Picture yourself leaning against the kitchen counter at a party, talking to someone. You’re pressed into the edge of that counter, and it’s a little uncomfortable, but you have a drink in one hand and you’re distracted, lost in conversation. When you finally pull away, you notice just how hard you’d been leaning into that edge; there’s a deep red impression that won’t disappear for hours, and will leave you with a bruise.
This is how it feels when I realize just how much psychic damage I’ve caused by not taking care to write, to engage my creativity, to be kind to myself. For the first time I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, which forces me to shove through my clogged-up thoughts and write something nearly every day. I started out being very resistant, and I still feel a lot of resistance; but the first time I found a groove, it opened a door and threw light upon the dusty, neglected room where my creative ambitions lie. It’s a blinding, beautiful light, showing clearly that a kind of salvation is waiting for me in that room. That’s where I can play with ideas, think deeply about life and emotions and people and relationships. It’s where I have no distractions, no obligations—only expression, release, and contentment. I can’t understand why I’m so fearful of entering and staying there a while. It’s too easy to let the door swing shut. Every time that happens, I’m hurting myself.
There are forms of self-harm that are simply wired into our brains. It took years of therapy, and digesting that therapy, to show me that my brain had been working in overdrive to make me feel worthless. Ever since I was old enough to judge my own value, I’ve been a harsh critic. So much precious effort has been wasted on insisting that I need to be, or do, “better”. When I had this epiphany, it was like uncovering a wound that I’d assumed was healed, but turned out be shockingly raw. I wept, hard, for the fact that I had tolerated it for so long. Did I think so little of myself that I thought I actually deserved to feel this constant ache? It was a sad realization, but a powerful one that revealed the depth of my own potential. If my mind has created all this hurt from nothing, then surely it can erase the hurt back to nothing.
I’m accustomed to inertia, pain, and frustration. When I write, the writing sputters with constant interruption from my critical brain. When I try to practice self-care, I get distracted by things that are easier (or shinier, or more sugary or fatty). But in my heart, I know absolutely that I am better than my worst inclinations. I need to pull away from that hard-edged countertop, and join the party with all the weight on my own two feet.