I was reading about some Influencer this morning—I won’t name her, don’t feel that that’s appropriate—but she’s fairly widely known in the whole Instagram sphere— an ambitious aspiring writer/flower-crown girl who posts these long-winded, stream-of-consciousness like meanderings beneath each of her posts. I couldn’t help but get pulled into it a little bit because the girl likes books, and I like books. That’s apparently all I need. In any event, I found her curious. She’s very upfront, very candid about how she writes about herself and her life, and though her image or her ‘brand’ or whatever you want to call it is certainly highly curated, she retains a degree of authenticity with her bluntness, her rambley-ness, and her fiery passion that people clearly connect with.
All things personal brand and business freak the honest-to-god crap out of me. As much as I have been working tirelessly towards this aim of finding a way to make a living from the things I make—whether it be art, or writing—at the end of the day I always run into this brick wall and then crumble into a panic. Despite all the hours, all the blood, sweat, and tears I have poured into my crafts—the idea of charging someone for them (which implies that they have some kind of value) just rips me apart inside.
For what do I have to sell? What do I have to say? How just.. how unbelievably, unforgivably arrogant of me to act as though what all I’m doing is actually worth something. How delusional of me to think that I can take my lived experience and transform it and offer it up in such a way that it might actually be of value to someone else.
I had a rough day yesterday. I was depressed, and felt a cartoon person after they’d be struck down by lightning—frozen in shock, wide white eyes blinking uncomprehendingly, toasted to a sizzling burnt crisp—if that lighting were anxiety.
See, I had finally told myself that enoughs enough—I have to organize my Patreon page and actually make it into something. I set up the bare bones of my account before my launch and then promptly ran away from it.
I didn’t set up any of the ‘tier’s of support that a person could buy into if they wished to support me, and what a person would receive should they do so. At first I was like, ‘Nah, I’m not gonna dole out anything special for supporters,’ and then I was like, ‘Girl, no. You cannot not do that, that’s not how this works.’
But trying to figure out what I was going to offer to prospective individuals who wanted to support my content threw me right into the existential tailspin. Thinking about these things forced me to ask myself the very pragmatic, basic things one has to ask herself when starting a business—what are you? What are you selling? What are the ‘goods and services’ someone is to expect when they come to you? What are you doing?
And I’m like, ‘Fuck! I don’t know!! OMG!’ I’m not some ‘expert’ or ‘authority’ on my subjects. I’m not an expert on anything! I’m not speaking for anybody. I can’t fix y’alls problems. The ‘advice’ I offer is highly subjective. I’m a broke, unemployed depressive dork living who lives with her dad! In the suburbs!
I have two options—from what I can tell, as far as how I can proceed with this Patreon business. I could go the route of offering ‘exclusive content’ to people who wish to support me. Essays and pieces and spiraling word-dumps for them and them only. Or I could go the route of offering ‘access’—to me and/or a more candid view into my world—which, I should note, my therapist looked me dead in the eyes and told me point-blank, “Do. Not. Do. That.”
Well. Here’s my conundrum. I refuse to withhold content for an exclusive audience, and I refuse to violate my principles. I told myself going into this—that if it so happens to be that my work is actually worth something—I intend to do everything in my power to keep my content accessible.
So that leaves me with the second option. Which is what brings me to that Influencer I mentioned. That leaves me with the burden of crafting myself into a personal brand. It led me to considering the weaving narratives that popular Instagramers feed to their followers. What is the story that I am telling? And what makes me worthy of anyone’s attention? I have to just laugh at that, good God. My life is so hilariously unglamorous right now, like, what can I even say? That’s not something that I’m ashamed of at the moment, but still, what about it is worth looking at? And, how could it be in any way a perk for someone to receive a personalized email from me, thanking them for their support? Who cares right?
But still, I think, given what I know, this is the way to go. I thought about re-joining Instagram—but I don’t think I could handle that right now, plus, it doesn’t solve my Patreon problem. I’m thinking of having my first tier be access to a personal vlog that I’ll post twice a month or so. I won’t disclose exclusive content, but I’ll be a little more personal, candid, about how I’m doing/what I’m doing and can maybe address peoples questions or feedback.
I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know that I could ever inspire someone. I’m a person who is rebuilding right now. I’m very much in a laboratory phase of my life. Fixing and tweaking and addressing and purging. I am trying to become a new person. To move beyond my past and step fully into my life somehow. I don’t know how. But I want to somehow prove, to both myself and whoever may be watching, that it is possible to live, and to live well, and to thrive even—while living with mental illness. I guess that is what I’m about. So often I doubt such a thing could ever be possible, that Ill ever ‘get my act together’ and figure out how to be a person in this world—a successful person even, a vibrant person even, a bold and wild person even… so often I still fall into agonizing doubt. That it is possible for me to be more than the girl who is constantly at war with her own mind.
don’t think that I will ever be the bright and bubbly flower-power girl who’s got her aesthetic on point. Who radiates all this energy and inspires the masses with her aspirational proclamations. People love all that beautiful, free-spirited positivity. They flock to it. And I don’t blame them.
When I was alone in the city I lived in a beautiful town. I really could have made it work with that town as my backdrop for my story. It’s peppered with stunning Victorian architecture, butted up against these modern masterpieces of the late architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Its a very green town—literally—lovingly maintained with gardens and fountains and rustic apartment buildings, like the one I lived in. Oak Park is sexy. And for a while I was able to maintain appearances that I was another spunky, up-and-coming millennial that belonged there. But peel back the layers, and I was something else entirely.
For all the time I lived in Oak Park—I hardly ever saw it. For months on end I would only leave my work-station to walk to work in a nearby restaurant. I was so obsessed with my work that I was burning myself alive inside. I never relaxed—my norm was a constant, nauseating anxiety, where I felt as though there were these prickly creatures crawling around under my skin. I always low-key felt like I was going to throw up—like I wasn’t getting enough air. Like my mind was overheating. Like my insides were churning. When I cracked I thought about jumping off cliffs in the Badlands. Of chugging liters of bleach. Of drowning in the lake. It was the relief of those fantasies that sustained me.
I could never have done that city justice had I written about it. I could never have done the books I was reading justice had I shared them. I could never have done myself justice—I hated myself too deeply.
What do I have to say? I’m a nervous disaster trying to speak in front of a camera. I fidget and my voice cracks and my eyes dart around like a nervous mouse. I have zero confidence as a speaker, and there are reasons for that, but let it just be known. The thought of making a vlog or taking another crack at Instagram fucking terrifies me. Yesterday, I made it through maybe 4 or 5 takes of a sample ‘intro’ video and it literally made me feel sick for the rest of the day. I think maybe, when it comes to my writing, I can kind of build up this idea for myself in my head—but when it’s just me in front of a camera? Noooope. Illusion flakes away. What you guys will see is the me behind the mask of my angry, punchy writing—for I am beyond incapable of performing, or playing into an image, in that kind of format. You will see the effect of years and years and years of my untreated social anxiety. I never quite learned how to talk, you see, when I was in my teens and early 20s, or carry on conversations with anyone beyond my small, core group of friends. I was no good at it—and this was a result of the untreated ADHD—I am a slow processor, and this for years convinced me that I am stupid—because I could literally not keep up with the pace of conversations or debates. I would try and try to follow along in real-time but eventually the whole thing would go over my head. I never knew enough, I never quite knew what the conversation was really about—I couldn’t keep up. So, of 15 years I was the quiet girl in the back who rarely spoke. So! Plot twist! I suck at it!
I feel compelled to do this though. I feel that it’s just simply necessary. Primarily because it’s so terrifying to me. I have to convince myself that I can do this. It’ll be my own prescribed exposure therapy. If things go marginally according to how I hope they may, it’ll do so much for my confidence. If it gets to a point where I can be sponsored or contacted for ads—that will enable me to keep my content free and accessible for anyone wishing to see it.
I’m trying to learn how to be a different kind of person with healthier, sustainable values. I’m trying to keep myself in the moment and appreciate my surroundings and connect to the things that matter to me now. I’m trying to find healthier ways to cope when things go dark. I’m trying to make it work. I don’t know what else to say.
But I’m so goddamned overwhelmed right now. I don’t trust myself to do anything right. I don’t trust myself to follow-through with anything. There’s this ever-present part of me who’s always just waiting for all this to become too much and for me to just fall the fuck apart again. As this is how my ventures have all played out. I’m wavering on this ledge of going out to get myself a regular old day-job again—I’m petrified that I won’t be able to handle it. I’m petrified that a job will send me spiraling again, and I’ll end up back on my face again. I’m petrified that if I commit to investing more heavily in this project, like I did with my last, that it’ll set my brain on fire. Im fucking terrified that if I push myself I’ll end up in a revolving door in and out of psyche wards. Im fucking terrified that if I do nothing I’ll end up in a revolving door in and out of psyche wards. And that will be my life. I’m terrified of stepping forward. I’m terrified of stepping back. I don’t get how people do things. It’s a confounding mystery to me. And I fear that I will always be like this. Talking about this fear makes me feel like an insufferable brat. Not talking about this fear makes me feel like a delusional idiot.
People cock their head a bit and go, how strange, you always seemed like you had it together.
Someone in school nickednamed me the ‘Ice Queen’ and it stuck. All my life al I’ve ever done is brood silently in a corner. I’ve been told that my gaze is piercing. I am kind of intense, it’s a consequence of all these years spent toiling endlessly to hold it all together, fighting to keep myself from spilling over my edges. People don’t appreciate that for some—keeping yourself from falling the fuck apart is a constant physical exertion of white-knuckled determination, of jaw-clenched focus. Your entire body tightly coiled like an iron spring. It wears you out. It breaks you down.
Where was I going with all this? Oh right. See—I know I’m a good writer. But the only thing I feel at all ‘qualified’ to write about is how mental illness continually ruined my life for 15 years. And I don’t want to constantly write about that shit. I don’t want anyones pity or validation over all that shit. I want to move forward—I want to prove to myself that I’m another one of the people, just as capable of making something out of myself and contributing as anybody else. But I don’t have the slightest clue how I’m going to do that and sometimes the fiery intensity of my words betray me. And I feel like such an ignorant airhead for trying to do this. What the hell am I doing? I should be trying to get out there and get a real job, not chasing some dream.
But for what it’s worth—the one thing through all these years that I have never been able to do is let go of the dream. I’m too fucking stubborn. I refuse to let go. I would rather be sick and poor and alone than let go. I would rather die than let go. I can’t tell if that’s good or bad. I suppose it depends on how things end up. It feels like the sort of thing that will either be a complete disaster or a brilliant success—but I fall prey to viewing things in such polarized extremes all the time and I freeze before such towering stakes. Freeze and let shit fall apart.
I can’t remember what I originally set down to do with this piece. Was it something like, advertise my Patreon and try and entice people with the Vlogs I’m about to start? Before shit got weird and I started to cry? And then just kept writing? Fuck it y’all. I don’t even know. Yeah—I guess this is what you’re going to get if you decide to give me some $$. It won’t be all that coherent but I’ll do with it what I can. So see ya there.
For now though I’m fucking fried. I’m gonna lay down now and watch my fav, Blair Witch.