It was over a year ago that I had landed back on U.S. soil after a short stint in Iceland. My mind and heart were bursting with ideas and self realizations, spilling over with thoughts I wanted to share with my small, yet ever expanding world. I managed one post, and suddenly I found my feelings too precious, too delicate to write into words, as if the act of writing would bastardize these new feelings, an act of playing telephone starting with a message from my heart strings told to my neurons, told to my nerves, told to my fingertips, told to my pen, told to the paper- losing potency with every retelling, meaning lost in translation. It has been over a year, and though recent events have inspired me to begin writing again, I feel I must share what I had desperately wanted to back then. I have to share who I am.
Amethyst, Steven, and Garnet wandered through the messy expanse of Amethyst's room, on the hunt for the sly and menacing corrupted gem dubbed the Slinker. On occasion, the Slinker would damage Amethyst's physical form, causing her to poof into her gem to recover and regenerate. Gems take time to reform, but Amethyst rushed her regeneration after each attack, causing unmanageable and unstable forms. After much frustration, Amethyst begs Garnet to just tell her how she should be and she will become that form of herself, to which Garnet responded, "I can't tell you, Amethyst! You have to figure this out for yourself!" Something clicked in Steven's mind and he interjected, "She can't. She doesn't want to think about herself!"
Like Amethyst from the surprisingly deep and thoroughly enjoyable Steven Universe, I had never wanted to think about myself. To do that would require that I admit some uncomfortable truths, and to uncover those truths would make me even more unworthy of all the wonderful humans who seemed to (though I highly doubted) like me. I kept my head down, worked hard, and appeared to be a perfectly stable human girl that I felt others needed me to be, ignoring the person inside myself who was drowning in a swampy syrup of self-loathing and despair.
I've heard it said that trauma survivors have symptoms instead of memories- some of which include depression, loss of interest, numbing, emotional overwhelm, loss of a sense of the future and of self, shame and worthlessness, little to no memories, hyper vigilance and mistrust, generalized anxiety, eating disorders, and self destructive behaviors. There of course are more symptoms, but those listed are the ones that not only apply to me, but screamed in my face while flashing lights into my retinas to make sure I understood: IMPORTANT!! THIS IS YOU! And although my trauma was not as traumatic or dramatic or explosive or physical as some, it was very much real.
My trauma is akin to the cinematic drama that while general audiences may find it boring, those trained to read deeper into the film and are awake/caffeinated enough to see it through to the end, would see the beauty in the nuances and would even nominate it for prestigious, highly-coveted awards (if lighting and editing allowed for the story to be told poignantly enough, that is). My trauma would never be a flashy blockbuster to be revisited by fans throughout the decades; it is Indie to the core, boring on the surface, gut-twisting in the deep -- undoubtedly a watch-once-and-appreciate-at-the-time-and-forget-about-it-when-awards-season-is-over type. That being said, my trauma was of a more emotional/psychological type- the kind that is easily hidden from what could be suspicious eyes, whose symptoms could be chalked up to adolescent angst and female "ovary-acting". Not that I acted out. No, my trauma was the kind that encouraged internalizing any kind of emotion; it was the clever trauma that convinced me that I was better seen and not heard... but if you could help it, don't bother being seen either, but do be seen and/or heard if the adults requested it of you, never minding that being seen and heard had been traumatizing to the point that when requested, you'd rather rip off your flesh and have your bones and innards melt into a puddle where you stood, but still you acquiesce because somehow disappointing someone was worse than your own discomfort.Why introduce my future writing by describing my traumatic, though not so dramatic, childhood? Because whether or not I like it, it is the truth, and it is this truth that has shaped me into the mentally unwell, yet highly functional human that I am today. And that is my goal, yes? To honestly express what my heart unraveled in Iceland? Yes.
Another reason I am encouraged to disclose my mental illness, or shall I say my commitment to mental health, is the late Carrie Fisher. I have admittedly never been the biggest Star Wars fan, but with Carrie's death last month came the appreciation posts- a number of which were Princess Leia related, but a greater number of which were about her openness about her substance abuse and mental illness, about her fierce willingness to unabashedly be herself. She was a powerful voice in the destigmatization of those suffering from mental illness, and with that voice prematurely silenced, I feel the importance of speaking out swelling within me. Listening to her book The Princess Diarist read by Carrie herself and her daughter Billie Lourd, made me feel as if I did indeed have a friend in her. Her honest discourse allows me to share my honesty and not feel like a worthless bowl of mush. Writing this introduction and whatever subsequent stories that follow, feels like my speaking to her, that somewhere in the reality to which she now belongs she is listening to my words and feeling as if she has a friend in me. I certainly hope you feel you have a friend in me, dear reader, and if not a friend, then at least a person who can understand the intricacies of the human mind and how it can play mean tricks on you, a person with whom you can converse without fear of being thought of as less-than because of strange configuration of your mind. By writing again I hope to not only quell the unsettling thoughts in my mind, but to open a path to honest discourse and true friendships. So, dear humans who have made it this far: Hello, I am Leika. Welcome to terrible and wonderful stories that is my life.