Memoirs have to end. There’s always a last page, some kind of bow to wrap up the story. I’ve been writing about my mental health for nearly five years now. That’s a long time to be focused on one story, one kind of narrative, even though the elements have changed drastically over that time.
I’m not tired of writing about my mental health. I’m not tired of writing about myself, narcissistic person that I am. There’s enough content in any life to keep a writer going indefinitely. I could write about how this morning I woke up anxious with no inkling of why, how I got out of bed and checked my email to find a slew of nasty comments to my friends, how the only thing that kept me ok was hilarious GIFs. I could talk about my intense paranoias about money and being incapable of providing for myself, and the way that I wish I could be as generous as I want to be. I could talk about how I weighed myself this morning and chose to have a smaller lunch.
I could talk about all kinds of things because the tiny moments of difference and difficulty never end.
I don’t like stories with no end, no resolution. It’s not even that I want something to tell people, it’s that I want a point. I want some reason that I continue writing, something that I can pull from the flood of details and stories that is more than simply “this happened.” I’ve been wondering whether I have gained anything from all this wondering and reflection.
Last summer I started to feel healthy. I started to identify with the label “in recovery.” It started to feel like an end, like I could start to organize my story into a coherent narrative that would allow me to start making sense and meaning out of the pile of butt that is eating disorders and anxiety and depression. I felt as if I could begin to have a life again.
Of course the problem with that is that depression is chronic, and eating disorders have extremely high rates of relapse, and anxiety is more of a disorder that you manage rather than cure. And so I find myself this summer in another slump, feeling the kinds of feelings that I thought I had kicked through socializing more and using self soothing skills and creating routines and values in my life. I’ve been feeling the kind of depression that’s inexplicable. It’s the kind that appears out of nowhere and leaves me curled up in bed until 4:00 in the afternoon, alternatively crying and rocking in the fetal position. It makes no sense and sometimes it just happens, even if life is going really well (which, incidentally it isn’t. There has been a great deal of internet stress in my Skepchick life recently that’s certainly not making this any better).
There isn’t an end to stories about a life. At least not until the person they’re about is gone. Which means that trying to tell stories about myself feels pointless sometimes. A lot of the time. So how do I make meaning out of my mental illness, out of things that feel crappy, when I don’t get to see how they turn out? There’s always the possibility of a huge and awful relapse. If that happened, would everything I talk about be meaningless?
There is a lot of fear there. Many of my narratives do seem to move in a linear fashion: you start out sick and you get better. I hope I can challenge that narrative in myself because it is not the only meaningful one. Even if things get bad again, that does not negate that I had one amazing year. I don’t know if that’s meaningful or not. I don’t know if that’s a story. It’s important to me. It has been a long time since I had one really good year. That is a story.
I’m not sure if those stories do any good, the ones that are just a piece. But that’s what all stories have to be: a piece.
I suppose this is an attempt to reassure myself and the other writers out there that writing about your life and experiences is valid. Even if your life changes after you hit publish, the story still matters. It’s still a true piece.