[The following post was written to make me feel better about myself and in turn make you feel better about yourself and your writing life.]
Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I teach English as Second Language to high school students who have arrived in The United States within in the past two years.
Hello, my name is Tiffany, and I am depressed.
Now that I’ve introduced myself, let me tell you why I’ve mentioned these two things about myself – both have halted my writing life. As a teacher of immigrants, a fog of depression has been looming over me since November for various reasons, ahem. And sometimes though I have a lot I want to say, I’m not sure if now is my time to speak or to just listen. And sometimes I just don’t have the energy to write. I’m stuck.
Among basic vocabulary and grammar, I’m currently talking about fiction with my students. Today, we talked about conflict. My students seem to get this pretty well — the four main conflicts being “man vs. man,” “man vs. society,” “man vs. nature,” and “man vs. self.” (Don’t even get me started on explaining to English Language Learners why we always refer to “man” instead of person!)
Though as women we’re prone to a lot of conflicts — women vs. society, women vs. men, women vs. other women — my heaviest battle has always been with myself. And it’s affecting my writing.
I like to think that I am a very creative, passionate, and driven person. I once thought I was organized. Sometimes I was referred to as a perfectionist. But that cocktail of attributes just leaves me feeling hung-over when I remember I am also prone to depression and anxiety. In my childhood, depression fueled endless notebook entries, poetry, some great essays, and a lot of A+ marks on writing assignments. In adulthood, with a full time job, depression has fueled a lot of naps, pressed snooze buttons, and questioning of life decisions. Right now, my writing is a “Notes” section in my phone with a lot of half-baked ideas and hastily typed renditions of creepy dreams.
Though depression and anxiety affects men and women, my battle with myself leaves me feeling some internalized misogyny, like I’m left with all the “negative” attributes of being a woman. The internal conflict goes as follows: I’m not strong and determined. I’m letting my emotions ruin my life, my creativity. All men are angry, hormonal writers, but they’re productive! They get published. Me? I’ve been using the same journal for the past three years. What is wrong with me?
But, I’m going to tell that voice to STFU. I am a writer. I am depressed, but I am still an active writer. I have proof.
1) I often write grocery lists and then get to the store realizing I forgot them and saying “Dude, do you REALLY think you’re going to cook this week? Frozen dinners are that way!”
2) Two weekends ago I decided to research my family history, and I made a pretty cool makeshift family tree in my notebook! This will surely inspire future writing.
3) I’m helping a friend make a movie. This has included revision suggestions, puppet making, doodling, and writing positive support and encouragement.
4) I write so many lesson plans. So many.
5) When I get angry, I type furious notes in my phone. This is the real reason I have a passcode on my phone.
6) Thank you notes. So many wedding thank you notes. Yikes.
And I lied – this post was supposed to make me feel good about myself. Number 6 got me. But I hope you’re feeling better about your writing life. Cheers!
Written by Tiffany Marie Lepa, September 11, 2017.