It seems like every time I log into this blog, I’m writing another apology post for six months of being M.I.A. But this isn’t an apology for the past two years of sporadic updates, random book reviews, and just… silence, really. Both here and in the blogging community.
Reading and writing are the the two things that have always been central to my life. Just like many of you, I live and breathe fiction, and words are the only way for me to make sense of the one world I can’t escape from. I started my first blog at sixteen, and it was just so natural to write my way into a space where other people like me were doing the same. At eighteen, I relocated here for a change just before I headed off to university, taking for granted that I would never find myself in a space where words would fail me.
The past two years have been the hardest of my life. I had an ugly highschool experience, and in many ways the thought patterns and mindsets I picked up there followed me to university, where they sat quietly in the back of my head until deadlines got a little too stressful, and life seemed a little too much.
Without going into too much detail in this post (although I’m sure I’ll write about it more in the future), my type-A personality hasn’t exactly equipped me with the best coping mechanisms for stress. Instead of allowing myself space to breathe, to fight away the fear of failing, I thrive on it and use it as motivation to work myself to the bone. By the time I entered the second year of my degree, I was spending so much time writing, editing and re-editing essays, studying textbooks until I could practically rewrite them word-for-word, and punishing myself for failures I hadn’t even committed yet that I’d pushed away my friends and family to the perimeter of my life. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. When I came home for a holiday, I’d collapse into bed for a few full days before I could even speak to my family in full sentences, let alone type up a review or a quick post.
Through this all, I kept up the guise of perfection. My grades were sky-high. I went to all my lectures. Smiled when I saw my friends. Made time for my boyfriend. Told my parents I was fine.
And around last year in June, even that perfection wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t long before I was giving in to the disordered eating habits of my high school years. I stopped eating. I started running. Food and exercise became more numbers to fit alongside the percentages on my essays and exams – numbers I told myself could validate me but that only really gave me an excuse to punish myself more. I’ll never forget running my first 10km, fueled only by my own guilt for eating “too much” over my limit that day. It was like I had to prove to myself that I could dictate exactly what my body did, exactly what my mind produced. Everything, everything, everything had to match the image I wanted for myself.
I realise now that in my search to control every aspect of my life, I was actually sacrificing that control to something else. In not eating, I was feeding my mental illness. In my excessive studying, I was exhausting myself and barely holding off a breakdown. In my fear of failure, I’d lost the ability to live.
I’d love to say that in the downward spiral of my life, I was saved from a breakdown when I picked up a pen and started writing again, but that’s only the half-truth. Looking back at the journal I kept last year, there are only pages and pages of scrawled evidence proving just how sick I was. And still, I told myself, told my parents, told my increasingly anxious boyfriend, that everything was fine.
After several fights with Brad, my friend Tegan, and both my parents about not needing therapy, I finally allowed myself to be dragged off to a psychiatrist. I think it took her about ten minutes to diagnose me with severe depression and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. I laughed at her. She prescribed me antidepressants.
The past six months, I’ve been working with a therapist to deconstruct those toxic mental pathways that keep leading me back to a place where I feel “in control”. It’s hard. The drugs help (I’m kidding). Slowly, slowly, I’ve started to loosen my grip, and for the first time in my life, I’ve had moments when it feels like I’m experiencing true, unbridled happiness.
In reclaiming my right to live, really live, reading and writing are my touchstones now. And finally, it feels natural to return to this space, where I can write about writing or write about reading or read about writing or read about reading. In the midst of all of this, I’m reading to lose myself in a world I can’t control and writing to gently inform my mental illness that it can’t dictate my story any more.
So, I guess I’m letting this post mark my reemergence into the world of the living. I’m here, for real now, and I want to write, to blog, to engage with anyone else who might be going through a similar situation.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you.