There’s No Easy Way to Get “Well”

A little more backstory on why I took an extended break from the blog:

J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger

I became a recluse. I’m not about to compare myself to J.D. Salinger, but I will say I understand him. If you don’t know, he’s the author of The Catcher in the Rye. As his book’s popularity grew, Salinger withdrew from the public. He published less new work and cut off contact with people.

I did the same thing. In an attempt to handle what was happening to my life–and maybe to escape the good things and the success–I thought it would be best to retreat somewhere where only a few people could contact me. I went to work every day but I was working in a large corporation where I didn’t know many people and most of them didn’t know I was a writer. I stopped talking to most people–old friends, new friends, online friends. I didn’t go outside much, that is until I adopted Olive. She forced me outside every day and now that it’s been several months, things are a lot better.

Even as I’m writing this, I honestly don’t know what is going on in my mind. Sometimes I feel “present” and other times, like I explained to a new friend, I feel like my mind visits two different, foreign zones. It’s almost like I hop back and forth between the two, unrelated spaces. Sometimes my mind is aware of where I am and sometimes time has passed and I have no recollection of what happened or what’s changed. It’s not always scary, but I wonder what I’m like to other people.

Imagine what I would be like if I wasn’t medicated. Or is it the medication complicating things? Even under my doctor’s care (and short term therapy), I don’t feel “better.” I don’t feel “normal.” I don’t relate to many people and I rarely feel “understood.” I have days where I can get up and work and be quite productive and I have other days where I feel sick. My “sick” days are when I’m moody or depressed. Sometimes I’m so moody I just push everyone away. The depressed state is a bit different. I usually feel like the whole world is against me, everyone hates me, and it would be better just not to exist. You can see how easily someone who struggles with feelings like this would make for a terrible blogger. After all, we’re supposed to ignore trolls and not let them affect us. No one is immune to hate.

Despite what I share here, I’ve done a damn good job at coping with my illness. But often, it gets to me. It gets to me even more because I work hard at trying to make myself well and trying to fit in. In a society where everyone’s goal is to appear like they have the perfect life, it’s hard to feel like a misfit because of my difference. Disorders of the mind aren’t something you can work at and make go away. You can’t pretend they don’t exist. Hell, you can’t even make them go away with expensive pharmaceuticals. You suffer through them. 

One of the reasons I said no to a few TV production companies last year (when asked to create a show based on my personality and work) was that there’s no easy answer to getting well and if part of my story is my “recovery”, then wouldn’t that make for bad TV? Everyone wants the quick answer. They want to be lied to. But the truth is, there’s no self-help book that will fix everything. Even with medication, we–those who struggle with certain illnesses–aren’t “fixed.”

Read Next: What It Feels Like to be Depressed

8 thoughts on “There’s No Easy Way to Get “Well””

  1. As a cult survivor struggling with PTSD, depression, chronic pain and insomnia I can relate to every sentence you wrote, some of which describe me exactly.

    I have never been able to find anyone who can relate to me except for a few survivors with similar cult experiences and recovery, and only online. I am currently in a phase where I have pushed away even family members closest to me, which just makes me feel worse and totally isolated socially. So my planned remedy for that is to write a letter to each family member I’ve pushed away because I’ve been unable to talk to them about certain things, and explain in writing what I want to say but can’t in person, so they at least have some understanding of what’s going on inside my head. I’ve been working on a memoir for some time, which would enable my family to understand me better, but have had many obstacles slowing that project down. I’m currently trying to re-arrange my life to get that done.

    1. Perry, I think that’s a great idea and I find I can communicate more accurately in written form (thus, the blog). I had an incredibly difficult time writing my memoir and needed to put it aside for some distance. Incidentally, I founded something called the Memoir Writers Society a few years ago to provide community and resources for others who are writing memoir.

      1. Thanks, Lisa. I’ve book marked that site. I’ve put my memoir on hold for now, because in January an academic cult expert asked me to co-write a book with him on cult child abuse. I agreed to do that because he is already published, and if I can get co-published with him that might make finding a publisher for my memoir easier. He has a rough draft of about half of the book so far, but there are aspects where a former insider’s perspective could help, so I’m hoping to start that project as soon as I finish writing those personal letters to my family, which are more necessary now that I’ve delayed my memoir for now.

        So, I’ll definitely check out your site for ideas, suggestions and support. Thanks.

  2. This is brave of you to share.

    I feel you.

    With my own shit (illness?), I am trying to accept that I don’t need to be fixed; that I’m okay despite how shitty I often feel. Though I feel disconnected and painfully alone and different, there are many, many others who feel the same. Cults do a damn good job at taking away our sense of self worth and making us feel worthless without the cult. My own cult life compounded any of those tendencies I already had…

    Your blogging has at least helped me understand that I am not alone in what I have experienced with religious indoctrination and psychological trauma and recovery.

    I can ramble on and on and on…

    I hope to connect in real life with some fellow atheist/secular/freethinking groups. I hope to rededicate myself to physical fitness. I think those are two powerful ways for me to cope with my shit (illness.)

    I suppose there are times many of us have to withdraw… I refer to it as my curling up into a little ball routine, which is not so unusual for me to literally do…

    Thank you for sharing, for taking the risk and putting your vulnerabilities out there. You are brave and strong.

    1. Thank you, John. I was never brave enough to connect with fellow atheists in person, but my online friends (ex-cult members, etc.) have been invaluable in my recovery. I only recently started exercising and I haven’t noticed a huge difference yet, but it does give me something to look forward to (surprisingly). Thanks for staying in touch and sharing, as well. You’re not alone.

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