what do you want? (an essay i wrote a while ago)

My name is Lorna. 

Next year, I’m going to be starting my sophomore year of high school. 

And I had my last day in therapy yesterday.

I write stories. I have a podcast. This November, I spoke at WE Day Vancouver about mental health, in front of tens of thousands of people. It was one of the most terrifying, exciting, and freeing experiences of my life.

I really love animation. I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember. I used to be a huge Potterhead. I write fanfiction. 

I’ve been diagnosed with anxiety and dysthymia–a form of depression. It’s been almost two years now, since I first sought out help. But it feels like it was only yesterday I texted a crisis line, hiding in my room after school, trying to cry silently. It wasn’t long after that I ended up in therapy.

It feels like my whole life is blurring around me as I speed through the years. How did I end up here? Why does everything have to be this scary?

Sometimes, I think I’m not a good person.

Sometimes, I think I don’t deserve to have anything.

Sometimes, I think I’m perfect. Think the entire world is rolled out before my feet, ready to be conquered–but I never really believe that.

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life, wishing to be someone else–someone perfect. Whatever that word even means. 

When I was five, I wanted to be a princess–not really because I wanted to, but because the other girls thought it was the cool thing to do, and because I wanted to fit in with them more than anything. I bought pink dresses from the thrift store, and tossed rose petals down the aisle at my aunt’s wedding.

When I was six, I wanted to be a grown-up. I wanted to be smart and successful and cold. I wanted to be angry and bitter and callous. I wanted to be a coroner or an actuary or some other similarly well-paying job, and marry a rich man, even if I didn’t love him. Because then, no one could push me around–right?

When I was seven, I wanted to disappear. Wanted them to stop looking at me for just one second, giggling as my breath grew faster and faster, and the blood dripped down my chin.

When I was eight, I wanted to normal. I wanted to be just like the other girls, with their makeup and trendy Justin Beiber backpacks. I wanted to have crushes, and giggle behind stairways, and be loved. So loved.

When I was ten, I wanted to be funny, and frivolous, and just a little bit mean. And maybe I was just a little bit miserable, but only in the way I ever showed to a few select people at the climax of the story.

When I was eleven, I wanted to be a fangirl. I wanted to write fanfiction and fanart and have braces, and big, frizzy hair, and stay up until 4am. Because wouldn’t that make me happy?

When I was twelve, I wanted to be beautiful. At least, in the typical sense of the word. Did yoga workouts, and counted calories and cut carbs out of my diet for… two months, or so. I think before I cracked. I couldn’t do it anymore. 

When I was thirteen, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to say profound things about capitalism and the state of our society, and write pretentious short stories and win awards and be interviewed on the radio.

And now, at fourteen years old… I want to be professional. I want to be a businesswoman, constantly “on the go” with Starbucks in her hand, walking around in stilettos all day and somehow not falling over. I want to stand my ground at meetings; I want to change the world. I want to see my face in billboards. And know that I built this empire up from the bleeding ground.

But don’t you see? None of those things are real. None of those things would really make me happy, in the end.

I’m so focused on the future I barely notice the present, passing right by me.  So focused on building up images of myself I’ll never be able to attain that I never bothered to figure out who I actually am.

Yesterday, my therapist asked me if I even wanted to get better.

And I don’t even know the answer to that question.

I mean, in theory, if course I do. Of course I’d like to not feel so terrible all the time; or be able to walk through a school hallway without having a panic attack. But when it actually comes down to it, I’ve never not been like this. I’ve grown up so entangled with the the monsters in my head that I don’t know how to live without them.

So what do I want?

Do I want to be a writer; throwing myself into a career that might not even work out? Do I want to post my stuff online, and get myself into a career in social media, knowing there’s a chance it might not be sustainable–even though some days, it feels like being online this much is slowly destroying me.

I feel like I’ve slept through most of my life. Because if I live with my head in the clouds, I’ll never have to think about what’s going on around me–never have to actually take the steps necessary to get to those places I want to be so desperately.

Like I’m waking up, three seconds before a full-on collision, paralyzed at the wheel.

And I don’t know what to do.

I always slip into talking about my mental health in the past tense. Like it’s something I’ve conquered, and you can do it too, if you just believe in yourself and find a support network and go therapy! And stuff…

But I tried those things. And they didn’t work–not in the way I thought they would. I mean, yes, I’m better. But that doesn’t mean I in any way consider myself “recovered.” 

I am confused and scared and lonely. And life just keeps throwing punches, every time I think it’s done with me.

But… I want to live. Despite all of the times I’ve questioned it. I want to advocate for better mental health support, especially with young, elementary-school aged kids. I want to write stories and poems. I want to make public speaking a part of my career. I want to make spoken word tracks. I want… so many things.

I want to live in an apartment with the people who make me happy. Really, really happy. I want to go travelling. I want to meet people and learn their stories. I want to know what it’s like to be happy. 

And right now, I have all of those things, still ahead of me. All the possibilities in the world. Which is you know, terrifying. But… it’s also freeing, in a strange way.

I’m alone in this, now. I don’t have a therapist to hold my hand. That’s my job. 

This is up to me.

And I can choose to be like those before me. Who sat around feeling hopeless, trapped in their own indecision. Or I can stand up. And step outside. And try.

I can try.

Maybe I’ll fail. But… I mean, at least I’ll have given it everything I’ve got, right?

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