I don’t know what it is like to have healthy dose of self-confidence. The fact that I hid my diagnosis from friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers means I was ashamed of it. I didn’t feel confident enough in myself to actually be myself around most people. I was afraid of criticism, judgement, rejection, and abandonment. Those are not things confident people worry about (I know there are a lot of insecure people walking around).
I am not completely without confidence though. I am confident in my ability to study. I know that classes that I am interested in, that if I were to take those classes, I am capable of working hard enough to get an A. (The only classes that I can take anymore are online though, because the classroom setting eventually overwhelms me). I started this paragraph with something I feel confident about, and ended it with my limitations – very telling.
Almost every time I write something, especially something personal, which most of my writing is, I feel like curling up underneath my bedcovers and hiding. Exposing my inner self after all of these years, is still not comfortable. I need a lot of support that what I write doesn’t make me look foolish or stupid. I take a huge risk every day exposing myself and I need assurance that I am okay. My husband is the one who reassures me. I also have a few friends that I will occasionally ask about my writing, and they will encourage me. I feel like contacting them every day, but I don’t want to bother them with my insecurities.
Because of my insecurities, I feel like people who criticize me, are the kind of people who like to watch others suffer. I don’t mean feedback. I get feedback on my writing all the time – change this, that comma is in the wrong place, this sounds better, etc. I actually appreciate that kind of critique or editing. My writing needs it, and I welcome it. I am talking about non-constructive criticism. The kind of criticism you get when you give someone some news that makes you extraordinarily happy and they throw something out to override your excitement.
It takes so much for me to have a dream. It takes so much for me to have the courage to even get out of bed some mornings. It takes me so much courage to accept rejection from my writing submissions to magazines, and then edit those submissions and turn around, and send them somewhere else. I never quite feel good enough. At first when I receive an acceptance for my writing, I am elated, and then someone will make a comment, and the elation is gone. At that point, I am back to being riddled with doubt. It is as if I build and build only to have what I built swept away in an instant.
The reason I wrote this is not to get your support, or to remind you of the cliché, “Be kind, because everyone you meet is battling something.” No, I wrote this because some people with a mental illness have grandiose beliefs about their talent, their appearance, their abilities, etc. and no amount of reality or criticism gets them to alter their perception of themselves. I read their work on the Internet every day, and I wonder would it be easier to live with the beliefs that I am special, gifted, and exceptionally beautiful, or is it easier to live with self-doubt and fear that has to be overcome daily?
I think my road is harder to walk the stones are jagged and cut bare feet, but it is not a symptom of the illness I have. In a way, it has its roots in my illness, because there is so much shame around having a mental illness, but in this case, my mind is not struggling with fantasy or fiction. It is struggling to discover the facts, the facts about me, and my ability to create nonfiction.