They say you should only write about what you know, so I write about healing from a lifetime of wounds.
I thought for a while that the only way I could be creative was if I was hurting. If my mental health was taking a hit, I could unfold and let my true and wild self run free. But I noticed the longer I was in recovery and the more my medication to manage my life with bipolar disorder was working, I found myself less and less creative.
I sit myself down in front of the computer to let the words come out, and nothing is released. I’m strangely empty, yet my heart and mind are balanced.
What does this mean? I think to myself.
There's a balance I’m always trying to find. Spiritually, mentally, financially, physically, socially. When one or two of those areas of my life are in almost perfect sync, the others fall to the ground. Like a seesaw, I can never seem to level.
I get up from the computer, frustrated with my lack of focus. I step outside to smoke a cigarette, the crutch which has carried me for almost a decade. My green lighter with a tiny leprechaun fuel the end of the white stick tucked between my fingers. Inhale smoke to fill the void, exhale smoke to bask in the shame.
Each breath is slightly more difficult than the last. My eyes veer down towards the cigarette and I can’t help but ask myself again…
What does this mean?
My physical health had been unbalanced for years, fighting against my eating disorder to heal my whithering body. But once I recovered, I still felt weak from the chemicals. The tiredness I couldn’t conquer.
I read Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, and something she said stuck out to me. The reason she smoked was that she needed something to do when she felt socially stunted or filled with shame for not belonging.
There is was. Exactly what it meant. My years of smoking were because I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. In the moments when I felt aimless, I turned to smoke. It gave me something to do. I didn’t want to see the truth that the social and communal aspects of my life didn’t exist.
I belonged nowhere.
Fast forward a few days later, and I’m back at my faux leather desk chair in front of my computer once again. I’m writing the words down because I remember I create for me, and no one else.
I’ve put a name to my feeling, and once you put a name to something, it’s much easier to face.
I completely changed my life for the better. I now write what I know, which is my human experience, regardless of whether it’s messy and daunting or beautiful and whole. I found where I belong. I belong here, with my words. I found a person who wants to belong in this universe with me as we explore our magnificent world magnificently together.
I belong somewhere. I belong here. I belong with me.
Lauren Dow is the author of In Body I Trust, host of the podcast, Lauren Dow Talks. She is a mental health advocate dedicated to normalizing the conversation about mental illness and reminding others life is worth living. Learn more about Lauren’s work at laurendow.com.