightened since last year’s student protests, as she was caught in a stun grenade attack, leading her to experience PTSD. Music and writing have helped make her world a little calmer. (Photo: Guinevere Shapiro)

“Social anxiety makes me more aware of certain things. If someone is having a panic attack, I will be able to help them through it. I see the world differently to someone who doesn’t have it. I’m weary of people, so I don’t get attached too easily. Continue reading

Booze and boundaries

I picture it: the sting of the liquid, clear as water, as it fills my glass. I top it with something sweet and fizzy, spinning my straw around to stifle its unforgiving burn. The crowd rumbles on, a slurry of mismatched.conversations, gestures, and hot air. My chest feels tight and I lean in closer towards my friends, clutching my drink, fingers icy. Within minutes my glass is empty and I sit back, awaiting the calm that follows the burn. It feels like nothing is happening; then suddenly the words are streaming from my mouth like glitter, and my smile becomes laughter. I shrug my anxiety off and turn my back as it slinks off to a corner.

I have used alcohol to rid myself of a prominent aspect of my identity. Be it one drink or three, I’d usually feel lousy in the morning after having returned to myself. Continue reading

Enlightening reads

Get to know me a little better by exploring the list below:

It’s All Absolutely Fine: Life is Complicated, So I’ve Drawn it Instead by Ruby Elliot. Orion Publishing Group, London, 2016.

From It’s All Absolutely Fine, pg. 72

Ruby Elliot shares her experience with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and bipolar through raw, brutally funny cartoons. This is more of a comic book than anything else, but it features short yet poignant snippets of writing in each chapter as Ruby shares the trials and small triumphs of mental health problems. There is a likeness between her written anecdotes and her drawings: they don’t have happy endings, and that makes them all the more relevant. Continue reading

The quiet kid finds her voice

During my childhood and in the early stages of my adolescence, my mother recalled a phrase that will never leave my mind. Whenever I felt lost or frustrated, she would bring forth these words, her voice firm with conviction: Put the drama on the page. I swear by it now, though at the time it left me scowling. How could my vexation be softened simply by setting pen to paper?

In grade one, I wrote my first proper story, one with a plot, a host of characters, and a climax. On the top shelf of my cupboard at home, that story sits, accompanied by two crayoned witches on broomsticks. When I realised what I could do with a pen, I was delighted. I devoured books; with my newfound ability, books let me in on their secrets, and I learned that I too could create stories. I could share experiences and thoughts and question the world, all without saying a word. For the first year or so, my hand refused to stick to the margin as I wrote. The words edged a little closer to the right side of the page with each new line, transforming each story into a tornado of grey lead and thought.

Writing is my secret weapon. At school, each new year welcomed a fresh wave of anxiety; I mumbled and stammered my way through presentations and class discussions. Yet once finding the opportunity to place pen to paper, letters joined forces to create pieces that lit up my teachers’ eyes, which then fixed on me with approving curiosity. The more I read, the more ways I learnt to put the drama on the page. I heard writers’ voices in their characters – I laughed out loud at Holden Caulfield‘s cynicism, explored the mathematical mind of Christopher Boone, cried for Lennie Walker. Books assured me that being silent doesn’t mean you can’t be heard.

Speech is intimidating. You cannot approach a person the way you would a page. There is little time to gaze at them, head cocked to one side as you arrange your ideas, trace and retrace your verbal steps. You cannot hammer your finger onto the backspace key, moulding and packaging sentences until they’re ready for sharing. Shyness hides in my throat. It clings to my voice with cold, clammy hands and my words tumble out as they fight against it, an internal battle that chooses Um as the leader and allows I don’t know to end the procession.

Nearing the end of grade one, I told my teacher that when I grew up I wanted to be an author. I still marvel at the confidence that coursed through me as I shared my vision with her. At age seven I only knew and loved children’s fiction, and the term writer seemed far flimsier than the established title of author. I now know that I do not have to publish a book to satisfy the dreams of that quiet kid. Simply, I must write.

Photo credit: Guinevere Shapiro