The Double Bind of Being a Creative Intellectual with Mental Illness
Ever since I was little I imagined someone coming to my home to take me away from my family. I never quite fit in with them. It wasn’t that they were bad people, just different. Now I’m starting my second year of college in the fall. I suppose I am a young woman (if it suits you to say that), but in my head I am a child. I see things in a way that others don’t and am amused by things that others have ceased to take pleasure in. I have yet to find a way to express myself understandably with words and with a language many people choose to communicate with.
They always called me “different,” and by they, I mean everyone in my life. I cared about writing and reading. I would try to talk to family about perception vs. reality during the 1920s about the American Dream in The Great Gatsby, or get their opinion on Saint George and the Dragon by Raphael, but they laughed and said no one cares about that kind of stuff.
I used to want to be normal. People used to want me to be normal, which was clearly but inexplicably defined as having friends, spending time with family, and people being able to decipher whether you’re happy or sad. By the time freshman year rolled around I realized I was turning into this bizarre, eccentric, schizoid teenage girl and I was falling in love with her. I didn’t mind. In fact, I preferred eating lunch alone in the cafeteria and completing and/or presenting projects solo. The one thing I hated and loved, and still do hate and love, is my mind. It never stops and so I began wearing headphones.
It started freshman year in high school and never ceased. It became a signature thing. Every time anyone saw me, I had my headphones on and my music loud. Teachers hated it. They wanted me to point fingers at my best friend across the room at the mention of partners. They wanted me to spend the hour completing homework and only read the allotted reading material by each deadline and no more. But I didn’t have best friends, I didn’t have friends and I could not figure out too many other things to do with my time but read. I didn’t care about having friends either, about being liked, fitting in. It was irrelevant.
I never cared for gossip or small chat and every girl my age did exactly that so no one talked to me. And so I didn’t talk. I read. I wrote. Sometimes I’d look up from a book and get disorientated because I was really in my room or the library or someplace that was the setting in the book. I joined a book club sophomore year but sometimes the club members would lose me. I would talk about the characters as if they were real. I would scribble in the margins, break the spine and book ear the pages. I would laugh out loud or cry while reading. I eventually quit because of the awkward looks and depressing books I suggested that everyone hated.
I am both happy and sad. I know I should be happy and grateful to be alive and be healthy and blah blah blah, but sometimes I don’t have the strength to get up from the kitchen table. I daydream often. For hours a day and it's one of my favorite things to do. I assumed I was just different with my flattened emotions and eccentric behavior. I wasn’t like everyone and it wasn’t something I did intentionally. It wasn’t something I did to make my mother angry, friends hate me, or to piss my teachers off, although it often did. It was and is who I am and I don’t know how to be anyone else. I didn’t know the things that made me “different” were symptoms of mental illness.
Things I’ve learned:
*Make sure to kiss the boy who makes you laugh, but if he takes you home and he doesn’t have any books, don’t fuck him.
*Sorry's are like oxygen masks on high jacked planes.
*Keeping things hidden is a quick way to isolate yourself and go crazy.
*Fear of suffering doesn't rule out the fact that sometimes a person has to die young as a matter of principle; such a superhuman sacrifice is no longer beyond my strength.
Note: Heaven plans to serve two years in the Peace Corps teaching English in third-world Spanish-speaking countries and after that she hopes to teach English Literature at a university. NYC Voices and its volunteers wish her the best.