the month of mental strain

Writing – when I am not trying to write something fictional – used to come naturally to me. The first sentences would flow through my head, giving me some strands to work with. I used to feel the need to get those sentences out on a paper or on my laptop. And after I was done, I used to feel this relief, quiet happiness and calm.

In January I did not want to write at all. It was as if the writing part of me – which is the most unknown but in a way the most important part of me – had suddenly died. In hindsight maybe it is more apt to say it went under, that it was slumbering.

December was a month of physical strain for me. I had taken on more workload than I can calmly and skillfully manage, and it was suffocating me. As usual, I’d expected myself a lot more than I can fulfill, so I can later hate myself or something. I was ill for two weeks, and exhaustion was my constant companion. So at the end of December, I requested a leave of absence from my voluntary work, silently cut off one class, and gave myself more breathing room.

Then January came, and at first I slugged through the huge workload – exams coming up in mid-February! -, the stress, the occasional sharp and sudden pangs of longing for my family. I woke up, I ate, I went to classes, I studied, I returned home, I slept. But even that pretense of normalcy stopped about ten days ago.
It started with a migraine – and wow, do I wish I will never have to experience that ever again – and maybe that was a part of me saying that I need to stop a damn second and look around myself. So I stopped. I only went to classes I really have to go to. I stopped the weekly apartment cleaning. I ate what I felt like eating. I watched LOTS of Gilmore Girls because it soothed me, let me forget the reality, and inspired me.
Behind that migraine was not only my stress about the exams or fear of my inadequacy. Nope, there was my toxic relationship to my father, my friend’s toxic relationship to an abuser, and me losing the sight of what I wanted. I felt – feel – lost in the sea of strangers telling me what I should do, of my imaginations of strangers telling me what I should do, of silent expectations, of the naked terror of having to rely on myself, and myself only, to pull through this muddy, sticky, toxic mess. Every breath I took settled on my chest like a lead weighing me down, down, down, pulling me under. Whenever I am feeling like I am under attack, and alarms are flashing, my vulnerability does not allow me to share any of these with anyone. At least until I am ready. That’s why I didn’t write at all in January, I suppose.

When I reach the bottom of all this – mental collapse? – there is always this question, nagging me, making me doubt, creating this huge mess. Is what I am doing right? Is this what I should be doing? There is a problem in this line of thinking, and that’s that I let myself – still! After all the years and exercises of banishment! – think that there is something I should be doing, some sort of unwritten rule of my destiny, a cosmic reckoning, whatever.

The only thing that I know, and this knowledge comes from deep within myself, is that I need to write. Write, write, write. Write something, anything! Write something intelligent, silly, suspenseful, boring, personal, small talk-ish chitchat, diary, report, research paper, whatever. Writing is an integral part of me. I knew it when I decided to become a writer in the fifth grade or so, my English teachers knew it when they encouraged me to write more, my mother knew it in some way when she said, over and over, that my writings had some sort of living essence. Of course, she discouraged me from winning my bread from writing only because that’s what parents usually do. Today I wish that she would trust me more, at least enough to recognize that I know what to do with my gifts. I wish that my family had encouraged me to write more, try out different kinds of writing, that they had accepted writing to be a big part of me. But I do understand that they were all busy with their lives, they wanted me to be “realistic”, they are more terrified of poverty than I am and not just because I am “still young, oh-so-idealistic”. I am plenty afraid of poverty. Just not enough to let it dictate my life. So instead of embracing the core of me, I am keeping this blog (and plenty others that came before this) a semi-secret. (I do not feel the urge to make my blog wildly public to everyone I know but I am not going to lie about its existence or anything.)

I do not have this deep, innate sense of knowing with law. I think, I believe, I would be saying the same thing had I studied English Literature instead of Law. There is some relief and consolation in that. But while I don’t know whether studying law is part of me, I do enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the exams, I’m not a lunatic. But I do enjoy getting to know the systems, the rationales behind them, and how we could make them better. That’s why it would be a pity if I failed the exams three times and got expelled. And my fear of doing exactly that is what drives me bonkers every time before the exams. On the one hand I don’t believe I am going to fail the exams. I mean hey, I know something, so I should be able to get it coherently on paper, right? But once I take a look at the details, this sudden terror grips me and I think Holy shit there is still so MUCH I don’t know, I am totally going to fail!
… I hope my professors take pity on us students.

Oh, and I feel much better now.


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