You Are What You Make

I’ve been watching Tessa Violet for around two years now and she’s become one of my favourite YouTubers. Why? Well, she’s what I’m not. 🙂 She shares, openly, all of her thoughts and fears, and even rethinks some of her older video topics. If she’s evolved, she’ll explain how she’s learned to accept parts of herself that she previously denied or disliked.

I find that both brave and admirable. Sharing so much of yourself on the internet is (IMO) a scary choice, but it’s also a great way to document growth. And that’s what I’m attempting.

To continue Monday’s tone, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on handling creativity while dealing with angst, in a kind of late reply to a video of Tessa’s. Hers is specifically about creativity and depression, but I find many of the core ideas are totally relatable even when measured against mental issues other than depression.

As someone who creates stuff for a living, you can imagine why a video like this would specifically speak to me. You might not be a creative, but I think you could relate even then.

It’s just four minutes, go ahead and watch it, I’ll be here when you’re done. 🙂

Now, I’m a writer. My choice thing to do when not working on something writerly, is to make art. (Sit back down, sanctimommies, I obviously mean this is what I do when the kid is asleep.)

I totally connect my self-worth to the amount of writing I’m doing, and lately also to the quality of work I’m putting out. Working with professional editors changes the way you view writing forever, I’ll tell you that much.

When I’m particularly anxious (like right now) one of two things will happen. I’ll either frantically squirm to get words on the screen, like Tessa said in the video, or I’ll shut down and become a zombie. Either of these states can continue for any amount of time and I can’t tell which is going to strike. I have yet to find some kind of distinguishable marker. Sometimes, I’ll enter the trance-like state for a day or two, then switch to the frantic state at the drop of a hat.

I’m at that crossroad now. I worked like a squirrel foraging on steroids up to Saturday, and – without any reason – slowed to a crawl on Sunday. Though I did write from Monday to today, it wasn’t much and most of the work was either trashed or altered to the point where it barely resembles the original thought. AKA, it should have been trashed too.

That’s where the problem lurks in my experience. When I’m frantic, a lot gets done. Some of it is good, but usually requires a lot of revision. That makes me feel like a total failure, because I’m putting in so much work that the veins in my fingertips start bursting (not literally, no) but the result is shitty and requires more work. (Typing this now makes me realise how stupid I am. Anything anyone writes will always require revision, so maybe I’m being a little hard on myself here.)

On the flipside, when I’m entranced, nothing gets done. I feel like a total failure here too, because I’m wasting so much damn time, and I have so much to do.

Either scenario means my levels of anxiety rocket and I’ll work harder/do less. A nice little cycle here, wouldn’t you say?

Now, I’m obviously not Stephen King or JK Rowling. No book of mine has ever reached success – a big issue when you tell people you’re a writer. Just the idea that I don’t have a nine to five to earn cash results in a fair amount of judgement from others. Add that I write from my own computer in my own living room, while my three-year-old (who isn’t in a kindergarten where she belongs) builds Lego at my feet? Gasps and jerky movements away from my general direction are guaranteed.

And it affects me too. In fact, after the first few times of seeing the ridicule in people’s expressions, I haven’t told anyone I’m a writer again. Not once. Saying the words ‘freelance makeup artist’ still gets less of a shock.

Obviously, all of this adds to my levels of angst. Whenever someone judges me or I feel like I’ve failed, I’m more stressed than the moment before. The stress makes it impossible for me to put out quality work, so I judge myself even harder. Yes, harsher even than the judgey people from the example. Basically, when I’m not creating something of a high enough standard, I doubt my self-worth.

And doubt is only when I’m lucky. When I’m at my lowest and caught in obsessive spirals, doubt is too little a word to describe it. It’s like my personhood evaporates – as if I shouldn’t even be alive – and I sit in my corner mocking myself. Standing up from that corner has never been easy.

Tessa’s advice is to try and separate your self-worth from the content you’re creating – easier said than done. But probably also something most people struggle with.

I remember the first few months of motherhood. Folks, the mockery that went on in the middle of the night when I was exhausted to the point of passing out while breastfeeding, but couldn’t stop worrying that I was a terrible mom – that was a mountainous hike for me. And you know what? All new moms feel that way. Hell, moms who’ve been at it for much longer still feel that way. For some random reason, mothers seem to connect their self-worth to their mothering skills.

Dude, there’s no handbook for this shit. We just roll. Yes, we’ll make mistakes, but are we honestly less beacuse of that? No.

As something I struggle with daily, the sentiment above seems oddly simple. Why can’t I just remember I’m worth of love, even when I don’t write enough? I don’t know. It’s a journey.

The point of this post isn’t to provide answers. I don’t have answers. Most days, I smile and wave, but hauling my own ass from the brink is a challenge. I just figured I’d let you know you’re not alone. Really. More folks than what we’re raised to believe struggle with themselves, or depression, or anxiety, or whatever.

The more we talk about it, the lesser the stigma will become. And the more we grow.

You’re worth something, and so am I. Let’s remind each other now and then.

Yolandie.

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