Talking to myself

Libba Bray has a really apt description for depression: “The other trouble is that it is often incredibly difficult to articulate the pain you feel. Words prove inadequate, and the distance they must travel from this deep well of grief and loneliness up to your mouth seems impossible to traverse. It is miles and miles of no-man’s land. How can you communicate something so without form?”

It’s difficult to articulate a lot of the underlying factors behind why I feel depression. There’s the sense of pressure that children of immigrants inevitably grow up feeling—the pressure to obtain a financially stable and socially prestigious job. The feeling I had while growing up that I was never good enough academically (I got good grades, but never straight As); the feeling that my social anxiety was a massive defect that I was never proactive enough to overcome. The constant sense shame for spending a lot of time escaping into my own head rather than dealing with “reality”—even though I guess I probably developed that habit because in my own head, I could create a controlled environment that was safe and not stressful or anxiety-inducing, and that was soothing.

But I wanted to talk about writing in particular (because I always want to talk about writing).

Here’s the thing that I’m really afraid to admit to people, because it sounds totally insane and mystical and just ridiculous and nonsensical:

I have always had the strong conviction that I was born to accomplish something significant. Somewhere down the line, that “something significant” became “publish a book that will be read worldwide and change people’s lives and still be read 100 years later.”

On one hand, I know that sounds kind of egotistical, but on the other hand, I don’t believe it when successful authors say they never dreamed of the kind of success they attained. Everyone with a creative career wants to make it big, because that’s inherent in the business of storytelling: in the end, you want it to be seen by as large an audience as possible and you hope they’ll enjoy it.

Also, I just really enjoy writing. Nothing else has come close to giving me that kind of rush of excitement and happiness—and believe me, I’ve tried looking. As masochistic as it sounds, part of why I enjoy writing so much is because it’s really hard and challenging and doesn’t come easily to me. But that’s the thing—writing stresses me out, but it’s a good kind of stress, which is why I tend to be unhappy in school: I can tell the difference between exciting-stressed and miserable-stressed, and school makes me miserable-stressed.

The thing is, it’s been really difficult to hold on to that conviction when I’ve been knocked down by stress and depression and writer’s block. Which is why on my *best* days, I still feel like my existence is becoming more and more meaningless. I’m not doing something I like and I don’t feel like I can accomplish the thing I wanted to. Who am I to think that I can even get published, let alone write a book that can change someone’s life? And look, I’ve had writer’s block for an excruciatingly long time—I’m a complete loser and failure.

(This isn’t even getting into the fact that I’ve spent much of my life trying to convince myself that becoming a writer was not a good idea, hence why I was premed for a while in college and ended up applying for law school. I spent so much time convincing myself that my gut instinct was wrong and I didn’t really understand what was best for me, so there’s been this chronic tug-of-war in my head for a long time.)

It’s hard to explain all this to…anyone, really. I still have moments when I think I’m crazy for having these thoughts. But considering how often I’ve returned to the same conclusions after trying so hard to escape them, it’s probably not useful to deny them any longer.


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