Thursday 19 July 2018

Writing about hard things

"Is it weird for you to share so much personal stuff?" 
That's the most common question I get asked these days. And I completely understand: sharing your struggles with not being a mother, with depression, and all the messiness of your past must be like walking down the street naked, for most people. And I'm not gonna lie, it's hard sometimes. Being vulnerable to the world feels - well, vulnerable.
But you know what's worse? Not sharing it.
At least it is for me.

What it comes down to, for me, is that I will never forget how alone I felt as a teenager and young adult. I thought something was seriously wrong with me.
I couldn't understand why I seemingly needed more alone time than others, because I loved to hang out with people, and more than anything, I didn't want to end up like my parents, who never socialized. The simple explanation? I'm an introvert, a word I had never heard then, let alone knew what it meant. If pressed, I would have guessed that introverts are weird, computer game-playing nerds, and that I would not have wanted anything to do with them. But I didn't know that, so I agonized endlessly about not being able to make up my mind, about being just as flighty and fickle as my mother always accused me of being.

I was also worried about the voices in my head being right. That I truly was worthless, a failure, a terrible and selfish human being, and not worthy of affection, respect or love. I didn't know then that I have a medical condition called depression, which is caused by the chemicals in my brain being out of whack, and has nothing to do with me being needy or selfish. I was sick, but I didn't know it, so I felt useless and guilty instead.

And what about the nagging feeling of being born in the wrong countryWhy did I feel so restless, so dissatisfied, so in need of spreading my wings? Why did it look like everyone around me was happy as a clam, while I was the only selfish asshole who thought she deserved more than anybody else?

It's because I didn't know.
I didn't know that what I felt was normal.
I didn't know that there were hundreds, thousands, even hundreds of thousand of people out there just like me!
I felt like I was the only one. I was so alone, and felt so wrong, and it was the worst feeling in the world. I couldn't be alone with my thoughts, because they would torment me mercilessly. So I made sure I always had background noise: audiobooks, the radio, TV, or reading until I fell asleep with the book collapsed on my chest, light still on until the morning.

I lived like that until my thirties. I had since found love, my country, and a happier life than I ever imagined possible. Yet, I was still the hurt, insecure girl inside. I was still broken, unsure of myself, clueless about my purpose, and pathetically grateful for every scrap of friendship that was thrown my way. I wasn't picky at all - if you liked me, I was your best friend forever!
You know what saved me?
Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle was the first book that made me feel normal. After reading her extraordinary memoir, I not only felt validated and "normal", I also considered for the first time to write my own memoir one day. She helped me so much in understanding myself, in being gracious in the face of a difficult family situation, and in using humour to work through one's painful past. My past is in no way comparable to Jeannette Wall's, but that's the thing about pain: our own pain always feels inordinately more difficult than anybody else's - because it's our own. And when you go through it, you don't think about anybody else's, you can't - all you can focus on is how terrible you feel. 

The second memoir that touched me deeply was Let's Pretend This Never Happened by the incomparable, amazing Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. Not only is she a fellow depression-warrior, she also has her own trademark humour. I swear, she could write about toilet paper (knowing her, she probably has), and you would know it's her - her writing voice is so unique, so funny, so uplifting. I LOVE her and her books (did you know she has not one, but two new books coming out soon???? I'm sooooooo excited!!!).
She also uses humour to deal with her quite unusual upbringing, and her wide variety of mental and social issues, and she makes them sound so intriguing and funny, you almost wish you would be more messed up than you already are. Now that's great writing. 

Other female writers I deeply admire who write non-fiction about their lives (and this is, by no means, a complete list):

These ladies gave me the courage to share my own story - and set me free in the process. 

That's why I share my personal stuff with the world: because I know how essential - and potentially life-saving -  it can be for someone who's struggling to see that they are not alone. I'm right here with them. With you. Despite my happy ending, the smiles and my love for life, I still have my demons with me, every day. 
And I share them with you because I know that you have them, too. 
But together, we can defeat them. We will. One fight at a time. 




  1. I love this. I need to read some of the books you've mentioned (and more by the authors you've listed) as I just love inspiring stories that makes us feel less alone.

    1. Oh, please do! These ladies have saved me when I felt most alone. I admire their honesty, story-telling abilities, and courage so much, they are my absolute heroines!
      Whenever I feel scared about what I'm doing, I think of them and their words, and they keep me going.

  2. Miriam! Keep sharing! I love that you look to share your struggles in an effort to benefit those who are also struggling. I understand 100000% the feeling of being born in the wrong country (Germany! Greece! Why the US?? Why the MIDWEST in the US??) and how alienating it can feel when everyone else seems to be on a different page than you. I related to you so much in 'Let's Pretend this is Normal' and found myself thinking 'Oh my gosh! YES! Someone GETS IT!'.
    On a side note, I also ADORE Elizbeth Gilbert. Big Magic was one of the most inspiring books I have ever read, and I think we can all agree that an "Eat, Pray, Love" year is a dream of many of us.
    Share, share away!


    1. I always knew that you and I are kindred spirits! Your courage and fearlessness to grab life by the balls and move to new places for work (and play!) is a huge inspiration for me.
      That's the greatest thing about life: we have no control over where we are coming from, but we can decide where we are going to go!

  3. It certainly takes guts and that is so incredibly admirable! Sometimes I feel a bit worried about my sharing on my blog, but I don't know. I think it's just something I feel compelled to do.

    1. Same here. It's impossible to explain to people who don't have that compulsion, because it doesn't really make much sense. But to us, it does - it's what makes us feel most alive!


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