I’ve been feeling introspective these past few months, which admittedly is to be expected during the holiday season. It’s always misery for retail employees, and my high school reunion was at the end of November, so it just hit me a little harder this year. The fact that my life somehow derailed and ended up in a place I never could have dreamed has been wearing on me. The shitty retail gig that was supposed to be a brief interlude to save up money for books and tuition became my life. It was never supposed to happen that way.
I feel like my mental health, my ability to heal, is hinged upon two conflicting ideas. Is the old me gone forever, and do I need to accept that and move on as best I can? Or is she in here somewhere, in which case I’d be voluntarily giving up on her by accepting the new me?
While social anxiety and depression have almost always been features of my life, they didn’t always own me. I used to be ambitious. I used to believe in my ability to build a successful career in one of the most competitive industries in the world. I could direct a full crew for a live half hour show, bark orders at 20-3o people without missing a beat, and bulldoze slackers into shape. I could create a concept from nothing and make others help me turn it into reality through force of will alone. It’s been years but I can still remember what a heady feeling that was, and the certainty that I was destined for greatness. I took it as an undeniable fact that my name would be scrolling across television screens in 10 million homes someday.
I used to be funny and interesting. People sought out my company. I want to grab the people who know the current me and shake them and scream at them until they understand that they’re seeing the wrong girl. I want to find the right words to explain they would have liked that girl so much better than the blank, gray, uninspiring wallflower they call by my name. Mental illness has robbed me of everything that made me a person worth knowing. All I want to know is if I should keep hoping that it’s all out there somewhere, waiting to be recovered, or if I should just quietly go about the business of picking new bits of me out of the psychological discount bin.
The other me was always a nerd, but back then she could set aside the goody two-shoes persona and do crazy shit in the name of guerrilla filmmaking. She could run from security guards with a camera in one hand and a hastily revised script in the other on a hot, smoggy Los Angeles night. She could hang out the window of a moving vehicle to get the perfect shot and convince the class’s aspiring stunt man to jump onto the hood at speed. She could write scripts that made her notorious among classmates for their raw violence and black humor. She could sneak in and raid the theater department’s prop shop with the borrowed keys from the instructors that doted on her.
This sad, shy, whiny, weepy girl who stole her life and her clothes and her car and everything else was never supposed to exist. It’s identity theft that I can’t even report.